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Protests erupt in China over ‘zero COVID’ policy
Twitter no longer enforcing COVID-19 misinformation policy
WHO renames monkeypox to mpox due to racist stigma
Pfizer booster offers protection against newest sub-variants, company says
Experts are worried about Thanksgiving unleashing ‘tripledemic’
11:44 a.m.: Protests erupt in China over ‘zero COVID’ policy
Barely a month after granting himself a third five-year as China’s leader, Xi Jinping is facing a wave of public anger over his “zero COVID” policy.
According to the Associated Press, demonstrators poured into the streets over the weekend in cities including Shanghai and Beijing in protests unprecedented since the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
Students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong chanted “oppose dictatorship” and “Freedom! Freedom!”
Most protesters focused their anger on restrictions that confine families to their homes for months and have been criticized as neither scientific nor effective. Others shouted for Xi and China’s 73-year-old ruling party to give up power.
12:23 p.m.: Twitter no longer enforcing COVID-19 misinformation policy
Twitter is no longer enforcing its policy against misinformation about COVID-19, according to the Associated Press.
The change was announced in an online update to Twitter’s rules and comes after the platform was purchased by Elon Musk, who in the past has himself spread misleading COVID claims on Twitter.
The platform enacted its COVID misinformation policy in early 2020 and since then has suspended more than 11,000 accounts and removed nearly 100,000 pieces of content that it deemed potentially harmful.
Some users celebrated the change while public health experts warned it could discourage vaccinations and other efforts to combat the still-spreading virus.
Since the pandemic began, platforms like Twitter and Facebook have struggled to respond to a torrent of misinformation about the virus, its origins and the response to it.
A search for common terms associated with COVID misinformation yielded lots of misleading content, but also automatic links to helpful resources about the virus as well as authoritative sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
12:34 p.m.: WHO renames monkeypox to mpox due to racist stigma
Monkeypox disease now has a new name: mpox.
According to NPR, the World Health Organization announced the long-awaited change on Monday, saying the disease’s original name plays into “racist and stigmatizing language.”
However, replacing a term that’s been used widely for decades will take time. The first human mpox case was recorded in 1970. The virus was initially detected in captive monkeys.
“Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while ‘monkeypox’ is phased out,” WHO said.
The announcement drew a mixed response from Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofo, a global health equity advocate and senior New Voices fellow at the Aspen Institute who has backed changing the name.
“Mpox is better than monkeypox because it still contains ‘pox,’ which speaks to the physical nature of the disease,” Nsofor told NPR. “Removing ‘monkey’ removes the stigma that monkeypox comes with and deals with the possible misinformation” about how it’s transmitted, he added, as it might falsely suggest monkeys are the main source of spreading the virus to humans.
However, he questions the WHO’s decision not to swap the name immediately. The agency said the one-year delay allows time for numerous publications to be updated.
12:29 p.m.: Pfizer booster offers protection against newest sub-variants, company says
Pfizer said its updated COVID-19 booster may offer some protection against newly emerging omicron mutants even though it’s not an exact match.
According to the Associated Press, few Americans have gotten updated boosters made by Pfizer and rival Moderna, shots tweaked to target the BA.5 omicron strain that, until recently, was the most common type.
With relatives of BA.5 now on the rise, a question is how the new boosters will hold up.
The immune response wasn’t as strong against this jumble of newer mutants as it is against the BA.5 strain. But adults 55 and older experienced a nearly 9-fold jump in antibodies against BQ1.1 a month after receiving the updated booster, according to a study from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
That’s compared to a 2-fold rise in people who got another dose of the original vaccine.
It’s too soon to know how much real-world protection such antibody boosts translate into, or how long it will last. Antibodies are only one type of immune defense, and they naturally wane with time.
12:22 p.m.: Experts are worried about Thanksgiving unleashing ‘tripledemic’
For each of the past two years, Thanksgiving helped usher in some very unwelcome guests: devastating waves of COVID-19.
