Posts tagged with "COVID-19"

President Biden to sign executive actions aimed at ending COVID pandemic

January 22, 2021

On first full day in the Oval Office, President Joe Biden is expected to sign a second set of executive actions, aimed at making good on his plans to use the might of the federal government to end the coronavirus pandemic, The Guardian reports.

His administration plans a coordinated federal coronavirus response aimed at restoring trust in the government and focused on boosting vaccines, increasing testing, reopening schools, and addressing inequalities thrown up by the disease.

“We can and will beat COVID-19. America deserves a response to the COVID-19 pandemic that is driven by science, data and public health—not politics,” the White House said in a statement outlining the administration’s national strategy on COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness.

The administration’s new strategy is based around seven major goals:

  1. Restoring public trust in government efforts;
  2. Getting more vaccine doses into more arms;
  3. Mitigating the spread—including mask mandates;
  4. Emergency economic relief;
  5. A strategy to get schools and workers functioning ag;
  6. Establishing an equity task force to address disparities in suffering involving issues of race, ethnicity and geography; and
  7. Preparing for future threats.

According to The Guardian, Biden has pledged to vaccinate 100 million people in 100 days and reverse the impact of a year of mismanaged response under Donald Trump that saw more than 400,000 people die and more than 24 million infected – by far the worst rates in the world.

But his executive orders are set to go far beyond just boosting vaccination efforts.

The 46th U.S. president plans to re-engage with the World Health Organization—a reversal from the Trump administration’s move to cut ties during the pandemic. In other moves, the new administration says it plans to set up pandemic testing and vaccination sites, and devise a speedy vaccine distribution program.

On traveling, Biden will sign an executive order requiring people to wear a mask on trains, airplanes and maritime vessels. Another Health and Human Services to give guidance on safely reopening schools.

Biden also will release a presidential memorandum utilizing the FEMA disaster relief fund for providing reimbursement for personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning, and costs needed to safely reopen schools.

The Biden administration is also looking to fix supply shortfalls. Biden plans to direct federal agencies to fulfill supply shortfalls using the Defense Production Act.

Biden will restore a White House team on global health risks set up under Barack Obama and dismantled under Donald Trump.

The executive orders aim to help people of color in particular. One will set up the COVID-19 health equity taskforce.

Biden will issue an order to develop a national strategy to reopen schools, hoping to meet his goal of having most elementary and middle schools open within his first 100 days in office and will ask Congress to provide $130 billion additional aid to schools, $35 billion for colleges and universities, $25 billion for child care centers at risk of closing and $15 billion in childcare aid for struggling families.

Research contact: @GuardianUS

You can use Yelp to report businesses that aren’t enforcing social distancing and mask use

January 13, 2021

Businesses that do not enforce social distancing or that do not require their employees to wear masks now can be reported in a new Yelp update that launched on Tuesday, January 12, Business Insider divulged this week.

Yelp users can specify what type of pandemic precautions a business is—or is not—taking by answering survey questions on the business’ page or through the edit button on a company’s COVID-19 updates section.

What’s more, businesses on Yelp will either receive a green check mark or orange question mark to indicate whether they are following COVID-19 guidelines.

Multiple customers must report a business within 28 days for it to appear on the company’s page.

Yelp said that every decision the company has made to date to prioritize COVID-19 information on its site has only increased consumer interest.

“This new update further highlights how businesses have adapted to keep their customers safe, and aims to instill confidence in consumers to continue supporting local businesses,” Yelp’s Head of Consumer Product, Akhil Ramesh, said in the announcement.

Businesses with multiple locations only will receive feedback based on each individual location—and will not be rated overall. Yelp also plans to send users notifications when a company updates its COVID-19 information.

The review aggregation site has actively updated coronavirus data on the app since the pandemic started. In June, Yelp launched its coronavirus safety section where companies were able to update their pages with their own COVID-19 information.

