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Category Archives: Covid-19

Arizona health experts concerned for holiday COVID-19 surge as travelers arrive back from vacations – FOX 10 News Phoenix

Posted: November 28, 2021 at 9:48 pm

Arizona health experts concerned for holiday COVID-19 surge as travelers arrive back from vacations

PHOENIX - It was another busy day of travel on Sunday, Nov. 28 as people are now returning home from Thanksgiving vacations, but health experts say this will have an impact on Arizona's already growing COVID-19 cases.

Sunday morning, Sky Harbor International Airport was packed with travelers, but by nighttime, things calmed down.

Since Nov. 21, more than 14 million passengers passed through TSA checkpoints in the U.S. thats more than double compared to 2020.

Health experts warn Arizona COVID-19 cases could increase, and of course, theyre keeping a close eye on the new variant, omicron.

The U.S. will restrict travel for non-U.S. citizens from South Africa and seven other countries starting Nov. 29.

The U.K. government is also tightening restrictions once again as face coverings will be mandatory in shops and public transportation. Travelers returning to the U.K. will require PCR testing and proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

Over in Israel, theyve decided to completely shut their borders to tourists.

Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers

More restrictions are expected up north. Its been just 20 days since the Canadian border reopened to the U.S. and some travelers say they're expecting changes, again.

Derek Wicks is traveling to Alberta, Canada from Phoenix.

"Seeing that its already spread Belgium, Germany, Hong Kong its a great idea to take precautions, for sure," he said.

Ghalid Ahmed is headed to the same destination and says, "If it happens, it happens. So after all the issues, after almost two years of this, I think you just take it in stride and if theres a fifth wave or sixth wave. or whatever, then so be it. We just take it in our stride."

Charles Kaplan was traveling to New York from Phoenix. He says, "We are all vaccinated and boosted, as was our family here."

Adding, "We will see really how bad it is. Theyre saying be cautious, masks, distance. Maybe theyll make new vaccines, but I think its a little too I mean it can change in weeks, right? But its a little too soon to change what we had to do this week."

The World Health Organization on Sunday urged countries around the world not to impose flight bans on southern African nations due to concerns over the new omicron variant.

WHO's regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, called on countries to follow science and international health regulations in order to avoid using travel restrictions.

"Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods," Moeti said in a statement. "If restrictions are implemented, they should not be unnecessarily invasive or intrusive, and should be scientifically based, according to the International Health Regulations, which is a legally binding instrument of international law recognized by over 190 nations."

A number of pharmaceutical firms, including AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Pfizer, said they have plans in place to adapt their vaccines in light of the new variant. Pfizer says it expects to be able to tweak its vaccine in around 100 days.

Hand sanitizing stations remain set up around Sky Harbor airport. There are also vending machines that sell protective gear, COVID-19 testing sites and free masks available.

Tip: Check to see if there are any travel restrictions or tests required wherever your traveling to.

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Plastic waste release caused by COVID-19 and its fate in the global ocean – pnas.org

Posted: at 9:48 pm

Significance

Plastic waste causes harm to marine life and has become a major global environmental concern. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased demand for single-use plastic, intensifying pressure on this already out-of-control problem. This work shows that more than eight million tons of pandemic-associated plastic waste have been generated globally, with more than 25,000 tons entering the global ocean. Most of the plastic is from medical waste generated by hospitals that dwarfs the contribution from personal protection equipment and online-shopping package material. This poses a long-lasting problem for the ocean environment and is mainly accumulated on beaches and coastal sediments. We call for better medical waste management in pandemic epicenters, especially in developing countries.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased demand for single-use plastics that intensifies pressure on an already out-of-control global plastic waste problem. While it is suspected to be large, the magnitude and fate of this pandemic-associated mismanaged plastic waste are unknown. Here, we use our MITgcm ocean plastic model to quantify the impact of the pandemic on plastic discharge. We show that 8.4 1.4 million tons of pandemic-associated plastic waste have been generated from 193 countries as of August 23, 2021, with 25.9 3.8 thousand tons released into the global ocean representing 1.5 0.2% of the global total riverine plastic discharge. The model projects that the spatial distribution of the discharge changes rapidly in the global ocean within 3 y, with a significant portion of plastic debris landing on the beach and seabed later and a circumpolar plastic accumulation zone will be formed in the Arctic. We find hospital waste represents the bulk of the global discharge (73%), and most of the global discharge is from Asia (72%), which calls for better management of medical waste in developing countries.

Plastics have an excellent strength to weight ratio, and they are durable and inexpensive, making them the material of choice for most disposable medical tools, equipment, and packaging (1, 2). The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the indispensable role of plastic in the healthcare sector and public health safety (2). As of August 23, 2021, about 212 million people worldwide have been infected with the COVID-19 virus with the most confirmed cases in the Americas (47.6%) and Asia (31.22%) followed by Europe (17.26%) (3). The surging number of inpatients and virus testing substantially increase the amount of plastic medical waste (4). To sustain the enormous demand for personal protective equipment (PPE, including face masks, gloves, and face shields), many single-use plastic (SUP) legislations have been withdrawn or postponed (2). In addition, lockdowns, social distancing, and restrictions on public gathering increase the dependency on online shopping at an unprecedented speed, the packaging material of which often contains plastics (5, 6).

Unfortunately, the treatment of plastic waste is not keeping up with the increased demand for plastic products. Pandemic epicenters in particular struggle to process the waste (7), and not all the used PPEs and packaging materials are handled or recycled (8, 9). This mismanaged plastic waste (MMPW) is then discharged into the environment, and a portion reaches the ocean (10). The released plastics can be transported over long distances in the ocean, encounter marine wildlife, and potentially lead to injury or even death (1114). For example, a recent report estimated that 1.56 million face masks entered the oceans in 2020 (15). Earlier studies have also raised the potential problem of COVID-19 plastic pollution and its impact on marine life (1618). Some cases of entanglement, entrapment, and ingestion of COVID-19 waste by marine organisms, even leading to death, have been reported (19, 20). The plastic debris could also facilitate species invasion and transport of contaminants including the COVID-19 virus (2123). Despite the potential impacts, the total amount of pandemic-associated plastic waste and its environmental and health impacts are largely unknown. Here, we estimate the amount of excess plastic released during the pandemic that enters the global ocean and its long-term fate and potential ecological risk.

