City of Cambridge Places High Priority on Supporting Unhoused Community During COVID-19 Pandemic – the City of Cambridge

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Cambridge has prioritized supporting our unhoused community. Over the past year, we have invested over $11 million in additional funding above the annual $4.5 million to further support our most vulnerable residents.

Within weeks of the pandemic, the City began constructing the War Memorial Emergency Shelter, and last fall, we opened the Transitional Wellness Center at Spaulding Hospital. Both of these facilities were mobilized to ensure that we could support shelters in reducing population density to operate more safely. Our goal over the past year has been to control and limit the spread of COVID-19 among our unhoused community. Additionally, the City has worked closely with Bay Cove Human Services and the Cambridge Housing Authority to find longer-term housing for residents utilizing the temporary shelters. Thanks to these efforts, 20 residents have already secured housing and several others will soon be moving into longer-term housing.

Many communities have faced challenges, compounded by limited resources and funding, to keep the unhoused population healthy and minimize COVID-19 transmissions. Cambridge’s early interventions helped manage any reported clusters within the shelters, while minimizing the spread of the virus among the unhoused community. This was due to providers’ implementation of CDC recommendations for reducing spread in congregate settings and the City’s quick action to establish additional sites for people to safely congregate, decreasing the density at existing shelters, as well as the creation of an early detection system to catch individual cases before they could further spread to others in the community. These efforts were truly a cross departmental collaboration among staff from Cambridge Fire and Police Departments, Cambridge Public Health Department, Public Works, the Department of Human Service Programs (DHSP), as well as Cambridge Health Alliance and ProEMS, to name a few involved in the task of establishing COVID-19 safe sites for our unhoused residents.

The City has funded 2 to 3 meals, 7 days a week, from local restaurants for every shelter program or meals program in Cambridge that requests it. Cambridge restaurant meals are handed out every day through different sites, including four days a week at First Church. To date, the City has invested $1 million to this important program and, with the critical work of meal distribution partners, has provided over 140,000 meals since March 2020. We have been and will continue to pay for the First Church shelter to remain open all day, which provides a safe daytime space for shelter residents Additionally, the City has funded showers in Harvard Square for the unhoused population as well as the cost of staff to run the Church Street facility. The showers, along with portable toilets and hand-washing and sanitizing stations in Central, Porter, Harvard, and Alewife, have helped address the gap in availability of hygiene services as many public restrooms are unavailable during this time.

Additionally, the City has supported Y2Y, a student-run shelter for youth in Cambridge, since last March. The City’s financial commitment has enabled the shelter to remain open all year, averting closure at the usual season end in April 2020, which coincided with the first wave of COVID-19 outbreaks. With the City’s assistance, Y2Y has also been able to hire professional staff to supplement their students and staff.   

To better support the unhoused community during winter months, the City expanded access to its Warming Center in Central Square, which was previously an overnight space. Since December 2020, the Warming Center has been open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for adults experiencing homelessness to access a safe space. At all times, the maximum capacity at the Warming Center will be 30 guests to allow for social distancing during the pandemic.

Through a combination of municipal and federal funds, the City is supporting new outreach programs through Solutions at Work, Fenway Health’s Youth on Fire, and, most recently, the Central Square BID’s (Business Improvement District’s) three new outreach workers.

In addition, the City has supported Baycove’s First Step Street Outreach program to add hours and a physician to go out with this outreach team several times a week to provide street-based medical care. The outreach team offers food, water, clothing, blankets, emergency supplies, hygiene, PPE supplies and assistance accessing emergency medical and psychiatric care, testing, shelters, and substance treatment.

In partnership with the Cambridge Housing Authority and HomeStart, the City launched a new project that pairs supportive services with vouchers committed by the Cambridge Housing Authority to rehouse approximately 45 individuals with long histories of homelessness in Cambridge. The project provides staffing to assist people through every step of the rehousing process including assessing housing needs, barriers, and preferences; obtaining needed documents; engaging in housing search; and providing ongoing stabilization services to support successful tenancies.  

Through the great work of our DHSP staff, the City secures over $4.5 million annually in competitive grant funds from HUD that support permanent housing projects for formerly unhoused households and supportive services to assist in connecting people to housing and ongoing supports. With funding from HUD, the Housing Authority, and the City, there are approximately 400 units or vouchers supporting permanent housing dedicated for formerly unhoused households.

Support for our unhoused community has not been limited to just housing and meals. We also tested individuals through mobile testing and shelter-based screening programs. COVID-19 positive individuals, including shelter staff, were referred to regional isolation hotels for safe recovery. As of March 7, we had administered a total of 632 first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to clients and staff at Cambridge homeless shelters.

In addition to helping our unhoused community, this past year we have also provided and continue to provide financial and other types of assistance to Cambridge families and individuals facing food and/or housing insecurity, as well as to Cambridge small businesses and nonprofits.

The City is not alone in providing supports for the unhoused community. State investments in additional shelter space at the Green Street Shelter and other emergency assistance programs along with grants by the Cambridge Community Foundation and tireless work by nonprofits, faith-communities, and volunteer and mutual aid groups have provided additional critical support to the community.

Despite the broad array of investments and resources dedicated to supporting the unhoused community in Cambridge, the demand for housing and services outweighs the supply, and the challenges experienced by the unhoused community are significant and magnified by the current public health crisis. The City is committed to working with stakeholders and partners to provide support to the unhoused community and those at risk of losing housing during this very challenging time.