Research contact: @businessinsider

Sweetgreen will pilot a drive-in restaurant as part of suburban push

December 17, 2020

These are the “salad days” for the restaurant chain Sweetgreen, which has been been offering contact-free delivery and pickup at its 91 restaurants throughout the pandemic, CNBC reports..

Now, Chief Concept Officer Nic Jammet says that the business pivot that the company has taken since the virus took hold in the USA earlier this year has accelerated its decision to pilot test a new type of eatery—slated to open next winter in Highlands Ranch, Colorado next winter. At the test site, customers will be encouraged to order on-site using dedicated parking spaces with intercom boxes connected to the chain’s app; and to pick up their food from drive-thru lanes.

As Sweettgreen expands from urban settings into suburban America, it joins the flood of restaurant companies that have unveiled new designs inspired by the coronavirus pandemic. Fast-food chains like Yum Brands’ Taco Bell and Restaurant Brands International’s Burger King have focused their new designs on making delivery and digital orders even more convenient.

But the fast-casual segment, which includes Sweetgreen and Chipotle Mexican Grill, has been influenced by the success of drive-thru lanes. Drive-thru orders grew by 24% across the restaurant industry in October, according to the NPD Group.

Like Sweetgreen, Shake Shack will open its first ever drive-thru lane in 2021, says CNBC. And Chipotle, which has been building its “Chipotlanes” for several years, is planning to add even more drive-thru lanes as same-store sales at those restaurants outpace the rest of its footprint.

Already, says Jammet, “A lot of our customers [… already are adopting this] behavior of using the Sweetgreen app to order ahead and come in ahead to pick it up.”

Research contact: @CNBC

Moderna’s vaccine is highly effective, FDA says, clearing way for second vaccine

December 16, 2020

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is 94% effective at preventing symptomatic illness—and appears to prevent the spread of the virus, as well—according to an FDA briefing document released on Tuesday, December 15, NBC News reports. .

The findings set the Moderna vaccine up for emergency use authorization by the FDA—which would double the number of COVID-19 vaccines available, after the first shots of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine were given to healthcare workers nationwide in the USA on Monday.

The high efficacy of the Moderna vaccine was achieved after two doses given 28 days apart. This is about the same level of effectiveness as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.E

But there is also evidence that just one dose of Moderna’s may stop the virus’s spread. A second document published on the FDA website shows asymptomatic infection was reduced by 63% after the first shot.

Still, it is expected that regulators will require two doses of the vaccine for maximum protection, NBC News notes.

A committee independent of the FDA, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, will meet Thursday to decide whether to recommend that the agency greenlight the Moderna vaccine. The meeting will largely mirror the one from last Thursday, when the panel of experts ultimately recommended that the FDA authorize Pfizer’s vaccine.

The vaccines from both drugmakers use similar technology.

It is widely anticipated that the Moderna vaccine’s path to approval will be similar to Pfizer’s. Indeed, NBC reports, an authorization could come as soon as Friday. And officials with Operation Warp Speed are already planning for widespread distribution of the Moderna vaccine.

Research contact: @NBCNews

After COVID, Bryan Cranston isn’t stopping to smell the roses

December 9, 2020

Bryan Cranston, 64—still celebrated for his memorable acting turn in Breaking Bad and now appearing in Your Honor—still can’t fully taste or smell after getting the coronavirus back in March, the actor shared December 4 on The Ellen Show.

Both Cranston and his wife, actor Robin Dearden, came down with the illness, Self Magazine reports.

As he told DeGeneres: “She got it first. She gave it to me because we share.”

Overall, Cranston and his wife had a mild experience with the virus. “We had a few days of achiness, but not enough to keep you in bed, and I had a temperature of about 99 [degrees] for about three hours. And then just exhaustion for a week after that,” he explained. “We were very lucky, in all seriousness.”

The majority of the couple’s symptoms lasted for about ten days, Cranston said. But his sense of taste and smell still aren’t what they used to be. “The only thing that lingered and still to this day is I lost a percentage of my ability to taste and smell,” the actor told DeGeneres. “I think about 75% has come back. But if someone was brewing coffee, and I walk into a kitchen, I cannot smell it.”

