Covid-19 News Briefs for Wednesday, September 23, 2020

September 23, 2020

 Johnson & Johnson is beginning a huge final study to try to prove if a single-dose Covid-19 vaccine can protect against the virus. The study starting Wednesday will be one of the world’s largest coronavirus vaccine studies so far, testing the shot in 60,000 volunteers in the US, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. A handful of other vaccines in the US, including shots made by Moderna and Pfizer and others are already in final-stage testing. Hopes are high that answers about at least one candidate being tested in the US could come by year’s end

 Covid-19 has created a windfall for the Malaysian companies that supply nearly two-thirds of the disposable latex and synthetic gloves used to fight contamination in hospitals, labs, pharmacies, and kitchens worldwide. But record-breaking sales have been accompanied by fresh scrutiny over labor practices — especially treatment of the low-paid migrant workers who run the assembly lines. US Customs and Border Protection has resurrected a century-old trade law to block imports from glove companies it suspects of using forced labor. After years of complaints from labor rights groups, the agency in July banned products from Top Glove, maker of one-quarter of the world’s gloves, citing reasonable evidence that the company was subjecting workers to abusive living and working conditions, excessive overtime and debt bondage, which is the practice of charging recruitment fees that often take months or years to work off until debts are cleared. Despite the ban, Top Glove and other Malaysian glove companies expect to sell 112 billion gloves worldwide this year, 48% more than in 2019

 Russia confirmed 6,431 new Covid-19 cases Wednesday, bringing the country’s official number of cases to 1,122,241, as the number of new infections across the country continues to rise. Russia also announced that it will share legal liability for unexpected side effects of its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, a move that could potentially result in costly compensation claims for its developers, and President Putin in a speech at the UN on Tuesday boasted of Russia’s creation of the world first coronavirus vaccine, though it has not completed largescale clinical trials

 No part of the world has been as devastated by the coronavirus as Latin America. Of the 15 countries with the highest deaths per capita in the world, 11 are in Latin America or the Caribbean. Unlike in Europe or the US, the outbreak in Latin American has not come in waves. It slammed into the region in the spring and plateaued at an extraordinarily high level, exacerbated by anemic health care systems, inequality, and government ineptitude and indifference

 France raised its Covid-19 alert level in a number of areas across the country on Wednesday, and the authorities ramped up restrictions on public gatherings in several cities to prevent the health system from buckling under an influx of patients. The new measures, which will take effect in the coming days, include the total closure of all bars and restaurants in two cities and a ban on public gatherings of more than 10 people in Paris and a handful of other French cities. The positivity rate for the virus has passed 6% and authorities are worried because French hospitals were starting to feel the strain from new Covid-19 patients who now represent nearly 20% of patients in intensive care across the country

 The former chairman of a Chinese state-owned real estate company who publicly criticized President Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus crisis was sentenced to 18 years in prison on corruption charges, a court announced on Tuesday

 Finland has trained dogs to detect coronavirus. The country began offering coronavirus tests for passengers at Helsinki’s airport conducted by canine specialists that have been trained to sniff out SARS-CoV-2. Travelers who take the voluntary test are asked to rub their necks with a wipe to collect sweat samples, and then leave the wipe in a box. A dog trainer puts the box behind a wall, along with cans that contain different scents. Researchers say the dogs can detect a coronavirus-infected person in 10 seconds, with a 94% success rate

 As public health officials raise alarms about surging coronavirus cases among young people, new research suggests that Americans under 25 are most likely to believe virus-related misinformation about the severity of the disease and how it originated. Researchers identified a clear generation divide: respondents 18 to 25 had an 18% probability of believing a false claim, compared with 9% for those over 65, according to the study conducted by researchers from Harvard, Rutgers, Northeastern, and Northwestern Universities. The results diverge from past research that said older people were more likely to share false news articles on social media