Vaccine efficacy probable against COVID-19 variants – Science Magazine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization of three vaccines, all of which have shown greater than 85% effectiveness against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (1–3), has provided the public with the hope of ending the global COVID-19 pandemic. However, recent outbreaks of more transmissible variant SARS-CoV-2 strains that harbor mutations in the spike protein—the critical viral target of immune responses produced by the vaccines (13)—has invited a dour outlook on the vaccines’ continued efficacy (4). The trepidation is based on the prompt compilation of in vitro data that demonstrate as much as 10-fold reduction in neutralization antibody (NAb) activity in vaccinated samples against mutant spike protein pseudovirus (5, 6), which is thought to be an important metric of acquired immunity (7). Although reports of NAb reduction are alarming in magnitude, the proof of vaccine effectiveness can only be measured definitively by challenging vaccinated subjects with infection.

Vaccine efficacy measured by infection challenge experiments using non-human primates is often prerequisite to clinical trials, but these data are seldom articulated in lay reports. For example, in the Moderna-1273 vaccine trial (8), nonhuman primates received a 10-microgram dose [10% of the dose recommended for humans by the FDA (9)] or a 100-microgram dose (100% of the FDA dose), and researchers found a mean NAb titer of about 300 or about 3500, respectively. Despite the difference in NAb levels, both doses conferred substantial protection from infection, as measured by viral particle titers and prevention of respiratory pathology. Similar data were obtained using the Pfizer (10) and Johnson & Johnson (11) vaccines. Importantly, vaccinated samples have been tested using pseudoviral particles that express each of the SARS-CoV-2 variant spike proteins, and in each case, the samples appear to exhibit NAb titers greater than 300 in vitro (12), suggesting that vaccines will be effective against mutant strains.

These studies show that what appears to be magnitudes of difference in NAb activity may not necessarily correlate with clinical immunity. As variant strains emerge, we will need to reevaluate vaccine efficacy by testing the inhibition of viral infection in vivo rather than by quantifying the antibodies produced after in vitro exposure. Reliable proof of immunity through vaccination may only come through reinfection challenge experiments or through longitudinal studies of postvaccination subjects.

COVID-19 Relief: Congress Passes $1.9 Trillion Package – NPR

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California walks from the House floor during the vote on the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Wednesday. Despite Republican criticism, Pelosi insists the bill is “coronavirus-centric.” Alex Brandon/AP hide caption

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Alex Brandon/AP

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California walks from the House floor during the vote on the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Wednesday. Despite Republican criticism, Pelosi insists the bill is “coronavirus-centric.”

Alex Brandon/AP

House lawmakers Wednesday gave final approval to President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, sending the legislation to his desk for his signature. The White House says Biden plans to sign it on Friday.

“This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation – the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going – a fighting chance,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday.

The House voted 220-211 with no Republicans voting in favor of the bill, despite calls for bipartisan support from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Democratic leaders.

One Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden, voted against the bill, citing concerns over changes to the legislation from the Senate.

“Although I support the Senate’s effort to reduce the number of wealthier households that will receive stimulus checks, they did not go far enough, and other changes — like removing the minimum wage increase or providing a lower unemployment benefit — undermined policies that I support,” Golden said in a statement.

The bill will direct a new round of aid to Americans — in the form of direct payments, extended unemployment benefits, an expanded child tax credit and more — almost a year after the pandemic first upended daily life in the United States.

Biden said in remarks on Saturday at the White House that funding for the American Rescue Plan will “get the country in a place to get back to normal.”

“This plan puts us on a path to beating the virus,” he said, following the Senate’s vote. “This plan gives those families who are struggling the most the help and the breathing room they need to get through this moment.”

Biden also vowed to get the direct payments of up to $1,400 out the door starting “this month.”

The House passed a similar version of the plan last month but had to approve changes to the legislation made by the Senate. One key difference is that the Senate’s version of the bill doesn’t include an increase to the minimum wage, a provision that was ruled out by the nonpartisan Senate parliamentarian.

The final legislation also includes an extension of federal unemployment benefits through Sept. 6, but the payments will remain at $300 per week rather than the $400 weekly benefits originally approved by the House.

The Senate also tightened the caps for direct payments, narrowing who would qualify for them.

Beyond support for individuals and families — including an expanded child tax credit, the bill allocates billions of dollars to schools and to the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, testing and supplies. (Read more about what’s in the bill here.)

Though Republicans have largely opposed the plan since Biden introduced it in January, the budget reconciliation process allowed Democrats to push the bill forward without support from across the aisle.

“The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way or through a less rigorous process,” said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell before the Senate voted on Saturday.

Ahead of the vote on Wednesday, Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., reiterated Republican opposition to provisions they consider “unrelated” to the pandemic.

“It’s the wrong plan at the wrong time. If this bill was about direct payments to people and putting shots in the arms and vaccines, you would have strong bipartisan support across this Congress, across this country,” he told NPR.

A better plan, he argued, would include “targeted and timely” direct payments.

Democrats counter that a broader approach to the economic crisis, with sweeping plans to address poverty, is in fact what the country needs — and what they say their constituents want.

Pelosi insisted Wednesday on the House floor that the package was “coronavirus-centric.” Furthermore, referring to the projected impact of the expanded child tax credit, she said, “How do you say no to lifting 50% of impoverished children in America out of poverty?”

