Posts tagged with "COVID-19"

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

Give it a shot: Why you need to get the flu shot during the pandemic

September 14, 2020

Even if you usually would be as likely to get a flu shot as to get shot out of a cannon, 2020has become the year for you to step up, grit your teeth, put on your favorite face mask, and get vaccinated, Bustle medical expert Dr. Julia Blank, a board-certified family physican in Pacific Palisades, California, tells us. :

Never done it before? Make this year a first, Dr. Blank advises.

Why? Because the 2020-21 flu shot is expected to be effective at keeping people from getting the flu—and is our best bet, if we want to keep our healthcare system from being overwhelmed by flu and COVID-19 patients at once.

“It’s important to get the flu vaccine this year for several reasons,” Dr. Blank recently said during an interview with Bustle.. For one, she says, immunity from the previous vaccine wanes in about six months, so it won’t protect you from year to year.

“It’s important to boost your body’s production of antibodies each flu season,” she says. On top of that, the flu itself evolves season to season; last year’s vaccine won’t protect you as well against this year’s strain. “The flu vaccine is updated each flu season to better match the surveillance data about which strains of flu virus are currently circulating and predicted to circulate during the coming season,” Dr. Blank says.

In the winter of 2018-19, around 490,600 people in the U.S. had to be hospitalized for flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. As of September 8, over 380,000 people had been hospitalized for COVID-19 in the United States, according to the COVID Tracking Project. 

“If we see a large rise in serious flu and COVID cases at the same time, this fall and winter, our health system may become overwhelmed, and this in turn may lead to greater morbidity and mortality,” Dr. Blank says. Getting vaccinated is also useful for diagnostic purposes. If you’ve had the flu vaccine and then later wake up with a fever and a cough, your doctor can send you off for a COVID-19 test quick smart.

The most common flu vaccine is quadrivalent, Bustle reports—meaning that it targets four separate strains of flu. Each quadrivalent vaccine protects against two A-types of flu and two B-types. A-types are found in both humans and animals, while B-types affect only humans.

Dr. Blank says three of those vaccines have been updated for the 2020 flu season, based on what strains have developed over the past 12 months. (If you’re allergic to egg, you’ll get a slightly different type of flu shot, but your doctor will talk you through what that means for your immunity.) 

Five centers for flu surveillance around the world—in London, Beijing, Atlanta, Melbourne, and Tokyo—coordinate twice a year to pool their research on emerging flu strains in order to develop the vaccine for the following season. They coordinate flu shots for both hemispheres, based on the strains that are popping up.

How effective the 2020 flu shot is likely won’t be known until later in the season, once it’s had time to do its thing. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study in 2019 found that the vaccine that year was 39% effective for all age groups, and 42% effective for people over 50. The European Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that vaccines for the most common A-type and B-type flus are between 30 and 60% effective every year on average.

Getting the flu shot isn’t a 100% guarantee that you won’t get the flu. It only targets the most common varieties, and if a less-common strain starts circulating, you’re not protected against it. But even if you do get the flu after getting the vaccine, research shows that it reduces the likelihood of severe symptoms by 40 to 60%, making it a good investment for your health.

Research contact: @bustle

CDC: People who test positive for COVID-19 are twice as likely to have dined out recently

September 14, 2020

study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that people who test positive for COVID-19 are twice as likely to have dined out in the 14 days before their diagnosis than those who test negative, Business Insider reports.

The study comes as most states allow people to dine indoors again. New York City recently announced plans to resume indoor dining on September 30.

The researchers collected data July 1-29 across 10 states from 314 adults with coronavirus symptoms. About half of them (154) tested positive for the virus.

Participants were asked about possible community exposure in the two weeks leading up to their test and how well they followed social-distancing measures.

The study did not, however, ask whether participants dined indoors or outdoors, and researchers said more studies were needed to establish whether the findings would be similar in a larger sample of people.

Respondents also were asked if they had worked at an office, gone shopping, gone to the gym, attended a church gathering, or used public transportation frequently in the two weeks before the diagnosis. Meanwhile, going to the beach or doing outdoor activities has been deemed low-risk by experts.

