Coronavirus crowd study: German researchers find ‘glimmers of hope’ after inviting thousands to indoor concert in Leipzig

In one scenario modeled by the scientists, the infection risk for participants and their contacts was around 70 times lower when health and safety instructions were followed, compared with what it could have been under pre-pandemic behavior.

“A concert or handball game with a strictly enforced safety protocol is safer than the participation in a big wedding,” said Michael Gekle, the dean of the medical department at the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, who was involved in the research.

The scientists’ conclusions are based on an experiment that drew around 1,400 people to an indoor concert simulation in August, hosted in one of the country’s largest venues in the eastern German city of Leipzig.

The researchers from the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, a public institution, used tracking devices to gather data on the movements and behavior of participants, all of whom had to test negative for the virus to be allowed to participate. Over the following two months, the data gathered during the day-long experiment in August was fed into a computer simulation to estimate the hypothetical spread of the coronavirus for varying safety protocols and infection rates.

Finding a balance between economic incentives to fill a venue as much as possible and safety constraints to limit the risks was the main goal of the experiment that looked at three scenarios.

In the first, participants — while still wearing masks — pretended that the pandemic did not exist, allowing the researchers to create a detailed computer simulation of a concert with no social distancing and with an auditorium at full capacity.

In the second scenario, organizers imposed light social distancing rules and reduced the number of participants. This scenario, the researchers said Thursday, would provide sufficient safety to hold indoor events up to an infection rate of 50 new cases per 100,000 people within a week. Germany deems regions that cross this threshold as risk areas.

Events could still be held with infection levels above that rate, the researchers found, but only if organizers were to follow stringent distancing, as modeled in a third scenario.

In all three scenarios, participants had assigned seats.

The researchers cautioned that participants’ safety largely depends on face masks and on indoor ventilation systems, which were both found to play a critical role in preventing infections.

Germany already approved a $580 million program last month to improve ventilation systems in museums, theaters and other spaces. As long as no effective vaccine has been widely distributed more funding for ventilation will be needed, said Stefan Moritz, who headed the experiment. “This pandemic won’t be over in a few months,” he said.

In the lead-up to the concert, the prospect of the experiment sparked hate mail and accusations that it would become a superspreader event, but the researchers said Thursday that the concert had resulted in no known infections.

The release of their findings Thursday came at a pivotal time in Germany, and one day after Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a month-long partial national lockdown this

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As virus surges, Trump rallies keep packing in thousands



President Donald Trump gestures as he is introduced by first lady Melania Trump during a campaign rally Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)


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President Donald Trump gestures as he is introduced by first lady Melania Trump during a campaign rally Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

WASHINGTON (AP) — There are no crowds at Disneyland, still shut down by the coronavirus. Fewer fans attended the World Series this year than at any time in the past century. Big concerts are canceled.

But it’s a different story in Trumpland. Thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters regularly cram together at campaign rallies around the country — masks optional and social distancing frowned upon.

Trump rallies are among the nation’s biggest events being held in defiance of crowd restrictions designed to stop the virus from spreading. This at a time when public health experts are advising people to think twice even about inviting many guests for Thanksgiving dinner.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, when you have congregate settings where people are crowded together and virtually no one is wearing a mask, that’s a perfect setup to have an outbreak of acquisition and transmissibility,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, recently told Yahoo News. “It’s a public health and scientific fact.”

The Trump campaign, which distributes masks and hand sanitizer at its rallies, says those who attend are peaceful protesters who, just like Black Lives Matter demonstrators, have a right to assemble. The president says he wants to get the country back to normal.



Vice President Mike Pence speaks during an airport rally, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)


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Vice President Mike Pence speaks during an airport rally, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Some states have fined venues that host Trump rallies for violating caps on crowd size. But the rallies continue — even as the U.S. sees cases spike, especially in the Midwest and the Plains. The nation posted a record high number of new infections last week — nearly 500,000.



President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive for a campaign rally Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)


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President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive for a campaign rally Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

And the crowds keep turning out for Trump.

Ysabel Benejam, 69, of West Bloomfield, Michigan, drove about 90 minutes to Lansing and waited more than four hours in rainy, near-freezing temperatures to see Trump on Tuesday.

“I’m not afraid at all,” said Benejam, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and a mask emblazoned with “Trump 2020.” “We need to step back into normality.”

Democrat Joe Biden, in contrast, has shunned rallies and instead holds online and drive-in events where people honk their horns to show support. He calls the Trump rallies “super-spreader events” and says he’s listening to the warnings of public health experts.

