No COVID-19 vaccine, no normal life, UK minister suggests

https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-health-coronavirus-britain-vaccines/no-covid-19-vaccine-no-normal-life-uk-minister-suggests-idUSKBN28A24R?fbclid=IwAR2V5IfikBf64K7KvQwr3kr5CLwQv-4DJ-H2eXTNScN6VLhh3BPNbS-C0Tc

No COVID-19 Vaccine, No Normal Life, UK Minister Suggests | World News | US  News

People who refuse a vaccine for COVID-19 could find normal life curtailed as restaurants, bars, cinemas and sports venues could block entry to those who don’t have proof they are inoculated, Britain’s new vaccine minister said on Monday.

Several major COVID-19 vaccines have been announced in recent weeks, raising hopes that the world could soon return to some semblance of normality after the coronavirus killed 1.46 million people and wiped out a chunk of the global economy.

The British minister responsible for the vaccine rollout, Nadhim Zahawi, said getting vaccinated should be voluntary but that Google, Facebook and Twitter should do more to fact-check opposing views of vaccines.

Asked by the BBC if there would be an immunity passport, Zahawi said a person’s COVID-19 vaccine status might be included in a phone app that would inform local doctors of a person’s status.

“But also I think you’d probably find that restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues, sports venues, will probably also use that system as they’ve done with the app,” Zahawi told the BBC.

“The sort of pressure will come both ways: from service providers – who will say ‘look, demonstrate to us that you have been vaccinated’ – but also we will make the technology as easy and accessible as possible.”

Health authorities in many countries have become increasingly concerned in recent years by the growth of anti-vaccine groups, which are especially active on social media.

Asked if it would become virtually impossible to do anything without the vaccine, Zahawi said: “I think people have to make a decision but I think you’ll probably find many service providers will want to engage in this in the way they did with the app.”

Zahawi declined to give any specific date on a vaccine rollout as none have yet been approved for public use.

The message, he said, should be that a vaccine is good for the community and the country.

What will the world look like after COVID-19?

Home | Bill Gates

Like a lot of people, I have really gotten into listening to podcasts over the last year. They’re such an immersive way to learn about the world, and I like how the format lets you dive as deep on a topic as you want. So, I was inspired to start one of my own—but I knew I couldn’t do it on my own.

I couldn’t ask for a better partner on this project than Rashida Jones. A mutual friend suggested that the two of us might have a lot to talk about, and it turned out he was right. I already knew she was a talented actor, but I was impressed by her thoughtful perspective on the world. So, we decided to start a podcast that lets us think through some of today’s most pressing problems together. In our first episode, Rashida and I explore a big question that is top of mind for many people: what will the world look like after COVID-19?

I know it’s hard to imagine right now while new cases are surging around the world, but there will come a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. I think it’s safe to assume that society will be changed forever, given how disruptive the virus has been to virtually every part of our lives.

Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go before life truly gets back to “normal.” Rashida and I were joined by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to discuss what to expect in the months to come. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Dr. Fauci on a number of global health issues over the years, including the quest for an HIV vaccine and cure. He’s such a quiet and unassuming guy normally, so it’s been wild to watch him become a huge celebrity.

Dr. Fauci and I are both optimistic that a vaccine will bring an end to the pandemic at some point in the near future. But what the world looks like after that is a lot less clear. I suspect that some of the digitization trends we’ve seen—especially in the areas of online learning, telemedicine, and remote work—will become a regular part of our lives. I hope this episode leaves you hopeful about the future and curious about what comes next.

Cartoon – What’s the Matter with America?

Tribune Editorial: Ignorance and apathy in Utah increase threat of  coronavirus - The Salt Lake Tribune

States split on COVID-19 responses as cases surge

https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/525952-states-split-on-covid-19-responses-as-cases-surge?rnd=1605382007

Ben Sargent

Governors across the country are grappling with an alarming surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, so far putting forward a fractured response.

