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Two UK cases of South Africa Covid strain are likely ‘the tip of the iceberg’& restrictions ‘may be too late’


THE two UK cases of the coronavirus strain from South Africa are likely to be the “tip of the iceberg”, according to experts.

And banning flights from South Africa, and strict quarantining of recent arrivals, may be “too late” to stop the spread of the new variant in the UK.

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A new strain which developed in the UK has already plunged millions in Tier 4 rules

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A new strain which developed in the UK has already plunged millions in Tier 4 rulesCredit: AFP or licensors

During yesterday’s Downing Street briefing, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed the new and “highly concerning” strain, called 501.V2, had entered Britain.

He ordered anyone who has visited South Africa in the past two weeks, or been in contact with someone who has, to quarantine immediately.


Coronavirus Scotland: Almost a fifth of Scots planning to break Covid rules to celebrate Christmas, poll shows


All flights from South Africa will be stopped, with people who have been in or transited through South Africa in the last 10 days are no longer allowed into the UK, other than British or Irish nationals who must self isolate.

Mr Hancock claimed the new variant is even more contagious than another new strain detected in Kent and London earlier this month, which scientists say is up to 70 per cent more easily spread.

It has led to millions being plunged into Tier 4 at the “eleventh hour” before Christmas, or on Boxing Day, to manage “out of control” cases.

Professor Lawrence Young, a molecular oncologist, University of Warwick, told The Sun: “If this strain is as transmissible as suggested by the data that has come out of South Africa, then just identifying a few cases recently, it’s probably just the tip of the iceberg, I suspect.

“You can identify it in a couple of people… but they’ll be more, for sure. 

“Some cases will be from people spreading it in the UK, and some will be from other introductions from South Africa.”

Prof Young said there is “still a lot we don’t know” about the variant from South Africa, and whether it is more transmissible, or simply been able to grow “in the right place, at the right time”. 

Scientists in South Africa say the variant is still being analysed, but the data are consistent with it spreading more quickly. It accounts for around 90 per cent of new cases.

Prof Young said: “If this has become the dominant infection in South Africa, and it’s been there certainly for a couple of months, and how many have travelled between the UK and South Africa in that time now? Quite a lot I would’ve thought.”

Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said it’s “quite possible” there are undetected cases in the UK, but it will “probably be a number of weeks before we know for certain”.

Speaking of the quarantine measures imposed yesterday, Prof Hunter said: “It might already be too late, but we just don’t know.

“If [these two] are the only infections, yes it might be enough. But if it has already spread elsewhere in the UK and we just don’t know it, the answer is probably no, it won’t be sufficient.”

What is the new strain from South Africa?

The new variant is called 501.V2 and it was announced by the South African government on December 18.

At this stage, its symptoms do not appear to be different to that caused by the original Covid strain.

The most common signs of Covid to look out for are a loss of taste and smell, a persistent cough, and a high temperature.

Scientists are investigating whether the new strain causes more severe disease. But it does seem to be infecting more young people than the original strain, according to South African’s health minister Zweli Mkhize.

Dr Andrew Preston, University of Bath, said: “The ‘South African’ variant is distinct from the UK variant, but both contain an unusually high number of mutations compared to other SARS-CoV-2 lineages.”

“Some of these mutations change the S protein, which is cause for concern,” Dr Preston said.

The spike protein is on the outer surface of the viral particle. It is a focus for coronavirus vaccines, and so if it changes, it could affect how vaccines work.

New strains may make vaccines less effective, because the immune system does not recognise the new variant when it infects the body. This is “highly unlikely” to affect the vaccines that are being rolled out in the UK right now.

The mutations in this virus also mean it’s possible it can reinfect a person who has already recovered from Covid-19.

All of these things are being studied closely.

Mutations are normal in any evolution of a virus over time. Already thousands have been found in SARS-CoV-2 within one year.

What makes the latest two from the UK and South Africa so interesting is the speed at which they became “prominent”, causing lots of cases and suddenly.

The two confirmed cases -in London and the North West – were close contacts of people who had recently travelled to South Africa.

Those travellers would have had Covid-19, possibly without showing symptoms.

It is not clear if this was while they were in the UK, and if they have passed it onto other people who have gone undetected. 

Infectious diseases expert Dr Susan Hopkins told the Downing Street press conference yesterday that health chiefs were “pretty confident” the measures that have been taken will help to control the spread.

TRAVEL ALLOWS STRAINS TO SPREAD

Experts said it’s likely there are more cases of the South Africa variant on the basis that the UK one has already reached several other countries. 

Prof Hunter told The Sun: “It wouldn’t surprise me if it was circulating, in the way the English one is circulating already in many European countries.”

Prof Young said: “This so-called UK variant is now in Belgium, Gibraltar, the Netherlands, Australia, Denmark. It’s all over the place. Today it’s been reported in Israel.

Where the UK strain has been detected

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Where the UK strain has been detected

“It’s because of travelling. I know it is difficult, but if you don’t restrict travel, and you’re not strict about quarantining people, this is what you end up with.”

The UK has repeatedly seen introductions of other strains from across the world which have quickly become dominant, and caused cases to soar. 

Prof Young said: “One of the things we’ve not been so good at is border control. When you look at countries that have been successful, one of the things they did very early on is shut their borders.

“We were very slow to do that, hence we allowed a lot of introductions of the virus into the UK from overseas.

“That’s what happened in the first wave, and it looks like that also contributed to fuelling this second wave.”

What’s happening in South Africa?

501.V2 accounts for up to 90 percent of South Africa’s new cases.

Daily confirmed infections are reaching 9,500 per day, on average.

It’s the highest it’s been since the peak of the first wave in July, when almost 13,000 cases were being diagnosed a day.

The country saw a dip in cases between September and mid-November before a sudden spike, which the health minister Mr Mkhize said was “being driven by this new variant”.

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Latest figures suggest the South African strain was behind a record number of people being hospitalised there.

South Africa has recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections on the African continent, approaching the 950,000 mark, with over 25,000 related deaths so far.

A resurgence in positive cases saw the government tighten lockdown restrictions last week, but a lockdown has not been used.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on December 18 it was in touch with the South African researchers who identified the new variant.

“We are working with them with our SARS-CoV-2 Virus evolution working group,” said WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove.

“They are growing the virus in the country and they’re working with researchers to determine any changes in the behaviour of the virus itself in terms of transmission.”

Boris Johnson refuses to rule out new national lockdown as new Covid-19 strains hit hard


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A man died after a medical emergency on a United flight. Now the CDC wants to reach fellow passengers.


United Airlines said Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had requested the passenger manifest of an Orlando-to-Los-Angeles flight that diverted to New Orleans because of a medical emergency earlier in the week.

The man who became ill on the plane was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The passenger had filled out a required checklist before flying, saying he had not tested positive for the novel coronavirus and did not have symptoms. United says now that “it is apparent the passenger wrongly acknowledged this requirement.”

