Novel Coronavirus/COVID-19 COVID-19 News from Around the Web

EU regulator ‘convinced’ AstraZeneca benefit outweighs risk

AP - March 17, 2021

The European Union’s drug regulator insisted Tuesday that there is “no indication” the AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots as governments around the world faced the grimmest of dilemmas: push on with a vaccine known to save lives or suspend its use over reports of clotting in some recipients. The European Medicines Agency urged governments not to halt use of the vaccine at a time when the pandemic is still taking thousands of lives each day.

Working from home is here to say, latest job listings show

CBS News - March 17, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic that opened the door to working from home for millions of workers as a way to keep them safe also appears to have created enduring demand for remote jobs. The number of U.S. job postings on that mention "remote work," "telecommute" or "working from home" has more than doubled over the last year, from 2.9% in January 2020 to 6.9% last month ... Most of those remote positions are in finance, law, therapy and technology, especially tech support and software development.

Kids will be the last to be vaccinated. When will it be safe to go on family vacations?

NBC News - March 17, 2021

More than a year into the pandemic, many families who have been stuck at home are itching to go on a vacation. But don’t pack your bags quite yet, experts say. While more adults are getting vaccinated against the coronavirus every day, children, particularly younger ones, are not expected to get the vaccines for months. In the meantime, once all the adults in your family have been vaccinated, does that mean it’s now safe to take that long-delayed trip?

Overworked, understaffed: Pharmacists say industry in crisis puts patient safety at risk

NBC News - March 17, 2021

Jerominski is one of an estimated 155,000 pharmacists working at chain drugstores who, over the past decade, have found themselves pushed to do more with less. They're working faster, filling more orders and juggling a wider range of tasks with fewer staff members at a pace that many say is unsustainable and jeopardizes patient safety. Now Covid-19 vaccinations are raising new concerns about what will happen if they aren't given enough additional support for yet another responsibility.

Major European nations suspend use of AstraZeneca vaccine

AP - March 16, 2021

A cascading number of European countries — including Germany, France, Italy and Spain — suspended use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine Monday over reports of dangerous blood clots in some recipients, though the company and international regulators say there is no evidence the shot is to blame. AstraZeneca’s formula is one of three vaccines in use on the continent. But the escalating concern is another setback for the European Union’s vaccination drive, which has been plagued by shortages and other hurdles and is lagging well behind the campaigns in Britain and the U.S.

CDC Looks At Whether 3 Feet — Instead Of 6 — Is Safe For Schools’ Social Distancing

NPR - March 16, 2021

How much social distance is necessary in the classroom? The answer (to that question) has huge consequences for how many students can safely fit into classrooms. … [A] new study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases suggests that 3 feet may be as safe as 6 feet, so long as everyone is masked. The authors compared infection rates at Massachusetts schools that required at least 3 feet of distancing with those that required at least 6 feet, and found no significant difference in the coronavirus case rates among students or staff in the two cohorts.

Americans have been shockingly good at getting their second Covid-19 shot

Vox - March 16, 2021

A new CDC study delivers a different kind of good vaccine news: Americans have been incredibly diligent about getting their second Covid-19 shot. … Nearly 9 in 10 Americans, 88 percent, who were eligible to receive a second dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines had gotten their second shot as of mid-February. Almost all of them did so in the recommended time frame (17-25 days for Pfizer; 24-32 days for Moderna).

First children vaccinated in Moderna’s Phase 2/3 pediatric Covid-19 vaccine trial, company says

CNN - March 16, 2021

The clinical trial, called the KidCOVE study, will enroll approximately 6,750 children in the US and Canada between the ages of 6 months and 11 years old. The trial is broken into two parts. In part one, different dosages of the vaccine are being tested on the children. …The findings of part one will be used to determine which dose will be used in part two. For part two, the trial will expand to include children who are given a saline placebo, which does nothing.

