Saturday

African R&D Investment: Nigerian scientists have developed a Covid-19 vaccine candidate but need funding for human trials


CC™ Global News

By Uwagbale Edward-Ekpu

The race for a Covid-19 vaccine has so far been a show of vaccine nationalism as countries are securing prospective vaccines for their populations and prioritizing access for their domestic markets.

This has left Africa in a disadvantaged position as none of the vaccines being developed are in the continent and a majority of African countries lack the power or funds to secure vaccines for their citizens.

There have also been concerns that since the vaccines were developed mostly with data from non-African populations it may result in a low vaccine efficacy for Africans.

To that end, scientists in Nigeria have developed a new vaccine candidate which they say is optimized for the African population. The vaccine has undergone a successful pre-clinical trial but the human trial is being delayed due to a lack of funds.

The cost of developing a single infectious disease vaccine from preclinical trials through to end of phase 2a can easily top $100 million in the United States. Including the cumulative cost of failed vaccine candidates through the R&D process, the costs can go much higher.

The new vaccine candidate was developed by professor Christian Happi, a molecular biologist and genomicist, with his research team at the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) in Nigeria. ACEGID is a WHO and Africa CDC Reference Laboratory for genomic research in Africa.

The ACEGID Covid-19 vaccine is said to have gone through the required preclinical trial to test the vaccine’s efficacy and toxicity on mice before testing it on humans after working with partners at Cambridge University. “We were able to identify a neutralizing antibody that could knock down up to 90% of the viruses,” says Happi.

Emphasizing the importance of the new vaccine candidate to Africa, he highlighted concerns also shared by some other African scientists that vaccines are often developed in the West without taking into account the local context of Africa only to be brought to Africa for human trials.

 “The genetic makeup or the genetic diversity of the African population has been demonstrated to affect the efficacy of several vaccines that have been developed because the vaccine also depends on who is receiving it and how the body responds to it,” says Happi.

The vaccine is being built on the genome sequences of linages of SARS-Cov-2 circulating in Nigeria and other African countries.

The team says it has done human genetic studies on many African populations and applied the knowledge gained in developing the vaccine.

If fully funded, Happi said the vaccine can be ready in 12 months after the start of the human trials, but he is still searching for funds to start the human trial. “we need a lot of resources so we are trying to see whether the Nigerian government can fund it but we have not received any funding from the government”, he said.

Nigeria’s policy response to the Covid-19 pandemic through its central bank introduced a healthcare grant of 500 million naira (about $1.3 million) limit. Happi says this amount is insufficient for vaccine production and clinical trials. “We are talking to a few people and have been able to show them the data. We want to wait but we have not heard from anybody yet.”

“This development may get some support from a few western funders, but this is not on their priority lists,” says Gerald Mboowa, a bioinformatics scientist at Makerere University in Uganda,. “Being an African led vaccine, African countries through the African Union should be mobilized to fund this endeavor.”

Despite Africa having a history of poor R&D funding, Ike Anya, co-founder of Nigeria Health Watch believe ACEGID’s vaccine will get the needed support within Africa to develop the first African vaccine. “African countries have traditionally not sufficiently funded their intellectual and scientific capabilities, but that there seems to be. a deepening awareness of why this must change.”

Nigeria is not alone in trying to ensure Africans are trialed for a working Covid-19 vaccine. In August, screening began for up to nearly 3,000 South Africans to enroll in the mid-stage study of an experimental vaccine by Novavax, a US drug developer of next-generation vaccines for serious infectious diseases, at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa. The trial is backed by a $15 million grant awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Other trials are also underway in the continent’s most advanced economy.

Quartz Africa

Friday

AMERICA IS BACK: THE WORLD WANTS AMERICA TO LEAD AGAIN

R-L; US President-elect Joe Biden & Vice President-elect Kamala Harris

CC™ Perspective

By Yahaya Balogun

It is gratifying to see America back to lead the world again. The last four years have been very chaotic, tumultuous, and disruptive to the American alliance in the world that is increasingly shrinking into a global village. President-elect Joe Biden is keeping his promise of bringing the fractionalized America together. He has been so measured with mature leadership. Biden's temperament has been very presidential, all-inclusive, confident, and welcoming! Even Biden's staunch enemies cannot deny his grown and measured character to bring sanity back to America and the international stage.