The White House and congressional Democrats point to public opinion polls showing overwhelming support for the legislation, including the backing in some surveys from a majority of Republicans. While no GOP lawmakers in Congress voted for it, Democrats point out that some Republican state and local government officials are pressing for the aid.

Biden is expected to sign the bill swiftly; the current enhanced federal unemployment benefits expire Sunday. He’ll also deliver the first prime-time address of his term Thursday to mark the one-year anniversary of the pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: March 9, 2021 –

For Immediate Release:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced the following actions taken in its ongoing response effort to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • On Friday, the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to Cue Health Inc. for its over-the-counter at-home diagnostic test for COVID-19. The Cue COVID-19 Test for Home and Over The Counter (OTC) Use is a molecular test that can be used completely at home without a prescription by people with or without COVID-19 symptoms. It requires the use of a compatible smartphone and a downloadable app. The app provides testing instructions and works with the Cue Cartridge Reader (provided separately) and the Cue testing cartridge to perform the test. Results are available in about 20 minutes.
  • On Friday the FDA issued an EUA to Adaptive Biotechnologies for its T-Detect COVID Test. The T-Detect COVID Test analyzes DNA from a patient’s T cells (white blood cells) to aid in identifying people with an adaptive T cell immune response to SARS-CoV-2, indicating recent or previous SARS-CoV-2 infection. The test should be used together with a clinical examination and a patient’s medical history. Negative results do not rule out acute or current SARS-CoV-2 infection. 
  • As part of the FDA’s effort to protect consumers, the agency issued a warning letter jointly with the Federal Trade Commission to CAMA Wellness Center/IodoRios Company, LLC for selling an unapproved product with fraudulent COVID-19 claims. The company sells a hand wipe product, and misleadingly represents the product can prevent or treat COVID-19 in people. The FDA requested that CAMA Wellness Center/IodoRios Company, LLC take immediate action to cease the sale of any unapproved and unauthorized products for the mitigation, prevention, treatment, diagnosis or cure of COVID-19. Consumers concerned about COVID-19 should consult with their health care provider.
  • Testing updates:
    • As of today, 340 tests and sample collection devices are authorized by the FDA under EUAs. These include 253 molecular tests and sample collection devices, 72 antibody and other immune response tests and 15 antigen tests. There are 38 molecular authorizations that can be used with home-collected samples. There is one molecular prescription at-home test, two antigen prescription at-home test, one OTC at-home antigen test and one OTC molecular test.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.




Related Information

Local pharmacists step up in COVID-19 vaccination effort – Modern Healthcare

They’re just your regular neighborhood pharmacists, but some now wear superhero capes.

Local pharmacy owners are filling in the gaps as federal, state and county authorities across the country struggle to ramp up vaccinations vital to crushing the COVID-19 pandemic. In some small towns across the U.S., an independent pharmacy is the only local place where residents can get a COVID-19 vaccination.

President Joe Biden recently celebrated the injection of the 50 millionth dose of COVID-19 vaccine since his inauguration. But the huge undertaking has been hampered by vaccine shortages and concerns whether marginalized communities are getting access to shots.

The hope is that local pharmacies will now play a key role in getting more Americans inoculated. They have become vaccine providers by applying to state health officials and the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination, which has been distributing vaccine to networks of independently owned pharmacies, as well as the big national chains.

The Biden administration’s coronavirus coordinator, Jeff Zients, said at the start of the program last month about 6,500 pharmacies would receive a total of 1 million doses, with more pharmacies joining the program as vaccine production increases. The program doesn’t fully fill the gaps, however — more than 400 rural counties lack a retail pharmacy that’s included in the partnership.

Giving vaccinations requires long hours and administrative work, and there’s little or no money in it for pharmacy owners. They don’t have to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine, unlike flu and other vaccines, but they do have administrative costs they may be able to recover when patients have insurance. Still, the money is not their immediate concern.

Adam Bayer and his wife have given out shots at their store, Hillcrest Pharmacy in Vernon, Texas. The work can be intense — the first batch of 100 doses took them a day and a half to administer. Besides giving the vaccine, they must monitor patients for 15 minutes for signs of allergic reactions.

Bayer applied to become a vaccine provider because he believed he was in a position to help fight the pandemic. He’s been proactive and reaching out to customers.

“We’re calling patients who we know aren’t online,” he says. “My prayer is that we’re not leaving people behind.”

Good Neighbor Pharmacy, one of the networks whose members are participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy program, has so far been allotted 75,000 doses for pharmacies in Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Texas and Guam, says Jenni Zilka, a senior vice president at the network. Those doses began arriving the week of Feb. 11.

All told, the Federal Retail Pharmacy program has 21 companies taking part including big drugstore and grocery chains and mass merchandisers like Costco and Walmart. However, not all the big chains like CVS, Rite-Aid and Walgreen’s are giving out vaccinations in every state they’re located in.

The program is giving a boost to the independents that have been losing ground to the nationwide retailers for decades. In 2015, independents accounted for 36% of the 61,000 pharmacies across the U.S., according to the National Community Pharmacists Association, a trade group. By 2019, they accounted for 35% as the number of pharmacies overall grew to 61,480.

Pharmacists who get a smile and a nod when customers pick up routine prescriptions are now being greeted by applause and tears from customers, first responders and residents of assisted-living centers in communities across the country.

The pharmacists themselves are equally emotional.

