Beyond the myriad bigger-picture devastations, everyone has their own pandemic pet peeves. Here’s mine: People who, even after a year spent in the information equivalent of a blizzard, expect precise responses to questions that cannot be answered yet.
To that point, nobody knows whether our first “normal” holiday will be the Fourth of July, Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa or Arbor Day 2023. Nobody has any idea if full-time schooling will resume next week or in September, or whether it’s teachers, skittish administrators, helicopter/Velcro/snowplow parents or heightened viral loads that are thwarting the return. Nobody has a clue when your workplace will resume regular operations or when you can book an Escape Room birthday party or when you can stash your mask cache away with the other Halloween relics.
We all want answers; it’s compromising our collective sanity that, a year into this thing, there are so few to be had. But as with “are we there yet?,” there are only so many times you can ask the same question before it ceases to be anything more than white noise. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
This week’s Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing is 1,977 words and will take you eight minutes to read.
The more you know
The question/answer rant above notwithstanding, this was yet another week during which we moved our token a few spaces ahead on the knowledge board. Alas, we’re still a few rolls of the dice away from passing ‘Go’ and pocketing the bounty that comes with it.
- Johnson & Johnson’s COVID vaccine looks to be not only extremely effective and safe, but also “a logistics game-changer.”
- A double-lung transplant patient died after receiving organs infected with COVID-19. According to the American Journal of Transplantation, this represented the first confirmed case of donor-to-recipient COVID transmission in the U.S.
- A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study has confirmed that teachers may play a big part in in-school transmission of COVID-19. While it’s nice to have official confirmation, haven’t we been operating under this assumption for at least half a year now?
- These are the masks HCPs are wearing when they’re not seeing patients. Links for purchase are included.
- In Campaign, Industrial Color CEO Mathieu Champigny makes a case for continuing with remote production even after the pandemic ends.
- PRWeek’s Aleda Stam covers the launch of Edelman’s anti-disinformation unit, which might have a thing or two to say about COVID-19 and vaccines.
- A massive, mostly unmasked outdoor celebration after the University of North Carolina beat Duke in men’s college hoops didn’t lead to a surge in cases at UNC. This is great news and bodes well for group activity when the weather improves, especially the New York Yankees victory parade scheduled for New York City’s Canyon of Heroes in early November.
- We’re not in verified-by-science/peer-reviewed territory yet with this one, but a new study suggests that people who wear glasses could be up to three times less likely to be infected with COVID-19. Farewell for now, sweet contact lenses – we had a good run.
- Every week, our must-read sibling publication, The Vaccine Project Newsletter, features an abundance of resources around all things vaccination-related. Because too much of this information is never enough, however, here is NPR’s comprehensive “How to Sign Up for a COVID-19 Vaccine in Your State” tool. Click now or click later – just click.
- For the optimists: “A Quite Possibly Wonderful Summer” and “COVID Is on the Verge of a Humiliating Defeat.” For the pessimists: “Why We Can’t Make Vaccine Doses Any Faster” and “Dying on the Waitlist.”
The takeaway: Sometimes I think we should all put up good news/bad news scoreboards. Maybe this would give us hope… or maybe the dark weeks would drive us deeper down.
The roadblocks ahead
Anybody have a bulldozer? A brush mower? A shovel would work in a pinch.
- MM+M’s Marc Iskowitz weighs in on the latest iteration of McCann Health’s “The Truth About Doctors” study. The COVID-19 edition of the report finds physicians in a precarious emotional place, with one telling a survey interviewer, “I’ve seen more patients die in the last nine months than in the last 10 years of my career. So don’t call me a hero.”
- In her new, smart Campaign Savvy blog, Campaign’s Alison Weissbrot argues that Maryland’s tax on digital advertising, designed to help close COVID-era budget gaps, may do more harm than good to the small businesses it is designed to bolster.
- Florida’s home care workers may have been bumped to the head of the vaccine line via Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order, but they’re still having a hard time securing appointments, Joe Jancsurak notes in McKnight’s Home Care Daily. They’re far from alone in their frustration, Jancsurak adds.
- In McKnight’s Senior Living, Kimberly Bonvissuto recaps an event during which Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey argued that the federal government has “got to do a lot more” to help senior living providers. Bonvissuto also lays out advocacy group LeadingAge’s pandemic policy priorities, which include “understanding and advising on the current framework of varying state regulations and standards governing the sector.”
- McKnight’s Long-Term Care News’ Danielle Brown reports on the COVID-19 Nursing Home Protection Act, a proposal from five Democratic senators that would dedicate nearly $1 billion to help stem infections in nursing homes and manage COVID care for residents. Brown adds that President Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, said during a confirmation hearing that he supports additional COVID-19 relief funding for nursing home providers.
- For more on Becerra and his health policy priorities, read Lecia Bushak’s MM+M analysis of his confirmation hearings.
- The Biden Administration is spending big on vaccine education efforts and masks for low-income Americans.