United referred questions about the man’s coronavirus status to the CDC, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some social media users who said they were also on the flight reported that the man’s wife said he had symptoms of the virus, including loss of taste and smell. United said that despite people overhearing that information, no medical professionals confirmed that the man had the coronavirus at the time.

“At the time of the diversion, we were informed he had suffered a cardiac arrest, so passengers were given the option to take a later flight or continue on with their travel plans,” United spokesman Charles Hobart said in a statement. “Now that the CDC has contacted us directly, we are sharing requested information with the agency so they can work with local health officials to conduct outreach to any customer the CDC believes may be at risk for possible exposure or infection.”

United said the airline decided to keep going to Los Angeles after initially believing the man was suffering from “cardiac distress.”

“A change in aircraft was not warranted; instead, passengers were given the option to deplane and take a later flight or continue on to Los Angeles,” the airline said. “All passengers opted to continue.”

It was not clear Friday if any passengers had been contacted by the CDC. In response to questions from The Washington Post over the past few days, representatives for the ambulance service, hospital, airport and city of New Orleans either declined to release information about the man’s condition or said they had no information about a connection to the coronavirus.

In July, a woman died of covid-19 during a Spirit Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Dallas. Passengers were never notified, The Washington Post found, and the cause of her death wasn’t publicly reported until October.

“We implore passengers not travel if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have COVID-related symptoms,” United said. “If in doubt, the best option is to get tested.”

Read more:

No, you still shouldn’t travel if you had covid-19

What to know about getting tested for the coronavirus to travel

Vaccine news has led to a spike in travel bookings for 2021 and beyond





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Artificial Intelligence Wants to Help Covid-Wary Biz Travelers Be Smarter About Flying – Skift


It’s the question most global companies want an answer for: Can they finally restart their travel programs in 2021?

There’s been a lot of progress over the past few months, with several digital health passport schemes launched and vaccines rolling out. Travel corridors also offer some hope, with different countries relaxing rules or establishing fast lanes.

But at the same time, it means employers are faced with overwhelming amounts of information to process.

Now one technology platform thinks it has the answer. Dataminr said it leverages artificial intelligence to provide the earliest indications of business-critical information about risks to staff.

It claims it can provide real-time insights from on-the-ground happenings, such as new international travel restrictions or reports of overcrowded airport terminals through social media, to help inform travel decisions.

Dataminr also said it first detected the outbreak of Covid-19 from public social media posts at 9:11AM EST on December 30, 2019, so provided clients with the earliest warning — in advance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement seven days later, and the World Health Organization’s announcement 10 days later.

In June, travel managers attempted to figure out their return to travel plans, which proved short-lived. Is data crunching the secret to restoring confidence?

Early Warning Signals

“Data is key to decision making as organizations plan their return to travel, as authorizing managers weigh up the competing risks versus business need,” said Daniel Raine, founder of Unlocked Data. “Third-party data sources can provide a useful bridge to support the pre-tip decision making ensuring the travellers are informed and supported throughout their travel experience.”

Organizations and their travel managers need to receive the most relevant and useful information, and arguably this is best performed with algorithms that filter large and multi-dimensional data sets to support the individual trip decision-making.

The idea of real-time decision making also flips around the notion of booking in advance to save money. With more continuous pricing and dynamic fares around the corner, it’s also becoming a much less relevant practice.

“The speed with which circumstances change means that the final travel decision remains fluid right through until departure,” Raine added. The data used to support these decisions must be similarly dynamic and timely.

Meanwhile, the ability to curate the right kinds of information could fit with other off-the-shelf risk services. “This could sit alongside or even compete with what International SOS, Healix, and Riskline provide with their alerts,” said Gavin Smith, director of Element Technology. “I can see this being a useful early warning system that could help a business prepare to take action.”

American Airlines, Allegiant Air and other travel companies use Dataminr, a spokesperson said, in addition to other corporations who use its alerts to assess risk for their employees who travel. Its website counts Citi, 3M, and McDonald’s as clients, while Baylor University in Waco, Texas uses the platform to assess risk for faculty and students who are traveling abroad.

HUman Touch

However, travel decision-making involves more than taking stock of where travel restrictions have been lifted. There’s the personal profile of the traveler and their own circumstances, including health and risk appetite, too.

Dataminr says business face a unique set of new risks and challenges, and the recipients of its alerts vary by organization, depending on how they approach risk management. And some customers choose to provide access to all of their employees, while others restrict access to specific roles within the organization.

Unlocked Data’s Raine argued that although data science can be good at evaluating the objective risk of travel and likelihood of successful outcomes, organisations have rightly steered away from using algorithms to measure the complexity of traveler’s risk profile.

“One of the elephants in the room has to be that no company will ever say something is 100 percent safe,” said Chris Pouney, a former travel manager and associate at GoldSpring Consulting. “Risk managers have long argued that we need to take a more nuanced approach to risk management, considering who is traveling, their demographics and behaviors, as well as where they are going, and who they are seeing. Mitigation can then be developed.”

In the meantime, industry executives across different sectors continue to put their heads together. Travel Again’s Global Travel Recovery Framework is one of the more recent initiatives to offer recommendations on how to rebuild traveler confidence. It brought together executives from companies including Facebook, Hilton, HRS, Southwest Airlines and Air Canada to thrash out a plan.

Employees ultimately have the final say in when they get back on the road, but companies will probably take whatever help they can to make that calculation as easy as possible.

Photo Credit: Organisations have so far tended to steer away from using algorithms to measure the complexity of a traveler’s risk profile. Ismail Mohamed Sovile / Unsplash



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Our results reflect COVID-19’s devastating impact on travel industry


Transat A.T. Inc., one of the largest integrated tourism companies in the world and Canada’s holiday travel leader, announces its results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended October 31, 2020.

“Our results reflect COVID-19’s devastating impact across the travel industry,” stated Jean-Marc Eustache, President and Chief Executive Officer of Transat. 

“During the year, we took all necessary actions to limit the damage and preserve our cash. The upcoming completion of the transaction with Air Canada should give us the solidity to face the crisis and capitalize on the recovery that should be sparked by the arrival of a vaccine. We have put in place a $250.0 million short-term financing facility and are currently working on replacing it, should the transaction not take place, with an overall financing covering our needs for the year 2021. This financing could also be obtained as part of a support program for the industry, as announced by the government.” stated Mr. Eustache.

The global air transportation and tourism industry has faced a collapse in traffic and demand. Travel restrictions, uncertainty about when borders will reopen, both in Canada and at certain destinations the Corporation flies to, the imposition of quarantine measures both in Canada and other countries, as well as concerns related to the pandemic and its economic impacts are creating significant demand uncertainty, at least for fiscal 2021. In response to the first wave of the pandemic, the Corporation temporarily suspended its airline operations from April 1 to July 22, 2020. Subsequently, the Corporation implemented reduced summer and winter programs and is continuously making adjustments based on the level of demand and decisions made by health and state authorities. The Corporation cannot predict all the impacts of COVID-19 on its operations and results, or precisely when the situation will improve. The Corporation has implemented a series of operational, commercial and financial measures, including cost reduction, aimed at preserving its cash. The Corporation is monitoring the situation daily to adjust these measures as it evolves. However, until the Corporation is able to resume operations at a sufficient level, the COVID-19 pandemic will have significant negative impacts on its revenues, cash flows from operations and operating results. While the likelihood of the availability of a vaccine in the near future makes it possible to hope for the resumption of operations at a certain level during 2021, the Corporation does not expect such level to reach the pre-pandemic level before 2023.