As of August 23, 2021, the total excess MMPW generated during the pandemic is calculated as 4.4 to 15.1 million tons (Fig. 1). We use the average of scenarios with different assumptions as our best estimate (Methods), which is about 8.4 1.4 million tons. A dominant fraction (87.4%) of this excess waste is from hospitals, which is estimated based on the number of COVID-19 inpatients (24) and per-patient medical waste generation for each country (25). PPE usage by individuals contributes only 7.6% of the total excess wastes. Interestingly, we find that the surge in online shopping results in an increased demand for packaging material. However, we find that packaging and test kits are minor sources of plastic waste and only account for 4.7% and 0.3%, respectively.

Global generation of mismanaged plastics from different sources (hospital medical waste, test kits, PPE, and online packaging) attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic. High- and low-yield scenarios are considered for each source (Methods).

Table 1 shows the distribution of COVID-19 cases across different continents (Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Oceania, and Africa). About 70% of COVID-19 cases are found in North and South America and Asia (Table 1). We find that MMPW generation does not follow the case distribution, as most MMPW is produced in Asia (46%), followed by Europe (24%), and finally in North and South America (22%) (Table 1 and Fig. 2E). This reflects the lower treatment level of medical waste in many developing countries such as India, Brazil, and China (range between 11.5 and 76% as the low- and high-end estimates) compared with developed countries with large numbers of cases in North America and Europe (e.g., the United States and Spain) (0 to 5%) (Fig. 2A). The MMPW generated from individual PPE is even more skewed toward Asia (Fig. 2C and SI Appendix, Table S1) because of the large mask-wearing population (26). Similarly, the MMPW generated from online-shopping packaging is the highest in Asia (Fig. 2D). For instance, the top three countries in the express-delivery industry of global share are China (58%), United States (14.9%), and Japan (10.3%) followed by the United Kingdom (4%) and Germany (4%) (27).

Percentage of the confirmed COVID-19 cases (as of August 23, 2021), the generated mass of pandemic-associated MMPW ending up in the environment, and the pandemic-associated MMPW that is transported to river mouths for different continents

Accumulated riverine discharge of pandemic-associated mismanaged plastics to the global ocean. Panels are for the discharges caused by (A) hospital medical waste, (B) COVID-19 virus test kits, (C) PPE, (D) online-shopping packaging material, and (E) the total of them. The background color represents the generated MMPW in each watershed, while the sizes of the blue circles are for the discharges at river mouths.

Based on the MMPW production from each country and a hydrological model (28), we calculate a total discharge of 25.9 3.8 (12.3 as microplastics [< 5 mm] and 13.6 as macroplastics [> 5 mm]) thousand tons of pandemic-associated plastics to the global ocean from 369 major rivers and their watersheds (Fig. 2E). We believe that the 369 rivers (account for 91% of the global riverine plastic discharge to the sea) considered here include a vast majority of the global pandemic-associated plastic discharge. The top three rivers for pandemic-associated plastic waste discharge are Shatt al Arab (5.2 thousand tons, in Asia), Indus (4.0 thousand tons, in Asia), and Yangtze River (3.7 thousand tons, in Asia) followed by Ganges Brahmaputra (2.4 thousand tons, in Asia), Danube (1.7 thousand tons, in Europe), and Amur (1.2 thousand tons, in Asia). These findings highlight the hotspot rivers and watersheds that require special attention in plastic waste management.

Overall, the top 10 rivers account for 79% of pandemic plastic discharge, top 20 for 91%, and top 100 for 99%. About 73% of the discharge is from Asian rivers followed by Europe (11%), with minor contributions from other continents (Table 1). This pattern is different from that of the generation of MMPW (Table 1) because of the different ability of rivers to export plastic load to the ocean, which is measured as the yield ratio (defined as the ratio between the plastic discharges at the river mouth and the total MMPW generation in the watershed). The yield ratio is influenced by factors such as the distribution of plastic release along rivers and the physical conditions of rivers (e.g., water runoff and velocity) (28). The top five rivers with the highest yield ratios are the Yangtze River (0.9%), Indus (0.5%), Yellow River (0.5%), Nile (0.4%), and Ganges Brahmaputra (0.4%). These rivers have either high population density near the river mouth, large runoff, fast water velocity, or a combination of them. The combination of high pandemic-associated MMPW generations and yield ratio for Asian rivers results in their high discharge of MMPW to the ocean.

We simulate the transport and fate of the 25,900 3,800 tons of pandemic-associated plastic waste by the Nanjing University MITgcm-Plastic model (NJU-MP) to evaluate its impact on the marine environment. The model considers the primary processes that plastics undergo in seawater: beaching, drifting, settling, biofouling/defouling, abrasion, and fragmentation (29). The model reveals that a large fraction of the river discharged plastics are transferred from the surface ocean to the beach and seabed within 3 y (Fig. 3). At the end of 2021, the mass fraction of plastics in seawater, seabed, and beach are modeled as 13%, 16%, and 71% respectively. About 3.8% of the plastics are in the surface ocean with a global mean concentration of 9.1 kg/km2. Our model also suggests that the discharged pandemic-associated plastics are mainly distributed in ocean regions relatively close to their sources, for example, middle- and low-latitude rivers distributed in East and South Asia, South Africa, and the Caribbean (Fig. 4 and SI Appendix, Fig. S2). The beaching and sedimentation fluxes are mainly distributed near major river mouths (Fig. 4 and SI Appendix, Fig. S2). This suggests that the short-term impact of pandemic-associated plastics is rather confined in the coastal environment.