“The opportunity to call someone who’s 85 and tell them, ‘I’m going to give you a vaccine’ is a pretty profound experience,” says Chris Antypas, co-owner of Asti’s South Hills Pharmacy in Pittsburgh, which has given out several hundred doses.

Besides giving COVID-19 shots in their stores, pharmacists have also set up mass immunization clinics. They’re already experienced at giving out shots — for years they’ve administered flu, pneumonia, shingles and other vaccinations. But they’re required to get additional training before they can give out COVID-19 shots: They must learn how to handle and store the vaccine, and unlike with other immunizations, they must report to health officials who gets the vaccines, and the name of each dose’s manufacturer.

Matt Hopp owns what’s known as a closed-door pharmacy — it specializes in packaging and delivering medication for assisted-living facilities and nursing homes in the Atlanta area. So far, Guardian Pharmacy has administered 1,500 doses to people in assisted living and who have come to drive-through clinics. Hopp says he’ll bill Medicare and insurance companies later.

“We’re more focused on getting the vaccine out there and into arms,” he says.

Many pharmacists, especially those running mass clinics, are getting help from their communities. School districts, fire departments, landlords with empty stores have been offering the use of their space, Antypas says.

Mayank Amin, who has set up mass clinics in the Philadelphia suburbs, has gotten help from doctors and other health professionals who volunteered to administer shots, sometimes as many as 1,000 over an eight-hour period. Amin, owner of Skippack Pharmacy in Skippack Township, Pennsylvania, has also fielded requests to set up more clinics.

“As soon as word spread that we were doing, this, we started getting calls from different counties and mayors,” Amin says.

Like other pharmacists, the owners of Ochoa’s Pharmacy had to give Texas health officials detailed information about the population they serve and their physical plant, including how they would store and administer the COVID-19 vaccine. The Ochoa family, which has two pharmacies in the town of Edinburg, even had to tell the state the model number of their refrigerators and how they would log the temperatures the vaccine would be stored at.

“When we received the email saying we were going to receive vaccine, we started to cry,” Alessandra Ochoa says. Her family’s pharmacies are located in Hidalgo County, an area hard-hit by the virus.

Pharmacists have had to contend with the same uncertain pace of vaccine distribution as hospitals and other medical facilities. They fill out surveys that include estimates of the number of doses they need, but they don’t know how many doses they’ll get — or if they’ll get any at all.

“You don’t want to get excited and get zero,” Amin says. But when the vaccine does arrive, Amin says he has to be quick on his feet, securing a location for a clinic. But despite the stress of getting a clinic together, Amin manages to bring a little levity to vaccine distribution — he’ll arrive dressed in a superhero costume, complete with red cape.

People who get their shots are overwhelmed with gratitude. When Guardian Pharmacy’s employees arrive with the vaccine, assisted living residents greet them with applause. And Ochoa has seen many deeply emotional moments.

“They’re praying as they’re receiving it — praying the Hail Mary, the Our Father, and there are tears streaming down their faces,” she says.

Russian Disinformation Campaign Aims to Undermine Confidence in Pfizer, Other Covid-19 Vaccines, U.S. Officials Say – The Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON—Russian intelligence agencies have mounted a campaign to undermine confidence in Pfizer Inc.’s and other Western vaccines, using online publications that in recent months have questioned the vaccines’ development and safety, U.S. officials said.

An official with the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, which monitors foreign disinformation efforts, identified four publications that he said have served as fronts for Russian intelligence.

The websites played up the vaccines’ risk of side effects, questioned their efficacy, and said the U.S. had rushed the Pfizer vaccine through the approval process, among other false or misleading claims.

Though the outlets’ readership is small, U.S. officials say they inject false narratives that can be amplified by other Russian and international media.

The Sputnik V vaccine being administered at a site in Saint Petersburg, Russia, last month.

Photo: anton vaganov/Reuters

“We can say these outlets are directly linked to Russian intelligence services,” the Global Engagement Center official said of the sites behind the disinformation campaign. “They’re all foreign-owned, based outside of the United States. They vary a lot in their reach, their tone, their audience, but they’re all part of the Russian propaganda and disinformation ecosystem.”

In addition, Russian state media and Russian government Twitter accounts have made overt efforts to raise concerns about the cost and safety of the Pfizer vaccine in what experts outside the U.S. government say is an effort to promote the sale of Russia’s rival Sputnik V vaccine.

“The emphasis on denigrating Pfizer is likely due to its status as the first vaccine besides Sputnik V to see mass use, resulting in a greater potential threat to Sputnik’s market dominance,” says a forthcoming report by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a nongovernmental organization that focuses on the danger that authoritarian governments pose to democracies and that is part of the German Marshall Fund, a U.S. think tank.

The foreign efforts to sow doubts about the vaccine exploit deep-seated anxieties about the efficacy and side effects of vaccines that were already prevalent in some communities in the U.S. and internationally. Concern about side effects is a major reason for vaccine hesitancy, according to U.S. Census Bureau data made public last month.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Russian intelligence agencies were orchestrating articles against Western vaccines and said U.S. officials were mischaracterizing the broad international debate over vaccines as a Russian plot.

“It’s nonsense. Russian special services have nothing to do with any criticism against vaccines,” Mr. Peskov said in a telephone interview from Moscow. “If we treat every negative publication against the Sputnik V vaccine as a result of efforts by American special services, then we will go crazy because we see it every day, every hour and in every Anglo-Saxon media.”