Virus Variants Likely Evolved Inside People With Weak Immune Systems

The New York Times - March 16, 2021

A coronavirus typically gains mutations on a slow-but-steady pace of about two per month. But this variant, called B.1.1.7, had acquired 23 mutations that were not on the virus first identified in China. And 17 of those had developed all at once, sometime after it diverged from its most recent ancestor. Experts said there’s only one good hypothesis for how this happened: At some point the virus must have infected someone with a weak immune system, allowing it to adapt and evolve for months inside the person’s body before being transmitted to others.

COVID Vaccines Given to Americans Top 100 Million

HealthDay - March 16, 2021

As of Monday, more than 37.4 million Americans are now fully vaccinated, 11.3% of the total U.S. population, according to the CDC. Meanwhile, over 107 million, 21% of the total population, have gotten at least one dose. Just over one-third of Americans age 65 and older are fully vaccinated, the agency reported.

Covid-19 antibodies present in about 1 in 5 blood donations from unvaccinated people, according to data from the American Red Cross

CNN - March 16, 2021

In the first week of March, more than 20% of blood donations from unvaccinated people had Covid-19 antibodies, according to data shared with CNN by the American Red Cross. Between mid-June 2020 and early March 2021, the American Red Cross tested more than 3.3 million donations from unvaccinated people in 44 states for the presence of Covid-19 antibodies. Overall, about 7.5% of the donations tested in that time frame were positive for Covid-19 antibodies, meaning the donors had likely been infected with the coronavirus at some point.

More U.S. Travelers Are Flying Again Despite COVID-19 Risks

NPR - March 15, 2021

As COVID-19 vaccines roll out across the U.S., more travelers are taking to the skies. Friday marked the busiest day for the nation's airports since the middle of March 2020, when COVID-19 caused air travel to plummet. About 1.36 million passengers passed through security checkpoints Friday, according to figures from the Transportation Security Administration. That is the highest volume since March 15, 2020, when checkpoints reported more than 1.5 million passengers.

The White House is set to unveil a wide-reaching, billion-dollar campaign aimed at convincing every American to get vaccinated

STAT - March 15, 2021

This television, radio, and digital advertising blitz, set to kick off within weeks, will focus on Americans outright skeptical of vaccines’ safety or effectiveness as well as those who are potentially more willing to seek a Covid-19 immunization but don’t yet know where, when, or how. Specifically, the campaign will target three groups in which access, apathy, or outright skepticism may pose a barrier to vaccinations: young people, people of color, and conservatives, according to a Biden aide.

Covid Cases Plummet 83% Among Nursing Home Staffers Despite Vaccine Hesitancy

Kaiser Health News - March 15, 2021

After the rollout of covid vaccines, the number of new covid cases among nursing home staff members fell 83% — from 28,802 for the week ending Dec. 20 to 4,764 for the week ending Feb. 14, data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services shows. New covid-19 infections among nursing home residents fell even more steeply, by 89%, in that period, compared with 58% in the general public, CMS and Johns Hopkins University data shows.

To Extract More Doses per Vial, Vaccinators Put Squeeze on FDA to Relax Vaccine Handling Advice

Kaiser Health News - March 15, 2021

Pharmacists involved in the covid vaccination drive say it’s common to have half a dose left in a Pfizer vial after five or even six doses have been administered — and to have half a dose left after 10 doses have been drawn out of a Moderna vial. Combining two half-doses could increase vaccinations by thousands at a time when 2 million or so doses are being administered every day in the country. So, they want to use a single hypodermic needle to withdraw leftover vaccine from two vials from which all full doses already have been removed.

Depression follows Covid-19 for some adults

STAT - March 15, 2021

As if Covid-19 were not bad enough, depression preceded by problems with mood, sleep, anxiety, and fatigue follow the infection in a significant proportion of people, a new paper suggests. Half of nearly 4,000 people who responded to an online survey — whose topic was disclosed only after entering — met criteria for moderate or more severe depression. People who reported headache as a symptom during their illness were more likely to have depressive symptoms; loss of smell and taste were not linked.