This auspicious period ushered in an experienced man that knows the art of leadership. Biden's wealth of experience will be a great asset to a fractured nation searching for unifiers and economic relief. The majority of Americans are suffering due to the adverse effects of Coronavirus. More than 54 million Americans are going hungry in America as a result of COVID-19. God have mercy on hungry people. It's high time Congress began the second relief package for the vulnerable Americans going through economic pains.

Interestingly, America is a nation of "We the People" and with a tumultuous beginning. The forefathers of this great nation were envisioned and very thoughtful to have created American exceptionalism. Despite America's ugly past, resilience, and ability to imagine great possibilities for her future make America a unique country. This great nation's structure was built on solid strands and stand, thus giving it a formidable entity. The existential threat to America's exceptionalism has been racial inequality. Well-informed voters have always halted the attempts to subvert her

constitution by promoting racism, division, social injustices, and intrinsic biases (subconscious stereotypes affecting how decisions are made). America has withstood so many obstacles and challenges in the past, but the last four years have amplified chaos and psychologically depressing. Thanks to the American voters' thoughtfulness on November 3, 2020, who punctuated and reversed the ugly course of history, and the road to more chaotic situations in the country, alas, worldwide. Trump administration's gross inefficiency altered America's bounteous nature, but now the government is back, striving for a perfect union.

In reality, Biden will soon be swimming in the ocean of global troubles. The world is a more dangerous place than when Donald Trump took office nearly four years ago. North Korea Kim Jong Un's recalcitrant attitude to nuclear armament, to Iran's belligerency of nuclear proliferation. The Taliban is on the deadly march again with US troops' jejune withdrawal from Afghanistan by Trump's lame-duck administration. The laundry list of corruption and leadership problems in Africa, the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, and China's expansionist behavior with its assault on democratic norms in Hong Kong. The Chinese human rights abuses against the Uighurs, and authorities' concentration or secretive internment camps against minority Turkic Muslims, Kazakhs, Kazakhstanis in remote areas in China, etc. The unabated plague of the novel Coronavirus; imminent and existential dangers of the planet to climate change. These, among others, are global inheritance by the incoming Biden administration.

The road ahead for Biden's administration will not be easy as the past domestic impediments are still lurking around. The road will be steep in the short run, but the world will veer away from the current famished highway in the long run if responsible diplomacy is allowed to function. Biden and his carefully chosen diverse team are policy wonks and are well-grounded in administrative and diplomatic skills. Biden's team consists of seasoned diplomats, career intelligence officers, and security experts. The ball is set to roll on a difficult road ahead. The world has also heaved a sigh of relief from chaos to see America lead the world again. The congratulatory messages that President-elect Joe Biden has received from world leaders, the US allies, have been very complimentary and less gratuitous from its geopolitical adversaries, including China and Russia.

Meanwhile, it is pertinent to advise the current boisterous Democrats and their elected members in the House and Senate to see Biden's electoral victory as a victory for all Americans, including those voters who did not vote for Biden. Biden's impending government must be seen as a government of unity with equity, inclusion, justice, and fair play. Biden's administration must not be seen as a vindictive government that will begin to run after Biden's predecessor and his naughty misdemeanors. The American organized jurisprudence must be allowed to function as umpire without fear or favor, and bias against any group in the nation's diversity. American greatness is not contingent only on its military might and power but on the strength of its diversity and inclusiveness.

Once again, one of our sons is soaring in trailblazing America. President-elect elect Joe Biden has Appointed 39-year-old Adewale Adeyemo, a Nigerian-born Attorney, and US citizen as US Deputy Treasury Secretary. Hopefully, if the US Senate confirms him, Adewale (Wally) Adeyemo would be the first Nigerian to get to that exalted position in the United States. America is a place where impossible things are possible. President-elect Joe Biden is assembling the best human resources from the resourceful American system. America, a land of opportunities for possibilities, will undoubtedly benefit from these carefully assembled human capital talents. Predictably, before the year 2035, Nigerian-Americans' contributions to American development will be immeasurable. Nigerian intellectual acumen will continue to be recognized anywhere in the world.