The Corporation has taken the following measures regarding the COVID-19 pandemic:

Airline and commercial operations

  • On July 23, 2020, the Corporation partially resumed airline operations after four months of inactivity. A reduced summer program consisting of 23 routes to some 17 destinations was then progressively implemented.
  • For the winter program (from November 2020 to April 2021), to adapt to the low demand resulting from the COVID-19 second wave and to continued border restrictions and requirements in Canada and elsewhere, Transat gradually offers a reduced program of international flights departing from Montréal, Toronto and Quebec City.
  • Transat provides a simple and safe travel experience at every step. To this end, it has launched its Traveller Care program regarding health measures, which are regularly updated in compliance with recommendations issued by regulatory authorities. It has also assembled a new comprehensive practical guide full of tips to help travellers prepare for their trips and travel with peace of mind.

Cost reduction measures

  • In March, the Corporation decided to early retire all of its Airbus A310s from the fleet. Subsequently, the Corporation accelerated the expected retirement of its Boeing 737 fleet as well as some of its Airbus A330s to expedite the transformation of its fleet and make it more uniform (comprising only Airbus aircraft with cockpit commonality) and more adapted to the post-COVID-19 market, in terms of both aircraft size and overall capacity.
  • Management and the Board of Directors, agreed on a voluntary temporary reduction in their compensation ranging from 10% to 20%, which was in place until November 1, 2020, with the exception of Executive Officers whose reductions, ranging from 15% to 20%, are maintained until December 31, 2020 and members of the Board of Directors whose reduction of 20% is maintained until February 15, 2021.
  • The Corporation has also been negotiating with its suppliers to benefit from cost reductions and changes in payment terms, and has implemented measures to reduce expenses and investments.
  • The Corporation has also reduced its investment expenditures where possible without jeopardizing its future development.
  • As of the end of March, the Corporation proceeded with the gradual temporary layoff of a large part of its personnel, reaching approximately 85% at the height of the crisis. Following the resumption of airline operations, the Corporation was able to recall a certain number of employees, thereby adjusting its workforce to 25% of its pre-pandemic level.
  • As of March 15, 2020, the Corporation made use of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (“CEWS”) for its Canadian workforce, which enabled it to finance part of the salaries of its staff still at work and to propose employees temporarily laid off to receive a part of their salary equivalent to the amount of the grant received, with no work required. As at October 31, 2020, approximately two-thirds of the subsidy received corresponded to compensation paid to employees who were not working.

Financing and cash flows

  • In March, as a precautionary measure, the Corporation drew down on its $50.0 million revolving credit facility agreement for operating purposes.
  • Since March, the Corporation has been renegotiating with aircraft lessors, as well as other lessors, to defer a number of monthly lease payments.
  • On October 9, 2020, Transat put in place a $250.0 million subordinated short-term credit facility with the National Bank of Canada as the lead arranger. This loan facility may be drawn down in tranches before February 28, 2021, subject to the satisfaction of pre-requisites and applicable borrowing conditions. These conditions include certain requirements relating to unrestricted cash before and after a drawdown on the facility. The new loan facility is currently supposed to mature on the earlier of March 31, 2021 and the closing of the arrangement with Air Canada.
  • As part of the implementation of the revised arrangement agreement and the new loan facility, Transat has also been able to make certain amendments to its existing senior revolving term credit facility, including the temporary suspension of the application of certain financial ratios, providing Transat with additional flexibility in the context of the current business and economic environment. The amended terms and conditions also include a new requirement to maintain certain minimum levels of unrestricted cash as well as restrictions on the capacity to contract additional loans.
  • In order to protect its cash position and allow recovery after the restrictions have been lifted, the Corporation granted its customers a fully transferable travel credit valid without expiry date for flights and packages cancelled due to the exceptional situation and, in particular, to the travel restrictions imposed by governments.



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Lady Toppers Travel to Little Rock on Sunday


BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — The WKU women’s basketball team tips off the first of four games in nine days at Little Rock on Sunday. The game is set for a 2 p.m. (CT) tip and will be broadcast on ESPN+.   
 
Game Info
WKU (0-2) at Little Rock (2-2)
Sunday, Dec. 13 | 2 p.m. (CT)
Little Rock, Ark. | Jack Stephens Center
 
Links
WKU Game Notes
Watch (ESPN+)
Listen (ESPNKY 102.7) – Brett Williams (play-by-play)
Live stats
 
Notes

  • The Lady Toppers are currently led in scoring by Meral Abdelgawad who is putting up 14.0 points per game. Abdelgawad also leads on the boards, pulling down 9.5 rebounds per game. Ally Collett is the second leading scorer at 11.0 points per game.
  • Abdelgawad has made her presence felt on the defensive end of the court. She is racking up 8.0 defensive rebounds per game, which is the second highest rate in Conference USA and 25th nationally. Her 3.0 steals a game are also second in C-USA and 39th in the country. Selma Kulo is averaging 2.0 blocks per game, which is the second best rate in the league.
  • Sunday’s matchup will be the 32nd meeting between WKU and Little Rock, with most of the matchups coming during the teams’ shared Sun Belt Conference days. The Lady Toppers hold a 24-7 advantage in the series, including an 11-3 record in Little Rock.
  • Last season, the Lady Toppers and the Trojans faced off in Bowling Green and WKU came away with a 77-58 victory. Raneem Elgedawy led WKU with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Fatou Pouye had 13 points and seven rebounds in the contest and Abdelgawad had eight points.
  • In WKU’s last outing, Abdelgawad notched her second career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds along with a career high five steals. Pouye added 12 points and seven rebounds and Myriah Haywood joined the duo in double figures with 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

 
How to Follow the Lady Toppers: For complete information on WKU Lady Topper Basketball, visit WKUSports.com or follow the program via social media @LadyTopperHoops on Twitter, @LadyTopperHoops on Instagram and on Facebook at facebook.com/WKUWomensBasketball.
 





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Hungary and Iceland are embracing ‘immunity passports.’ Why isn’t the rest of the world?


(CNN) — With miles of barbed wire and electric fencing along its border and open government hostility to migrants, Hungary’s borders aren’t always the friendliest place for foreigners.

That’s during normal times. Amid the pandemic, Hungary has shut its doors to almost everyone, even its European neighbors.

Unless, they’ve had Covid-19.

It’s not the place you’d expect to find such a novel exception to otherwise tough entry rules.

The policy, which came into force in early September, opens the door to visitors who can provide evidence that they’ve recovered from Covid-19 — proof of both a positive and negative test in the past six months.