Since Feb. 7, when Trump told author Bob Woodward that he knew the coronavirus was airborne and deadlier than than the flu, the president has hosted more than 50 rallies in more than two dozen states. They were halted during most of March, April and May because of the

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CVS to hire thousands of pharmacy techs as it prepares for more Covid-19 cases, rollout of vaccine

  • CVS wants to immediately hire 15,000 employees to prepare for an expected rise in Covid-19 and flu cases this fall and winter.
  • More than 10,000 of those will be full-time and part-time licensed pharmacy technicians who can help dispense medications and administer Covid-19 tests.
  • The expanding staffing could also help CVS prepare for the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, if federal officials allow pharmacy technicians to administer it.



a man holding a sign: A sign advertising free flu shots is seen at a CVS Pharmacy on October 14, 2020 in Orlando, Florida.


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A sign advertising free flu shots is seen at a CVS Pharmacy on October 14, 2020 in Orlando, Florida.

CVS Health said Monday that it wants to immediately hire 15,000 employees to prepare for an expected rise in Covid-19 and flu cases this fall and winter.

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More than 10,000 of those will be full-time and part-time licensed pharmacy technicians who can help dispense medications and administer Covid-19 tests.

Public health officials have warned that Covid-19 cases will likely rise in the months ahead, as more Americans spend time indoors during colder weather. Cases are already growing. Average daily new cases of the coronavirus were up by at least 5% on a weekly basis in 39 states on Thursday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. There were more than 63,600 new cases reported in the U.S. on Thursday, pushing the seven-day average of daily new cases up more than 13% compared with a week ago.

The larger workforce could also help CVS prepare for another major phase of the pandemic: The rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, once it’s available. Federal officials will need to give authorization to companies, including CVS, for pharmacy technicians to administer the vaccines under the supervision of an immunization-certified pharmacist.

CVS has advocated for the change, saying pharmacy technicians could help expedite the vaccine’s widespread distribution.

The health-care company has expanded its staffing and services during the pandemic. It has more than 4,000 Covid-19 drive-thru testing sites and has done nearly 5 million tests. In March, the company announced plans to fill 50,000 jobs for roles from delivery drivers to store associates to keep up with growing demand for over-the-counter medications, early refills of prescriptions and more at its approximately 10,000 pharmacies across the U.S.

Since then, CVS has hired about 76,000 full-time, part-time and temporary employees, company spokesman Joe Goode. It has about 300,000 employees.

Along with recruiting pharmacy technicians in the latest hiring effort, CVS is looking for pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and distribution center employees. The company said many of the new positions are temporary, but could become permanent.

Pharmacy technicians have less training and make lower pay than pharmacists. They’re required to have a high school diploma or GED and sometimes a license, compared with pharmacists, who must attend years of graduate training.

The pandemic has increased demand for the flu shot, a tool that public health officials are advocating to keep Americans healthy and reduce confusion between Covid-19 and the flu’s similar symptoms.

CVS expects to administer 18 million flu shots

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Thousands more underfed children may die due to COVID

LONDON (Reuters) – An extra 10,000 children per month may die this year from malnutrition due to the COVID-19 crisis, the head of the World Health Organisation warned on Wednesday.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a U.N Food and Agriculture (FAO) conference that due to the pandemic he expected a 14% rise in cases of severe child malnutrition this year – or 6.7 million more people – mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia.

“We cannot accept a world where the rich have access to healthy diets while the poor are left behind… the rich can afford to stay home, the poor must go out to work,” he said.

After the economic devastation of the pandemic, governments must work with the private sector and civil society to support sustainable food systems and end subsidies for producers of unhealthy foods, the WHO director general added.

Millions of lives could be saved if countries expanded childhood feeding programmes, reduced marketing of unhealthy foods and used fiscal policies to drive better food choices amongst consumers, he said.

“COVID has reminded us that life is fragile, health is precious, and healthy diets are not just for the wealthy, they’re a human right,” he said.

“The pandemic has caused serious disruptions to essential services, immunisation, maternal services, child nutrition, family planning and more.”

(Reporting by Maytaal Angel; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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A nurse saw a Chesapeake doctor do questionable things for years. She also got gifts totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Margo Stone did a little bit of everything over the nearly three decades that she worked for Dr. Javaid Perwaiz.

Her job titles included nurse, office administrator, and bookkeeper. She assisted Perwaiz in the examining rooms, checked patient’s blood pressure and weight, ordered supplies, paid bills, recorded deposits, and handled the payroll and payroll taxes.