Projection of the fate of discharged pandemic-associated plastics (including both microplastics and macroplastics) in the global ocean. (A) The mass fractions and average concentrations in the surface ocean. (B) The mass fractions in the seawater, seabed, and beaches.

Modeled spatial distribution of mass concentrations of COVID-19-associated plastics in the surface ocean (AC, JL), on the beaches (DF, MO), and the seabed (GI, PR) in 2021, 2025, and 2100, respectively. The black boxes on the Top panel indicate the five subtropical ocean gyres (North Pacific Gyre, North Atlantic Gyre, South Pacific Gyre, South Atlantic Gyre, and Indian Gyre). Panels AI are for the microplastics, while JR are for the macroplastics.

The model suggests the impact could expand to the open ocean in 3 to 4 y. The mass fraction of plastics in the seawater is predicted to decrease in the future while those in seabed and beach are modeled to gradually increase. At the end of 2022, the fractions of riverine discharged, pandemic-associated MMPW in seawater, seabed, and beach are modeled as 5%, 19%, and 76%, respectively, and the mean surface ocean concentration sharply decreases to 3.1kg/km2. In 2025, five garbage patches in the center of subtropic gyres merge, including the four in North and South Atlantic and Pacific and the one in the Indian Ocean (Fig. 4 and SI Appendix, Fig. S2). Hot spots for sedimentation fluxes are also modeled in the high-latitude North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean in 2025 (Fig. 4 and SI Appendix, Fig. S2), reflecting the large-scale vertical movement of the seawaters (SI Appendix, Fig. S3).

We find a long-lasting impact of the pandemic-associated waste release in the global ocean. At the end of this century, the model suggests that almost all the pandemic-associated plastics end up in either the seabed (28.8%) or beaches (70.5%), potentially hurting the benthic ecosystems. The global mean pandemic-associated plastic concentrations in the surface ocean are predicted to decrease to 0.3 kg/km2 in 2100, accounting for 0.03% of the total discharged plastic mass. However, two garbage patches are still modeled over the northeast Pacific and the southeast Indian Ocean, exerting persistent risk for ecosystems over there. The fate of microplastics and macroplastics are similar but with a higher fraction of macroplastics ending up in the beaches due to their lower mobility (Fig. 4 and SI Appendix, Fig. S1).

The Arctic Ocean appears to be a dead-end for plastic debris transport due to the northern branch of the thermohaline circulation (30). About 80% of the plastic debris discharged into the Arctic Ocean will sink quickly, and a circumpolar plastic accumulation zone is modeled to form by 2025. In this year, the Arctic seabed accounts for 13% of the global plastic sedimentation flux, but this fraction will increase to 17% in 2100. The Arctic ecosystem is considered to be particularly vulnerable due to the harsh environment and high sensitivity to climate change (31, 32), which makes the potential ecological impact of exposure to the projected accumulated Arctic plastics of special concern.

It is speculated that the pandemic will not be completely controlled in a couple of years, and many of the containing policies will continue to be implemented (33). By the end of 2021, it is conservatively estimated that the number of confirmed cases will reach 280 million (34). The generated pandemic-associated MMPW will reach a total of 11 million tons, resulting in a global riverine discharge of 34,000 tons to the ocean. The MMPW generation and discharge are expected to be more skewed toward Asia due to record-breaking confirmed cases in India (3). Given the linearity between the discharge and ocean plastic mass, the fate and transport of the newly generated plastic discharge can be deduced from our current results.

There are substantial uncertainties associated with our estimate of pandemic-associated MMPW release due to the lack of accurate data (e.g., the number of used masks and online-shopping packages and the fraction of mismanaged waste under the over-capacity conditions). For example, our estimate for the discharge from face mask usage is much lower than that of Chowdhury etal. (35), which assumes that a person uses a single mask daily while we assume a mask lasts for 6 d based on survey data (Methods). We thus consider multiple scenarios to cap the actual situations (Methods). The estimated MMPW as hospital medical waste varies by 53%, while that from packaging and PPE vary by 25% and a factor of 3.5, respectively. The estimated amounts of riverine MMPW discharge to the ocean have also uncertainty as they are based on a coarse resolution (i.e., watershed-wise) hydrological model (28). In addition, factors such as the fragmentation, abrasion, and beaching rate of plastics in NJU-MP also have a substantial influence on the simulation results (29). Despite these uncertainties, the spatial pattern of the pandemic-associated releases and their relative fate in different compartments of the ocean is more robust.

The pandemic-associated plastic discharge to the ocean accounts for 1.5 0.2% of the total riverine plastic discharges (28, 36). A large portion of the discharge is medical waste that also elevates the potential ecological and health risk (37) or even the spreading of the COVID-19 virus (38). This offers lessons that waste management requires structural changes. The revoking or delaying of the bans on SUPs may complicate plastic waste control after the pandemic. Globally public awareness of the environmental impact of PPE and other plastic products needs to be increased. Innovative technologies need to be promoted for better plastic waste collection, classification, treatment, and recycling, as well as the development of more environmentally friendly materials (15, 39). Better management of medical waste in epicenters, especially in developing countries, is necessary.

We develop an inventory for the excess plastic waste generated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We consider four categories of sources: hospital-generated medical waste, virus testing kits, PPE used by residents, and online-shopping packages.

For hospital-generated medical waste, we estimate the amount by the number of hospitalization patients (nH) and per-patient healthcare waste generation rates (HCWGR). The nH is estimated based on the number of COVID-19 infections (nI) and the global average hospitalization rate (HR) of this disease:nH=nIHR.[1]

The nI and HR data are based on the statistics of the World Health Organization (3). The HCWGR of COVID-19 patients is approximately two times higher than that of general patients (40), which is calculated as a function of life expectancy (LE) and CO2 emissions (CDE) based on Minoglou etal. (25):HCWGR=2(0.014LE+0.31CDE).[2]

This relationship was developed based on the statistical data from 42 countries worldwide and can explain 85% of the variability of the HCWGR data (25). The LE data are from Roser etal. (41), and the CDE data are from Worldometer (42).

