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Black Americans During Pandemic

March 3, 2021

(NPR) – Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say fatal drug overdoses nationwide have surged roughly 20% during the pandemic, killing more than 83,000 people in 2020.  While the CDC doesn’t track overdose deaths by race, a growing body of research suggests Black Americans have suffered the heaviest toll.

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Oxford and Pfizer Vaccines ‘Highly Effective’ in Reducing Severe COVID-19

March 3, 2021

(Medscape) – Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines were highly effective in reducing COVID-19 among older people, new data revealed. The preprint of a study submitted by Public Health England (PHE) suggested that since January 4, approximate protection against symptomatic COVID-19 for people aged 70 and over after a single dose of vaccine ranged between: 60% and 70% for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, 60% and 75% for the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine

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COVID-19 Pandemic Fuels Attacks on Health Workers Globally

March 3, 2021

(Medscape) – Two Nigerian nurses were attacked by the family of a deceased COVID-19 patient. One nurse had her hair ripped out and suffered a fracture. The second was beaten into a coma. Following the assaults, nurses at Federal Medical Centre in the Southwestern city of Owo stopped treating patients, demanding the hospital improve security. Almost two weeks passed before they returned to work with armed guards posted around the clock.

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Covid-19 Variant in Brazil Overwhelms Local Hospitals, Hits Younger Patients

March 3, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – Researchers and doctors are sounding the alarm over a new, more aggressive coronavirus strain from the Amazon area of Brazil, which they believe is responsible for a recent rise in deaths, as well as infections in younger people, in parts of South America. Brazil’s daily death toll from the disease rose to its highest level yet this week, pushing the country’s total number of Covid-19 fatalities past a quarter of a million. On Tuesday, Brazil reported a record 1,641 Covid fatalities. Neighbor Peru is struggling to curb a second wave of infections. The new variant, known as P.1, is 1.4 to 2.2 times more contagious than versions of the virus previously found in Brazil, and 25% to 61% more capable of reinfecting people who had been infected by an earlier strain, according to a study released Tuesday. 

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Chinese Vaccines Sweep Much of the World, Despite Concerns

March 2, 2021

(Associated Press) – China’s vaccine diplomacy campaign has been a surprising success: It has pledged roughly half a billion doses of its vaccines to more than 45 countries, according to a country-by-country tally by The Associated Press. With just four of China’s many vaccine makers claiming they are able to produce at least 2.6 billion doses this year, a large part of the world’s population will end up inoculated not with the fancy Western vaccines boasting headline-grabbing efficacy rates, but with China’s humble, traditionally made shots. 

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Abortion Concerns Prompt Archdiocese Warning on Vaccine

March 2, 2021

(ABC News) – Roman Catholic leaders in St. Louis and New Orleans are advising Catholics that the COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, newly approved for use in the U.S., is “morally compromised” because it is produced using a cell line derived from an aborted fetus. The New Orleans archdiocese says the decision to receive a vaccine is one of individual conscience. In its statement late last week, it stopped short of advising Catholics not to take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but adds that Catholics should choose coronavirus vaccines made by Moderna or Pfizer — if they are available.

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Substance Use, Suicide, and Cardiometabolic Conditions Drive Rise in Working-Age Mortality, Report Finds

March 2, 2021

(STAT News) – Increasing mortality rates among working-age Americans since 2010 have been mainly driven by drug- and alcohol-related deaths, suicide, and cardiometabolic conditions like diabetes and heart disease, according to a sweeping new report. The report, released Tuesday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, examined data from 1990 to 2017, and revealed that the rise in deaths among working-age adults (those between 25 and 64) was seen across rural and metropolitan areas and racial and ethnic groups. The increase also appears to be behind the recent fall in U.S. life expectancy, which is significantly lower than in other high-income countries. 

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Virus Variant Races Through Italy, Especially Among Children

March 2, 2021

(ABC News) – The variant of the coronavirus discovered in Britain is prevalent among Italy’s infected schoolchildren and is helping to fuel a “robust” uptick in the curve of COVID-19 contagion in the country, the health minister said Tuesday. Roberto Speranza told reporters that the variant, associated with higher transmission rates, has shown pervasiveness “among the youngest age group” of the population.

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Doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 Vaccine Pile Up in Europe Amid Government Restrictions

March 2, 2021

(The Wall Street Journal) – Europe’s reluctance to distribute millions of doses of AstraZeneca PLC’s Covid-19 vaccine is coming under pressure after the French government authorized use of the shot for some older people. The French government announced it would allow people with comorbidities between the ages of 65 and 74 to receive the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca. New data from the U.K. on Monday showed just one dose of the vaccine was effective in preventing disease and deaths among adults aged 70 and older who had received it.

