US hoping for two Covid-19 vaccines by end of November

Two American companies expect to apply for emergency approval for their COVID-19 vaccines by late November, welcome news as the US hits a third surge of its coronavirus epidemic and approaches its eight millionth case.

Pfizer said Friday it hopes to move ahead with its vaccine after safety data is available in the third week of November, a couple of weeks after the November 3 presidential election.

The announcement means the United States could have two vaccines ready by the end of the year, with Massachusetts biotech firm Moderna aiming for November 25 to seek authorization.

“So let me be clear, assuming positive data, Pfizer will apply for Emergency Authorization Use in the US soon after the safety milestone is achieved in the third week of November,” the company’s chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in an open letter. The news lifted the company’s shares two percent in the US.

But experts warn that even when vaccines are approved, it will take many months until they are widely available.

In any case, they are unlikely to be a good substitute for mask wearing, social distancing and other recommended behavior to curb transmission because we don’t know how effective they will be.

Indoor gatherings in colder weather

After falling numbers throughout the summer, the country hit an inflection point in its coronavirus outbreak around the second week of September—with a new daily case average of more than 50,000 according to the latest figures, and the trajectory is upward.

With a shade under eight million confirmed infections and more than 217,000 deaths, America is the hardest-hit country in the world.

The US never came close to returning to its baseline after its first wave in spring, meaning the current spike can be more accurately termed a third surge.

Geographically, the major hotspots are in the Upper Midwest and parts of the Rocky Mountains in the west, while parts of the Northeast that were hit hard in spring are seeing their outbreaks starting to rekindle.

Harvard surgeon and health policy researcher Thomas Tsai told AFP there were multiple factors behind the rising cases—from under testing in the Midwest to authorities failing to monitor the reopening of bars and restaurants and dialing back when necessary.

What’s more, “from the contact tracing reports from various municipalities and states, the worry is that the spread is driven now, by indoor social gatherings in people’s homes,” he added, as the focus of social life shifts from public to private spaces in the colder weather.

One bright sign is that COVID-19 treatments have improved markedly, and since the cases are more spread out than before, hospitals aren’t being overwhelmed.

Widespread mask use might also mean that when people do get infected, they have less virus in their body which makes them less sick.

‘No magic bullet’

While vaccines are a crucial tool against the virus, experts have warned they can’t be a substitute for behavioral measures like masks and distancing.

“It’s welcome news that there will be one more thing that can help prevent COVID transmission,” said Priya Sampathkumar, an infectious disease doctor and professor at Mayo Clinic.

“But I think we need to be cautious and understand that a vaccine isn’t a magic bullet,” she added.

Pfizer and Moderna, both funded by the US government, launched Phase 3 of their clinical trials at the end of July, and both were producing their doses at the same time.

They aim to deliver tens of millions of doses in the US by the end of the year.

Both are “mRNA vaccines,” an experimental new platform that has never before been fully approved.

They both inject people with the genetic material necessary to grow the “spike protein” of SARS-CoV-2 inside their own cells, thus eliciting an immune response the body will remember when it encounters the real virus.

This effectively turns a person’s own body into a vaccine factory, avoiding the costly and difficult processes that more traditional vaccine production requires.

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4 ways to end your day positively

Some days — who are we even kidding, most days — it seems like we really are running a rat race, and the rats are definitely winning. All day long, we’re scrambling to keep up with everything we’ve got to do, and when nighttime comes, we sink into bed, exhausted, hoping and praying we’ll be able to get just enough sleep to allow us to run, run, run from the moment the alarm goes off again the next day.

While it may seem counter-intuitive to be told to slow down when it seems we’re always running behind, it’s nonetheless important to try to take a few moments for yourself at the end of every day to relax, gather your thoughts, and renew your energy. ICF Certified Life and Spiritual Coach Ryan Haddon, who’s also a certified hypnotherapist and meditation teacher, suggests several nightly practices you can adopt that will not only let you end your day in a positive way, but will help some of that positivity carry over into the next morning.

End your day positively by taking an inventory

Haddon says that if you do a personal inventory at the end of every day and try to let yourself be guided by the lessons you find there, you will, over time, be able to “move the needle forward on becoming the best version of yourself.” This is the ultimate goal of all self-improvement, right? You’re always going to be you, but you might as well be the very best you you can be.

As to how you perform a personal inventory, Haddon says you should think of three things you did that went well, and three more things that didn’t go so well. If, in analyzing the latter actions, you find that you owe anyone an apology or think you really ought to make amends for something that was your fault, you should plan to do so the very next day. That way, Haddon assures, you’ll be “keeping your side of the street clean and waking up with a clean slate.”