She also had a romantic relationship with the longtime obstetrician-gynecologist now on trial for more than 60 criminal charges in U.S. District Court in Norfolk.

Prosecutors allege that Perwaiz, 70, performed unneeded work on patients for years in order to fund a lavish lifestyle. He’s charged with multiple counts of health care fraud, making false statements related to health care matters and identity theft. His jury trial began Wednesday and could last more than a month.

Stone told jurors she first started working part-time as a nurse for Perwaiz in the early 1990s and later became a full-time employee. Over the years, her responsibilities grew. So, too, did her relationship with the doctor.

He spent lots of time with Stone, her husband and two sons, Stone testified. He became a kind of grandfather figure for the boys, now in their 20s. He paid for the boys’ high school and college tuitions and bought the oldest son a car. The boys eventually started calling him Papa.

Perwaiz hung the boys’ framed portraits on the walls of his office and put their initials on the license plate of one of his cars.

Stone also got lots of gifts from the doctor. She estimated that he gave her about 10 watches, each valued at $2,000. She also got purses, sunglasses, and jewelry. She even shared an American Express card with him that she used to buy things for herself and her sons.

When asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Butler to estimate the total value of the gifts that Perwaiz gave her over the years, her response: “Several hundred thousand dollars.”

And while Stone testified that she would have stopped working for the doctor immediately if she ever thought he did anything that would put a patient’s safety in jeopardy, she said she saw him do some things that were questionable.

One day when she was filling in at the main office, she said she saw him examining a patient with an instrument that was broken. She immediately ordered a new part for it.

When staff complained that he wasn’t sterilizing a piece of equipment for the recommended amount of time, she said she confronted him and he agreed to wait in the future. And when she heard patients complain about having to undergo too many surgeries, she confronted him about that, too.

“Sometimes he seemed to listen, sometimes he did not,” she said.

Stone also said she knew that he wasn’t using some instruments properly and occasionally saw him alter information on patients records.

In other testimony Friday, two of Perwaiz’s former patients told jurors how the doctor recommended they get a hysterectomy after they

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Health experts say ‘herd immunity’ strategy would kill thousands

Public health experts are growing alarmed that the Trump administration is increasingly embracing scientists who argue against lockdowns and restrictions as a means to control the coronavirus pandemic.

Those scientists maintain that the costs of locking down society and closing schools and businesses outweighs their benefits in combatting the virus. In a document known as the Great Barrington Declaration, signed earlier this month, they embrace a concept known as “herd immunity,” in which a population builds up enough resistance to a pathogen that it runs out of victims to infect.

On a call with reporters on Monday, two senior White House officials cited the declaration, authored in part by an economist with close ties to Scott Atlas, the radiologist who has become one of Trump’s chief advisors on the coronavirus pandemic.

But to public health experts, allowing the virus to run its deadly and devastating course is an unacceptable option that would lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths beyond the 217,000 Americans who have already succumbed to the disease.

“If you just let things rip and let the infection go, no masks, crowd, it doesn’t make any difference, that quite frankly, George, is ridiculous,” Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTrump fields questions on coronavirus, conspiracy theories in combative town hall Chris Christie says he ‘was wrong’ not to wear face mask at White House Overnight Health Care: Georgia gets Trump approval for Medicaid work requirements, partial expansion | McConnell shoots down .8 trillion coronavirus deal MORE, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosSix takeaways from Trump and Biden’s dueling town halls Biden draws sharp contrast with Trump in low-key town hall Biden leaves door open to adding Supreme Court justices MORE on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday.

“You’ll wind up with many more infections of vulnerable people, which will lead to hospitalizations and deaths. So I think we’ve just got to look that square in the eye and say it’s nonsense,” Fauci added.

In a statement Thursday, groups like the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the American Public Health Association, the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health and the Public Health Institute condemned the declaration and the flaws in its arguments.

“Covid-19 carries a much higher risk of severe disease and death than other infections where herd immunity was attempted before a vaccine was available,” the groups said. “It is illogical to ignore public health and scientific evidence when so many lives are at stake.”

Some experts pointed to an underlying flaw of the declaration: An assumption that someone who has recovered from the coronavirus will become immune to reinfection in the future.

“We just don’t really understand coronavirus immunology well enough to know whether this is going to be a minor, moderate or major concern,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Prevention at the University of Minnesota. “We have learned so much about Covid-19 over the course of

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