Iceland has plans for a similar policy beginning next week — and it already gives citizens who have previously been infected permission to ignore the nationwide mask mandate.

Experts call these types of policies a kind of “immunity passport.” But does beating the virus actually give you immunity? The evidence so far suggests that for most people, it does.

“It’s certainly theoretically possible that some people even who have antibodies may not be protected,” Dr. Ania Wajnberg tells CNN outside her lab at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York.

“But I think the majority of people that test positive for antibodies will be protected for some time.”

Reopening society

Hungary hasn't disclosed any outcomes of its Covid border strategy.

Hungary hasn’t disclosed any outcomes of its Covid border strategy.

Orsi Ajpek/Getty Images

Wajnberg is leading a massive study of more than 30,000 people who had mild to moderate cases of Covid-19. Her latest research published in October found that more than 90% of people have enough antibodies to kill the virus for many months after infection, perhaps longer.

So the risk that someone entering Hungary under this policy could get re-infected, or infect others, is low, she says. Though the science hasn’t entirely been settled on how long immunity does last for, there have only been a handful of documented cases of reinfection.

“This may be a reasonable way to begin to reopen society and allow for travel and business,” she says.

Iceland’s chief epidemiologist Thorolfur Gudnason has reached the same conclusion based on his country’s own data, and studies from abroad.

“I think it’s pretty safe. I mean, everything that we do has uncertainties with it. Nothing is 100%,” he told CNN.

The testing and quarantine exemption at the border begins December 10. The North Atlantic tourist magnet will accept documented proof of a positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that is at least 14 days old, or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test that measures antibody levels — provided it’s issued by an approved European lab.

Thorolfur says Icelanders who have beat the virus are also exempt from the nationwide mask mandate with a letter from their doctor — though he says most people wear them anyways because of social stigma. He’s never heard of anyone intentionally getting infected, especially with a vaccine coming soon.

“That is possible. But on the other hand, I think it’s also unfair to people who have had the infection. Why should they not be allowed to travel freely?” he said. “I think it’s a question of justice, basically. If you have the medical condition that you are not spreading or having the virus, you’re not a risk to the environment, then you should be sort of recognized for that.”

Covid spike risk

Iceland is allowing quarantine-free entry to people who can prove they've had Covid.

Iceland is allowing quarantine-free entry to people who can prove they’ve had Covid.

Shutterstock

Iceland is also in talks with the other Nordic countries — Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway — so that people with that exemption can travel freely without restrictions. Though Thorolfur says the talks haven’t gone far — and he doesn’t expect any other countries to follow Iceland’s lead.

Thorolfur was unaware of Hungary’s policy.

The central European country has had virtually nothing to say about the success or failure of its unique exemption, what science it’s based on, and how it weighed the pros and cons.

The Hungarian government declined interview requests and sent only a statement describing the policy itself. Many of the experts approached by CNN were unaware it was in place. It hasn’t been widely discussed even inside Hungary.

The World Health Organization (WHO) advised against immunity passports in April. “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” read its scientific brief.

On Thursday, the WHO confirmed it has not changed its position, but, Regional Advisor Dr. Siddhartha Sankar Datta said it was looking to help countries implement electronic vaccination certificates. Other experts have also raised concerns about immunity passports.

“I think the worst-case scenario is that you see a spike in cases that happens because people are incentivized to try to get Covid to demonstrate immunity,” Carmel Shachar, a Harvard University bioethics and health law expert, tells CNN.

“So, all of a sudden, you’d see people not wearing masks, not respecting social distancing, because they want to get Covid. Especially if more and more countries adopted a similar scheme.”

Experts in several leading medical journals have also warned that immunity passports could incentivize otherwise healthy people to willfully seek out infection.

It’s unclear if anyone has actually become infected on purpose in order to enter Hungary, but University of Oxford ethicist Rebecca Brown finds it hard to believe.

“It would be quite an extreme thing to do. And I think, in all likelihood, the vast majority of people wouldn’t,” she says, explaining that Covid-19 can come with long-term effects even in some young, healthy people.

‘A bad idea’

Hungary has closed its borders to most of Europe.

Hungary has closed its borders to most of Europe.

Orsi Ajpek/Getty Images

Shachar also argues that “immunity passports” could potentially reward reckless people who become infected after ignoring Covid rules or erode medical privacy.

“The more information that you require to be put out there the more normalized it is to intrude on people’s privacy,” she argues.

Harvard bioethicist Natalie Kofler is blunt in her opposition to immunity passports. “It’s a bad idea,” she says.

Kofler says they could exacerbate existing inequalities.

“If you’ve had [the virus] before, it’s not like a vaccine from an ethical standpoint. That’s because you’ve had to be healthy enough, privileged enough to get the healthcare that you might have needed, and rich enough to get the testing that you might have needed to have survived the virus,” she says.

Oxford’s Brown wrote a paper examining the pros and cons of immunity passports, that ultimately argues that the potential benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

“Lots of people who are concerned about immunity passports haven’t really made many suggestions about how we might resolve the difficulties and they don’t look insurmountable. It looks like there are ways that we can address the kinds of problems that could arise,” she says.

‘Positive benefit’

Aviation body IATA wants to introduce vaccination passports to open borders.

Aviation body IATA wants to introduce vaccination passports to open borders.

STR/AFP via Getty Images

Immunity passports may come back into fashion once there is a vaccine. The International Air Transport Association, which represents hundreds of airlines, is pushing for a secure, digital “travel pass” for passengers to show proof they’ve been vaccinated, once a shot is available.

The CEO of the Australian airline Qantas, Alan Joyce, has already suggested that in the future, passengers will have to prove they’ve been vaccinated in order to board.

Brown argues that those who have recovered from the virus should be treated the same as those who have had the vaccine. Even skeptical Shachar is cautiously open to the idea.

“There’s actually a positive benefit to treating them the same. We don’t want to waste vaccine dosages, it’ll be a while before we have enough vaccines for absolutely every human on the planet,” she says.

Asked if those who have recovered from the virus should be placed at the back of the vaccine line Wajnberg says it’s a good idea in theory. In practice, she says it would require the same accurate, high-quality ELISA tests she uses in her lab, to be rolled out on a massive scale.

“It might make sense… not to vaccinate the people with very high levels of antibodies already, but I think that will be very challenging operationally.”

Neil Bennett, Christian Streib, Oscar Featherstone Bálint Bárdi, David Allbritton and Adrian Divirgilio contributed to this report



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Tulsa Postpones Game with Arkansas


FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Tulsa announced today that a positive COVID-19 test on the Golden Hurricane men’s basketball team and the subsequent quarantining of its student-athletes has forced the postponement of its game with Arkansas.

Tulsa was scheduled to host the Razorbacks on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

No make-up date has been set.

 

For more­­ information on Arkansas Men’s Basketball, follow @RazorbackMBB on Twitter.