End your day positively by taking a deep breath

Adopting a practice of nighttime meditation or breath work, according to Haddon, can provide you with “a powerful time to drop into stillness by preparing the mind and body for deep rest.” She also says that meditation and deep breathing make for ” a nice way to connect to who you are outside of all the roles you play in your waking hours.” 

As to how you meditate — they’ve got an app for that; actually, a whole bunch of apps. Breath work (not the holotropic, rapid-breathing type) is even easier — all you need to do, according to Haddon, is to set a timer for 10 minutes and spend that time breathing easily, yet intentionally. Feel each breath coming in and out, counting one as you breathe in, then two as you breathe out. Count up to 10 with these in-out breaths, then start over again at one. Breathe and count, count and breathe. Sounds very peaceful and relaxing — but no worries if you do drop off, since your body has sense enough to keep on breathing even when it’s not intentional.

End your day positively by giving thanks

An attitude of gratitude never hurt anyone, and in fact, it can do you a lot of good remembering how much you have to be thankful for, even when things are rough. Since it can sometimes be hard to remember to send those thank-you notes to the universe, Haddon advocates keeping a “gratitude journal” by the side of your bed and writing in it every night before you turn off your light. 

She says you should try to come up with 10 things you are grateful for each day. While it may seem difficult to do, especially if you don’t want to keep reproducing the same cut and paste list every day, Haddon explains that “try[ing] not to repeat the same gratitudes over and over, the magic starts to happen during the day when [you] look for the good happening in real time.” She says that you’ll learn to appreciate the more subtle things, which, in turn, will allow your mindfulness to increase. You will also start to see that “there are always positives unfolding in your life when you’re present for them.”

End your day positively by saying these magic words

One particularly powerful bedtime practice is that of nighttime affirmations, repeated to yourself just before you drift into sleep. Haddon describes the subconscious mind as “the part of you that runs your operating system beneath the surface” and says that this part “holds all your beliefs about yourself and the life around you.” The subconscious, it seems, is most receptive to new ideas when brain wave activity slows, as it does while you’re nodding off. If you feed your subconscious with ideas about love, abundance, and success, then, Haddon promises, “you’ll wake up with success codes built into your blueprint for the day ahead.”

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This hack puts an end to sun glare on your laptop

With the weather finally getting warmer and many people working from home, it’s the optimal time to drag your laptop outside and sit in the garden answering emails (or on the balcony, or the stoop, or whatever outside space you have access to). Although working out in the sunshine definitely makes the day go quicker, as well as providing the requisite vitamin D we’re all craving right now, even the most expensive and high-tech laptop isn’t equipped for so much bright light.

The main issue with working outside in the sun is the natural glare on the screen, which can make it hard to see anything you’re trying to work on or read. Thankfully, the denizens of social media have devised an ingenious solution to this problem — and the good news is it’s affordable, easy to do, and doesn’t require even a modicum of IT expertise to pull off.

End sun glare on your laptop with a box

As reported by Metro, an intrepid LinkedIn user named Tom Wood posted a photo working from his own garden with a cardboard box propped up protectively around his laptop. “When you are working from home and want to enjoy the sunshine, yet can’t see your laptop screen because of the sun! Get yourself the latest technological breakthrough….. The Cardboard Box,” he quipped.

The hack was a massive hit online with one Twitter user gushing, “To whoever it was who posted this laptop box cover invention, the Delahoy family would like to say thank you,” alongside a shot of a woman happily working away on a balcony with a box propped up to block the glare. The original post has been liked more than 50,000 times with comments flooding in commending Wood for his genius.  

Still, it’s worth keeping an eye on the temperature of your laptop, even if you employ this nifty trick. As House Beautiful advises, most models will be fine up to about 30 degrees Celsius (around 86 degrees Fahrenheit) but, beyond that, you’re risking causing damage to your hard drive. Even with your box propped up, always be mindful and ensure your laptop isn’t overheating to avoid damaging it.

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Congo announces end to 2nd deadliest Ebola outbreak ever

Eastern Congo has marked an official end to the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history that killed 2,280 people over nearly two years as armed groups and community mistrust undermined the promise of new vaccines.

Thursday’s milestone was overshadowed by the enormous health challenges still facing the vast country: the world’s largest measles epidemic, the rising threat of COVID-19 and another new Ebola outbreak in the north.

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