Despite the escalating public health crisis, many governors have taken only modest actions; most states still allow major sources of spread such as bars and indoor restaurants to remain open.

President Trump on Friday touted progress on a vaccine but did not announce any major new steps aimed at slowing the spread of the virus in the short term, and he is leaving most of those decisions to states.

Experts are urging governors to impose stronger measures such as closing bars and gyms, prohibiting indoor dining, mandating masks, and advising people to limit in-person gatherings.

“There are many very troubling warning signs in outbreaks across the U.S.,” said Anita Cicero, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “I do feel that more immediate action is required.”

While most state actions have been relatively minor, stricter rules are starting to pop up, particularly from states with Democratic officials, underscoring the red versus blue divide on public health measures reminiscent of earlier this year.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) on Friday instructed residents to stay home except for essential business, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) issued a similar advisory. More such orders could be coming as the situation worsens.

Experts for the most part are not calling for a return to full-scale lockdowns, saying much has been learned since the spring about how the virus spreads, and there is little reason to stop low-risk activities such as curbside pickup from a store.

But significant sources of spread such as bars, indoor restaurants and gyms should be closed in hard-hit areas, they said.

Many states have not taken those steps, despite the ever-mounting case counts.

The country is now recording an unprecedented 150,000 new cases every day, with hospitalizations at record levels of more than 60,000 and deaths at around 1,000 per day and starting to rise. Hospitals in some areas are reaching capacity and becoming overwhelmed.

These trends show no signs of slowing as temperatures get colder and more activity moves indoors.

Just 13 states have closed their bars, according to a tracker from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But there’s bipartisan pressure for states to do more.

A Washington Post op-ed on Wednesday — authored by Richard Danzig, Navy secretary under former President Clinton; James Lawler, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Nebraska; and Tom Bossert, a former homeland security adviser to President Trump — called on states to take three specific actions: limit indoor gatherings to no more than 10 people, close indoor restaurants and bars, and require masks in public.

The authors said those steps should be taken in any region where there are more than 20 new cases per 100,000 people per day. Forty states are already above that threshold, according to the COVID Exit Strategy tracking site.

Still, governors in some of the hardest-hit states have resisted actions such as statewide mask mandates and bar closures.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) has long opposed a statewide mask mandate, but amid the worsening outbreak, she issued an order last week requiring masks at businesses such as barbershops and at large gatherings.

At the same time, she emphasized that she did not want to close businesses.

“You can still eat in a restaurant, you can still go to a movie and work out at a gym, and in many states you can’t do that,” she said at a press conference on Tuesday. “Iowa is open for business, and we intend to keep it that way.”

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) struck a similar note in an address on Thursday.

“We’re trying to open things up but to do it in a safe, responsible way,” he said. “We’re not going to shut down businesses. We’re not going to have long term mandates with no end in sight.”

On Capitol Hill, congressional leaders have been deadlocked over a new round of economic aid, which could provide relief for businesses such as bars and restaurants and allow them to temporarily close to slow the spread of the virus without taking a major financial hit.

“There needs to be a policy lever to help support and maintain those small businesses,” said Preeti Malani, chief health officer and professor of medicine at the University of Michigan.

In New York City, bars and restaurants are still open, with a new 10 p.m. curfew. But the prospect of schools closing has sparked criticism about the city’s priorities.

“If NYC closes schools and continues to allow indoor dining our priorities are totally backwards,” tweeted New York City Council member Mark Levine.

Malani said schools have been a “good-news situation” and have not been a significant source of transmission.

“If the balance is between keeping the bars open and keeping the schools open, that’s an easy decision in my mind,” she said.

Celine Gounder, a coronavirus adviser to President-elect Joe Biden, made a similar point on Friday.

“Some of those higher-risk places are, for example, restaurants, bars and gyms, whereas schools are not zero risk, but they’re much much lower risk, and they’re an essential service really,” she told CNBC. “So I think we need to close only those things that really are contributing to the spread and really try to let as much as possible remain open, like schools, if they’re not contributing to spread.”

Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said at an event hosted by the think tank Chatham House on Thursday that the news that Pfizer’s vaccine candidate was more than 90 percent effective in an interim analysis provides something of a light at the end of the tunnel.

That promising news, he said, should encourage people to take some tough steps for a few months until the vaccine is widely available.

“Ever since it became clear a few days ago that we have a really quite effective vaccine getting ready to deploy, [the message] is rather than ‘Hey. Don’t worry. You’re OK,’ it’s ‘Don’t stop shooting. The cavalry is coming. But don’t put your weapons down. You better keep fighting because they’re not here yet,'” Fauci said.

Cartoon – Covid Denialism

Cartoons

Cartoon – Greatest Threat to America?

Editorial Cartoons for Wednesday from Times Wire Services

U.K. upgrades COVID alert level as Europe sees worrying rise in infections

https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-united-kingdom-european-cdc-4856ab47-29b2-43f2-b6c4-9a62d6867830.html

U.K. upgrades COVID alert level as Europe sees worrying rise in infections  - Axios

The U.K. could see up to 50,000 coronavirus cases per day by mid-October if current growth continues, top scientific advisers warned in a televised address from Downing Street on Monday.

The big picture: The U.K. has upgraded its coronavirus alert level from three to four as infections appear to be “high or rising exponentially.” Meanwhile, recent European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) data shows that over half of all European Union countries are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases.

What they’re saying: “At the moment, we think that the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days” in the U.K., chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said.

  • England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty stressed that unemployment and poverty are risks of taking strong action against the virus — like enforcing stay-at-home orders — but that more deaths will occur if aggressive action is not taken.

Where it stands: ECDC data shows that Spain, France, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Romania have recorded more than 120 confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days, according to AP.

  • In Madrid, the rate of infection is nearly three times higher than the national average, at 683 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, per AP. Spain, one of the first epicenters of the virus in Europe, is faring the worst of countries tracked by the ECDC.
  • France has seen 31,285 deaths since the start of the pandemic, one of the highest death tolls in Europe. This weekend, France reported a record 13,000 new infections in 24 hours.
  • The Czech Republic reported 3,000 new cases on Thursday, almost as many as the country saw in all of March.
  • Croatia has recorded over 14,000 new COVID-19 cases per day since Sept. 16, while Romania is seeing over 11,000 new infections per day, according to Johns Hopkins data.

What to watch: Analysts expect the British government to announce short-term restrictions after Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with ministers over the weekend, AP reports.

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning second-wave prevention with her “Coronavirus Cabinet.” These plans include walk-in “fever clinics” to separate coronavirus patients from others.
  • Police in Madrid are limiting travel in working-class neighborhoods that have seen high transmission rates, while parks are closed and restaurants and shops must limit their occupancy at 50%.
  • Czech Republic’s Health Minister Adam Vojtech resigned Monday because of rising cases.
  • There are 20 new testing centers set to open in Paris and surrounding suburbs this week.

 

 

 

More cities and states are opening bars and restaurants despite mounting evidence of potential danger

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/09/14/covid-spread-restaurants-bars/?arc404=true&itid=lk_inline_manual_28&itid=lk_inline_manual_10&itid=lk_inline_manual_9

More cities and states are opening bars and restaurants despite mounting  evidence of potential danger — TodayHeadline

In New York City, diners will be able to have a meal inside a restaurant at the end of the month, something that hasn’t happened there since the coronavirus pandemic began. In some parts of Florida, bars reopened Monday for the first time since late June.

One decision appears to be riskier than the other, according to an analysis of cellphone and coronavirus case data by The Washington Post.

States that have reopened bars experienced a doubling in the rate of coronavirus cases three weeks after the opening of doors, on average. The Post analysis — using data provided by SafeGraph, a company that aggregates cellphone location information — found a statistically significant national relationship between foot traffic to bars one week after they reopened and an increase in cases three weeks later.