The virus testing kitsgenerated medical waste is estimated based on the number of conducted tests and the amount of waste generated per test. The former data are from Ritchie etal. (43) while the latter is from Cheon (44) and ShineGene (45). Depending on the specifications of the testing kits, the waste generated per test ranges 21 to 28 g/test.

For the PPE used by residents, we consider only face masks, as other items such as gloves and face shields are less commonly used. We use two ways to estimate the number of used masks: consumption-based and production-based. For the former way, we first assume an ideal condition that each person uses a new mask every 6 d (46), and we assume that the actual mask usage lies 25 to 75% of this situation. The population data are from United Nations (26). For the latter way, we assume that all masks produced are used up. The global production (PW) is estimated based on the mask production in China (PC), which is the largest mask producing country (54 to 72%) in the world (47):PW=PCp,[3]where p is the share of Chinese-produced masks (47). We also consider two scenarios for the mass of waste generated by each mask (for surgical masks or N95 masks).

The online-shopping packaging (np) in this study refers to the excess part that is caused by lifestyle changes during the pandemic compared to the normal situation (no COVID-19 pandemic) (nno-covid):np=nactualnnocovid,[4]where nactual is the actual online package usages from 2020 to the first quarter of 2021 and is estimated based on the financial report of the top six e-commerce companies worldwide (Taobao, Tmall, Amazon, Jingdong, eBay, and Walmart) (4852). The nno-covid is calculated based on the package numbers in 2019 and an average annual growth rate in recent years (53). The mass of generated plastic waste (m) is then estimated based on the average mass of plastics in the packaging material (mp) (54):m=npmp.[5]

The amount of MMPW for each source (i) can be calculated based on the waste generation rate of the above four sources (Rw), the fraction of plastic waste in the total waste (Pp), and the fraction of mismanagement waste in the total waste (Pm):MMPW=i=14RwiPpiPmi.[6]

We consider the former two source categories as medical waste while the latter two as municipal waste. The Pm for each country is specified according to the waste type. The Pm of municipal waste is based on Schmidt etal. (28). There is no solid data for the Pm of medical waste, and we use the data of Caniato etal. (55) as a function of the economic status (56) and the level of treatment and disposal of waste for individual countries. The dataset includes two scenarios, and we consider an additional scenario that is 50% lower than the lower one to account for the uncertainty of this fraction.

We estimate the river discharge of pandemic-associated MMPW to the ocean based on the watershed model developed by Schmidt etal. (28), which calculates the yield ratio of plastic discharge at the river mouth to the total MMPW generated in the entire corresponding watershed. We assume this ratio is the same for pandemic-associated plastic waste and other wastes. We consider a total of 369 major rivers and their watersheds in this study. We split the country-specific, pandemic-associated MMPW data to each watershed based on the amount of regular MMPW (28).

The NJU-MP model has a resolution of 2 latitude 2.5 longitude horizontally with 22 vertical levels and is driven by ocean physics from the Integrated Global Systems Model with 4-h time step (29). The model considers five categories of plastics with different chemical composition, and the density of each category is predetermined: polyethylene (PE, 950 kg/m3), polypropylene (PP, 900 kg/m3), polyvinyl chloride (PVC, 1,410 kg/m3), polyurethane (PU, 550 kg/m3), and others (1,050 kg m3). The plastics densities are modeled to increase when biofouled but decrease when defouled (57). The densities determine their buoyancy as low-density polymers float, whereas high-density polymers sink to the sediment (58, 59). Each category has six size bins: four belong to microplastics: <0.0781 mm, 0.0781 to 0.3125 mm, 0.3125 to 1.25 mm, and 1.25 to 5 mm, and two belong to macroplastics: 5 to 50 mm and >50 mm. There is thus a total of 60 plastic tracers in the model. We assume all the plastic debris as spheres for simplicity. The pandemic-associated MMPW discharge from rivers are released as half 5 to 10 mm and half >50 mm for macroplastics, while the largest size bin (i.e., 1.25 to 5 mm) for microplastics. After their discharge into the ocean, the plastics undergo removal by beach interception (57) and sinking to the deeper ocean and eventually on the seafloor. Biofouling of light plastic types (PE and PP) is modeled following Kooi etal. (60) but adjusted for more realistic scenarios. Three types of plastics with different degrees of biological attachment are considered. In addition, the model considers the removal processes including ultraviolet degradation, fragmentation, and abrasion.

The MMPW generation and river discharge datafor all the countries are provided in the Environmental Biogeochemistry Modeling Group (EBMG), https://www.ebmg.online/plastics (61). All study data are included in the article and/or SI Appendix.

This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 42177349 and 41875148), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (Grant No. 0207-14380168), Frontiers Science Center for Critical Earth Material Cycling, Jiangsu Innovative and Entrepreneurial Talents Plan, and the Collaborative Innovation Center of Climate Change, Jiangsu Province. We are grateful to the High Performance Computing Center of Nanjing University for doing the numerical calculations in this paper on its blade cluster system.

Author contributions: A.T.S. and Y.Z. designed research; Y.P. and P.W. performed research; Y.P. and P.W. analyzed data; and Y.P., A.T.S., and Y.Z. wrote the paper.

The authors declare no competing interest.

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

This article contains supporting information online at https://www.pnas.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1073/pnas.2111530118/-/DCSupplemental.

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Protests have broken out across Europe in response to tightened COVID-19 restrictions – NPR

Posted: November 21, 2021 at 10:06 pm

A man walks in front of a fire in a street of The Hague during a demonstration against the Dutch government's coronavirus measures on November 20, 2021. DANNY KEMP/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

A man walks in front of a fire in a street of The Hague during a demonstration against the Dutch government's coronavirus measures on November 20, 2021.