Specifically, the researchers determined:

  • 42% of those who tested positive said they had close contact with at least one person with COVID-19, most of whom (51%) were family members, two weeks before their test.
  • A lower proportion—14%—of the participants who tested negative reported having close contact with a person with known COVID-19 during the same time frame.
  • 71% of the people who tested positive, and 74% of those who tested negative, said they always wore a face covering while in public during the two weeks before their test. (The study did not ask participants what type of covering they wore, however.)

According to the Business Insider report, the CDC guidelines currently say that takeout, drive-thrus, or delivery services pose the lowest risk of contracting the coronavirus from a restaurant; while the highest risk would be offering indoor and outdoor dining where tables are neither reduced nor spaced at least six feet apart.

Experts have previously warned that air circulation in indoor spaces and gatherings—such as restaurants—could affect virus transmission.

As of Friday morning, September 11, the United States remains the worst-hit country in the pandemic. The country has reported more than 6.3 million coronavirus cases and nearly 200,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker.

Research contact: @businessinsider

Workers reveal Disney is using ‘Mickey Mouse’ pandemic rules, covering up its COVID cases

September 8, 2020

In early July, the Walt Disney Company reopened parts of two amusement parks— Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida; and Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Although they reopened within days of each other, the two parks worked with wildly different resources—and, employees have told The Daily Beast on the lowdown, disturbingly different results.

Disney World reopened to house the tightly controlled 13-week experiment known as the NBA Bubble, in which staff, players, coaches, and personnel adhered to strict social distancing guidelines and isolation requirements, paired with regular on-site testing. By contrast, Disneyland welcomed back its workers with less grandiosity—opening up a sprawling outdoor shopping district called Downtown Disney, with a select staff of several hundred.

Unlike the Bubble, the Downtown Disney district had no on-site testing. In a letter to the unions in June, Disney Labor Relations Director Bill Pace called testing “not viable” and prone to “false negatives,” in spite of the fact that it has been implemented in Orlando.

Likewise, the district did not contain its visitors, but allowed streams of thousands to pass in and out of the area with little more than a temperature check. But the most alarming difference, cast members told The Daily Beast, involved the district’s shadowy contact tracing. 

Four sources familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast that Disney has kept the total number of positive cases at the district under wraps.

Indeed, sources say,  that Disney has alerted unions only to the positive test results of their members—often days after the fact, risking further exposure—and leaving workers to guess for themselves why colleagues disappeared for days at a time. (Or why 11 people from the 12-person Horticulture Irrigation team didn’t show up to work for a full week.)

“We want to know if any cast members have tested positive. But Disney has taken the position that they’re only going to tell us if our cast members do,” Matt Bell, a spokesperson for UFCW Local 324, one of a dozen unions representing workers, or “cast members,” at Disneyland, told The Daily Beast in an interview. “What is supposed to happen is contact tracing—find out who was exposed and quarantine them as well. I can’t confirm that they’ve done that.”

“Basically all of our COVID information has come from word of mouth,” said Alicia*, the spouse of a cast member whose contract prohibits them from speaking to the press, “co-workers texting each other, co-workers talking to each other, and things that my [spouse] has seen on the job. None of this is from any of the managers. Disney management is not really officially acknowledging that any of this is happening.”

Disney did not respond to more than eight requests for comment.

Matt*, who requested anonymity out of fear for his job, has worked at Disney for four years as a plumber. Back in March, he was furloughed with the vast majority of Disney’s workers, cashing out vacation days to make ends meet. When Disney recalled workers to reopen parts of the park in late June, Matt was not too concerned. He worked outside mostly, often alone. The job already required wearing a mask and latex gloves, because of the pesticides in Disney’s soil. “It looks pretty,” he said, “but it’s a bunch of chemicals.”

The first week back, two sources familiar with the situation told The Daily Beast, one gardener went home sick. He had come back to work, only to find—after getting tested on his own time—that he had caught the virus from a relative. Two sources told The Daily Beast that Disney did not confirm the positive case until the following Monday, letting a week lapse before his co-workers knew they may have been exposed. Representatives for the workers’ union, LiUNA Local 652, did not respond to requests for comment.