 





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Covid-19 Live News and Updates


Credit…Cody O’Loughlin for The New York Times

The drugmaker Moderna said it would apply on Monday to the Food and Drug Administration to authorize its coronavirus vaccine for emergency use.

The first injections may be given as early as Dec. 21 if the process goes smoothly and approval is granted, Stéphane Bancel, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview.

Moderna’s application is based on data that it also announced on Monday, showing that its vaccine is 94.1 percent effective, and that its study of 30,000 people has met the scientific criteria needed to determine whether the vaccine works. The finding from the complete set of data is in line with an analysis of earlier data released on Nov. 16 that found the vaccine to be 94.5 percent effective.

The new data also showed that the vaccine was 100 percent effective at preventing severe disease from the coronavirus. The product was developed in collaboration with government researchers from the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Mr. Bancel said the company was “on track” to produce 20 million doses by the end of December, and 500 million to a billion in 2021. Each person requires two doses, administered a month apart, so 20 million doses will be enough for 10 million people.

Shares of Moderna surged nearly 18 percent, to $149.50, by early afternoon, after the company’s announcement Monday.

Moderna is the second vaccine maker to apply for emergency use authorization; Pfizer submitted its application on Nov. 20. Pfizer has said it can produce up to 50 million doses this year, with about half going to the United States. Its vaccine also requires two doses per person.

Speaking on “CBS This Morning” on Monday, Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, reiterated that distribution would begin quickly after the expected approvals of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

“We could be seeing both of these vaccines out and getting into people’s arms before Christmas,” he said.

Asked about the role of states in the distribution process, Mr. Azar said that doses would be shipped out through normal vaccine distribution systems, and governors would be “like air traffic controllers” determining which hospitals or pharmacies receive shipments. While governors will determine which groups are prioritized, he said he hoped that they would follow the federal recommendations. He added that he would speak to governors on Monday afternoon with Vice President Mike Pence.

The first shots of the two vaccines are likely to go to certain groups, including health care workers; essential workers like police officers; people in other critical industries; and employees and residents in nursing homes. On Tuesday, a panel of advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet to determine how to allocate initial supplies of vaccine.

Mr. Azar said that C.D.C. experts will base their recommendations on the latest data on virus cases around the country.

But generally, “Be thinking people in nursing homes, the most vulnerable, be thinking health care workers who are on the front lines,” he said.

The White House moved quickly on Monday to take credit for the Moderna vaccine’s development.

“President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed is rapidly advancing on a trajectory of success to save millions of American lives — five times faster than any other vaccine in history,” Michael Bars, a spokesman for President Trump, said in an emailed statement.

The hopeful news arrives at a particularly grim moment in the U.S. health crisis. Virus cases have surged and overwhelmed hospitals in some regions, and health officials have warned that the numbers may grow even worse in the coming weeks because of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings. In November alone, there have been more than four million new cases and 25,500 deaths.

More than 70 vaccines are being developed around the world, including 11 that, like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines, are in large-scale trials to gauge effectiveness.

Moderna’s application for emergency use authorization will include data from its Phase 3 study of 30,000 people. F.D.A. scientists will examine the information, and the application is likely to undergo a final review on Dec. 17 by a panel of expert advisers to the agency, Mr. Bancel said, adding that he expected the advisers to make a decision within 24 to 72 hours. The F.D.A. usually follows the recommendations of its advisory panels.

Officials at Operation Warp Speed, the government’s program to accelerate vaccine development, have said vaccinations could begin within 24 hours after the F.D.A. grants authorization.

Mr. Bancel said that Moderna had not yet begun shipping vaccines across the country, and would not do so until the emergency authorization is granted.

The government has arranged to buy vaccines from both Moderna and Pfizer and to provide it to the public free of charge. Moderna has received a commitment of $955 million from the U.S. government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for research and development of its vaccine, and the United States has committed up to $1.525 billion to buy 100 million doses.

The federal government will also begin a publicity campaign to encourage vaccinations, with ads on radio this week and on TV soon, he said.

In response to a question about how officials can guard against people using money or connections to jump the proverbial line, Mr. Azar vowed to “call out any inequities or injustices that we see.”

Credit…Jonah Markowitz for The New York Times

While many in the United States celebrated a muted Thanksgiving over Zoom, millions of people traveled instead, rejecting the advice of public officials.

According to Transportation Safety Administration data, about 800,000 to one million people passed through T.S.A. checkpoints each day in the days before and after the holiday — far lower than the same period last year, but likely far higher than epidemiologists had hoped to see.

A United Airlines spokeswoman, Annabelle Cottee, said the week of Thanksgiving was “the busiest since March” for the carrier.

Americans also took to the roads. AAA predicted significant declines in bus, train and cruise travel, but predicted only a modest drop in car travel.

For several days leading up to Thanksgiving, as case numbers and hospitalizations across the country grew exponentially, political leaders and medical experts warned of the dangers of compounding the virus spread by being with others. In November alone, there have been more than 4.1 million cases and more than 25,500 deaths.

There were 91,635 current hospitalizations as of Nov. 28, according to the Covid Tracking Project, almost twice as many as there were on Nov. 1, and triple the number on Oct. 1.

Aware of the emotional resonance of the holiday, experts tried to thread a narrative from these numbers that would convince people of the danger. Their warnings were direct — sometimes stern, sometimes impassioned pleas.

“Keep the gatherings, the indoor gatherings as small as you possibly can,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said on “Good Morning America” last week. By making that sacrifice, he said, “you’re going to prevent people from getting infected.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was also urging people not to travel. “All Americans want to do what they can to protect their loved ones,” Dr. Henry Walke, a Covid-19 incident manager at the C.D.C., said at a news briefing.

And though it would have been unrealistic to expect a public that is restive from months of restrictions to universally abide by such recommendations, the aftermath of those decisions will begin to unfold in the weeks ahead.

Dr. Fauci, during an appearance on the Sunday news program “This Week,” said the best course for Thanksgiving travelers might be “to quarantine yourself for a period of time.”

Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said that travelers “have to assume that you were exposed and you became infected and you really need to get tested in the next week.” She urged that travelers avoid anyone in their family over 65 or with underlying illnesses.

That guidance comes as the C.D.C. is considering shortening the recommended isolation period for infected people. And while it is too early to know if holiday travel will affect the virus’s spread, new research suggests that people are most infectious about two days before symptoms begin and for five days afterward, meaning this week will likely be crucial in containment.

On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City urged residents who had ignored official guidance and attended Thanksgiving gatherings to get tested.

In anticipation of a renewed demand, the city has opened 25 new testing locations in the last week. It will also now post online the wait times at its testing sites, which had seen growing lines as New Yorkers scrambled to get tests before their holiday plans.

The city’s seven-day average positive test rate was at 4.03 percent, Mr. de Blasio said, but he warned that the data may be skewed because fewer tests were conducted during Thanksgiving weekend.

“Some of our numbers may be skewed by that,” he said.

The U.S. map shows a country where almost every region is a hot spot. States that were once spared, like Montana and Wyoming, have reported record deaths and infections, while states that were pummeled in the first wave are straining anew.