The State Department GEC official said that four publications had direct links to Russian intelligence and were used by the Russian government to mislead international opinion on a range of issues.

New Eastern Outlook and Oriental Review, the official said, are directed and controlled by the SVR, or Russia’s foreign intelligence service. They present themselves as academic publications and are aimed at the Middle East, Asia and Africa, offering comment on the U.S.’s role in the world. The State Department said in an August report that New Eastern Outlook was linked to “state-funded institutions” in Russia.

Another publication, News Front, is guided by the FSB, a security service that succeeded the KGB, the official said. It is based in Crimea, produces information in 10 languages, and had nearly nine million page visits between February and April 2020, the official added. In August, the State Department was less explicit, saying that News Front reportedly had ties to Russia security services and Kremlin funding.

To counter skepticism over its Covid-19 vaccine, Russia has built a big public-relations effort at home and abroad. WSJ’s Georgi Kantchev explains why the success of Sputnik V is so important for the Kremlin. Photo: Juan Mabromata/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Rebel Inside, the fourth publication, has been controlled by the GRU, which is an intelligence directorate of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff. It covered riots and protests and now appears dormant, the GEC official said.

The State Department had previously not gone so far as to say that these outlets were controlled or guided by Russian intelligence agencies—an assertion that generally relies on U.S. classified intelligence.

A State Department spokesman didn’t provide specific evidence linking the publications to Russian intelligence but said the assessment was “a result of a joint interagency conclusion.”

“Russian intelligence services bear direct responsibility for using these four platforms to spread propaganda and lies,” the spokesman said. “From the very beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, we have seen Russia’s disinformation ecosystem develop and spread false narratives around the crisis.”

News Front, New Eastern Outlook and Oriental Review didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Social-media accounts affiliated with the four websites have largely been removed from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest, though some non-English-language accounts remained active earlier this year.

Highlighting reports in the international media, a January article in News Front played up the risk that a person who receives the Pfizer or Moderna Inc. vaccines could contract Bell’s palsy, in which facial muscles are paralyzed, while a February article focused on a man in California that it said tested positive for Covid-19 after receiving the Pfizer vaccination.

The Covid-19 Pandemic

In each case, the Russian outlets were repeating actual news reports but overlooking contrary information about the general safety of the vaccine. Numerous studies and real-world data have shown the Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccines to be safe and effective, and hospitalizations and deaths have begun to plummet in places like Israel where shots have been widely administered, though a small number of side effects have been reported.

“To date, millions of people have been vaccinated with our vaccine following the endorsement of regulators in multiple countries,” said Pamela Eisele, a spokeswoman for Pfizer, who added that individuals who have questions should consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or their healthcare provider.

A spokeswoman for Moderna didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

A November article in New Eastern Outlook said that the Pfizer vaccine’s use of mRNA gene editing was “radical experimental technology” that lacked “precision” and said it was rushed through the approval process with the help of billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates and Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser for the Covid-19 pandemic, both of whom the article accused of “playing fast and loose with human lives in their rush to get these experimental vaccines into our bodies.”

Some New Eastern Outlook articles have been republished by blogs and purported international news sites. One article from January alleged that the U.S. has biological labs around the world that may lead to outbreaks of infectious disease. The article was republished in full or part by websites in Bangladesh, Italy, Spain, France, Iran, Cuba and Sweden, which were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. has long accused Moscow of carrying out disinformation on medical issues. Judy Twigg, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who is an expert on global health issues, said that the Soviet KGB had accused the CIA of spreading dengue fever in Cuba and malaria in Pakistan.


Have you encountered any disinformation on the Covid-19 vaccines? What did it look like? Join the conversation below.

“A persistent KGB campaign claimed that the U.S. Army’s former biological weapons labs at Fort Detrick had unleashed the AIDS epidemic,” she said. Soviet officials denied responsibility for this disinformation.

Thomas Rid, an expert on Russian disinformation at Johns Hopkins University who reviewed the websites cited by the State Department, said the articles were generally in line with Russia’s “rich history” of using communications technology to deceive both international and domestic audiences. He urged the U.S. government to do more to publicly explain how it has concluded the websites are controlled by specific Russian intelligence agencies.

With Russia and China seeking to sell their vaccines abroad, overt efforts to denigrate Pfizer have been well documented. The forthcoming German Marshall Fund report, which was reviewed by the Journal and is to be issued Monday, analyzed more than 35,000 Russian, Chinese and Iranian government and state media tweets on vaccine themes from early November to early February. “Russia provided by far the most negative coverage of Western vaccines.” it states, “with a remarkable 86% of surveyed Russian tweets mentioning Pfizer and 76% mentioning Moderna coded as negative.”

Investigating the Origin of Covid-19

Write to Michael R. Gordon at and Dustin Volz at

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Governor Cuomo Updates New Yorkers on State’s Progress During COVID-19 Pandemic –

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today updated New Yorkers on the state’s progress during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped below 5,000 for the first time since December 8. There were 4,954 COVID-19 hospitalizations yesterday, the lowest number since December 7. The single-day positivity rate dropped to 2.80 percent, the lowest number since November 21. 