As the President-elect Joe Biden has succinctly maintained, America is back to play its leadership roles: "We are ready to lead the world and not retrieve from it. Once again, sit at the head of the table. Ready to confront our adversaries and not reject our allies. Ready to stand up for our values." The era of isolationism and protectionism is over. America is ready for realignment to globalization and inclusiveness. The GOP's hatchets and its extreme opposition to anything put on the table from its political adversaries must be jettisoned to pave the way for American exceptionalism. America must right the wrongs of the last four years; it must reassuringly bring all its allies together to preserve democracy's norms and other nuances of democracy in the world.

It is pertinent for the boisterous democrats and their elected members in the House and Senate to see Biden's electoral victory as a victory for all Americans, including those voters who did not vote for Biden. Biden's impending government must be seen as a government of unity with equity, inclusion, justice, and fair play. Biden's administration must not be seen as a vindictive government that will begin to run after Biden's predecessor. The American organized jurisprudence must be allowed to function as umpire without fear or favor for and bias against any group in the nation's diversity. American greatness is not contingent only on its military might and power but on the strength of its diversity and inclusiveness.

America must right the wrongs of the last four years; it must reassuringly bring all its allies together to preserve democratic norms and other nuances of democracy in the world.

America, let's go back to work!

Thursday

McConnell and GOP Intransigence: Democratic senator says it is 'absolutely unconscionable for Congress to adjourn' for 2020 without a new stimulus deal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. (Bill O'Leary/Pool via AP)

CC™ Politico News

By Ben Werschkul

On Tuesday, a group of lawmakers unveiled a bipartisan relief proposal that generated some initial excitement around the notion that perhaps the months-long wait for compromise on coronavirus stimulus was coming to an end.

But so far Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been sticking to his plans -–and apparent topline numbers – he’s been offering for months.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) told Yahoo Finance the developments are “very disappointing to say the least.”

“I think it would be absolutely unconscionable for the Congress to adjourn in December without getting an additional emergency COVID-19 response bill,” he said.

Republican leadership has consistently pushed a bill that would cost around $500 billion, while Democrats have pushed for a measure closer to $2 trillion.

The Democratic side appeared to move closer to compromise on Wednesday when Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that “in the spirit of compromise we believe the bipartisan framework introduced by Senators yesterday should be used as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations.”

McConnell has apparently not endorsed the plan and appears to be sticking to the targeted framework he circulated among Republicans on Tuesday.

The White House signaled its support for McConnell’s position. “The president will sign the McConnell proposal that he put forward yesterday,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters Wednesday.

And beyond the top numbers, deep divisions remain on certain provisions within the respective proposals. One example is liability reform which McConnell has called crucial, while Democrats, like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) have called a “poison pill.”

Another provision that remains deeply partisan is aid for states and localities.

Also on Wednesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) expressed optimism that House and Senate leaders were working toward a deal on a pandemic relief that could come together by this weekend, although it remained unclear how each side would overcome their deep-seated differences between now and then.

‘It was a move in the right direction’

The seemingly short-lived $908 billion bipartisan proposal was an attempt to find a middle ground in the numbers. Van Hollen was not part of the bipartisan group that unveiled the bill, but he said he largely supported it.

“It was a move in the right direction,” he said.

The prospects now for a stimulus deal as 2020 winds to a close remain an uphill battle. The one deadline that lawmakers must address before adjourning for the holiday is end-of-year spending bills – due by Dec. 11 – to avert a government shutdown.

There is a chance that certain measures, like an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program or some additional unemployment coverage, could be included as part of those measures.

Pressed on whether he would support certain elements being included without a larger deal, Van Hollen remained firm, saying “what I would support is what's reflected in this bipartisan compromise.” He charged McConnell with offering a proposal without enough in it to support struggling Americans, and trying “to leverage a pandemic” to get what he called special interest provisions into his bill.