 Around the country, teachers and school administrators are hoping that a patchwork of plans cobbled together over the summer will help address one of the most pressing challenges they face as millions of students start a new school year online: How to make sure they come to virtual class, and what balance to strike between punitive and forgiving policies if they don’t. Attendance data from last spring, while limited, suggests that the problem loomed large in many districts after school building closed in mid-March. In one survey of 5,659 educators around the country, 34% of respondents said that no more than 1 in 4 students were attending their remote classes, and a majority said fewer than half their students were attending. Data on why students disappear from virtual school is hard to come by, but there are some obvious reasons — many lack a computer or stable internet; others have to work or care for young children; some families were evicted and had to move. It is also likely that some students found online learning so tedious or hard to keep up with that they just dropped out, especially since many schools stopped grading or taking attendance once they closed their doors

 Air carriers and their unions on Tuesday ratcheted up pleas for an extended Covid-19 aid package to forestall layoffs, but the sudden Supreme Court vacancy and partisan rancor are limiting the prospects. An aid package passed in March provided $25 billion for the airline industry to prop up payrolls but that protection ends next week. Unless Congress acts, airlines plan to lay off tens of thousands of workers October 1

 The luxury home market as a whole has been hot during the pandemic, as wealthy clients perpetually stuck at home look to upgrade. And there is a heightened awareness of indoor air quality and the risks and challenges exposed by the coronavirus crisis. Demand for high-end air filtration technology has exploded, but the comfort of luxury ventilation doesn’t come cheap. On a recent 12,000 square foot home project in the Bay Area, the cost of the ventilation system along ran nearly $200,000. And since 2010, California has required all new homes to be built with a mechanical ventilation system — with a filter — to circulate air regardless of whether the house has central cooling or heating. According to one scientist who helped draft the new standards, the change came about in response to a mounting body of scientific research showing that unventilated indoor air poses a major health hazard

 One 20-year old student at California University in Pennsylvania died this month from a blood clot after being hospitalized with Covid-19. He appears to be the first college football player to die from the virus

 After a difficult negotiation process, Hollywood studios and unions have agreed to safety protocols and paid sick leave for TV and film crews if they become infected with the coronavirus while working. Under the deal, union employees are eligible for up to 10 days of Covid-19 paid sick leave, per production. They are also guaranteed to be reinstated once they’re cleared to return to work. If local laws for a production require workers to be quarantined or isolated for a period of time, employers will be responsible for quarantine pay as well. The terms will run through April of next year

 Walt Disney officials pressed Governor Newsom on Tuesday to let Disneyland and California Adventure reopen, vowing to adopt specific heath precautions to help protect guests from coronavirus. Officials noted that Disney parks in Florida reopened in July with health and safety precautions, and argued that 80,000 jobs in Anaheim and surrounding cities are dependent on a reopening

 Dr. Ferrer reported that a lot of progress has been made toward reducing the coronavirus transmission rate in LA County since July. Also, new cases, test positivity rate, hospitalizations, and fatalities from Covid-19 are all trending downward. Regarding ethnic groups which suffered disproportionately regarding the pandemic, all groups are also trending downward and the positive news is that the gaps between Blacks and Hispanics compared to white people are closing. However, regarding households with high poverty levels, the gap is still too wide when looking at Covid-19 deaths compared to high-income households. LA County reported an additional 1,265 cases and 31 deaths. Totals are now 263,333 cases and 6,423 deaths. City Breakouts (Cases/Deaths): City of LA 106,946/2,737; Long Beach 11,615/238; Carson 1,820/60; El Segundo 131/1; Gardena 1,231/50; Hawthorne 1,926/45; Hermosa Beach 207/4; Inglewood 2,826/89; Lawndale 628/10; Lomita 239/9; Manhattan Beach 354/5; PV Estates 96/2; Rancho PV 299/13; Redondo Beach 550/11; Rolling Hills 41/2; Torrance 1,408/69

Compiled by Charlene Nishimura

Media Sources: Los Angeles Times; New York Times; Washington Post; Wall Street Journal; Forbes Magazine; Business Insider; USA Today; CBS News; CNN; KTLA; OZY; ABC World News Tonight; Spectrum News 1; The Hill.com; WebMD; AP, Politico, Newsweek, Reuters, STAT, televised briefings from the White House, Governor Newsom, LA County Health Department, Mayor Garcetti; City of Torrance press releases; Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce press releases