“Protecting New Yorkers and saving lives has always been our top priority, and we’re seeing significant progress in reducing the spread of COVID while vaccinating residents as quickly as possible,” Governor Cuomo said. “As the COVID numbers decrease, we’ve been able to slowly open the valve and let economic activity increase, but we still have a lot of work to do to defeat this beast once and for all. Our vaccine distribution network is equipped to handle far more vaccines than the state currently receives, and there’s no doubt we’ll be able to kick vaccinations into overdrive once the supply increases. It’s also critical that we continue making the vaccine accessible to all New Yorkers. We’re going to get through this pandemic together, but we need everyone to continue taking it seriously and staying vigilant.”


Today’s data is summarized briefly below: 


  • Test Results Reported – 273,132
  • Total Positive – 7,647
  • Percent Positive – 2.80%
  • 7-Day Average Percent Positive – 3.15%
  • Patient Hospitalization – 4,954 (-80)
  • Net Change Patient Hospitalization Past Week – -491 
  • Patients Newly Admitted – 601 
  • Hospital Counties – 52
  • Number ICU – 1,012 (-18)
  • Number ICU with Intubation – 694 (-6)
  • Total Discharges – 149,481 (+558)
  • Deaths – 78
  • Total Deaths – 38,970


The regional hospital bed capacity and occupancy numbers, including the number of hospitalizations as a percent of the region’s population, is as follows:



COVID Patients Currently in Hospital in Region

COVID Patients as Percent of Region Population

Percent of Hospital Beds Available Within 7 Days Under Surge Plan

Capital Region




Central New York




Finger Lakes




Long Island








Mohawk Valley




New York City




North Country




Southern Tier




Western New York









The regional ICU bed capacity and occupancy numbers are as follows:



Total ICU Beds in Region

Total Occupied ICU Beds in Region

Percent of ICU Beds Available in Region (7-day Avg)

Capital Region




Central New York




Finger Lakes




Long Island








Mohawk Valley




New York City




North Country




Southern Tier




Western New York









Each region’s 7-day average percentage of positive test results reported over the last three days is as follows: 






Capital Region




Central New York




Finger Lakes




Long Island








Mohawk Valley




New York City




North Country




Southern Tier




Western New York









Each New York City borough’s 7-day average percentage of positive test results reported over the last three days is as follows: 






















Staten Island





Of the 1,674,380 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:



Total Positive

New Positive








































































































































St. Lawrence








































Yesterday, 78 New Yorkers died due to COVID-19 in New York State, bringing the total to 38,970. A geographic breakdown is as follows, by county of residence:


Deaths by County of Residence


New Deaths







































Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Issues Authorization for First Molecular Non-Prescription, At-Home Test –

For Immediate Release:

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Cue COVID-19 Test for Home and Over The Counter (OTC) Use. The product is a molecular nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) that is intended to detect genetic material from SARS-CoV-2 virus present in the nostrils. The test is the first molecular test authorized for at-home use without a prescription.

“The authorization of this new diagnostic test underscores FDA’s goal to continue supporting innovation in testing and providing flexibility to test developers with the aim of increasing the availability of accurate and reliable tests for all Americans,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “The FDA will continue to expand Americans’ access to testing to help us in the fight against this pandemic, which has claimed over half a million lives in the United States.”

Cue COVID-19 Test for Home and Over The Counter (OTC) Use test is authorized for non-prescription home use for the qualitative detection of nucleic acid from SARS-CoV-2 in anterior nasal (nasal) swab specimens collected with the Cue Sample Wand. This test is intended for use in adults (self-swabbing) or children two years of age or older (swabbed by an adult) with or without symptoms or other epidemiological reasons to suspect COVID-19.

The authorized test includes: the single-use Cue COVID-19 Test Cartridge, the single-use Cue Sample Wand nasal swab, the Cue Cartridge Reader (used by the Cue Health Monitoring System, provided separately), and the Cue Health Mobile Application (App) that is downloaded onto compatible mobile smart devices, like a smart cell phone. The reusable, battery-operated Cue Cartridge Reader runs the Cue Test Cartridge and communicates results directly to the Cue Health App in about 20 minutes. The mobile application requires individuals to create an account, and in the future will be updated to include capability to report test results as appropriate to public health authorities to monitor disease prevalence.

Cue COVID-19 Test for Home and Over The Counter (OTC) Use correctly identified 96% of positive samples from individuals known to have symptoms and correctly identified 100% of positive samples from individuals without symptoms. Cue Health expects to produce more than 100,000 tests per day by summer 2021.

“The FDA continues to prioritize the availability of more at-home testing options in response to the pandemic,” said Jeff Shuren, M.D., J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Cue COVID-19 Test for Home and Over-the-Counter (OTC) Use provides access to accurate and reliable testing at-home, without a prescription. The FDA will continue to work collaboratively with test developers to advance effective testing options for doctors, clinicians, and the public.”

The FDA has authorized more than 330 tests and collection kits for a variety of uses, users and locations to provide a wide array of test options. FDA has also prioritized review and authorization of EUA requests taking into account a variety of factors, as discussed in the Emergency Use Authorization of Medical Products and Related Authorities Guidance, such as the public health need for the product and the availability of the product, with the goal of expanding overall US testing capacity and patient access to tests. The FDA has, for example, prioritized review of EUA requests for tests where authorization would increase testing accessibility (e.g., point-of-care (POC) tests, home collection tests, and at-home tests) or would significantly increase testing capacity (e.g., tests that reduce reliance on test supplies and high-throughput, widely distributed tests). Tests with EUA authorization can be found on our website at In Vitro Diagnostic EUAs.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation and for regulating tobacco products.