The bipartisan bill was “exactly what the American people had been looking for,” Van Hollen said. “It is just unfortunate that within hours Sen. McConnell launched a grenade attack on it.”

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

Wednesday

Ten Ways to Improve Your Interpersonal Skills

Editor's Pick

Don't discount the importance of interpersonal skills in the workplace. How you are perceived by your manager and coworkers plays a large role in things as minor as your day-to-day happiness at the office and as major as the future of your career.

No matter how hard you work or how many brilliant ideas you may have, if you can't connect with the people working around you, your professional life will suffer. The good news is that there are several concrete things you can do to improve your social skills and become closer to your colleagues, all of which will ultimately help you succeed in today's working world.

Here are 10 helpful tips for improving your interpersonal skills:

1. Smile. Few people want to be around someone who is always down in the dumps. Do your best to be friendly and upbeat with your coworkers. Maintain a positive, cheerful attitude about work and about life. Smile often. The positive energy you radiate will draw others to you.

2. Be appreciative. Find one positive thing about everyone you work with and let them hear it. Be generous with praise and kind words of encouragement. Say thanks when someone helps you. Make colleagues feel welcome when they call or stop by your office. If you let others know that they are appreciated, they'll want to give you their best.

3. Pay attention to others. Observe what's going on in other people's lives. Acknowledge their happy milestones and express concern and sympathy for difficult situations such as an illness or death. Make eye contact and address people by their first names. Ask others for their opinions.

4. Practice active listening. Actively listening is a way of demonstrating that you intend to hear and understand another's point of view. It means restating, in your own words, what the other person has said. Your coworkers will appreciate knowing you really do listen to what they have to say.

5. Bring people together. Create an environment that encourages others to work together. Treat everyone equally and don't play favorites. Avoid talking about others behind their backs. Follow up on other people's suggestions or requests. When you make a statement or announcement, check to see that you have been understood. If folks see you as someone solid and fair, they will grow to trust you.

6. Resolve conflicts. Take a step beyond simply bringing people together and become someone who resolves conflicts when they arise. Learn how to be an effective mediator. If coworkers are bickering over personal or professional disagreements, arrange to sit down with both parties and help sort out their differences. By taking on such a leadership role, you will garner respect and admiration from those around you.

7. Communicate clearly. Pay close attention to both what you say and how you say it. Being a clear and effective communicator helps you avoid misunderstandings with coworkers. Verbal eloquence projects an image of intelligence and maturity, no matter what your age. If you tend to blurt out anything that comes to mind, people won't put much weight on your words or opinions.

8. Humor them. Don't be afraid to be funny or clever. Most people are drawn to a person that can make them laugh. Use your sense of humor as an effective tool to lower barriers and gain people's affection.

9. See it from their side. Empathy means being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes and understand how they feel. Try to see things from another person's perspective. You can help yourself with this by staying in touch with your own emotions, since those who are cut off from their feelings are often unable to empathize with others.

10. Don't complain. There is nothing worse than a chronic complainer or whiner. If you simply have to vent about something, save it for your diary. But spare those around you, or else you'll get a bad reputation.

AllBusiness.com

Tuesday

Trump Campaign Lawyer Joe diGenova Could Be Disciplined for ‘Stunning’ Statement That Chris Krebs Should Be ‘Shot’

Joseph E/ diGenova (L) and his wife Victoria Toensing (R)

CC™ Legal Parse

By Matt Naham

Trump campaign lawyer Joe diGenova made a “stunning” comment on Monday in which he called for a former Trump administration official’s head. While some have attempted to frame this as troubling hyperbole, legal ethics experts say that it’s in diGenova’s best professional interest to apologize in advance of possible disciplinary action.

DiGenova, a former U.S. Attorney known for his Fox News appearances and his work with Rudy Giuliani to dig up Ukraine dirt on Joe Biden among other things, was one of several attorneys present in the D.C. lobby of the Republican National Committee’s headquarters on Nov. 19. There, Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis led the wild charge against the results of the 2020 election. It didn’t take long for the Trump campaign to distance itself from Powell after her performance.

DiGenova, for his part, had Rudy’s back, but he was not the star of that event. He did not speak.