No one thinks this year will be like the last two dark pandemic winters, at least when it comes to COVID-19. But now we’re dealing with a different kind of threat — a confluence of old and new respiratory pathogens.
The respiratory syncytial virus, RSV, began surging early this year, infecting babies and young children with little to no immunity due to strong COVID-19 protections over the past two years.
According to reporting from NPR, the RSV resurgence is flooding pediatric emergency rooms and intensive care units across the country. Some parents are being forced to wait more than eight hours in the ER for treatment for their sick kids.
At the same time, an unusually early and severe flu season is surging, dominated by the H3N2 strain, which often strikes kids and older people especially hard.
Experts say that COVID-19 is still sickening tens of thousands and killing hundreds of people every day, especially with the even more contagious omicron subvariants. The latest variants are adept at infecting people, even if they’ve been vaccinated or previously infected.
There’s a theoretical possibility that the flu and RSV could blunt any new COVID-19 surge in the same way the coronavirus crowded out those viruses the past two years. One possibility is the phenomenon known as “viral interference,” which involves the presence of one virus reducing the risk of catching another.
However, if you’re feeling sick this holiday season, consider video chatting with your friends and family, especially those who are older and more vulnerable, Brown University epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo suggested. Test of COVID-19 before gatherings and consider donning your face mask again.
12:54 p.m.: Yolo County to offer COVID-19 mobile treatment services
Starting Nov. 29, free COVID-19 testing and test-to-treat services will be available at several locations throughout Yolo County.
In a press release, the county said OptumServe will be offering mobile testing and treatment on a bus that will be stationed at different locations inWoodland, West Sacramento and Davis. This service will replace OptumServe’s COVID testing and test-to-treat services at 2780 E. Gibson Road in Woodland, which will end on Nov. 28.
In addition to rapid antigen testing, the mobile testing and treatment bus will offer free COVID-19 telehealth consultations and medication for people who’ve tested positive.
Mobile services will be available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at:
Yolo County residents can also access free virtual COVID-19 telehealth services from Sesame Care either online or by calling 833-686-5051. COVID-19 medications are free and can either be mailed or picked up at a pharmacy.
Clinics are figuring out how to treat long-COVID patients
While many big medical centers have established their own programs and there are more than 400 clinics across the country, there’s no standard for treating long-COVID. Few potential cures are ready for formal clinical trials.
Estimates for how many people have suffered from long-COVID vary, often because the definition of COVID itself varies.
Read more here.
12:35 p.m.: Japan reopens ports to international cruise ships
Japan is lifting a more than 2½-year ban on international cruise ships that was imposed following the deadly outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that kickstarted the pandemic on a global stage.
According to the Associated Press, Japan’s Transport Ministry says cruise ship operators and port authorities’ associations have adopted anti-virus guidelines and that the countries are now ready to resume their international cruise operations while receiving foreign ships at its ports.
Japan has barred cruise ships since March 2020, after the outbreak on the Diamond Princess forced 3,711 passengers and crew to quarantine on board for two weeks, during which 13 people and more than 700 were infected.
Under the new guidelines, all crew members have received three coronavirus vaccine shots.
1:09 p.m.: COVID-19 restrictions in China may slow down iPhone production during holidays
Apple Inc. is warning costumers they’ll have to wait longer to get its latest iPhone models after COVID-19 restrictions were imposed on a contractor’s factory in central China.
According to the Associated Press, the company gave no details, but the factory operated by Foxconn in the central city of Zhengzhou is “operating at a significantly reduced capacity.”
Apple said it expects lower shipments of iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max models than previously anticipated. It said customers “will experience longer wait times.”
Foxconn Technology Group said earlier that it had imposed anti-virus measures on the factory in Zhengzhou following virus outbreaks. The company said it’ll revise down outlook for Q4 and that it’s working on resuming full capacity.
12:11 p.m.: Your holiday travels may be much more expensive than previous years
If you’re looking for airline tickets or a hotel room around the holidays, you’ll probably pay more than you did the last time you traveled over Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Part of the reason for price increases is that airlines are still operating fewer flights than in 2019 even though passenger numbers are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels — and that’s squeezing the supply of seats.