A loss of taste or smell is one of the strange but not uncommon symptoms of this novel coronavirus. One small study published by JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery last June surveyed 204 people who had been diagnosed with coronavirus and found that 55.4% of them reported a loss of taste, while 41.7% reported a loss of smell.

Then an August 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis by the Mayo Clinic looked at 24 studies with a collective 8,438 test-confirmed COVID-19 patients and found an average of 41% of patients had a loss of smell, while an average of 38.2% had a loss of taste.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 symptoms run the gamut. In addition to a new loss of taste or smell, symptoms can include fevercough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.

The CDC continues to update the list as new symptoms emerge. If a person with the virus develops symptoms, signs of illness appear between 2 to 14 days after exposure, though asymptomatic people can and certainly do spread the illness as well. Experts also continue to look into “long-haulers” such as Cranston—who experience coronavirus symptoms weeks or months after first getting the disease.

Several other celebrities have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Neil Patrick Harris also experienced a loss of taste and smell back in March, which alerted him to the fact that he didn’t just have the flu. Hugh Grant sprayed his wife’s perfume directly in his face to try to trigger his sense of smell, but got nothing—and also struggled with a feeling of pressure on his chest. Rita Wilson initially thought her fatigue symptoms were just jet lag when she and her husband, Tom Hanks, were diagnosed.

“I was pretty strict in adhering to the protocols and still… I contracted the virus. Yep. it sounds daunting now that over 150,000 Americans are dead because of it,” Cranston wrote on his Instagram back in July. “I count my blessings and urge you to keep wearing the damn mask, keep washing your hands, and stay socially distant. We can prevail—but ONLY if we follow the rules together.”

Research contact: @SELFmagazine

The new ‘Donald J. Trump Presidential Library’ is fake news for his detractors to love

November 17, 2020

It’s been tough for anyone to get an up-close and personal look at presidential history during 2020. From FDR’s family home in Hyde Park, New York, to Ronald Reagan’s commemorative exhibition space in Simi Valley, California, all 13 presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) have been closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sadly, for folks who like to absorb history in person, we’ll likely see fewer brick-and-mortar presidential libraries in the future, Forbes reports. Four years since the 44th president left office, the all-digital Barack Obama Presidential Library isn’t fully open yet. And, while it takes a lot of time to digitize hundreds of thousands of records, NARA supports the digital model chosen by Obama going forward.

Now, considering his reluctance to read, you wouldn’t think that President Donald Trump’s first priority would be a library for posterity. But search the internet for Donald Trump Presidential Library and you will find a shiny new website already achieving killer first-page ranking on Google, Forbes says.

What’s more, this slick operation has a communications team that churns out press releases and thousands follow the DJT Library on Twitter.

Sleekly rendered in WordPress using the classy Musea theme, with an elegant gray Garamond typeface and all-white backdrop, djtrumplibrary.com looks and feels like many beautiful museum portals. That is, until you start poking around.

The website invites Americans to explore the COVID Memorial, where a quiet reflecting pool lets visitors “mourn the thousands dead under his lack of leadership.” Oh.

Decorated with “Make America Great Again” signs and Confederate flags, the Alt-Right Auditorium is hosting a movie series including Nazi propaganda and Birth of a Nation. “A silent film which represents the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) as a heroic force necessary to preserve American values and a white supremacist social order,” touts the site, along with a special promo: “2 for 1 tickets available for White Supremacy Wednesday!”

Yes, folks, it’s a hoax —and a rather elaborate, painstaking one at that.

While the project began as the brainchild of a small New York City architecture practice that wishes to remain anonymous, the team quickly “gained an army of curators, writers, designers, and general trouble-makers,” according to the site’s FAQ page.

The Felons Lounge is a shrine to Trump’s indicted cohorts, Forbes informs us.

As satirical spoof sites go, this is top of the line, chock full of custom artwork and clever Easter eggs. Take the library’s physical address at 1 MAGA Lane in Nogales, Arizona. The street is fictional, of course, but Nogales is a real border city that’s been central to Trump’s “build the wall” promise.