DiGenova certainly spoke loud and clear on Monday during a segment on Newsmax’s The Howie Carr Show. DiGenova, introduced as a member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, said that Chris Krebs—a cybersecurity official Trump fired for saying the 2020 election was secure—should be “taken out at dawn and shot.”

“Anybody who thinks the election went well, like that idiot Krebs who used to be the head of cybersecurity. That guy is a class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot,” diGenova said.

Around the 24:00-minute mark of the Carr program, diGenova used the word “we” when discussing the litigation “we are pursuing”—cementing the capacity he was speaking in. Indeed, President Trump himself confirmed weeks ago that diGenova and diGenova’s law partner and wife Victoria Toensing were part of the Trump campaign legal team.

DiGenova is a licensed attorney in the District of Columbia whose status is in good standing. He was admitted to the bar in 1970. Could he be held accountable for his words?

Krebs, the former Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, already responded to the diGenova remarks on Tuesday morning by saying that he and his lawyers were examining their legal options.

“It’s certainly more dangerous language, more dangerous behavior,” Krebs said. “The way I look at it is that we are a nation of laws, and I plan to take advantage of those laws. I’ve got an exceptional team of lawyers that win in court, and I think they’re probably going to be busy.”

Krebs did not get into specifics, but he did say diGenova “can know that there are things coming.” One conceivable course of action would be to file a complaint with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

Law&Crime asked legal ethics scholar Stephen Gillers, a professor at New York University School of Law, whether diGenova could be held accountable for professional misconduct and, if so, what rules he may have violated.

Gillers pointed to Rule 8.4(b) and Rule 8.4(d).

These say, respectively, that a lawyer commits “professional misconduct” when they “(b) Commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects” or “(d) Engage in conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of justice.”

“With regard to (b), it is not necessary that the lawyer have been prosecuted so long as the act is criminal and it adversely reflects on his ‘fitness,'” Gillers said. “In my view, the comment does reflect on diGenova’s fitness as a lawyer.”

Gillers said there could be a dispute as to whether diGenova’s comment “interfered with the administration of justice,” as stated in Rule 8.4(d).

“To violate (d) the lawyer must interfere with the administration of justice. Krebs is not a judge. He does not himself administer justice. But what Krebs said, and was threatened for saying, is also the subject of court cases where the campaign, diGenova’s client, is a party,” Gillers said. “Those courts are administering justice.”

“So a disciplinary body could find that diGenova’s threats against Krebs for saying the election was fair seriously interferes with the work of the courts in addressing the campaign’s claim that the election was unfair,” he added.

Law&Crime also asked what, if any, discipline diGenova could realistically face.

“The discipline would depend on whether diGenova apologizes and credibly appreciates the wrongfulness of his comment and on whether he has previously been disciplined,” Gillers answered. “I think on these facts a finding of a violation of the quoted rules would at least require a public censure or reprimand and possibly suspension from practice, depending on the presence or absence of mitigating evidence.”

Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development and Hugh Macgill Professor of Law at UConn Leslie Levin, an expert on lawyer discipline and legal ethics, said that diGenova’s words, though “unbecoming of a lawyer,” did not clearly violate a disciplinary rule.

“I don’t think anyone would think his words constitute incitement. There is no D.C. disciplinary rule that he clearly violated,” Levin told Law&Crime. “His language was unbecoming of a lawyer but is protected by the First Amendment.”

Others said diGenova should be disbarred—”full stop”—for making “these kinds of threats.”

And it appears at least one bar complaint, citing Rule 8.4, has already been filed against diGenova.

[Image via CSPAN screengrab]

This article originally appeared on LAW&CRIME

Monday

Perceptual Organization - Making sense while thinking

Editor's Corner

In a recent article, I had stressed the fact that the human brain, in addition to being the most extraordinary creation of the human anatomy was also the epicenter of thought, conviction, emotions, consciousness and purpose. In this particular article, the subject/topic of perceptual organization will be the focus of my discussion.