On Sunday, California became the first state to report more than 100,000 cases in a week, according to a New York Times database.

And in New Jersey, hospitalizations have increased 60 percent in the last two weeks and deaths have increased by 78 percent. Over three days in November, the positivity rate in Newark, the largest city in the state, was 19 percent.

“We begged people to have a somber, respectful, small Thanksgiving,” Gov. Philip D. Murphy said on Fox News Sunday. “And I want to give a shout out to New Jerseyans because I think overwhelmingly that’s what happened, but there’s a lot of fatigue out there.”

Mr. Murphy called the next few months “the fight of our lives,” while also citing the progress of vaccines and noting that there was “light at the end of the tunnel.”

And there was something to celebrate on Sunday in New York City, at least for some parents, when Mr. de Blasio announced that he would reopen the city’s public elementary schools, abruptly shifting policy after an outcry from critics who questioned why gyms and bars remained open while schools were shut.

Credit…Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, via Associated Press

As he warned that New York State had entered a new phase in fighting the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Monday a new series of emergency measures to combat rising hospitalizations and case numbers statewide.

Among other steps, Mr. Cuomo urged hospitals to identify retired nurses and doctors in case of staff shortages, develop emergency field plans and prepare to add 50 percent of bed capacity. In Erie County in western New York, all elective surgeries will be stopped on Friday and similar protocols could be enacted in other areas of the state.

“It’s a new phase in the war against Covid,” Mr. Cuomo said at his news conference in New York City. “It’s a war in terms of preparation and mobilization.”

The number of New Yorkers hospitalized with the virus has more than tripled over November, from 1,125 on Nov. 1 to 3,532 on Sunday, he said.

“We are not going to live through the nightmare of overwhelmed hospitals again,” he says. “If a hospital does get overwhelmed there will be a state investigation.”

Mr. Cuomo has warned that the holidays and indoor social gatherings during the winter season could trigger a further resurgence of the virus. Still, instead of regional or statewide shutdowns, Mr. Cuomo had opted for a “micro-cluster” approach to targeting communities where rates of positive test results are particularly high.

On Monday, the governor said new metrics — including hospitalization rates, death rates and available hospital beds — would be used to determine lockdown levels under the state’s color-coded restriction system. Mr. Cuomo also called on hospital networks across the state to better prepare for a surge in patients than they did in the spring, and plan to spread patients out between individual sites.

“We lived this nightmare, we learned from this nightmare, we are going to correct for the lessons we learned during this nightmare,” he said.

GLOBAL ROUNDUP

Credit…David W Cerny/Reuters

The traditional Christmas markets that dot European cities, drawing thousands of festive revelers into plazas to enjoy mulled wine, colorful lights and public art, have largely been canceled this year.

But on Advent Sunday, the official start of the holiday season, celebrations continued in different forms. In partially locked-down Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, the mayor, Matus Vallo, led viewers of a Facebook livestream on a walk through the city’s historic center.

Wearing a cheerful Christmas sweater, Mr. Vallo met musicians and artists along the way, received soothing words from a local priest, eyed winter-themed paintings from art galleries and lit up a Christmas tree in the main square.

“We know what the situation is, but we decided that we won’t let Advent be ruined anyway,” he said to the camera.

Locals and visitors in Bratislava will still be able to gawk at the Christmas lights on a stroll, but officials wanted to avoid the large holiday crowds. Moving traditional events online was part of that effort; a series of holiday concerts and events will be streamed throughout December.

It’s just one of several creative solutions as markets were canceled across the continent. In Landshut, Germany, visitors must experience the Christmas markets as a drive-through, according to Agence France-Presse. They can observe the spectacle from inside their cars as mask-wearing employees hand them menus offering typical treats like roasted chestnuts and gingerbread hearts.

And in the United States, New York City will require reservations to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, in a bid to fight the holiday crowds that usually pack the surrounding plazas and sidewalks. The city will keep the viewing time to 5 minutes, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. Groups will be limited to four people.

Still, the mayor, who has expressed concern that cases of the virus could surge during the holiday, encouraged people to watch the annual tree-lighting ceremony — scheduled for Wednesday — at home instead of flocking to Midtown Manhattan. “Please, if you can make a decision to watch it on TV, that’s so much better,” he said.

  • Hong Kong will limit gatherings in public to two people, including two per table at restaurants, as it battles a surge in cases. Playgrounds, swimming pools and karaoke rooms will close, while gyms will remain open but be limited to two mask-wearing participants, the city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, said at a news conference on Monday. Hong Kong has reported an average of 85 new daily cases in the past week, far above the near-zero tallies it had reported after a summer surge.

  • Italy approved a stimulus package worth $9.6 billion, or 8 billion euros, on Sunday to support struggling businesses. The deal will postpone or suspend tax deadlines for some businesses, subsidize amateur sports associations and send checks of 1,000 euros to seasonal workers in the tourism, spa and entertainment industries. Italy is currently under a nationwide 10 p.m. curfew with bars and restaurants closing at 6 p.m., and some regions have further restrictions.

  • In Russia, a hospital near Moscow reported on Monday that it had administered the first known batch of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine to civilians. The Domodedovo Central City Hospital confirmed in a phone interview that the vaccine had been delivered and that the first shipment available for general use had already run out. Russia’s government backed efforts to develop a vaccine before other countries has been widely criticized for cutting corners. The rush to deliver a vaccine to the general public has also been spurred by the growing number of new cases and deaths in the country, with the total number of cases in Russia nearing 2.3 million.

Credit…Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service, via Associated Press

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un “harshly criticized” his government agencies for mishandling the economy, the country’s state media reported on Monday, as new data revealed just how much the pandemic had slashed the country’s already dwindling trade with China.

Signs had already emerged earlier this month that North Korea’s economic trouble was deepening, driven by long-standing international sanctions and the impact of the pandemic. According to customs data released by Beijing last week, North Korea’s imports from China from January to October plummeted by 76 percent to $487 million, while its exports shrank 74 percent to $45 million in the same period.

​China is North Korea’s only major trading partner, accounting for more than 90 percent of its external trade. In October, the North’s import from China amounted to a mere $253,000, nearly a 99-percent drop from the previous month. South Korean officials and analysts have warned that a sharp decline in imports from China in recent months could drive up domestic prices in the North.

The Chinese government only ​records official trade and does not cover smuggling that takes place across the borders​ between the two neighbors​. Still, the figures provide​d​ fresh evidence that the coronavirus was squeezing the North Korean economy more effectively than international sanctions ever have.

During a meeting of the Workers’ Party that Mr. Kim presided over on Sunday, the government agencies responsible for the economy w​ere harshly criticized for “failing to provide scientific guidance” and “failing to overcome subjectivism and formalism in their work,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported.

But this was not the first time Mr. Kim has admitted to his country’s deepening economic woes, acknowledging in August that his five-year plan for economic growth had failed. Mr. Kim all but sealed North Korea’s borders with China​ earlier this year over fears of the potentially catastrophic consequences the pandemic could inflict on the country’s poor health system.