The analysis of the cellphone data suggests there is not as strong a relationship between the reopening of restaurants and a rise in cases, nor with bar foot traffic and cases over time, except for a handful of states.

But like with so much in the pandemic, easy answers can prove elusive.

study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of nearly 300 adults who tested positive for the coronavirus found that they were more than twice as likely to have dined at a restaurant in the two weeks before getting sick than people who were uninfected. Those who tested positive and did not have close contact with anyone sick were also more likely to report going to a bar or coffee shop. The same effect was not seen in visits to salons, gyms and houses of worship, or in the use of public transportation.

“You’re sitting there for a long time, everyone’s talking,” said Linsey Marr, an environmental engineer at Virginia Tech. “And that’s just a recipe for spread.”

Few states make their contact-tracing data available, but in two that do — Colorado and Louisiana — bars and restaurants are responsible for about 20 percent of cases traced to a known source. San Diego traced nearly one-third of community outbreaks to restaurants and bars, more than any other setting.

But Louisiana’s experience suggests bar patrons contribute more to the spread of the virus than restaurant diners. There have been 41 outbreaks tied to restaurants and the same number of outbreaks associated with bars, but bar outbreaks appeared to result in more infections, with 480 cases traced to those establishments compared with 180 from restaurants.

Marr said indoor dining can be reasonably safe in a restaurant operating at 25 percent capacity and with a ventilation system that fully recirculates air every 10 minutes. New York City’s policy will allow for only 25 percent capacity at first, with a scheduled increase to 50 percent in November if transmission rates remain low.

Still, Marr said, she “will not eat inside a restaurant until the pandemic is over.” As one of the first scientists to begin emphasizing that the virus was spread primarily by air, she has been concerned about indoor drinking and dining since March.

“People go to restaurants to talk,” she said, “and we know that it’s talking that produces a lot — 10 to 100 times more — aerosols than just sitting.”

Other countries facing outbreaks imposed stricter and longer shutdowns on bars and restaurants. Ireland has yet to open its pubs. Countries that did reopen bars and restaurants have, like American states, scaled back in the face of fresh outbreaks.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say that because U.S. policies vary by state and county, waves of closures and reopenings may have perversely led to more viral spread, as people traveled to enjoy freedoms not allowed closer to home.

The National Restaurant Association argues that restaurants are safe if they follow proper mitigation guidelines and that the industry has been unfairly maligned by the actions of an irresponsible few.

“Bars become particularly risky,” said Larry Lynch, who handles food science for the restaurant trade group. “Anybody who had been in bars knows that conversations get louder, people get closer.”

But, he said, “we haven’t seen … any kind of systemic outbreaks from people going into a restaurant that’s practicing what we ask them to practice.”

Lynch questioned the methodology of the CDC study, noting it covered only 295 people and did not identify the sources of transmission.

The American Nightlife Association, which represents the bar and nightclub industry, did not respond to a request for comment.

Kristen Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Division at the Minnesota Department of Health, agreed that when restaurants and bars abide by guidelines designed to reduce transmission, few cases of the coronavirus have been traced to those establishments.

But there are more than a few bad actors, she said: 1,592 cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, have been tied to 66 bars and restaurants in Minnesota. And in 58 other establishments, cases were reported among only staff members, resulting in 240 illnesses. One bar in St. Cloud, Minn., the Pickled Loon, was the only place visited by 73 people who got sick and was one stop among several for 44 other people.

“The bottom line is, we’re seeing a big chunk of our cases associated with these venues, and those cases go on to get other cases in other settings,” Ehresmann said. “We can’t ignore the impact.”

Iowa’s first big spike in coronavirus cases originated in the meatpacking industry. Then, says University of Iowa epidemiologist Jorge Salinas, came bars in college towns such as Iowa City, where he is based.

“It was very clear,” Salinas said. “We reviewed records for patients, and they all shared that common exposure of having been to a bar in the previous five days or so. Usually, the same bars that tend to be very crowded and very loud, rather than a place you just sit down to go and have a beer.”