Elastomeric Respirator Innovations Play a Critical Role in Response to COVID-19 –


Illustration / vector image with a light blue background that depicts a respirator mask on the right, and the words "ELASTOMERIC RESPIRATOR INNOVATIONS" on the left.

By: Suzanne Schwartz, M.D., M.B.A., Director, Office of Strategic Partnerships and Technology Innovation, Center for Devices and Radiological Health

Since the COVID-19 public health emergency was declared over a year ago, access to personal protective equipment (PPE), for health care personnel has been a significant challenge. In particular, the supply chain for respirators, which are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration when they meet the definition of a device, has been heavily stressed as health care personnel and health systems have fought to secure these critical devices. The respirator type most commonly used in a health care setting is the disposable, N95 filtering facepiece respirator (FFR), which is designed to achieve a very close facial fit and provide efficient filtration of airborne particles. 

Elastomeric respirators, which provide similar protection to other FFRs and are also approved by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), may also be used in health care settings. Given that elastomeric respirators are designed to be reusable, they can help to protect health care personnel in our hospitals and doctor’s offices in times of reduced disposable N95 supply. In particular, this type of respirator can play a critical role in the nation’s response to COVID-19 and bolster future readiness for similar outbreaks and public health emergencies.

Suzanne B. Schwartz, M.D., M.B.A.
Suzanne B. Schwartz, M.D., M.B.A.

A major obstacle limiting the wider use of reusable respirators in health care settings has been the inclusion of exhalation valves as a design feature, which means the respirator cannot provide source control. Source control helps to prevent the transmission of infection through a person’s respiratory secretions, which are produced when speaking, coughing, or sneezing. This limits their practical use with viral agents like SARS-CoV-2, and because the exhaled air from such respirators potentially compromises the sterile field, these devices cannot be used in an operating room. Solving these challenges has not been easy, but, working together, health care personnel, device manufacturers, and scientists have created a new path forward.

Specifically, CDC NIOSH has worked interactively with industry to recently approve first-of-its-kind elastomeric respirators without an exhalation valve by Mine Safety Appliances (MSA) Safety incorporated and elastomeric respirator configurations with an exhalation valve cover from the company 3M. NIOSH also just approved the Dentec Safety Specialists half mask respirator without an exhalation valve. By addressing respiratory protection and source control needs, elastomeric respirators can provide the solutions our health care personnel need to stay safe while saving lives. Though they require higher costs up front because they are reusable, they can provide a cost-effective approach in the long-term to disposable N95 FFRs. 

These innovative designs for reusable respirators intended for use in health care settings address current design needs, are authorized for use during the public health emergency through the FDA’s umbrella emergency use authorization (EUA) for NIOSH-Approved Air Purifying Respirators for Use in Health Care Settings During Response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency once they are approved by NIOSH and listed on the NIOSH Certified Equipment list (CEL) for non-powered air purifying respirators with particulate protection, and may have far-reaching benefits as we refine the nation’s responses to public health crises in the future. 

The FDA, in conjunction with CDC NIOSH, will continue to encourage innovation that helps make available critical respiratory protective technologies to address the needs of our health care personnel.

For regular updates on CDRH’s efforts and the FDA’s COVID-19 response, please visit:

COVID-19 vaccine FAQs – University of Dayton – News Home

How effective are the vaccines at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness? 

In phase 3 clinical trials, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 95% effective against contracting symptomatic COVID-19. The Moderna vaccine was 94% effective against contracting symptomatic COVID-19. The Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine was 85% effective against contracting symptomatic COVID-19. All vaccines have proven to be close to 100% effective in preventing severe illness and death attributable to COVID-19. Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work. 

How and when can I get a vaccine? 

Visit to search for providers vaccinating in the current phase by county and ZIP code, and also for the State of Ohio’s current criteria regarding who is eligible for the vaccine. 

What does the Catholic Church say about getting a COVID-19 vaccine? 

In speaking about the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, Pope Francis said: “I believe that ethically everyone must take the vaccine. It is not an option; it is an ethical action, because you are playing with your health, you are playing with your life, but you are also playing with the lives of others.” The Vatican’s doctrinal office also has said it is morally acceptable for Catholics to take the vaccines. Additional guidance comes from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has stated that receiving the COVID-19 vaccine “ought to be understood as an act of charity toward the other members of our community. In this way, being vaccinated safely against COVID-19 should be considered an act of love of our neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good.” 

Can a COVID-19 vaccine make me sick with COVID-19? 

None of the emergency use authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 vaccines in development in the United States contains the live virus that causes COVID-19, so a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19. However, some vaccinations may result in symptoms similar to COVID-19. These symptoms are a result of the vaccine teaching the immune system how to recognize and fight the virus, and are a sign the body is building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. It also is possible to be exposed and develop COVID-19 illness shortly after vaccination and before your body develops protective antibodies. Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work.  

What are side effects of the vaccine?

You may have mild side effects, including soreness or redness at the injection site. Other common short-term side effects are fever, chills, headache, tiredness and muscle or joint pain. These side effects are normal as your body creates an immune response to protect you from COVID-19, and may increase with the second dose. Individuals who were infected with COVID-19 may experience some of these symptoms after the first vaccine dose. Learn more about what to expect in this video from the CDC. 

How long will it take for the vaccination to take effect? 

It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build protection against the virus that causes COVID-19 after vaccination. So it is possible someone could be infected with COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick with the virus before you are fully immune.  

Will the vaccine protect against the new COVID-19 variants now confirmed in the U.S.? 