A resurgence of COVID-19 restrictions in a number of countries has resulted in protests, with some demonstrations turning violent and leading to dozens of arrests.

On Saturday night, the Netherlands saw protests at The Hague, with demonstrators lighting fires throughout the area, defacing property and pelting officers with rocks and fireworks, according to police. The disruption went on until around 1 a.m., and police took 19 people into custody before the night was over.

That demonstration also ended with five officers injured, according to the Associated Press. One officer suffered a knee injury as well as a concussion, and others sustained hearing damage, police said on Twitter.

Other COVID-related protests also took place across the Netherlands on Saturday, including in the cities of Amsterdam, Breda, and Katwijk. In Alkmaar and Almelo, fans broke into two soccer games, defying recent lockdown orders, the AP reported.

The night before, protests broke out in the Dutch city of Rotterdam with hundreds attending. Protestors are alleged to have thrown rocks at officers patrolling the scene in addition to setting off fireworks, according to local authorities. As events spiraled into disarray, authorities issued an emergency order and tried to clear the area with the use of a water cannon, officials said. Some in attendance are also alleged to have set fire to police cars and damaged property.

The protests have come in response to a three-week partial lockdown announced last weekend following a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Ahmed Aboutaleb, the mayor of Rotterdam, said that police "felt it necessary to draw their weapons to defend themselves," according to an Associated Press report. Three protestors were shot and are currently being treated at a hospital, police said in a statement. Authorities also claimed that they fired warning shots initially and that officers were also injured; one had to be hospitalized for a leg injury and another needed to be treated by a paramedic.

Police arrested 51 people on Friday on charges that include public assault, incitement, and violation of the emergency order, and around half of those taken into custody were minors, authorities said.

Friday's activities prompted criticism from Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus.

"The riots and extreme violence against police officers, riot police and firefighters last night in Rotterdam are disgusting to see," he said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press. He added, "Protesting is a great right in our society, but what we saw last night is simply criminal behavior. It has nothing to do with demonstrating."

Thousands of protesters opposing the Pandemic Legislation being tabled in the Victorian Parliament are seen with placards and flags in Flagstaff Gardens on November 20, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. Darrian Traynor/Getty Images hide caption

Thousands of protesters opposing the Pandemic Legislation being tabled in the Victorian Parliament are seen with placards and flags in Flagstaff Gardens on November 20, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia.

Protests in the Netherlands are reminiscent of what's occurring in numerous other countries across Europe in recent days. In Austria, citizens have been protesting the government's recent decision to impose a nation-wide lockdown beginning on Monday, as well as plans to make vaccinations compulsory in February.

Thousands joined a demonstration in Vienna on Saturday, with around 35,000 people gathering in the city's Heroes' Square, The Guardian reports.

Days earlier, hundreds of protestors had gathered outside the Austrian embassy in France, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, on the island of Guadeloupe, a French territory, rioters have set fires in the streets, shot at police, destroyed property, and looted places of business, prompting French officials to deploy around 50 members of their special forces to help restore order on the island, according to an Al Jazeera report.

In Belgium, police estimated that around 35,000 people gathered for a protest on Sunday near a train station in Brussels. Events turned hectic, however, with protestors throwing objects at officers and police resorting to using water cannons and tear gas on the crowd, Politico reports. Italy and Croatia have also been the site of demonstrations regarding COVID restrictions, and in Melbourne, Australia, heated protests against vaccine mandates are entering their second day.

Amid the backlash, some health officials are worried that many countries should brace themselves for even more COVID-related deaths. Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, the World Health Organization's regional director for Europe, said earlier this month that Europe and central Asia are again "at the epicenter" of the COVID-19 pandemic. He warned that failure to act could result in half a million deaths by early next year.

"We are at another critical point of pandemic resurgence. Europe is back at the epicentre of the pandemic, where we were 1 year ago," Kluge warned. "The difference today is that we know more and we can do more. We have more tools and means to mitigate and reduce the damage to our communities and society."

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COVID-19 cases rise with Thanksgiving gatherings on the way – NewsNation Now

Posted: at 10:06 pm

(The Hill) COVID-19 cases are climbing nationally as the U.S. barrels into its second holiday season during the pandemic, with most families planning this year to gather for Thanksgiving.

The U.S. is in better shape than at this point last year, when authorities confirmed well over 160,000 COVID-19 cases every day.

The daily average of new cases stands below 100,000 and almost 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated. They can feel good about enjoying a typical holiday season, top infectious diseases expertAnthony Faucisaid this week.

But with millions still unvaccinated and cases rising, experts are urging Americans, particularly the unvaccinated, partially vaccinated and vulnerable, to exercise caution when gathering with others.

There is concern that the rate of infection spreading is already so high as we head into the holiday season, said Amber DSouza, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Were definitely headed into our next surge, she added.

Nationally, the seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases is nearing 95,000, a 33 percent increase from two weeks prior, according to data from The New York Times. In the past two weeks, cases have increased in 39 states and D.C., and they have doubled in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Certain areas like the Midwest, New England and the Southwest in particular are dealing with surges.

The daily average of about 48,000 hospital admissions is flat from two weeks ago, while the 1,100 fatalities per day has dipped by 1 percent.

The case upticks come as many across the country plan for intergenerational gatherings next week, prompting public health experts to call on Americans to consider safety measures for their events.

The risk of different Thanksgiving gatherings vary, as indoor events are more dicey than outdoor and including unvaccinated guests poses more danger than limiting to fully vaccinated attendees. In the end, experts said it ultimately depends on how much risk individuals want to take.

Researchers, including Joshua Weitz, a professor of biological sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, have developed a tool to help figure out the localized risk that at least one infected person will be at an event.

For events with 50 people, the calculator shows eight states have counties with an at least 95 percent risk level.