It therefore seemed appropriate to start this discussion with a reference once again to the human brain as perceptual organization would ‘naturally’ be a part or component of the intricate but detailed functionality of the human brain. Knowing fully well that learning may play a significant role in perception, there is the school of thought that perceptual organization does reflect innate properties of the human brain. More recent work in perception seems to infer that studying perception is basically studying the human brain. In particular, there seems to be more and more, an alignment of such school of thought with physiological observations of the human brain.

What is Perceptual Organization and even more importantly, how does one organize raw sensory stimuli into meaningful experiences that would ultimately make sense (at least to a recipient of the experience generated by the said stimuli)? Furthermore, in the process of making sense of the ‘sensation’, is the thinking process an evolving one and subject to an individual’s perceptual organization of his or her experiences? Also, what set of mental activities are involved in this organizational process and how ’influential’ are they in the process? Perception involves organization and grouping as well as distinguishing objects from their surroundings.

I do believe and will state that the organization of raw (sensory) stimuli into experiences that make sense and are meaningful to an individual or larger society would normally involve some cognitive functionality. This cognitive functionality would comprise processes such as thinking, knowing, remembering and in some cases, forgetting. This would seem to be a logical sequence as it makes for an organizational process that would ultimately seek to incorporate that which is favorable while through the forgetting process, eliminate that which the senses deem unfavorable.

Throughout this process, the importance of knowledge and experience will ultimately be established as knowing as a result of thinking generates a learned experiential state which whether favorable or unfavorable would ultimately help develop a perceptive frame of reference for the individual concerned. Now, I am not sure if I am making that much sense here, but I am simply stating what I think is in essence the obvious based on my own perceptual organization.

In asking some of the questions I asked in the second paragraph of this article, I did not do that with the aim of necessarily answering the said questions. I did that in the hopes of asking even more questions by creating a forum for intellectual conversations as to what perceptual organization really is all about; without seeking to necessarily narrow down its definition. What seems to be rather clear however is the realization that knowledge and experience are probably the most critical components of the perceptive process since those two factors may in fact help us better make sense of the input to our sensory systems.

According to Gestalt laws of grouping, there is the school of thought that the whole differs from the sum of its parts (Ehrenstein, W. 1930). The Gestalt theorists for the most part in the 20th century sought to single out the brain processes that would ultimately be responsible for the organization of perception. They argued that while simple sensations essentially consisted of organized percepts, the percepts themselves could be said to be basic to experience. There are also various arguments out there that seek to identify whether or not these experiences are for the most part private (Ehrenstein, W. 1930).

As I had stated earlier, perception, in addition to involving organization and grouping, also involves the process of distinguishing an object from its surroundings (Ehrenstein, W. 1930). There is the notion that the moment we perceive an object, the surrounding area around the said object is then the background. Gestalt psychologists are the biggest proponents of this school of thought. That would seem to suggest a concept of separating the figure from the ground and according to the Gestalt school of thought, this process is replicated throughout the various experiences of the percepts themselves (Ehrenstein, W. 1930).

There is no question this is probably one of the most difficult (if not the most difficult concepts - perceptual organization) for me to chew on, but I am of the school of thought that a thorough understanding of the subject itself is an evolving one in as much as the knowledge and experience of the percepts themselves, as part of the complex make-up of the human brain.

References
Ehrenstein, W. (1930). Figure-Ground Segregation. Current Psychology of Cognition, 117, 339-412.

Sunday

The Party of Death II: Republican South Dakota governor Kristi Noem also continues with her own version of the GOP "killing spree....."

Kristi Noem (R) has religiously towed the 'herd immunity' line of the Trump administration

CC™ Politico News

By Connor Perrett

  • The South Dakota Department of Health on Saturday reported 54 new deaths from COVID-19, surpassing the state's previous record death total of 53.

  • The same day, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem encouraged state residents in a tweet to go shopping, writing that small "businesses are the lifeblood of so many South Dakota communities."

  • Noem, a Republican, has refused to issue a statewide mask mandate and has otherwise disputed science and calls to enact stricter measures to contain the virus in the state.

  • Over the past week, more than 42% of COVID-19 tests in South Dakota administered have come back positive, according to data analyzed by Johns Hopkins University.

