Coronavirus briefing: Looming lockdowns, words that matter and the world’s last COVID-free continent

This week’s Coronavirus Briefing is 1,461 words and will take you seven minutes to read.

Coronavirus briefing: Looming lockdowns, words that matter and the world’s last COVID-free continent

With six rambunctious children to corral daily, my mother had a ready supply of memorable catchphrases that have stuck with us over the decades. One of them was “keep it down to a dull roar,” a fitting admonition for our daily diet of coronavirus cacophony.

How fitting, then, that amid the public din the American Health Care Association (AHCA) began its 2020 annual meeting with a moment of silence for the nearly 60,000 nursing home residents who have succumbed to COVID-19. The AHCA has requested that nursing home residents and staff be among the first to receive a vaccine when it is available. The chief of Medicare/Medicaid seems to agree, reports Alicia Lasek in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.

The voice of reason need not be loud. It just needs to be heard.

This week’s Coronavirus Briefing is 1,461 words and will take you seven minutes to read.

The worry

First thing to worry about this week: The dreaded fall surge is already rearing its ugly head, with reported COVID-19 cases rising in more than 30 states.

  • Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, adds an ongoing concern: “We’ve been living in a world with conflicting narratives about the scientific understanding of the coronavirus and what the path forward is to prevent suffering and save lives. People are understandably confused about what to believe.”
  • In a study of cancer outpatients in Germany, 75 of 78 who tested positive for COVID-19 showed no symptoms, reports Katarina Zimmer in Cancer Therapy Advisor. Good news: asymptomatic infections did not adversely affect the outcomes of chemotherapy.
  • In an analysis of 26 studies, 1.1% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 suffered a stroke, Brandon May reports in Neurology Advisor. That’s slightly higher than the incidence of stroke in the general population (0.6 to 0.8%). Bad news: mortality for COVID-19 patients who suffered a stroke was “conspicuously high” at 44%.
  • The casualties in nursing homes include not only residents but staff as well. James M. Berklan in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News notes that the emotional toll the pandemic is inflicting on nursing home caregivers threatens “another level of COVD-19 carnage” with the workforce needing “a post-traumatic stress disorder ward all its own.”
  • As the vaccine vigil continues, we’ll be hearing a lot more about monoclonal antibody treatment of COVID-19. Beyond the Regeneron cocktail served up at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline-Vir Technology are testing their own antibody concoctions. Check out these reports from MPR’s Diana Ernst and Brian Park. As it happens, Lilly just yesterday paused its studies for a safety check.

The takeaway

Science moves forward. Sometimes by agonizingly slow fits and starts, but it does move forward. The arc of the medical universe is long and bends toward healing.

Source: Getty

The words

It’s not just what you say but how you say it that counts.

  • The CDC may have trouble keeping its messages straight on aerosol transmission of coronavirus. But when it comes to raising money, its nonprofit offshoot, the CDC Foundation, has a laser focus. In Campaign, Allison Weissbrot reports that the Foundation, working with Facebook and Instagram, raised $17 million to fund purchases of PPE for frontline workers. Messages included “Make Giving Contagious.”
  • Scolding people won’t get them to wear masks or agree to social distancing, argues Peter Mitchell, chairman and chief creative officer of Marketing For Change, in PR Week. He suggests taking a page from the playbooks of public health officials that persuaded people to wear seat belts, stop smoking and avoid driving drunk. “Motivating people to act requires real marketing and… showing and encouraging positive behavior versus using negative scare tactics that we know don't work.”
  • Artificial intelligence offers a novel way to analyze speech patterns in older adults to identify loneliness, reports Kimberly Bonvissuto in McKnight’s Senior Living. Investigators say that “lonely speech” can identify people who need help and improve assessment and treatment, “especially during physical distancing and social isolation periods.”

The takeaway

Speaking of words, Mom had another effective marketing message when we were acting up or acting out: “Straighten up and fly right.” Timeless advice to us all as we weather the up-and-down turbulence of the pandemic, with no ETA for peace of mind.

Mother multi-tasking with infant daughter in home office
Source: Getty

The work

The pandemic has given rise to the syndrome of work-from-home fatigue. As Mom would say, “Consider the alternatives.”

  • In People Management John Blakey explores why businesses may need “a director of remote work.” Blakey, CEO of the Trusted Executive Foundation, reports that Facebook is seeking someone to fill that newly created slot. Within the next 10 years, the company wants 50% of its employees working remotely.
  • HR directors who must implement pandemic-driven furloughs and layoffs “have a duty to demonstrate that they care about the staff they are exiting,” writes Helen Gardner in People Management. One option with socially redeeming value, Gardner says, is to become a foster parent.
  • In Management Today, Orianna Rosa Royle ponders the question of whether emojis should be banned from work emails. The consensus of experts polled: keep ‘em. As one said, “Whichever joyless bigwig even touted this idea should probably go back to faxing.” 

The takeaway

Along with restaurant tents and Plexiglas, home office supplies would seem to be an inevitable growth industry.

Northern Ireland To Impose New Lockdown To Curb Covid-19 Cases
Source: Getty

The world

Antarctica, with a transient human population of some 1,000 scientists, is the only continent on the planet that remains COVID-free. For now. There’s concern that the seasonal rotation of work crews will bring the virus into one of the most isolated places on Earth.

  • The COVID-19 death toll in Brazil has topped 150,000, second only to the 215,000 in the US. India just passed the 100,000 mark. An Associated Press report describes Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro as one who “flouted social distancing at lively demonstrations and encouraged crowds during outings from the presidential residence. He has rejected governors’ and mayors’ lockdowns and other tough measures to contain the virus’ spread, even after he contracted it himself.”
  • Europe is bracing for a new round of lockdowns as a second wave of infections is hitting before the flu season has gained \traction. A “farewell to COVID” dinner party attended by thousands on Prague’s Charles Bridge at the end of June was a tad premature: the Czech Republic now has Europe’s highest per capita rate of infection.
  • After bars and cafes were shut down in Paris, restaurant workers walked the streets in a mock funeral for the industry.
  • The resurgence is not without a response: The National Health Service in England is unrolling a plan to set up a network of clinics for patients who are experiencing “long COVID symptoms,” Nick Bostock reports in GP.
  • The United Nations’ World Food Program has received the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee pointed out that “The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world … the combination of violent conflict and the pandemic has led to a dramatic rise in the number of people living on the brink of starvation.”

The takeaway

As the Nobel Peace Prize Committee wrote in its citation, “Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos.”

The rest

  • October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. An opinion piece in The New England Journal of Medicine calls intimate partner violence “a pandemic within a pandemic.”
  • The risk of contracting COVID-19 on an airplane “is lower than from an office building, classroom, supermarket or commuter train,” some researchers assert. The CDC says it’s not that simple. 
  • A high school principal  in Alabama parodied MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” for a pandemic back-to-school video. He’s got some moves.

Stuff you can do

Pandemic Music of the Season

“If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo. Literature, and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater; the only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it.”

— Andrew Denton

Take good care and we’ll look forward to seeing you, virtually, next week—same day, same time, same channel. Be safe, be well, dear friends.

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