Even if we are fatigued, the reality is that cases are rising, and there remains far too many individuals who are unvaccinated, and that is contributing to increased spread as well as severe outcomes, said Joshua Weitz, a professor of biological sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

I think we should all be concerned that the things that we hold dear, that we enjoy doing may inadvertently lead to increases in cases and severe outcomes, he added.

About57 million people aged 12 and older remain unvaccinated and at higher risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19, in addition to ending up hospitalized or killed by the virus.

Still, experts dont expect any potential surge to reach the levels of last year with the majority of the country having immunity against the virus.

Almost 196 million Americans are fully vaccinated, and 32 million have received a booster dose, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. Among adults aged 65 and older who are more at risk for severe illness, 86.2 percent are fully vaccinated and 38 percent have gotten their booster.

Even with most Americans protected with the vaccine, however, the shots are not 100 percent effective, meaning breakthrough cases can still emerge. Experts also said waning immunity from the vaccine over time and high community transmission could lead to more breakthrough cases.

Although its too late to initiate any vaccinations to be fully protected by Thanksgiving next week, experts said hosts and visitors can still take precautions to mitigate spread during the holiday, including having attendees take rapid tests, hosting events outdoors and increasing ventilation.

Justin Lessler, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of North Carolinas Gillings School of Global Public Health, said even people going to fully vaccinated events can take steps to protect attendees.

I think that extra layer of doing a rapid test or something or other activities to try to help you make doubly sure that your dinner doesnt become a super spreading event is still worth doing, he said.

Older, immunocompromised and other vulnerable people should really consider a safety plan, he said, while adding but I dont think that safety plan has to be: call off the gathering altogether.

The U.S. has already made booster shots available to these at-risk populations in recent months, and the Food and Drug Administration expanded booster authorization for all adults on Friday.

The CDCs holiday guidance updated last month suggests for all eligible people to get vaccinated in order to protect those who cant, such as children, and those at risk.

For children aged 5 to 11, the Pfizer vaccine recently became available earlier this month so a vast majority will not be fully vaccinated by next week. Children younger than 5 are still not eligible for a shot.

To protect these children, Lori Handy, the medical director of infection prevention and control at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia, recommended implementing additional layers of protection and ensuring that those with exposures or symptoms do not attend.

For children at risk due to medical conditions, she said its time to kind of be mama bear and protect your kids for a bit more this pandemic.

I would recommend people be as cautious as possible, she said. Find ways to get joy and happiness in the holiday season, but dont overdo it with very large gatherings where you could regret that event.

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Milwaukee woman who survived COVID-19 and double lung transplant is using her story to help others – WTMJ-TV

Posted: at 10:06 pm

Not everyone who meets Carmen Lerma at community events knows what she's been through.

I thank God every day for being alive, and for giving me one more day to do something positive, Lerma said. When I wake up in the morning, thats the first thing I do. I give thanks and say please give me the strength to do as much as I can today.

On Saturday, at an event outside UMOS that Lerma helped organize, families were able to get free Thanksgiving turkeys, groceries, Walmart gift cards, and other resources. There was also a vaccine clinic, offering the flu shot, COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot.

A long-time community advocate born in Puerto Rico and raised in Milwaukee, Lermas mission is to get more of the city's Latino population vaccinated.

I am Latina, and being Latina, I understand that sometimes we're hesitant to do certain things for certain reasons," Lerma said. My mission is to educate as many people as I can that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe. Its meant to protect you enough for you to not go through what I went through.

It's been a little more than year since Lerma survived a double lung transplant, after her battle with COVID-19 did irreversible damage to her lungs. She's still practicing how to do normal things like cough and yawn.

The only thing I notice different is my chest and my lung areas are tighter, so whenever I sneeze or breathe, I can feel them expand, Lerma said. Many people dont realize after a lung transplant you have to relearn how to cough, yawn and sneeze. Those things dont just come naturally anymore.

Lerma has returned to working for UMOS part-time, mostly from home. She likes to keep busy but admits its remarkably harder to do so.

People need to understand what the coronavirus does and causes, Lerma said.

Lerma gets blood drawn every week, and takes 52 pills a day, to help keep her body from rejecting her new lungs.

She says her battle with COVID, and the toll it took on her body, also prompted other conditions, like hair loss, diabetes and a thyroid disorder.

At the end of October, Lerma needed emergency surgery for a stomach complication.

Doctors put me under to check on my lungs, and they found something wrong in my stomach, Lerma said. I dont remember much of it, but I have 30 staples in my stomach. Doctors told me I got very sick, very quick.

A passion to live and to help people continues to fuel Lerma through all the health challenges.

The trauma she's been through, though, has prompted insomnia and anxiety.

I'm not embarrassed to say that I need the help because it's really affecting me emotionally, Lerma said. Im supposed to wear a machine every night to help me breathe, and I cant get myself to put it on because it takes me right back to feeling like Im trapped under a mask in intensive care, like I was for 45 days last year.

The pain she still deals with and fights to overcome, giving her a new purpose.

I just want to make a difference, Lerma said. Not only have I suffered the repercussions of COVID, but I have friends and family who have died from it. People need to know how they can protect themselves and their families.

Carmen is working closely with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, and has helped plan nearly 40 vaccination clinics and discussions through the end of this year on Milwaukee's south side, which is home to Wisconsin's largest concentration of Latino families.

Our state's Latino population is among the community's hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, and vaccination rates among this group are lagging.

Right now, about 45 percent of Wisconsin's total Hispanic and Latino population has been fully vaccinated.

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Tens of thousands protest Belgiums tighter COVID-19 rules – PBS NewsHour

Posted: at 10:06 pm

BRUSSELS Ten of thousands of people demonstrated through central Brussels on Sunday to protest reinforced COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the Belgian government to counter the latest spike in coronaviruscases.

Many among the police estimate of 35,000 at the rally had already left for home when the demonstration descended into violence as several hundred people started pelting police, smashing cars and setting garbage bins ablaze. Police, responded with tear gas and water cannons and sought to restore order as dusk settled on the Belgian capital.