Hotels are struggling with a labor shortage due to wages, leading them to charge patrons even more than expected.
Rates for car rentals are as off-the-charts as they were during much of 2021, although supplies could be tight in some cities.
According to the Associated Press, travel numbers have remained consistent, even though U.S. consumers are facing the highest inflation rates in 40 years and concern around a potential recession is growing.
Airlines haven’t always done a good job handling big crowds, even though they have been hiring workers to replace those that were fired, laid off, or quit after COVID-19 hit. The rates of canceled and delayed flights rose about pre-pandemic levels this summer, causing airlines to slow down plans to add more flights.
The number of travelers going through airport checkpoints has recovered to nearly 95% of 2019 traffic, according to the October Transportation Security Administration figures.
1:27 p.m.: BQ.1 and BQ1.1 COVID-19 subvariant cases have taken over omicron
Two new omicron subvariants have become dominant in the U.S., raising fears that they could fuel yet another surge of COVID-19 infections, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The subvariants — called BQ.1 and B.1.1 — appear to be among the most adept yet at evading immunity from vaccination and previous infection and have now overtaken the BA.5 omicron subvariant.
BQ.1 and BQ1.1 have been quickly gaining ground in the U.S. in recent weeks. On Friday, they officially overtook BA.5, accounting for an estimated 44% of new infections nationwide and nearly 60% in some parts of the country, such as New York and New Jersey, according to the CDC’s estimates.
BA.5 now accounts for an estimated 30% of all new infections nationwide.
2:45 p.m.: New study finds Paxlovid could lessen risk of long COVID
Paxlovid, a 5-day course of antiviral pills from Pfizer, was developed to reduce symptoms and hospitalization rates for COVID-19.
But a new study from the Veterans Health Administration suggests that taking the medication may lessen the risk of developing long COVID.
In the study, long COVID was defined as developing one or more symptoms — including heart issues, blood disorders, fatigue and trouble breathing — one to three months after testing positive. By these metrics, patients that took Paxlovid were 26% less likely to develop long COVID.
“Since the trigger of long COVID is acute infection with SARS-CoV-2, it makes intuitive sense that anything that lowers the severity of this infection would reduce the risk of long COVID, whether it’s Paxlovid or other antiviral treatments,” Dr. Paul Sax, an infectious disease physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, wrote in an email to NPR.
The study is a preprint, meaning it was shared publicly before being reviewed and vetted by outside researchers. But experts who were not involved in the study told NPR the findings make sense, given how Paxlovid works.
10:30 a.m.: Sacramento-area hospitals report uptick in RSV cases
The Sacramento region is seeing an increase in cases of respiratory viruses in children.
That’s according to county public health officials and leaders of local hospitals, who held a press conference Wednesday announcing plans to expand care capacity, including adding staff in response to the surge.
One main driver of hospitalizations is Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV. Dr. Dean Blumberg, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, said “virtually every child” under the age of three contracts the virus.
However, he and other pediatricians at the event said COVID-mitigation efforts like masking and social distancing reduced infection rates in recent years, leading to increased susceptibility this year.
“At UC Davis, we didn’t see any hospital admissions for influenza in the 2020-2021 flu season, which is highly, highly unusual,” Blumberg said. “But that means that all those children; they missed out on getting RSV for the first time.”
Pediatricians agree that most children who get RSV will recover without experiencing complications, although some may get sick enough to need medical attention, as the virus can lead to bronchiolitis or pneumonia or exacerbate symptoms of asthma.
Dr. Zoey Goore, a pediatric hospitalist at Kaiser Permanente and the assistant physician and chief for Kaiser’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital, said parents of young children can help with breathing difficulties by relieving congestion.
Consensus among the pediatricians at the briefing was that the best protection against both RSV and the flu is for everyone in the family, older than six months, to get the flu vaccine. They also recommended proper hygiene and masking for families at higher risk.
