Okay, hear me out on a quick elevator pitch for a limited-run series that I’m tentatively calling Vaccine Hunters. It will chronicle the e-escapades of a diverse team of plucky hackers, armed with Red Bull and headphones that block out most external stimuli, who pound away at their computers for hours on end in search of elusive vaccination opportunities.
Will they manage to seize that stray slot at the local megasite? Will they hit refresh on their 324 open browsers at the very moment Rite Aid liberates another fortnight’s worth of appointments? Tune in and find out! Or just give in to the despair that comes with your own frustratingly fruitless efforts.
Meanwhile, think of all the obvious brand extensions: Vaccine Hunters-branded Wi-Fi extenders, a Young Vaccine Hunters of America tie-in with the Girl and Boy Scouts, Vaccine Hunters: The Musical! This stuff writes itself. Potential investors, hit me up.
This week’s Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing is 1,910 words and will take you eight minutes to read.
Maybe it was the weather – sending good thoughts your way, Texas – or maybe it was just the natural snapback after a few cycles of moderately uplifting news. But recent days have brought with them an abundance of reminders that this thing ain’t going away anytime soon.
- The first of what will likely be numerous postmortems suggests that the U.S. could have halved nursing home deaths from COVID-19, Danielle Brown reports in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.
- On Wednesday February 17, major metropolitan dailies published a thoughtful story about mask-wearing and -layering and a how-to on purchasing N95 masks. I get that we’re in a different place in terms of what we know and what we don’t than we were 11 months ago, but it’s quite something that there remains such a profound need for explainers of this kind.
- Not sticking to sports, Defector sits down with an epidemiologist to explore “the challenges of vaccinating a neurotic nation.”
- Writing in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, psychologist Eleanor Feldman Barbera (a.k.a. “Dr. El”) assesses the emotional impact of pandemic secrecy.
- Not good: Hospitals are seeing a spike in liver disease related to alcohol abuse during the pandemic. Not quite as bad but also not good: parents aren’t taking their kids to the dentist. The secondary effects of this thing keep cascading outward and will continue to do so for years to come.
- Thousands of U.S. service members are rejecting or delaying COVID vaccination.
- From the Covid One Year Ago Twitter feed: “Top disease official: Risk of coronavirus in USA is ‘minuscule’; skip mask and wash hands.” Guessing that Dr. Fauci wouldn’t mind having that one back.
- An epidemiologist shares his frustration with the teachers unions that, in his mind, are in large part responsible for keeping schools closed. From where I’m sitting – as a frazzled parent of two young kids who spend 62.5% of their time engaged in hand-to-hand combat – it sure seems a lot more complicated than science=good and teachers unions=bad. Good luck parsing the White House’s messaging around this, which is incomprehensible.
- And here’s a literal slog: “Woman, 90, Walked Six Miles in the Snow for a Vaccine.”
The takeaway: Every morning, I read the reports chronicling our ongoing COVID failures before chasing them down with the downward-trending case data and skyrocketing vaccination numbers. I long for the day when the latter fully drowns out the former.
I really, really, really want to empathize with the vaccine skeptics, the COVID deniers and the other wingnuts – I mean, the other fellow nice people – who view science as an opinion-based discipline. It’s getting harder to do this with every passing day.
- In Medical Bag, Rachel Nuwer profiles a pulmonologist who has become a frontline warrior in the battle against COVID-related misinformation on social media.
- From the Washington Post: “I work in a nursing home. Here’s why my colleagues are skipping the vaccine.”
- In her new Campaign Savvy blog, Campaign’s Alison Weissbrot explains how healthcare has become a beacon for the agency world amid the pandemic. Also in Campaign, Natasha Bach evaluates how marketers leveraged communications technology to capitalize on “Super Bowl uncertainty.”
- Senior living providers continue to wrestle with the question of “To mandate or not to mandate?,” Kimberly Bonvissuto reports in McKnight’s Senior Living. Bonvissuto also notes that laws limiting COVID-related liability are on the legislative docket in at least three states.
- Here’s a short Twitter thread on vaccines and hope from a hospital worker.
- For McKnight’s Home Care Daily, Joe Jancsurak unpacks an ATI Advisory research paper on the role that long-term acute care hospitals have played during the pandemic. Jancsurak also checks in with Best of Care, an agency working to combat vaccine hesitancy among its caregivers.
- President Biden is predicting a “very different circumstance” vis-à-vis the pandemic by… Christmas? The set-the-bar-ankle-high-and-clear-it-with-ease approach is a refreshing change from the willful indifference that preceded it, but perhaps we could just go the no-malarkey route instead.
The takeaway: Could empathy be a defining value of the post-COVID Roaring Twenties Redux? Here’s hoping.
We’re seeing more two-steps-forward-one-step-back days than one-step-forward-two-steps-back ones. Here’s to a spring of three-steps-forward-and-call-it-an-afternoon.