  • The South Dakota Department of Health on Saturday reported 54 new COVID-19 deaths since Friday, the highest single-day increase in deaths of all time in the state as cases of the virus surge statewide.

  • The previous record, 53, was set earlier this month on November 14, the Rapid City Journal reported. As the outlet noted, there have been 942 deaths in the state from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus since the pandemic began, with more than half of those — 517 — occurring in the month of November. There were more than 800 new cases diagnosed in the state Saturday.

    But hours earlier, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, encouraged state residents to go shopping to support local businesses.

    "Remember, today is #SmallBusinessSaturday," Noem tweeted Saturday morning. "These businesses are the lifeblood of so many South Dakota communities. Please support them today and every day! #shopsmall."

    Earlier in the week, Noem, who has been in office since 2019, celebrated the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's restrictions that imposed limits on capacity at religious services to curb the spread of the coronavirus. "Another thing to add to the list of reasons to be very thankful today," Noem said in a tweet Thursday.

    In addition to refusing to issue a statewide mask mandate, Noem has also defended individuals who neglect to wear masks despite repeated recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and health experts who have pleaded that widespread adoption of mask-wearing would curb the spread of the disease.

    A CDC study in Kansas reported last week reaffirmed that mask mandates are effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19.

    "We talk often about the government's role in a situation like this in dealing with a pandemic," Noem said on November 18, disputing that the lack of a mask mandate was responsible for a surge in cases, according to The Associated Press. "At this point, frankly, I'm getting more concerned about how neighbors are treating neighbors."

    Noem said that it was an individual's "personal decision" to wear a mask, refused to encourage residents to wear a mask or to practice social distancing, and claimed the most effective way to combat COVID-19 spread was through handwashing, according to the AP.

    There have been more than 79,000 cases of COVID-19 in South Dakota diagnosed since the pandemic began, per Johns Hopkins University data. Over the past week, more than 42% of all COVID-19 tests administered there have come back positive. That's more than four times higher than the 9.4% national positivity rate, according to the Hopkins data.

    Read the original article on Business Insider

Saturday

True American exceptionalism: Strength in real diversity as U.S. Embassy in Nigeria lauds Nigerian-born medical doctor key in development of COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu, MBBCh, FACP
CC™ Global Square

By Editorial Team

The United States Embassy in Nigeria has lauded a Nigerian-born medical doctor, Onyema Ogbuagu, MBBCh, FACP, for his role in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine in America.

Earlier in the month, U.S. drug manufacturing firm, Pfizer announced that the vaccine has an efficacy rate (almost well within the standard 95% statistical confidence interval) of 94.5 percent, marking a major breakthrough in the fight against the pandemic.

“Nigerians contribute to the world in so many ways,” the U.S. Mission in Nigeria tweeted on its handle on Monday. “Our hats off to Dr. Onyema Ogbuagbu at Yale who helped develop a COVID-19 vaccine!”

Dr. Ogbuagu is an Associate Professor of medicine at Yale University. He is one of those leading the research at Pfizer for a COVID-19 vaccine in the United States.

In a series of Tweets on his official handle, Monday, the medical expert dispelled some misconceptions about the vaccine, explaining that misinformation about the pandemic may lead to loss of lives.

Friday

The Party of Death: Republican Florida governor Ron DeSantis accused of ‘killing spree’ after extending ban on cities from imposing own mask mandates

Two peas in a pod - President Trump (L) and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R)

CC™ Political News

By James Crump

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has been accused of overseeing a “killing spree”, after he extended a ban on cities in the state imposing their own mask mandates.

On Wednesday, Mr. DeSantis extended an executive order issued in September, which prevented local governments from fining residents who refused to wear face masks, or from closing restaurants not complying with coronavirus measures.

The decision on 25 September prompted the start of the state’s third phase of pandemic measures, which allowed restaurants and bars to open at 100 per cent capacity.

Florida Democratic officials criticized the governor for the extension of the executive order on Wednesday, amid a spike in cases in the state.

Chris King, the 2018 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, quote tweeted a local news story about the decision, adding: “Alternate headline: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Continues Killing Spree.”