- Training for the Olympics during a pandemic, not surprisingly, presents its share of challenges. The last time the great Simone Biles competed was in October 2019, a month about which I remember exactly nothing.
- Here’s a look at the “spiritual war” against masks currently being waged in Maine. My empathy tank is running low.
The takeaway: Clear the damn roads already. It’s time.
It arrives in waves. “Rub some dirt on it” only gets you so far, because there’s no equivalent for psychic wounds.
- I nodded so hard while reading this essay about pandemic-era parenting that I needed to ice my neck. I’ll ultimately be a better parent for having endured a year in close quarters with the little guys, but there have been some less than proud moments along the way.
- This Twitter thread pooh-poohs overzealous reporting around the California virus variant. And this Twitter thread goes long on the “pandemic tax” that has largely fallen upon people who can least afford it. “We’re not doing this right” doesn’t begin to describe it.
- Caregivers have borne a huge burden during the pandemic. A writer who cared for her lymphoma-stricken husband for six years makes a case for federal financial support.
- As COVID-19 continues to disproportionately impact Black and brown communities, PRWeek presents the short documentary “What It’s Like to Be Black in PR 2.0.”
- Campaign’s Gideon Spanier reports that, amid the pandemic, marketing giants Omnicom and Interpublic cut 10,000 jobs combined in 2020. The former trimmed its head count by 8.4%, the latter by 7.6%.
- My most essential Twitter follow is John Moe, because he’s deeply human and funny as hell. Please listen when he warns of an upcoming therapist shortage, because it’s a topic about which he knows quite a bit.
The takeaway: The only consolation is that we’re in touch with our pain. We know we’re hurting. Nobody’s paging Dr. House.
THREE QUESTIONS WITH… Brandi Hight Bank, VP, policy and public health, Klick Health
How would you assess communications and messaging around the vaccine so far?
Communicating around vaccines is always a nuanced endeavor and we applaud the efforts of public health officials, media and healthcare workers to contextualize vaccine benefits and risks. We see an opportunity to provide a more consistent, clear national public education campaign as the vaccines roll out – especially as people seem to crave more certainty than science can provide at the moment. This is a key period to answer questions and empathetically address hesitancy as people wait their turn to be eligible for a vaccine.
What are the areas in which those efforts could stand to improve?
There’s enough data building to move to scientifically sound “gain frame” messaging for COVID vaccines, rather than a “loss frame,” to highlight the benefits of what people can do once safely immunized. We also think that a national commitment to health equity ensures the rising tide of scientific progress that benefits all of society. For example, the drop in American life expectancy in 2020 was greater among Black and brown communities. Efforts to support diversity, equity and inclusion must prioritize ending disparities in health outcomes, along with continued education of all.
What are the first things you plan to do after you receive the vaccine? And after the pandemic lifts?
I was fortunate to volunteer as a participant in a COVID vaccine trial. While I am still blinded, I suspect I got the vaccine based on some mild side effects after the first dose (notably headache, body aches and tiredness for a few hours). But like everyone else, I am still following core safety protocols, like wearing masks, social distancing, working from home, etc. Post-pandemic, I cannot WAIT to see my parents, siblings and their kids, all of whom live in different states. We have a lot of big birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate and catch up on.
(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)
- Unofficial HM Coronavirus Briefing pollster CivicScience notes that 41% of homeowners are looking to renovate within the next six months, with 28% planning to spend $15,000 or more. To that end, how does everyone out there feel about the merits of fiberglass bathtubs vis-à-vis porcelain-enameled cast iron ones? Also from CivicScience this week: Young women and mothers are dealing with the most financial insecurity during the pandemic and longer-term prospects for interactive home fitness (read: Peloton) may have been overstated.
- For Medical Bag, writer/chef/Schecter Strat enthusiast Jack Sonni serves up a recipe for “skillet chicken for the busy doctor.” Heed his advice about the hot sauce garnish. Medical Bag also shares strengthening basics for the fit doctor, courtesy of Dr. Marci Goolsby.
- “Coronavirus Medical Mystery” sounds like something 30 Rock’s faux NBC would’ve faux-programmed back in the day. But this story about a newborn with an intensely high viral load is nonetheless fascinating, if only as further illustration of the randomness with which COVID strikes. The child has recovered, happily.
- Many of the Covid One Year Ago Twitter feed callbacks are enraging or dispiriting. Monday’s update – “health experts warn life-saving coronavirus vaccine still years away” – is not.
- Here’s some video of Baltimore’s mobile vaccine clinic. We need a cool name for this thing (the Vax Van? the Shotmobile?), but more than that we need hundreds of them, now.
…and some songs.
Thanks for reading and listening – and while we’re at, for masking, distancing, vaccine-receiving, vaccine-administering, empathizing, smiling and all the other decent and responsible stuff you’re doing on a daily basis. It’s not lost on those around you, even if they haven’t been the best at articulating their appreciation during this decade of a year. Did I just have this conversation with somebody around me? Maybe. Anyway, come back next week for more Haymarket Media newsletter enlightenment and whimsy.