North Korea insists that it has registered no coronavirus cases, but outside experts remain skeptical.

Credit…Jose A. Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

With New York City’s unemployment rate at 13.2 percent, many people have turned to working for food delivery apps like DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub, which have seen huge demand from customers.

While delivery drivers have been essential to feeding New Yorkers and keeping them safe, their working conditions, already precarious before the pandemic, have gotten worse.

Even as the food delivery companies have seen sales surge, the workers’ pay has remained erratic. Because the drivers are independent workers, they are not entitled to a minimum wage, overtime or any other benefits, like health insurance. Undocumented immigrants, who are not eligible for unemployment or federal coronavirus assistance, make up the bulk of the work force in New York.

The added competition from the surge in new workers has compounded the financial challenges. Advocacy groups estimate that there were roughly 50,000 delivery workers before the pandemic — a number they say has grown exponentially. Uber alone said it had added 36,000 couriers in New York since March.

DoorDash and Uber said they had provided extra help to delivery drivers during the pandemic, including offering sick pay to those who were infected. DoorDash, the nation’s largest food delivery app, said it provided access to low-cost telemedicine appointments.

DoorDash also said it had changed its pay model, which came under fire last year after it was revealed that tips were being used to subsidize its payments to workers. The company recently reached a $2.5 million settlement with prosecutors in Washington, D.C., after being accused of misleading consumers over how it tipped its workers.

Drivers for food delivery apps are typically paid per delivery depending on the estimated duration and distance of a trip, plus tips. The work can be convenient for people supplementing a main source of income, but a struggle for those who depend on it as a primary job, advocates for the workers said.

Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

While some in the creative community on TikTok joke about the coronavirus vaccine or tease people who are part of the anti-vaccine movement, scientists and coronavirus vaccine participants are hoping to be a source to fight misinformation on the app.

In February, a scientist who goes by Dr. Noc on TikTok started noticing a need for science-based videos about the coronavirus that his expertise in working to develop an antibody treatment for Covid-19 could help provide.

He has since posted many videos addressing the coronavirus, including updates on vaccines, mink infected with the coronavirus and how some people with the virus can lose their sense of taste and smell. The videos, he said, have left him vulnerable to harassment from people against vaccines and masks.

Lately, Dr. Noc has found himself answering questions reflecting the fears and misconceptions about coronavirus vaccines that are sometimes perpetuated on the platform by jokes about side effects or forays into fictional narrative, like a sci-fi scenario in which the government kills those who refuse a vaccine.

“While people may appreciate them, they’re not going to go viral,” he said about his videos. “It’s a game of catch-up.”

So, no, nanoparticles can’t send people’s biometric data to a cloud, as he has posted, and no, mRNA can’t change people’s D.N.A.

Vaccine trial participants have also been describing their experiences and answering questions about the process for viewers.

Ashley Locke, 29, from Nashville, said she posted about her experience as a participant in AstraZeneca’s trial to document a journey in her life, but didn’t expect the more than two million views it has gotten, or the thousands of questions and comments.

Since that post, she’s been creating videos and answering questions from her comment section about side effects and wearing masks after being a part of the trial. She even brought in a friend, also a part of a trial, to talk.

But with all that, she said, she isn’t always successful in demystifying the vaccine.

“There are some people that are really out there that are convinced that it’s a microchip,” she said. “They’re a little too far gone to convince.”

Credit…Paul Miller/Australian Associated Press, via Associated Press

A cohort of 63 international students on Monday arrived in Australia under a pilot program that allows them to resume their studies, even as the country’s borders remain closed because of the pandemic.

The students, the first group of international students allowed in since March, arrived at Darwin International Airport in the Northern Territory from Singapore. They are from mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia.

All of them tested negative for the coronavirus 72 hours before boarding the charter flight. They will be required to quarantine at a former workers’ camp outside the city of Darwin for 14 days before being allowed to re-enter the campus at Charles Darwin University.

The education sector, crucial to the Australian economy, is set to lose billions of dollars if the country’s borders do not reopen before the end of 2021. According to research from Victoria University, the loss of international students is also affecting the makeup of Australia’s cities.

In September, Charles Darwin University made a deal with the state and the federal government that would enable students to return from overseas to study. The success of the program could influence whether more international students can return to study in other states, including South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

Speaking to the local news media, the students — some of who had become stranded while visiting family overseas — said they felt lucky to return to Australia, which is beginning to reopen as states eliminate, or come close to eliminating, the spread of the coronavirus.

Xitao Jiang, a 23-year-old student from China returning to Australia, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Sunday that was “very lucky” to have the opportunity to return to the country and study at the university in Darwin.

Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

By the end of the third week of England’s second national lockdown, which began early this month in a bid to stem a second wave of coronavirus infections, the number of new cases has fallen 30 percent, according to new data.

Some parts of northern England, which had been hit particularly hard by the new outbreak, experienced an even greater drop, the latest interim findings from Imperial College London’s React study showed.

But Matt Hancock, the British health secretary, warned that the data, while promising, showed the country could not “take our foot off the pedal just yet,” according to the BBC. In a post on Twitter late Sunday, Mr. Hancock cautioned that “we mustn’t waste our progress now we can see light at the end of the tunnel” with mass testing and promising coronavirus vaccine candidates on the horizon.

England’s current lockdown is set to end just after midnight Wednesday. But the lifting of restrictions will be different across the country, as regions move into one of three tiers based on their current rate of infection. Britain is still grappling with the highest number of Covid-19 deaths in Europe and its deepest recession on record, with experts warning that the knock-on effects of the pandemic could last for years.

Credit…Brett Carlsen for The New York Times

All through the fall, teachers have been at the center of vehement debates over whether to reopen schools for in-person instruction — often vilified for challenging it, sometimes praised for trying to make it work.

But these debates have often missed just how thoroughly the coronavirus has upended learning in the 130,000 schools in the United States, and glossed over how emotionally and physically draining pandemic teaching has become.

In more than a dozen interviews with The New York Times, educators described the immense challenges, and exhaustion, they have faced. Some recounted whiplash experiences of having their schools abruptly open and close, sometimes more than once.

Others described the stress of having to lead back-to-back group video lessons for remote learners, even as they continued to teach students in person in their classrooms. Some educators said their workloads had doubled.

Many teachers said they had also become impromptu social workers for their students, directing them to food banks, acting as grief counselors for those who had family members die of Covid-19 and helping pupils work through their anxiety, depression and isolation. Often, the teachers said, their concern for their students came at a cost to themselves.

“Teachers are not OK right now,” said Evin Shinn, a literacy coach at a public middle school in Seattle, noting that many teachers were putting students’ pandemic needs above their own well-being.

Experts and teachers’ unions are warning of a looming burnout crisis among educators that could lead to a wave of retirements, undermining the fitful effort to resume normal public schooling. In a recent survey by the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers’ union, 28 percent of educators said the coronavirus had made them more likely to leave teaching or retire early.