Alicia did not have faith in Disney’s ability to pull off a safe reopening without regular on-site testing, touch-free temperature and bag checks, and a strict contact-tracing protocol—especially in a moment when Orange County was seeing a spike in positive cases. On July 8, ten days after the cast members returned to work and one day before the district opened, she wrote messages to both the City of Anaheim and California Governor Gavin Newsom, flagging the danger on behalf of several cast members. “Unknowingly, [the cast members were] working next to an employee who was exposed to COVID-19,” she wrote. “Although the Union urged him to not return, he still worked his entire shift, thus exposing ALL of [them].” 

“NO ONE,” she concluded, “‘needs’ to ride Dumbo during a plague!”

The governor never got back, but the City of Anaheim responded. “We’re sorry to hear of what you shared,” they wrote, according to messages reviewed by The Daily Beast. The next day, however, the city posted on its Facebook page about Downtown Disney, celebrating the district’s reopening “in a safe and responsible way.” Downtown Disney, they noted, is “a major generator of sales tax revenue.” 

“We understand the concerns of anyone working or going back to work,” Chief Communications Officer for the City of Anaheim Mike Lyster told The Daily Beast. “But we are unaware of any concerns at Downtown Disney.”

Workers disappear; word-of-mouth indicates COVID

From there, Alicia said, more workers began to disappear. In an extensive thread of text messages sent between late July and mid August, all of which were reviewed by The Daily Beast, three workers discussed positive cases on the Horticulture Irrigation team and their fear of going into work.

On July 23, one worker told another about two sick members of their team, one of whom tested positive, the other of whom was waiting on test results. The other worker responded with word that two machinists and a roofer on another team had also gone home sick. The following day, they discussed a third gardener who had gone home ill. On July 26, one cast member, Wilson (not his real name) confided that he had tested positive for COVID himself; his wife would get the same result four days later.

By July 27, according to the messages, six of the 12 members of their team were home sick or isolating. By July 29, that number had grown to nine.

On Aug.ust2, Wilson alleged in a text message that just five days after he tested positive for COVID-19, Disney had cleared him to return to work. At this point, Wilson claimed he had not isolated the recommended 14 days, nor received a negative test result. Nevertheless, he wrote, he returned to work on August 3. The following day, according to the text messages, two more members of the 12-person team had reportedly gone home, leaving just Wilson and one other worker.

Throughout this time, The Daily Beast reports, fear was escalating among the workforce. On behalf of her spouse, Alicia sent five messages to Governor Newsom’s office, to all of his social media accounts, and through his online comment portal.

“In addition to [Disney’s] unscrupulous suppression of their COVID-19 case numbers, they have ‘highly encouraged/recommended’ employees to not anger ANY customer in Downtown Disney,” Alicia wrote. “Regardless of the new safety rules, so long as the customer is wearing a mask, [cast members] are discouraged from ‘ruffling feathers,’ meaning social distancing enforcement has become fairly scattershot at best.”

Her messages were not returned–nor were further steps taken to protect either the workers or the park visitors.

The question at this point is, are those who return to Disney, either for work or play, “being taken for a ride”—and not the popular type, like Thunder Mountain?

Research source: @thedailybeast

Scared of school: 4 out of 5 parents are considering homeschooling their kids this fall

August 4, 2020

A new survey has found that four out of five parents nationwide are thinking seriously about homeschooling their children during the 2020-2021 academic year.

The poll—commissioned by Crispy Green, a producer of freeze-dried fruit snacks; and conducted by OnePoll—spoke with 2,000 U.S mothers and fathers to see how families are adjusting to the “new normal” created by COVID-19.

Health is the biggest concern for most parents. The vast majority of respondents say the risk of infection is their biggest worry, according to a report by Study Finds. 

Among the parents thinking about a virtual education, 81% point to increasing health concerns. Eighty-two percent admit they’re more scared to send their kids into a school than ever before.

Parents also worry that, once children are back in class, hygiene issues will quickly put schools at risk. About 60% of respondents don’t believe their children will properly wash their hands in school. Nearly half the respondents say they’re trying to teach their kids about proper hygiene during the pandemic.