And check out the price of admission. Kids and students are free, while there’s a three-tiered structure for adults: $10 for seniors, $25 for U.S. citizens and $50 for immigrants.

Presidential libraries are known for museum-quality exhibits that show off their respective administrations’ accomplishments. Think John F. Kennedy’s Space Program Exhibit, LBJ’s Social Justice Gallery and Reagan’s Berlin Wall Exhibit.

At the faux Donald J. Trump Presidential Library website, permanent exhibits include Tax Evasion 101, where letters spelling “tax paid $750” rise from the floor in bas-relief. There’s a Twitter gallery, of course, as well as a Wall of Criminality that draws lines from Trump to some of his numerous alleged misdeeds.

No doubt, Trump critics will enjoy taking this unflattering virtual tour of his presidency. But while the site is layered with plenty of snark, its take-away is somehow not gleeful, Forbes notes.

For a reminder of why so few Americans are traveling these days, head to the rooftop COVID Cemetery, where an old tweet from Trump supporter Herman Cain, who died of Covid-19, has been blown up to billboard size. It reads, “It looks like the virus is not as deadly as the mainstream media first made it out to be.”

Research contact: @Forbes

 

Pandemic prompts drive-through pet blessing in the Philippines

October 8, 2020

Coronavirus-wary (and weary) animal owners in the Philippines had their pets blessed during a drive-through ceremony on Sunday, October 4, to mark World Animal Day and the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

From a safe distance inside their owners’ cars, cats, dogs, and birds were sprinkled with holy water by a Catholic priest in Manila, as the nation’s coronavirus cases continued to surge, Reuters reports, noting that the Philippines had confirmed a total of 322,497 coronavirus infections as of that date—the highest in Southeast Asia.

But the numbers continue to spiral upward: as of October 7, the Philippines’ Health Ministry had recorded 2,825 new coronavirus infections and 50 additional deaths.

Organizers and participants said this year’s unusual way of blessing pets for World Animal Day ensured social distancing.

“We have to adapt to the new normal and the pandemic should never stop us from paying tribute to the furry animals that we have,” said Ritchie Pascual, one of the event organizers.

For dog-owner Arlene Pedron, having her pet blessed is “very important…because we really feel like our pet is part of our family.

“We also want the best for his health,” Pedron said, while waiting in line with her two-year-old golden retriever.

Research contact: @Reuters

Trump tells nation not to fear pandemic he allowed to spread and kill 200,000 Americans

October 7, 2020

All eyes have been on President Donald Trump as he battles COVID-19—the disease he has spent most of this year pooh-poohing, even as more than 200,000 Americans have died on his watch.

But even while he’s infected with the highly contagious virus, the president continues to gaslight a traumatized nation by minimizing the pandemic, the Huffington Post reports.

On Monday, Trump left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center,  despite still being infected with the coronavirus. He was admitted to the hospital in Maryland on Friday,  just hours after revealing that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the virus, but White House physicians have not been transparent about the president’s health in daily press conferences.

“Feeling really good!” Trump tweeted. “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”

Trump’s tweet not only implied that those who die of COVID-19 are weak but also suggested that the American people should not fear a virus that has already infected almost 7.5 million and killed about 210,000 people in the United States this year — in part due to the president’s own dangerous rhetoric and botched response to the pandemic, the HuffPost said.

Most COVID-19 victims have died alone due to safety precautions, leaving loved ones to navigate an already difficult mourning process, and those who survive the illness often deal with long-term health issues.

“My dad loved to talk and I miss talking to him,” said Brian Walter, an essential transit worker in New York whose father died from the virus, in a statement for the grassroots network COVID Survivors for Change. “To hear Trump say that people shouldn’t fear this virus hurts. It makes me worry for all the families who will still experience the loss of a loved one because our president refuses to take this pandemic seriously.”