He said those bars began closing not because of government intervention, but because so many staff members fell ill. By that point, the young people who got infected at bars had begun spreading the virus to an older population through family and work.

After about two months, the outbreak in Iowa City started to burn out. But then college students started returning to campus.

“It’s just a different group of young people but similar exposures — going to bars, hanging out, going to large parties,” he said.

He said an order from Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) closing bars in Iowa City and five other hard-hit counties was welcome but overdue. In the past two weeks, more than 1,000 young people in the region have become infected.

“Unfortunately, it’s late in the game,” Salinas said. “It would have been better if it had been done to prevent this rather than as a reaction to this.”

Politicians who favor an aggressive approach to containing the coronavirus have been hesitant to shut down bars and restaurants. Expanded federal unemployment benefits lapsed more than a month ago. Loans to small businesses are forgiven only if they can keep workers on the payroll, which is usually impossible while running at reduced capacity.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.5 million jobs in bars and restaurants have been lost since February. Although that’s an improvement from the spring, many restaurant owners say they are barely hanging on.

“Winter is coming, and I’m staring down the barrel of the gun of what’s going to happen,” said Ivy Mix, owner of a restaurant called Leyenda in New York and author of the book “Spirits of Latin America.” Even when indoor dining reopens, Mix said she is not sure she and her staff would be comfortable serving enough people inside her Brooklyn restaurant to make a profit.

“This is almost like being thrown a deflated life-jacket — the action and the symbolism is there, but the actual aid is not,” she said.

That’s why she says the only solution is federal legislation introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) that would issue $120 billion in grants to independent bars and restaurants. A Senate version would cover some chains as well.

“Eleven million people work for these independent restaurants,” Blumenauer said. “If we don’t do something, the evidence suggests that 85 percent of them are not going to survive this year.”

His office estimates that the legislation would more than pay for itself, generating $186 billion in tax revenue and unemployment savings. He said President Trump was receptive in a meeting with supporters earlier this year, but that in recent weeks the administration “has basically shut down meaningful negotiations.”

Arizona reopened indoor restaurants and some bars at the end of August, after a hasty spring reopening and more than 5,000 deaths.

“We really kind of reaped the whirlwind,” said David Engelthaler, a former state epidemiologist now at the Translational Genomics Research Institute. “A lot of that was driven by people going into bars and nightclubs, typically the 20- to 30-year-old set, interacting, socializing like they did prepandemic. And that just supported a kind of wildfire of cases.”

He said he thinks it is probably feasible to reopen restaurants at reduced capacity, but bars are a different story.

“One thing that all bars have in common is that they create a lowering of inhibition, and I think more than anything, this will cause the spread of covid,” he said. “We get more complacent, more comfortable, covid starts spreading.”

With temperatures still regularly topping 100 degrees in Arizona, the appeal of outdoor food and drink is limited. After a rapid May reopening led to a spike in cases and deaths, the state has just begun trying a more cautious approach.

Under Arizona’s new, more deliberate reopening, businesses must apply to reopen and bars must serve food to qualify. But Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist based in Phoenix, said it is unclear whether those requirements are sufficiently stringent.

“If you put out two items does that count?” she asked. “I just worry that we’re kind of all doing this at once.” She noted that more than 500 new cases a day continue to be reported in Arizona, about the same as during the first reopening: “We’ll see if we learn from our lessons.”

 

 

The Pandemic’s Most Treacherous Phase

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/us-pandemic-crisis-will-worsen-in-october-by-barry-eichengreen-2020-09?utm_source=Project+Syndicate+Newsletter&utm_campaign=d57658f7c7-sunday_newsletter_13_09_2020&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_73bad5b7d8-d57658f7c7-105592221&mc_cid=d57658f7c7&mc_eid=5f214075f8

The most dangerous phase of the COVID-19 crisis in the US may actually be now, not last spring. If the economy falters a second time, whether because of inadequate fiscal stimulus or flu season and a second COVID-19 wave, it will not receive the additional monetary and fiscal support that protected it in the spring.