12:10 p.m.: COVID-related deaths are down 90% since February, but equity gap remains stark
The World Health Organisation chief on Wednesday said a nearly 90% drop in recent COVID-19 deaths globally compared to nine months ago provides “cause for optimism,” but still urged vigilance against the pandemic as variants continue to crop up.
According to the Associated Press, Director-General Tedros Adhnom Ghebreyesus said that last week just over 9,400 deaths linked to the coronavirus were reported to the WHO. In February of this year, he said, weekly deaths had topped 75,000 globally.
Ghebreyesus said testing and sequencing rates remain low globally, vaccination gaps between rich and emerging countries remain wide, and new variants continue to proliferate.
The U.N. health agency said the tally of newly registered COVID-19 cases worldwide came in at over 2.1 million for the week ending Sunday, down 15% from the previous week.
The number of weekly deaths fell 10% compared to a week earlier.
The highest number of newly reported cases over the week came in Japan, with more than 401,000, an increase of 42% from the previous week. That was followed by Korea, the United States, Germany and China, which counted more than 219,000 new cases over the week — a drop of 15% from the previous week.
Overall, the WHO has reported 626 million cases and 6.5 million deaths linked to the pandemic.
1:53 p.m.: COVID-era safety net programs contributed to the dropping poverty rate in California
Poverty fell in California during the COVID pandemic, largely due to state and national safety net programs.
According to the Public Policy institute of California, a main driver of this was the expansion of federal child tax credits. However, there’s a deadline to file those tax credits — Nov. 17 — prompting advocates and state lawmakers to sound alarms.
The nonprofit organization estimates about 290,000 California children living at or near poverty could miss out on the 2021 child tax benefit, leaving $928 million on the table.
This is because 37% of the people who became eligible under 2021 guidelines — mostly those making little or no income — may be unaware they need to file income tax forms to receive the credit.
Experts warn that poverty would double without CalFresh and the federal child tax credit, leading to some experts arguing that the COVID-era stimulus measures should be extended.
1:19 p.m.: Yolo County health officials say not enough residents are vaccinated against omicron subvariant
Yolo County health officials say an “underwhelming” number of residents are getting booster shots to protect against emerging omicron subvariants.
Brian Vaughn, the county’s public health director, told the Board of Supervisors that only about 10% of eligible residents have gotten the bivalent booster.
“As of our latest data, only 4% of Latinos in Yolo County have received the bivalent booster compared to 15% of non-Hispanic whites,” he said. “Nearly 20% of Davis residents have received the booster compared to 7% of residents in West [Sacramento] and 8% in Woodland and Winters.”
Vaughn also the health department is trying to expand outreach and get more people vaccinated. In a partnership with the City of Davis, the department will be hosting a vaccination clinic at the Davis Senior Center on Tuesday.. Both the Pfizer bivalent and flu shots will be available.
12:58 p.m.: Two California public health experts say a surge of COVID-19 could be coming soon
UC San Francisco Department of Medicine Chair Dr. Robert Wachter and California State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan seem confident that an upcoming surge of COVID-19 is likely this winter.
“Winter will drive people inside,” said Wachter. “There are these new variants that are coming out that are at least somewhat immune evasive.”
Both cited that long COVID is still a big concern as well as getting boosters—especially for older and younger Californians.
“It’s these sort of extremes of age that are at risk for more serious illness,” Pan said. “I want to emphasize to all the parents out there or grandparents, encourage your families to get your kids vaccinated.
Read more here.
1:58 p.m.: Former Connecticut lawmaker pleads guilty to theft of $1.2 million in COVID-19 aid
A former Connecticut state representative has pleaded guilty in connection with the theft of more than $1.2 million in federal coronavirus relief funds from the city of West Haven.
As reported by the Associated Press, Michael DiMassa, a West Haven Democrat, appeared in federal court in Hartford and pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud conspiracy.
DiMassa’s wife and his former business partner also pleaded guilty earlier this year, while a fourth person charged in the scheme awaits trial.
At the time of the theft, DiMssa was both a state representative and an aide to the West Haven City Council.
Prosecutors allege he used his city position to steal the COVID-19 relief funds, some of which he used for casino gambling.