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Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Reduces Infection Risk After One Dose: UK Study

March 2, 2021

(Medscape) – A single dose of Pfizer and BioNtech’s COVID-19 vaccine cuts the number of asymptomatic infections and could significantly reduce the risk of transmission of the virus, results of a UK study found on Friday. Researchers analysed results from thousands of COVID-19 tests carried out each week as part of hospital screenings of healthcare staff in Cambridge, eastern England.

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Israel’s “Green Pass” Is an Early Vision of How We Leave Lockdown

March 2, 2021

(MIT Technology Review) – Some proponents, including those on one side of a fierce debate in Thailand, have focused on ending quarantines for international travelers to stimulate the hard-hit tourism industry. Others imagine following Israel’s lead, creating a two-tiered system that allows vaccinated people to enjoy the benefits of a post-pandemic life while others wait for their shots. What is happening there gives us a glimpse of the promise—and of the difficulties such schemes face.

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CDC Chief Signs Off on Advisory Panel’s Backing of J&J Vaccine

March 2, 2021

(Medscape) – The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, MD, signed off Sunday on an advisory panel’s unanimous endorsement of the newly approved single-dose COVID-19 vaccine from Janssen/Johnson & Johnson (J&J). Her action clears the way to begin distributing the adenovirus vaccine across the United States for use in people aged 18 years and older.

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UN Rights Chief Cites ‘Need’ to Assess Rights in Xinjiang

March 2, 2021

(Associated Press) – The United Nations’ human rights chief on Friday cited the need for an “independent and comprehensive assessment” of the rights situation in China’s Xinjiang region, while emphasizing that activists, lawyers and rights defenders face unfair charges, detention and trials in China. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said her office is working to find “mutually agreeable parameters” for her to visit China, including Xinjiang. Efforts to arrange such a visit for the human rights commissioner date to before she took office in September 2018.

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Dutch Parliament: China’s Treatment of Uighurs Is Genocide

March 2, 2021

(Reuters) – The Dutch parliament on Thursday passed a non-binding motion saying the treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority in China amounts to genocide, the first such move by a European country. Activists and U.N. rights experts say at least one million Muslims are being detained in camps in the remote western region of Xinjiang. The activists and some Western politicians accuse China of using torture, forced labour and sterilisations.

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States Easing Virus Restrictions Despite Experts’ Warnings

March 1, 2021

(Associated Press) – With the U.S. vaccination drive picking up speed and a third formula on the way, states eager to reopen for business are easing coronavirus restrictions despite warnings from health experts that the outbreak is far from over and that moving too quickly could prolong the misery. 

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War and Famine Could Wipe Out the Next Generation of Yemenis

March 1, 2021

(The Guardian) – The opportunity to make the little girl’s dream come true never came. She died a few days later. This terrible story repeats itself all over Yemen every single day. “Famine” is a complex technical term, which requires quality data that the country lacks. Labels aside, however, 16 million people – or half the country’s population – are definitely already going hungry. As the UN struggles to raise funds for its humanitarian programming for 2021 – even from countries such as the UK and the Gulf monarchies, which play an active role in the conflict – the situation is only going to get worse.

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Spain Suffers Second-Worse Month for Virus Deaths

March 1, 2021

(Medical Xpress) – Spain suffered its second-worst month for coronavirus deaths in February with 10,528 fatalities, the worst figure since April last year, government figures showed on Monday. The overall toll now stands at 69,609, health ministry data showed.

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High Staff Turnover at U.S. Nursing Homes Poses Risks for Residents’ Care

March 1, 2021

(The New York Times) – Extraordinarily high turnover among staffs at nursing homes likely contributed to the shocking number of deaths at the facilities during the pandemic, the authors of a new study suggested. The study, which was published Monday in Health Affairs, a health policy journal, represents a comprehensive look at the turnover rates in 15,645 nursing homes across the country, accounting for nearly all of the facilities certified by the federal government. The researchers found the average annual rate was 128 percent, with some facilities experiencing turnover that exceeded 300 percent.

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Covid: France Approves AstraZeneca Vaccine for Over-65s

March 1, 2021

(BBC) – The French government says older people with pre-existing conditions can now get AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, revising its stance on the issue. “People affected by co-morbidities can be vaccinated with AstraZeneca, including those aged between 65 and 74,” the health minister said. Last month France approved use of the vaccine for under-65s only, citing lack of data for older people. Since then studies have shown the jab is highly effective among the elderly.

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Vulnerable Inmates Left in Prison as Covid Rages

March 1, 2021

(New York Times) – The coronavirus has infected more than 620,000 inmates and correctional officers in the nation’s prisons, jails and detention centers, according to a New York Times database. Nearly 2,800 inmates and guards have died, making correctional facilities among the most significant battlefronts of the pandemic, along with nursing homes and schools. Yet just 7,850 of the 151,735 people serving federal sentences right now have been granted home confinement — about 5 percent. State prison populations have fallen by 15 percent since the pandemic began, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, but not because inmates are being released to home confinement. Instead, many state prisons simply have stopped accepting transfers from county jails.

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