One event causes 300,000 COVID cases

 

A single event in Boston has been linked to up to 300,000 coronavirus cases across the US and even some in Australia, according to scientists.

Biotechnology company Biogen's medical conference was held on February 26 and 27, with contact tracers reporting there were just over 100 cases of COVID-19 from the event up until November 1.

However a team of scientists tracking the ongoing spread of the virus say the real figure is between 205,000 and 300,000, with the findings published in the journal Science.

The conference marked the beginning of a significant spread throughout Boston, the US and even the rest of the world, with scientists noting linked cases began spreading to other US cities in early March, and even ventured as far as Australia and Slovakia. The first cases of human-to-human transmission in Australia were recorded in early March.

On Friday, the US confirmed 3309 new coronavirus deaths, smashing the previous record of 3206 recorded on Wednesday. There have been 16 million cases in the US, with nearly 300,000 deaths.

 

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'Tension' on the way as NSW workers head back to the office

Thousands of NSW workers will head back to the office today after the state government lifted its stay at home public health order.

The public health order, requiring employers to allow their staff to work from home, will be wound back today.

Despite the push to return to work, the future of offices are in doubt.

A new report from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found there could be some tension between employers and employees as offices reopen.

The report, obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald, found around 63 per cent of employees at Australia's largest organisations wanted a hybrid working model.

However, employers at those same companies found the hybrid working model - where some days are spent at home and some in the office - could only be available to around 40 per cent of staff.

"(There is) a clear expectation gap between employee desires and the working models envisaged by their employers," the report said.

Employers are also facing an uphill battle to get staff back in the office fulltime with only 15 per cent of employees wanting to go back.

"I think that will create tension. The tension is going to come in how organisations are able to both attract and retain talent," BCG managing director and partner Chris Mattey said.

"If you have an organisation that is demanding people come in five days a week and employees want some degree of flexibility, they are going to start selecting organisations that are going to offer that."

But hybrid workplaces could be on the cards as the report also revealed almost half of the 120 Australian companies surveyed plan to reduce office space.

Around 42 per cent of organisations said they plan to get the bulk of their workforce back in the office by Christmas, with a further 30 per cent shortly after.

And 20 per cent were waiting until the pandemic was over or vaccination was widespread.

America starts vaccinations

The US has today kicked off its coronavirus immunisation program - with hopes more than 100 million people could receive the jab in the next few months.

Trucks began shipping millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the United States on Sunday, part of an enormous logistics operation that should see some vulnerable people being vaccinated as early as Monday in the nation worst hit by the coronavirus.

Healthcare workers and nursing home residents will be among the first to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech shots, though it will likely be months before all those who want it can be vaccinated, officials said.

"My hope, again, is that this happens very expeditiously. Hopefully, (starting) tomorrow," US Food and Drug Administration commissioner Stephen Hahn said Sunday on CNN.

Over the weekend, the US became the latest country to green-light the Pfizer vaccine, following nations like Britain and Canada.

As trucks rolled out of a Pfizer facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, they were escorted to a local airport by armed US officers, in a sign of how precious the cargo is considered.

Two major package delivery services - UPS and FedEx - will then ship the supplies to 636 sites around the country by Wednesday.

Some 2.9 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine - enough to vaccinate half that many people in the two-shot regimen - are being shipped in boxes containing dry ice that can keep supplies at -70 degrees Celsius, the frigid temperature needed to preserve the drug.

The vaccine is being allocated to states based on each state's adult population.

The states then decide the specifics of how to distribute the drug, but are expected to follow the federal guidance to place healthcare workers and nursing home residents at the front of the line.

Germany heading into "blitz lockdown"

Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel declared there was an "urgent need to take action" after meeting with leaders of the country's 16 federal states on Sunday.

The country is experiencing a rapid COVID-19 spike, recording 27,000 new infections on Friday. Cases have been drastically climbing since mid-October.

Politicians and media had ramped up their campaign to get the government to take action, urging a "blitz lockdown".

Restrictions will include closing schools, banning the sale of fireworks ahead of New Year's Eve and urging people to work from home.

One event causes 300,000 COVID-19 cases

Scientists say they have tracked up to 300,000 cases of COVID-19 across the United States - and as far away as Australia - to a single medical conference held in Boston in February.

The results of a study published in Science magazine this week found while 100 cases were initially linked to the event, between 205,000 and 300,000 cases across the US up to November 1 could be traced to it.

A team of scientists identified the genetic market in the strain linked to the conference and followed it to at least 18 states, including Florida, Indiana and North Carolina, and as far away as Australia, Sweden and Slovakia.

The first cases of human-to-human transmission in Australia were recorded in early March.

"We don't think these strains had a propensity to spread more than any other," the study's lead author, infectious diseases expert Jacob Lemieux from Massachusetts General Hospital, told CBS News.

"We suspect that these types of events have been happening over and over again, and are major contributors to the propagation and spread of SARS-COV2 throughout the world."

The conference at Boston's Marriott hotel was hosted by the multinational drug company Biogen.

There were only 30 reported cases of COVID-19 in the US when it took place on February 26 and 27.

About 175 biotechnology executives attended, including some who had travelled from Europe.

In a statement to the New York Times, Biogen said the pandemic had had a "very direct and personal impact" on the company and hoped the study would "continue to drive a better understanding of the transmission of the virus and efforts to address it".

Bronwyn McInnes, a genomic epidemiologist at the Broad Institute of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the Times the Boston event was a "cautionary tale".

"When we hear these stories of clusters where 20 or 50 or 100 were affected, that does not account for what happens next," she said.

 

Originally published as One event causes 300,000 COVID cases