Researchers say a majority of parents are also taking this time in isolation to talk to their children more about safety and the importance of social distancing.

Another big takeaway from the poll is how costly COVID-19 will be for parents preparing children for school. Three in four respondents are expecting to spend an extra $147 per child to get them the proper supplies. Those same parents add that getting their kids ready for class will take much longer. They believe prepping to go to school during the pandemic will take an extra 40 minutes each morning.

Despite all the preparations families are making, 77% of moms and dads say they won’t be fully prepared for schools to reopen. Many parents have a long list of demands for education officials before they begin to feel comfortable with the idea of going back to school.

Over half, 55%, want increased COVID-19 testing and regular temperature checks on school premises, Study Finds notes. Nearly the same number of parents want smaller class sizes in the fall. Fifty percent want plenty of hand sanitizer available for children; while 40% of parents want schools to use more digital textbooks, too.

However, despite all the uncertainty tied to the next school year, parents know their children are doing a better job of coping with all the changes than they are. Fully 71% admit they wouldn’t have handled a pandemic as well when they were children.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Penguins at England’s Newquay Zoo perk up and play during pandemic with new bubble machine

July 28, 2020

Who can resist a shiny stream of bubbles—blowing willy-nilly in front of them? Certainly not the penguins at the Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, England, who were both fascinated and delighted when a patron recently donated a bubble machine for their amusement, the Good News Network reports.

The bubbles, which cause no harm to the animals, have in the past also proven popular among the zoo’s squirrel monkeys and Sulawesi crested macaques. But they were particularly appreciated by the penguins, who had been sorely lacking in entertainment since the pandemic began.

Penguin caretaker Dan Trevelyan told Good News Network that the bubbles help to keep the penguins’s predatory reflexes sharp.

“In the wild, these guys are marine predators who are very sensitive to objects and movement,” said Trevelyan. “The bubble machine is fantastic, as all the movement and new shapes and colors really stimulate these guys. They have a great time chasing them around. And all these donations are really appreciated.”

Animal enrichment programs are used to provide zoo animals with specialized stimulation designed to encourage their natural behaviors and prevent them from getting bored. Enrichment usually consists of branches and foliage, but can also come in the form of food hidden in hard-to-reach places for the animals to find.

These birds in particular are usually kept occupied by feeding shows and guests visiting the zoo, but due to the novel coronavirus, their daily routine was forced to change. Thankfully, Newquay Zoo fully re-opened to the general public on July 1.

Research contact: @goodnews_ntwrk

Google will extend employee work-from-home policy until Summer 2021

July 28, 2020

We doubt that there will be much pushback from employees, now that Google has once again pushed back the date when its offices will reopen—this time, to Summer 2021., The Wall Street Journal reports.

Previously, the search engine platform had said that employees would return to the office on July 6 of this year; then, had postponed reopening to September. The latest change of plans reflects the current COVID-19 landscape—with more than 4.2 million cases nationwide and deaths mounting—which has grown immeasurable more dangerous just since May.

Indeed, the Journal reports, Google CEO Sundar Pichai made the decision partly to help employees with children who may be facing a partly or mostly remote school year.

“To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we are extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don’t need to be in the office,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an email to employees obtained by the Journal. “I hope this will offer the flexibility you need to balance work with taking care of yourselves and your loved ones over the next 12 months.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Rob Copeland first reported that Google would announce as early as Monday, July 27, that it had pushed its return-to-office date back to July 2021 for nearly all of its 200,000 employees and contract workers.

Google closed its offices in March as the coronavirus hit the San Francisco Bay Area. Management is now looking at the situation in California with an abundance of caution; although Pichai said in his memo to employees that Googlers had returned to the office “with robust health and safety protocols in place” in 42 countries where conditions have improved.

Google is one of several tech companies mulling how and when to reopen offices. Microsoft has said employees will work from home through at least October, while Amazon has said employees will work remotely until January. Both companies are based in Seattle, where coronavirus cases are still on the rise.

Twitter, based in San Francisco, announced in May that employees could work from home forever if they wanted. For Facebook, which appears to have sent some employees back to the office in July, as many as half of all employees will most likely work from home permanently, CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently said.

Research contact: @WSJ