Those We’ve Lost

Credit…Selene Meda-Schlamel

Iris Meda, 70, didn’t feel right sitting on the sidelines when the pandemic hit. She’d been retired only a few months, and still had a lifetime of nursing experience in hospitals, prisons, schools and long-term care facilities to share.

So she went back to work in August, teaching nursing skills to high school students through Collin College, north of Dallas. But within weeks, she had come down with Covid-19 herself. After nearly a month in the hospital, most of it on a ventilator, she died on Nov. 14.

Her daughter, Selene Meda-Schlamel, said her mother was exposed to the virus on Oct. 2 while teaching a laboratory class, despite the precautions she was taking.

“I wasn’t worried, because I knew she was wearing an N95, and that she was some distance from the students,” Ms. Meda-Schlamel recalled, in an interview.

“I said to myself, ‘If something happens to her, it happens to her doing something she loves, fulfilling her calling and benefiting the world,’” she said. “But that’s a very different outlook from, ‘My best friend is gone, my kids don’t have a grandmother. Everything that we planned on doing will never occur.’”

Ms. Meda grew up in New York, the oldest of nine siblings, and was a natural caretaker from childhood, her daughter said. She married at 20, expecting to be a stay-at-home mother, but at her husband’s urging, she went back to school and earned a nursing degree from City College.

“She had a very personal touch,” Ms. Meda-Schlamel said. “You never felt like she was rushing you.”

Ms. Meda worked as a nurse at the jail on Rikers Island before moving to Texas in 1993, where she spent the rest of her career before retiring in January. When she took up teaching, she wanted to pass along to her students the kind of encouragement she had gotten to pursue an education. After class, she often returned home “lit up” from the thrill she got from teaching, her daughter said.

When her Covid-19 symptoms worsened in mid-October and she began struggling to breathe, Ms. Meda called her daughter for a ride to the hospital. Ms. Meda-Schlamel recalled that in the car, her mother handed her an envelope containing her medical documents and a handwritten card that she forgot about in the hectic days that followed.

When she finally opened it, she said, she found a note her mother had written after their phone call, telling her how proud she was of her and what a wonderful life she had before her. And two signed checks fell out, meant to help her daughter cover the hospital bills. On one, the amount was left blank.

“That was kind of symbolic of how she was as a person,” Ms. Meda-Schlamel said. “She was always giving people blank checks, blank emotional checks: ‘Whatever you need from me, if I have it, I’ll provide it.’”

Credit…Mary Turner for The New York Times

When Lisa Bloor heard that her daughter Abby’s elite-level soccer club was being shut down in England’s latest coronavirus lockdown, she faced a tough problem: how to explain that boys at the same level were allowed to keep playing.

“How do I tell my daughter it’s because she’s a girl?” Ms. Bloor asked. “It’s disheartening. There’s no logic in it at all.”

As the coronavirus has upended lives across the world, women have found themselves disproportionately affected, whether by taking on the often invisible labor of an outsize share in household duties, caring for children and relatives or finding the hard-fought gains they made in the workplace in past years almost entirely wiped out.

In early November, after Britain’s government reluctantly admitted the need for a second lockdown of all but England’s most essential services to stop the number of Covid-19 cases spiraling out of control, the restrictions — and exceptions to the rules — laid bare yet another gender gap: the one between women and men’s sports.

When the British government granted “elite sport” special dispensations for the duration of a four-week lockdown, the top six tiers of men’s soccer could carry on training and competing. But only the top two women’s soccer leagues were permitted to continue.

The Football Association, which governs the sport in England, ruled that the men’s F.A. Cup tournament would not stop, but postponed the women’s F.A. Cup until the national lockdown lifts in early December.

Nowhere was the gender divide more transparent than in the decision surrounding the soccer clubs’ academies, which sharpen the skills of the most promising school-age players and prepare them to turn professional.

Boys’ training at more than 80 English Football League and Premier League clubs’ academies could remain open under “elite” protocols, but the F.A. decided that girls’ academies at clubs such as Everton — where Abby Clarke, Ms. Bloor’s 16-year-old daughter, trains at least four times a week as part of the development squad — were “nonelite” and would have to suspend all activity throughout the lockdown.





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This is the tip Jack Nicklaus gave a ‘frustrated’ Gary Player on the range


Welcome to Play Smart, a new game-improvement column that drops every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from Director of Game Improvement content Luke Kerr-Dineen to help you play smarter, better golf.

There’s so much I love about this video (below), not least of which is the image of an 85-year-old Gary Player, with a big bucket of range balls, grinding it out, working hard on improving his golf swing. Deep in our hearts we knew this was the case, but it’s nice to get some proof.

“The grind never stops,” Player wrote.


By:


Luke Kerr-Dineen



But what, exactly, was Player actually grinding on?

Though Player is an aging wonder by even the most discerning standards, he’s still not immune to the physical effects of time. And one of them — the length of his backswing — is one he’s busy trying to stave-off.

When people get older, their bodies naturally become more inflexible. It’s a normal part of the aging process that results from joint stiffness and a lack of water in your body’s tissues. For golfers, that physical limitation manifests itself most apparently in the length of your backswing. It’s evident in Player’s own move; while his flexibility is still remarkable for an 85-year-old, his swing his notably shorter than it was earlier in his career, as you can see below.

A 39-year-old Gary Player on the left, and an 85-year-old Gary Player on the right.

That forced-shorter backswing can be an issue for aging golfers, because a longer backswing is scientifically proven way of boosting your swing speed. Gary knows this, which is why he works so hard on trying to maintain that flexibility. It’s something we first saw Gary working on under the watchful eye of Jack Nicklaus earlier this year at Big Cedar Lodge.

“Why does that happen?” Gary asked his friend, Jack. “Alright, I know I’m a bit older, but why?”

This weekend, Player was back on the range hard at work trying to lengthen his backswing when Nicklaus stopped by once again to help him out.

What was Jack’s advice? In both videos above, Jack tells Gary that his arms and club are, essentially, moving too much inside and around his body. That’s restricting the length his arms can travel on the backswing, Jack says, which is why he tells Gary he could benefit from extending his arms higher, toward the sky. By freeing up his arms, they’ll be able to swing back more, which will help lengthen Player’s backswing and add speed.

As for a stretch to help coach-in this swing feeling: As Jack watches, the person alongside him in his cart puts Player’s left hand on the top of his golf club, and holds it as he stretches his right up and behind him.

Gary does this a few times, then begins ripping drivers again. His swing already looked a little longer, and along the way, he got a nugget of advice we can try the next time we’re on the range.

All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy a linked product, GOLF.COM may earn a fee. Pricing may vary.

Luke Kerr-Dineen

Golf.com Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is the Director of Game Improvement Content at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. In his role he oversees all the brand’s service journalism spanning instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s multimedia platforms.

An alumni of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina–Beaufort golf team, where he helped them to No. 1 in the national NAIA rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University and in 2017 was named News Media Alliance’s “Rising Star.” His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.





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