- COVID cases are dropping for four reasons: social distancing, seasonality, seroprevalence and shots.
- Unofficial Haymarket Media Coronavirus pollster CivicScience asked more than 1,800 Americans whether they’d be willing to accept a lower salary or pay cut in exchange for the option to work remotely from anywhere on the planet. Thirty-six percent of respondents said “not willing at all,” 23% said “not that willing,” 27% said “somewhat willing” and 14% said “very willing.” Also from CivicScience: We are bearish on the arrival of herd immunity and bullish on buying houses.
- This reads like an “Area Man…” story from The Onion, but it’s not satire and it involves an individual who says his vaccination appointment was canceled due to medical debt. Aren’t there enough barriers to vaccination without creating artificial ones?
- MM+M takes a look at YouTube’s stepped-up emphasis on health information under the guidance of new health head Garth Graham.
- At least the fears of a flu/COVID “twindemic” never came to pass. Not that the U.S. has distinguished itself in the realm of applied learning over the last 11 months, but you gotta think that some of the practices put into place during the pandemic will help us minimize the impact of future flu seasons.
- NBA players are reportedly wary about lending their voices to PSAs designed to bolster confidence in COVID vaccines. This is what happens when entire communities are ignored and/or mistreated by the public health ecosystem over a long stretch of time: You can’t just flip a switch and expect everyone to start rolling up sleeves.
- Immunologist Kizzmekia Corbett helped design Moderna’s COVID vaccine and is now helping combat vaccine hesitancy in communities of color. In New York, Will Leitch argues that sports haven’t been the same without fans. It’s not the most scalding of hot takes, but I disagree: The games remain as much fun as they’ve ever been, the absence of crowd noise (or the artificial menace of piped-in crowd noise) notwithstanding. It’s everything that comes with the in-stadium/in-arena experience that has long since become a chore. Possibly related: the new TV in our family room is roughly the size of my first apartment.
The takeaway: There are millions of people fighting the good fight every day, deftly balancing their responsibility as community members with their individual wants and needs. Stay the course, y’all.
THREE QUESTIONS WITH… Community Eldercare Services owner and president Doug Wright, Jr.
How would you assess communications and messaging around the vaccine so far?
As with any emerging crisis, there really is no template or hard set of rules to follow when communicating with customers, staff or residents. Our guiding principle is to follow our values, and communicating about vaccination is no exception. For content, we primarily use the educational materials provided by ACHA/NCAL and the CDC. Our team then puts it through a “compassionate lens” by educating—not mandating. The message is about how our team has the opportunity to make a major impact on the lives of those we serve and their own community. We do not brush over the seriousness of the situation. Instead, we hit it head-on.
What are the areas in which those efforts could stand to improve?
Individuals are not a one-size-fits-all audience. By opening a conversation with our employees, we discovered many of our team members were getting information from social media feeds and other sometimes unreliable sources. Misinformation is the number one deterrent in vaccinations. Ask staff if they have been vaccinated for anything previously – 95% of the time, the answer is yes. Ask them why they feel this vaccination is different (it is not). Secondly, we believe better—not more—questions could be asked by CMS on the weekly surveys, which could be disseminated back to providers quicker. As it stands, providers don’t hear enough analysis of global data. The sooner we can communicate positive impacts on our numbers and low adverse outcomes where vaccinations are taking place, the better our penetration rate will be in other communities.
What are the first things you plan to do after you receive the vaccine? And after the pandemic lifts?
The first thing we will do is look at our penetration rates in our communities and do our best to determine when we can increase our connection between the residents and their communities. As it becomes safer to do so, we are working on reconnecting our residents to some of their essential areas of need – spirit, nature, others and work/productivity. Personally, once our residents and staff have had the opportunity, I’m looking forward to having it myself. It will be a great relief to return to those communities without fear of spreading the virus. Also, my first grandchild was born during the pandemic, and I cannot wait to spend quality time with him. We all have our own needs to reconnect.
(Are you smart? Do you know someone who is? If so, please reach out to Larry.Dobrow@haymarketmedia.com with nominations for potential “Three Questions With…” respondents)
- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver goes deep on the next pandemic and somehow finds the funny in the foreboding.
- The Athletic explains how the NFL’s “strangest season” has likely changed the league forever, and in some ways for the better.
- Here’s a fun potential parlor game: Which celebrity will be the first to incur our online ire when we learn that she/he cut the vaccine priority line? Celebrity managers, attorneys and concierge doctors have some thoughts on the matter.
- Apple’s syringe emoji has been tweaked to exclude the two beads of blood dropping from the point of the needle. Thus it is now “more appropriate to represent Covid-19 vaccination,” per the chief emoji officer of Emojipedia. Cancel culture is coming for us all [sarcasm emoji].
…and some songs.
Thanks for reading, everybody. Be safe around the snow, on the ice, amid the chill and in the heat (it’s hot somewhere in our readership geography, presumably). We’ll be back next week with another newsletter double-shot.