What’s more, HuffPost points out, “As Trump diminishes the virus and boasts about drug development, he is also receiving top-notch medical care and treatments out of the reach of many Americans. The president had a taxpayer-funded helicopter take him to his own secluded ward of a world-class hospital, where a team of dedicated doctors exclusively monitored him around the clock, providing him pricey experimental treatments not yet available to the public free of charge.

“Don’t be afraid, says the guy with a team of a dozen doctors, access to experimental treatments that no one else gets, a four room hospital suite, who lives in a house with top doctors on site 24/7,” tweeted Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), noting reports showing that Trump paid little or no federal income tax in recent years. “All of which is provided to him for free because he refuses to pay taxes.”

Meanwhile, everyday Americans face rising medical bills for COVID-19 treatment and hospital stays. Some people early in the pandemic could not even receive a coronavirus test unless they met certain criteria, let alone hospital admission with even stricter requirements. And with the president and Republicans pushing for the Supreme Court to repeal the Affordable Care Act, COVID-19 could become a preexisting condition not covered by insurance.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Cleverhood debuts new Rover Rain Capes

September 29, 2020

As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow informed us in his 1842 poem: “Into each life some rain must fall.”  And for better or worse, we are still dealing with that reality more than 200 years later; but that doesn’t mean we have to stay home, or wear a bulky slicker, or carry an umbrella to stay dry.

In fact, a Providence, Rhode Island-based firm called Cleverhood is manufacturing outerwear for the increasing number of bikers who are hitting the streets during the COVID-19 pandemic—during good weather and bad. The rainwear is short (so it won’t get caught in spokes); available in neon-bright colors; and encourages mobility with its saucy yet chic design.

The Rover Rain Cape is a sleek and less pricey new fully waterproof  option—with a suggested retail price of $99, compared to the $249 that Cleverhood charges for its Classic Cape—with clever features and sustainable materials

Available in six colors, this seam-sealed garment features a three-way adjustable hood and a rugged YKK black zipper. Strong elastic thumb loops keep the Rover secure when biking (plus optional belt available). Reflective 3M accents provide hi-viz for dark, rainy nights. The overall effect, the company said in its September 28 news release, is coverage for your whole body when biking and a garment that looks cool when walking.

“As the coronavirus pandemic limits travel, pastime and health club options, people are walking and biking more. Cities are opening streets to pedestrians, cyclists and open-air dining. We’ve seen a 177% increase in sales, which correlates with the boom in bike sales and people’s new appreciation for their local environment, and healthy coping mechanisms,” said Susan Mocarski, founding owner of Cleverhood. “Rain or shine, it’s good to get out when the opportunity presents itself. We’ve designed the Rover Cape to extend life’s opportunities.”

Research contact: @cleverhoods

Stretch goals: Lululemon is finally extending its size range

September 15, 2020

A larger Lululemon size offering is finally here. The Vancouver, Canada-based activewear brand announced on September 8 at a press conference helmed by CEO Calvin McDonald that it will offer sizes up to 20 for its core styles by the end of September.

The company currently only goes up to a size 14 for most pieces—and its body-hugging athletic gear is shown on the Lululemon website on models with thin frames.

Indeed, Lululemon has been called out on multiple occasions in the past for body-shaming, according to a report by Bustle. In 2013, former CEO Chip Wilson resigned after stating that Lululemon pants “don’t work for some women’s bodies.” Then, in 2017, a woman’s story went viral after she was allegedly told that she should be shopping for a larger size when visiting the Lululemon store in Canada.

Despite these incidents, the brand continues to enjoy unprecedented popularity in the activewear market, Bustle notes. Several items — including Meghan Markle’s go-to Align leggings—continue to sell out.

What’s more. those who are quarantining and working from home during a time of pandemic are choosing to wear comfortable, soft clothing. Thus, the brand was one of the few that saw a significant sales increase during the first half of the year.

While the brand will offer larger sizes for its core pieces by the end of the month; McDonald promised that the “majority of women’s products” will be more size-inclusive by the end of 2021. He added that it is “an important step forward” for the company.

Research contact: @bustle