According to the CDC, scientists are working to learn more about how easily variants might spread. Researchers and public health officials are studying whether variants spread more easily person-to-person, cause milder or more severe disease in people, are detected by viral tests, respond to medicines used to treat people for COVID-19, and/or change the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

The CDC’s recommendations for slowing the spread of COVID-19 — wearing masks, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, avoiding crowds, ventilating indoor spaces, and washing hands often — also will also help prevent the spread of variants.

After getting a COVID-19 vaccine, will I test positive for COVID-19 on a viral test? 

Neither the authorized and recommended vaccines nor the other COVID-19 vaccines in clinical trials in the United States should cause you to test positive on viral tests, which assess whether you have a current infection.​ However, you may test positive on some antibody tests, which indicate you had a previous infection and may have some level of protection against the virus. Experts are looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results. 

If I had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine? 

Yes, because of the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and because reinfection with COVID-19 is possible. Plus, experts are unsure about how long someone who had COVID-19 will have natural immunity. The CDC is providing recommendations to federal, state and local governments about who should be vaccinated first. 

Will a COVID-19 vaccine alter my DNA? 

COVID-19 mRNA vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way. Learn more about how COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work. 

Is it safe for me to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I am planning to be pregnant, already pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to get a screening mammogram?  

According to the CDC, based on current knowledge, experts believe COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk to a person trying to become pregnant in the short or long term. Furthermore, the CDC adds there is no evidence antibodies formed from COVID-19 vaccination cause any problems with pregnancy, including the development of the placenta. In addition, there is no evidence suggesting fertility problems are a side effect of ANY vaccine. People who are trying to become pregnant now or who plan to try in the future may receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them. Pregnant women have a higher risk of complications from COVID-19, so they are advised to discuss vaccination with their obstetrician.

The CDC also states mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant. People who are breastfeeding and are part of a group recommended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, such as healthcare personnel, may choose to be vaccinated.

If you are planning to get a screening mammogram soon, you may wish to schedule that with the timing of the second dose of your vaccine in mind. Some experts recommend waiting until six weeks after the second vaccine dose. Consider consulting with your physician for more insight.  

Additional information can be found at the bottom of the CDC’s “Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines” page and the CDC’s “Vaccination Considerations for People who are Pregnant or Breastfeeding,” plus by consulting with your primary care physician or specialist.

What are the ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States do not contain eggs, preservatives or latex. For a full list of ingredients, please see each vaccine’s fact sheet for recipients and caregivers: 

How are UD employees being compensated for time off to receive the vaccine?

Employees should use sick time to get the vaccine, as well as for time taken because of an adverse reaction to the vaccine. Similar to reporting for a COVID-19 illness, report your sick time as you normally would and then contact Beth Schwartz, director of UD’s benefits and wellness program, to replenish your charged sick time. UD employees should use this form to report they’ve received their full COVID-19 vaccination and upload their vaccination record; this form needs to be completed to replenish your sick time.

Were minorities or people with high-risk health conditions included in the clinical studies?

Yes. Approximately 42% of participants in Pfizer BioNTech’s worldwide clinical trials, 37% of the Moderna study population, and 26% of the participants in Johnson & Johnson’s study were from minority communities, which is similar to the diversity of the U.S. at large. In addition, clinical studies included participants age 65 and older (21% of Pfizer-BioNTech participants; 23% of Moderna participants) or 60 and older (34% of Johnson & Johnson participants); and those with high-risk chronic diseases, such as diabetes, severe obesity and cardiac disease (46% of Pfizer-BioNTech participants; 42% of Moderna participants; 41% of Johnson & Johnson participants).

If I received the vaccine, do I still need to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure? 

Vaccinated persons who have been exposed to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • Are fully vaccinated (i.e., more than 2 weeks following your final dose of a one- or two-dose series).
  • Are within 3 months following receipt of the last dose in the series.
  • Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure.

Persons who do not meet the above criteria should continue to follow UD quarantine guidance after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and must report their close contacts on the University’s COVID-19 health reporting page.

For more info, please visit the “Public health recommendations for vaccinated persons” section on this page.

Do I need to wear a mask if I have received the vaccine?  

Yes, to protect yourself and others, it will remain necessary after receiving the vaccine to continue following CDC and public health guidelines, which include wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth, staying at least six feet away from others, avoiding large gatherings and poorly ventilated spaces, and washing your hands often. 

It’s important for everyone to continue using all the protective tools available as we learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions. Experts are looking at how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities. Experts also do not yet know whether getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent you from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to other people, even if you do not get sick yourself. The CDC will continue to update this page as it learns more.

How can I report my vaccine record to the University? 

UD students and employees should use this form to report they’ve received their full COVID-19 vaccination and upload their vaccination record.

When will the University provide the vaccine to students, faculty and staff?

The University is an enrolled provider and will provide the vaccine when it becomes available to the University from the State of Ohio. Visit Ohio’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution page for more information.

I am a UD student and have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Do I still need to participate in the University’s surveillance testing? 

Yes. We will continue conducting surveillance testing in accordance with guidance from the Ohio Department of Health on surveillance testing for higher education.  

Will the University require students, faculty and staff to have the COVID-19 vaccine?  

The University highly recommends students, faculty and staff receive the vaccine.

Where can I find more information about COVID-19 vaccines?

Please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines” page and the CDC “Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination” page.