He resigned from both his positions after his arrest last year. Two other people — his wife and business partner — have also pleaded guilty, while a fourth person awaits trial.
1:41 p.m.: Afraid of needles? China is using inhalable COVID-19 vaccine
The Chinese city of Shanghai has started administering an inhalable COVID-19 vaccine in what appears to be a world first, according to the Associated Press.
The vaccine, a mist that is sucked in through the mouth, is being offered for free as a booster dose for previously vaccinated people, according to an announcement posted on an official city social media account.
Needle-free vaccines may persuade people who don’t like getting shots to be vaccinated, as well as expand immunizations in poor countries because they’re easier to administer.
China doesn’t have a vaccine mandate but wants people to get booster shots before it relaxes strict pandemic restrictions that are holding back the economy and are increasingly out of sync with the rest of the world.
12:52 p.m.: Health officials concerned of ‘tridemic’ — flu, COVID-19 and RSV
Health officials in California are concerned about both fun and COVID-19 circulating this fall and winter — but some are also worried about another virus that could create a “tridemic” threat.
It’s Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV, and it’s particularly concerning in children.
Yuba and Sutter Counties Health Officer Dr. Phuong Luu is sounding the alarm.
“We’re seeing a resource of that, and there’s even isolated clustering, not necessarily locally, but in other countries that we have heard in California and other places within the United States,” Luu said.
According to the California Department of Public Health, RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in infants. It’s also a cause of severe disease in adults older than 65.
Luu said while cases are low in the North State now, it’s only a matter of time before the region will see cases rise.
“We’re just at the beginning of the fall season. So we expect that it will be some clusters of outbreaks as we enter further into winter,” he said.
Symptoms include a runny nose, fever, coughing and wheezing. The state health department says young children and infants with RSV may not have a fever but be lethargic, irritable and have little interest in feeding.
There’s currently no vaccine for RSV, but there has been progress in development.
Luu said the best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and the flu. Also, stay home when you or your children are sick to stop the spread.
12:30 p.m.: Disneyland in Shanghai temporarily closed park with visitors inside due to possible COVID-19 outbreak
Visitors to Shanghai Disneyland were temporarily blocked from leaving as part of virus testing the city government said extended to 439,000 people.
According to the Associated Press, Walt Disney Co, and the city government aid, the park closed Monday for virus testing of staff and visitors.
They gave no details of an outbreak, but last week 1.3 million residents to a Shanghai district were told to stay home for testing.
The city government said all Disneyland visitors left by Monday night. Postings on social media said some amusements kept operating for guests who were blocked from leaving. China has stuck to a “Zero COVID” strategy that aims to isolate every case.
12:43 p.m.: Strong RSV vaccine data lifts hope for development after years of futility
A new study suggests vaccinating pregnant women protects their newborns from the common but scary respiratory virus called RSV. The virus is a nuisance for most healthy people, but it can be severe for babies and older adults.
As reported by the Associated Press, efforts to create a vaccine have failed for decades, but some recent promising studies are raising hope that one might finally be getting close.
Pfizer reported preliminary results of its pregnancy vaccine — a shot it also tested successfully in older adults.
Rival GlaxoSmithKlein also has reported success with its vaccine versions in seniors.
12:02 p.m.: Workers allegedly leave Apple product factory amid COVID-19 curbs
Workers in a manufacturing facility in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou appear to have left to avoid COVID-19 curbs.
Many were traveling by foot days after an unknown number of Foxconn factory workers — the factory that manufactures Apple products — were quarantined in the facility following a virus outbreak.
According to the Associated Press, videos on Chinese social media platforms show alleged Foxconn workers climbing over fences and carrying their belongings by foot down the road.
The Foxconn plant in Zhengzhou is one of the largest factories in China that assembles Apple products, including its latest iPhone 14 devices.
Cities surrounding Zhengzhou have appealed to Foxconn workers to report their return in advance so they can undergo appropriate isolation measures.
Find older coronavirus updates on our previous blog page here.
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