Miami-Dade mayor Daniella Levine Cava called the decision “deeply frustrating” in a series of tweets on Wednesday evening.

“Bipartisan governors nationwide are putting mask orders in place as one of the best tools we have to fight #COVID19.

“It’s deeply frustrating that @GovRonDeSantis continues to block local actions and make it harder for local leaders to keep our communities safe,” the mayor wrote.

Last week, a bipartisan group of Florida mayors pleaded with Mr DeSantis to allow mask mandates to be enforced in areas across the state, according to Forbes.

The governor rejected their plea..

Florida is the largest state in the US to have lifted a majority of its coronavirus restrictions and is one of only 13 that have not issued statewide mask mandates.

It has seen a spike in coronavirus cases over the last couple of months, as the number of Covid-19 infections reported in a week has tripled since Mr. DeSantis lifted restrictions, according to CNN.

Last week, the state recorded 53,000 positive tests, which was three times more than the week before Mr. DeSantis’ executive order in late September.

The governor has not addressed the increase in cases, and has only tweeted about Covid-19 five times since election day on 3 November.

Since the start of the pandemic, Florida has recorded more than 962,000 Covid-19 cases and at least 18,253 deaths.

According to a tracking project hosted by Johns Hopkins University, there are now more than 12.7 million people who have tested positive for coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached 262,266.

The Independent has contacted Mr. DeSantis’ office for comment.

Thursday

First family super spreaders: Donald Trump Jr. says he is 'all done with the Rona' and ends self isolation in violation of CDC guidelines

Like father like son - Trump Jr. (L) with the older Trump (R)

CC™ News

By Aylin Woodward

  • Donald Trump Jr. announced Wednesday night that he'd been cleared to end his COVID-19 isolation and celebrate Thanksgiving "the way it's meant to be."

  • On Friday, Trump Jr. announced that he tested positive for COVID-19.

  • It's not clear when Trump Jr. received his positive diagnosis, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend even asymptomatic COVID patients isolate for 10 days.

  • A spokesman for Trump Jr. told Business Insider that the president's son is asymptomatic and has been isolating since he received his positive test, which came in "at the start of the week" last week.

  • It is not known when he received his last negative test.

Donald Trump Jr. announced he'd tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday.

Five days later, Trump Jr. announced he was cleared to be with his family for Thanksgiving: "I got the medical OK I'm all done with the Rona," he wrote on Instagram.

An Instagram video showed Trump Jr. with his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle in front of a turkey dinner Wednesday evening: "So I got cleared, happy to be healthy, and we get to spend Thanksgiving the way it's meant to be," he said.

The two bought enough food for "six or seven people," Trump Jr. said, and were eating it on Wednesday "as a little extra celebration."

He added that the meal in the video was their "back up plan." He added that they were "just going to double up on the Thanksgiving day feast," suggesting that couple will have a second Thanksgiving meal Thursday with other people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against any gathering that brings together people from different households for the holidays.

CDC recommends people sick with COVID-19 isolate for 10 days, even if they're asymptomatic

In a Friday Instagram video confirming his diagnosis, Trump Jr. emphasized that he was "totally asymptomatic" but would "follow the regular protocols."

He suggested it could have been a false positive test, and said that he hoped he could "test a couple times in a row negative before the holidays." 

According to the CDC, even people who have no symptoms need to isolate for 10 days following the date of their positive test before they can be around others (including household and family members). Experts also warn that a negative test is not necessarily a free pass to spend the holiday with family.

It's not clear when Trump Jr. first learned he had COVID-19.

A spokesman for Trump Jr. told Business Insider Friday that the president's eldest son had been isolating since he received his positive test.

"Don tested positive at the start of the week and has been quarantining out at his cabin since the result," the spokesperson said. "He's been completely asymptomatic so far and is following all medically recommended COVID-19 guidelines."

It also recommends against anyone attending or hosting a Thanksgiving gathering with a person who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, which would include Guilfoyle.

Trump Jr.'s girlfriend did test positive for COVID-19 earlier this year.

Read the original article on Business Insider