April marked the most dramatic and, some would say, dangerous phase of the COVID-19 crisis in the United States. Deaths were spiking, bodies were piling up in refrigerated trucks outside hospitals in New York City, and ventilators and personal protective equipment were in desperately short supply. The economy was falling off the proverbial cliff, with unemployment soaring to 14.7%.

Since then, supplies of medical and protective equipment have improved. Doctors are figuring out when to put patients on ventilators and when to take them off. We have recognized the importance of protecting vulnerable populations, including the elderly. The infected are now younger on average, further reducing fatalities. With help from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, economic activity has stabilized, albeit at lower levels.

Or so we are being told.

In fact, the more dangerous phase of the crisis in the US may actually be now, not last spring. While death rates among the infected are declining with improved treatment and a more favorable age profile, fatalities are still running at roughly a thousand per day. This matches levels at the beginning of April, reflecting the fact that the number of new infections is half again as high.

Mortality, in any case, is only one aspect of the virus’s toll. Many surviving COVID-19 patients continue to suffer chronic  and impaired mental function. If 40,000 cases a day is the new normal, then the implications for morbidity – and for human health and economic welfare – are truly dire.

And, like it or not, there is every indication that many Americans, or at least their current leaders, are willing to accept 40,000 new cases and 1,000 deaths a day. They have grown inured to the numbers. They are impatient with lockdowns. They have politicized masks.

This is also a more perilous phase for the economy. In March and April, policymakers pulled out all the stops to staunch the economic bleeding. But there will be less policy support now if the economy again goes south. Although the Federal Reserve can always devise another asset-purchase program, it has already lowered interest rates to zero and hoovered up many of the relevant assets. This is why Fed officials have been pressing the Congress and the White House to act.

Unfortunately, Congress seems incapable of replicating the bipartisanship that enabled passage of the CARES Act at the end of March. The $600 weekly supplement to unemployment benefits has been allowed to expire. Divisive rhetoric from President Donald Trump and other Republican leaders about “Democrat-led” cities implies that help for state and local governments is not in the cards.

Consequently, if the economy falters a second time, whether because of inadequate fiscal stimulus or flu season and a second COVID-19 wave, it will not receive the additional monetary and fiscal support that protected it in the spring.

The silver bullet on which everyone is counting, of course, is a vaccine. This, in fact, is the gravest danger of all.

There is a high likelihood that a vaccine will be rolled out in late October, at Trump’s behest, whether or not Phase 3 clinical trials confirm its safety and effectiveness. This specter conjures memories of President Gerald Ford’s rushed swine flu vaccine, also prompted by a looming presidential election, which resulted in cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome and multiple deaths. This episode, together with a fraudulent scientific paper linking vaccination to autism, did much to help foster the modern anti-vax movement.5

The danger, then, is not merely side effects from a flawed vaccine, but also widespread public resistance even to a vaccine that passes its Phase 3 clinical trial and has the support of the scientific community. This is especially worrisome insofar as skepticism about the merits of vaccination tends to rise anyway in the aftermath of a pandemic that the public-health authorities, supposedly competent in such matters, failed to avert.

Studies have shown that living through a pandemic negatively affects confidence that vaccines are safe and disinclines the affected to vaccinate their children. This is specifically the case for individuals who are in their “impressionable years” (ages 18-25) at the time of exposure, because it is at this age that attitudes about public policy, including health policy, are durably formed. This heightened skepticism about vaccination, observed in a variety of times and places, persists for the balance of the individual’s lifetime.

The difference now is that Trump and his appointees, by making reckless and unreliable claims, risk aggravating the problem. Thus, if steps are not taken to reassure the public of the independence and integrity of the scientific process, we will be left only with the alternative of “herd immunity,” which, given COVID-19’s many known and suspected comorbidities, is no alternative at all.

All this serves as a warning that the most hazardous phase of the crisis in the US will most likely start next month. And that is before taking into account that October is also the beginning of flu season.