Three police officials and one demonstrator were injured in the clashes. In addition, 42 protesters were detained and two were arrested and charged in the violent spree that followed the march, said police spokesperson Ilse Vande Keere.

The marchers came to protest the governments strong advice to get vaccinated and any possible moves to impose mandatory shots.

Shouting Freedom! Freedom! Freedom! and singing the anti-fascist song Bella Ciao, protesters lined up behind a huge banner saying Together for Freedom and marched to the European Union headquarters. Amid the crowd, the signs varied from far-right insignia to the rainbow flags of the LGBT community.

The World Health Organization said last week thatEurope was the hot spot of the pandemic right now,the only region in which COVID-19 deaths were rising. The autumn surge of infections is overwhelming hospitals in many Central and Eastern European nations, includingUkraine,Russia,Romania,the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Over the past several days, there have been manyanti-vaccination marches in European nationsas one government after another tightened measures. Dutch policearrested more than 30 peopleduring unrest in The Hague and other towns in the Netherlands on Saturday, following much worse violence the previous night.

Austria is going into a 10-day national lockdown on Mondayfor everyone after first imposing a lockdown on the unvaccinated. Christmas markets in Vienna were packed Sunday with locals and tourists taking in the holiday sights before shops and food stalls are forced to close.

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COVID-19 In Maryland: More Than 1K New Cases & 10 Deaths Reported Sunday – CBS Baltimore

Posted: at 10:06 pm

BALTIMORE (WJZ) Maryland reported 1,006 new COVID-19 cases and ten new deaths, according to state health department data released Sunday morning.

The percentage of people testing positive decreased by .02% to 3.49%.

Hospitalizations increased by fifteen to 571. Of those hospitalized, 441 adults are in acute care and 130 adults are in intensive care. four children are in acute care and two are in intensive care.

Doctors say the new cases are fueled by dangerous strains targeting the unvaccinated. In an August press conference, Gov. Larry Hogan said the Delta variant, a strain that is reportedly two to four times more contagious than the original virus strain, accounts for nearly every new confirmed case in Maryland.

The vaccines are without a doubt our single most effective tool to mitigate the threat of COVID-19 and the surging Delta variant, and Marylands vaccination rate continues to outpace the nation, Hogan said.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 578,019 total confirmed cases and 10,888 deaths.

There are 4,059,346 Marylanders fully vaccinated. The state has administered 9,138,049 doses. Of those, 4,230,733 are first doses with11,054 administered in the past 24 hours. They have given out 3,741,082 second doses, 2,355 in the last day.

Thanks to the millions of people who have rolled up their sleeves, Maryland continues to be one of the most vaccinated states in America, said Governor Hogan of the eight million milestone mark. We have achieved these numbers with strong public health outreach, innovative lottery and scholarship promotions, and a relentless focus on equity.

Governor Hogan also announced earlier this month that 99% of Maryland seniors are now vaccinated and more than 50,000 children ages 5-11 years old have received a vaccination shot.

The state began to administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine again in April after the CDC and FDA lifted their pause on the vaccine due to a rare blood clot found in some women.

A total of 318,264 Marylanders have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 480 in the last day.

On September 24, after the CDC granted final approval for Pfizers booster, Gov. Hogan announced the immediate authorization of the booster shot for Marylanders who have received their second Pfizer shot at least six months ago. Hogan had already approved use for vulnerable populations in early September.

The state has administered 847,970 additional or booster vaccine doses, 18,803 in the last day.

The state reported 88.1% of all adults in Maryland have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

In August, the state launched a post-vaccination infections dashboard that is updated every Wednesday. There have been 34,450 total cases among fully vaccinated Marylanders as of Nov. 14.

Less than 0.93% of fully vaccinated Marylanders have later tested positive.

Of those cases, 2,471 vaccinated Marylanders were hospitalized, representing 13.02% of all COVID cases hospitalized in the state. 357 fully vaccinated Marylanders have died, representing 14.17% of lab-confirmed COVID deaths in the state.

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES:

Heres a breakdown of the numbers:

By County

By Age Range and Gender

By Race and Ethnicity

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US COVID-19 deaths in 2021 surpass last year’s toll | TheHill – The Hill

Posted: at 10:06 pm

The United States passed yet another sobering milestonein the COVID-19 pandemic as the number of 2021 coronavirus deathssurpassed the 2020 total.

According to the latest available data from Johns Hopkins University, theU.S. has reached at least 770,691 COVID-19 deaths over the full course fo the pandemic.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that the total number of deaths involving COVID-19 in 2020 was 385,343.

That means that at least 385,348 COVID-19 deaths 15 more thanthe 2020 total have so far been recorded in 2021, andthatnumber will only risein the days and weeks to come.

In June, a Wall Street Journal analysisfound that global COVID-19 deaths in 2021 had alreadysurpassed2020 numbers. The newspaper reported at the time that 1.883 people haddied in connection with COVID-19 at that point in 2021, surpassing the global death toll of 1.88 million from 2020.

The grim U.S. milestone comes despite the fact that three COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized in the country, most recently for children as young as 5 years old.

About 69 percent of the U.S. population are at least partially vaccinated, while 59 percent are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.

Among that group, Americans aged 65 years and older boast impressively high vaccination rates. Nearly 100 percent of peoplein that age rangeare at least partially vaccinated, while 86 percent are fully vaccinated, per CDC data.

While the U.S. started to celebrate a decline of COVID-19 cases in September, those numbers have steadily started trending upward again. Last week, 29 states saw higher COVID-19 counts than the week prior.

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We are not out of the woods on COVID-19 in Cobb County – Cobb County Courier

Posted: at 10:06 pm

Yesterday I reported that Cobb County had a spike in COVID-19 cases among 0-4-year-olds and 5-17-year-olds and a consequent rise in the COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 of population. The numbers were reported in the School Aged COVID-19 Surveillance Data reported every Friday by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The trend in the preceding several weeks had been downward since the dramatic Delta variant surge ended, although, for the 5-17 age group of kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, and high school ages, weve remained in the high transmission territory.

In fact, that was a state-wide trend. Of the four age categories this particular report tracks, three were increasing, and the fourth (18-22 years old) was nearly unchanged for both the county and the statewide numbers in yesterdays report.

Ive noticed a tendency since the Delta variant surge ended for the public to consider the pandemic over. Going from ICUs near capacity to numbers on the low end of high was a big relief for everyone.

My opinion is that this is due to disaster fatigue. Our brains arent equipped to handle large numbers when it comes to epidemics and pandemics, or really, disasters of any sort.

To give an example, in November of 2019 there was a measles outbreak in Cobb County. When the initial case was reported, there was near panic, and our first report on it at the Courier got 18,862 pageviews.

18,862 pageviews for an article in the Courier in 2019 was enormous traffic. Our readership has increased substantially since then, but it would still be considered a top-performing article.

And the number of measles cases ultimately never reached 10 in Cobb County.

So we panicked over a disease for which the public is largely vaccinated, and which didnt reach 10 cases countywide, yet are willing to accept 1159 cases over the past two weeks of a deadly disease with a 48 percent rate of fully vaccinated people in the county.

COVID has so far resulted in 1,303 deaths in Cobb County (and 25,546 confirmed deaths statewide).

So how do I want people to respond to this uptick in cases?

I was very happy when the COVID numbers in Cobb County began dropping after the Delta surge played out. I do not enjoy living like a hermit.

Im 70 years old (a high risk age group), am an extrovert who prefers doing my work outside the house, and Ive had two cousins die of COVID-19 (one of them was 73 years old and one of the first deaths in Cobb County from the pandemic).

So no, Im not suggesting that Cobb County residents panic and retreat into their shells.

But I do want the anti-vaxxers to shut up and move along to some harmless pseudoscience (maybe cryptozoology), I want vaccine mandates for any job that requires frequent contact with the public (particularly health care workers)

And I absolutely support mask mandates in the schools. Until this pandemic is over, the school systems are the most consistent place common to nearly all families in the county, where families interact with each other, and potentially spread any virus between students and then back to their families.

Finally, I want the public to start paying attention to these numbers again. It would be really easy for us to wake up one morning with headlines announcing a new COVID surge like the one Europe is already experiencing.

So the pandemic isnt over, Cobb County is still a high transmission county, and we need to take our heads out of the sand.

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Oil and euro slip, markets on edge over COVID-19 curbs in Europe – Reuters

Posted: at 10:06 pm

A man wearing a protective face mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus, talks on his mobile phone in front of a screen showing the Nikkei index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

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SYDNEY, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Asian stocks made a soft start to the week on Monday while oil and the euro were under pressure, as the return of COVID-19 restrictions in Europe and talk about hastened tapering from the U.S. Federal Reserve put investors on guard.

Oil futures skidded about 1% at the open, sending Brent crude and U.S. crude to seven-week lows of $78.05 and $74.76 respectively amid oversupply concerns.

Australian shares fell 0.4%, led by bank stock losses. Japan's Nikkei (.N225) was down 0.3% and MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares (.MIAPJ0000PUS) was flat.

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"There are question marks over the resilience of Europe and the European economy, exacerbated by protests and infection rates seen over the weekend," said Rodrigo Catril, a strategist at National Australia Bank in Sydney.

"It's hard to see the U.S. dollar coming to any harm against that backdrop," he said, a view further underlined by recent strong U.S. data and hawkish remarks from Fed officials.

The euro slipped 0.2% to $1.1280, close to a 16-month low. The common currency has been the prime mover in markets over recent sessions as investors wager on Europe's economy lagging well behind the U.S. recovery.

Safe-haven assets such as bonds, gold and the yen have also benefited from the recent cautious tone in financial markets.

On Monday, the yield on benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasuries was steady at 1.5634%. Gold found support at $1,845 an ounce. The yen hovered at 114.09 per dollar.

The risk-sensitive Australian dollar also fell to a seven-week low of $0.7227. South Korean stocks (.KS11) were an outlier as chipmakers followed U.S. peers higher with a brightening outlook for memory chip demand.

S&P 500 futures rose 0.2% after Wall Street indexes had slipped on Friday.

HAVEN PLAYS

Trade is likely to be thinned this week by Thanksgiving in the United States, but the cautious tone has traders once again monitoring COVID-19 cases in Europe as well as keeping an eye on central bank speakers, particularly in Britain and Europe.

Austria began its fourth lockdown on Monday - with neighbouring Germany warning it may follow suit - as protests against restrictions occurred across the continent. read more

Surveys due in Europe and Britain through the week are expected to show a downward trend in output and sentiment.

"The combination of COVID, growth and geopolitical concerns in the euro zone is supportive of safe-haven plays," said Rabobank's head of FX strategy Jane Foley.

"The recent break below the EUR/USD $1.15 level and the lurch downwards that followed has forced us to lower our forecasts for the currency pair further," she added, expecting it to sit around $1.12 by mid next year.

Meanwhile the U.S. economy has been surprising analysts with stronger-than-expected retail sales data and hot inflation in recent weeks. The focus this week is on prices and the labour market and on what the Fed might do about their strength.

Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida said last week that quickening the pace of tapering might be worth discussing at December's meeting. Fed minutes are due on Wednesday.

China stood pat on its benchmark lending rates for corporate and household loans for a 19th month on Monday, as expected.

Central banks in South Korea and New Zealand are expected to hike rates this week, with swaps markets priced for about a 40% chance of a 50 basis point rate hike in New Zealand.

Bitcoin was under pressure after posting its worst week in two months last week, and last sat at $58,180.

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Reporting by Tom Westbrook in Sydney; Additional reporting by Joori Roh in Seoul; Editing by Himani Sarkar

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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