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Pandemic

Australia’s New South Wales marks its highest COVID-19 death count

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Pedestrians cross an intersection in the city center as the state of New South Wales on 9th REUTERS / Loren Elliott

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SYDNEY, Jan 9 (Reuters) – Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, recorded the highest number of daily COVID-19 deaths on Saturday as the Omicron variant grips the country and lawmakers are under pressure to find widening loopholes in the Close supply chain.

The home of Sydney and a third of Australia’s 25 million residents reported 16 deaths from the coronavirus the previous day. New South Wales reported 30,062 new infections, close to record levels.

The second largest state, Victoria, which hosts the Australian Open tennis tournament this month, reported 44,155 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths.

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The country reported just under 100,000 cases in total, up from a record 116,025 the previous day, but still surpassed most previous highs. The total number of deaths that day was 36.

As the surge brought a rush to government-funded pop-up testing clinics, authorities changed their messages, urging people to instead do quick antigen tests at home and then report positive results to their doctor, who will record them in a database.

Authorities are calling for calm amid reports of empty supermarket shelves as people stay home to avoid infection and delivery staff self-isolating from exposure to the virus.

“We have seen very low rates of significant illness,” Federal Health Secretary Greg Hunt told reporters. “The vacation of the workforce remains the greatest challenge at the moment.”

The government and its health advisors have cut mandatory isolation times for close contacts and narrowed the definition of close contacts, but continued to review rules for workers on leave, Hunt said.

Australia, meanwhile, plans to start vaccinating children ages 5-11 on Monday. Most states said they would start the new school year as planned in late January, but Queensland, the third largest state, said it would postpone returning to school for two weeks so the kids have time for the vaccination.

Despite the outbreak, political leaders have cited Australia’s high vaccination rate – more than 90% of people over 16 are fully vaccinated – to warrant a reopening plan. But several states have postponed non-urgent elective surgeries to clear hospital beds for COVID-19 patients in the past few days and reintroduced masking requirements.

New South Wales, which emerged from more than 100 days of lockdown late last year, reintroduced the ban on dancing and drinking while standing in bars.

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Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by William Mallard and Ana Nicolaci da Costa

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Pandemic

During COVID-19, even psychiatrists need self-care

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It’s no secret that the events of the past two years have taken an extraordinary toll on most people’s mental health and well-being. COVID-19 has caused distress and grief for many people and likely contributed to higher reported levels of anxiety and depression compared to pre-pandemic years.

A 2020 American Psychiatric Association public opinion poll found that 62% of American adults were more anxious than the year before. Then another APA poll this year found that a third of Americans rated their mental health as fair or poor. As we head into the new year, it’s likely that the ongoing uncertainty means general anxiety, frustration and fatigue will also persist.

Despite these challenges, the start of a new year is always an opportunity to reflect, to leave the past behind and work toward positive change. However, it’s important to realize that most meaningful changes don’t happen overnight.

So as you ponder your goals for 2022, try not to forget that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Realistic goals may be smaller, but they’re no less valuable and can feel just as good as those big goals when they’re accomplished.

Here are my goals for the new year. I’ll try to focus on the things I can control. Yes, even a psychiatrist can work to improve their own mental health.

And as it turns out, I’m not alone with this plan, the APA reported that one in four Americans is planning a mental health New Year’s resolution, from DIY steps like taking time to meditate or journaling to seeking help a therapist or psychiatrist.

Building resilience and improving mental health and well-being are big tasks that require small but very important steps to get started. Some of the key things I do and advise my patients to do to support their mental health are:

• Take time each day to think. Just a few minutes can make a difference.

• Practice self-care.

• Reach out to others—via email, SMS, phone, or in person. Remember you are not alone.

• Volunteer, donate, be altruistic.

• Spend less time looking at screens.

• Keep a schedule and plan ahead.

• Embark on a creative project or revive a hobby you’ve neglected.

• It’s okay not to be okay. Get professional help if needed.

My primary resolution is to conduct my profession by focusing on the prevention of public health issues that negatively impact mental health. We refer to these as the social determinants of mental health.

With large groups of people, we can avoid the need to treat the aftermath of years of violence, poverty and trauma. I believe it can be easier to address the big issues, like our history of structural racism, misogyny, disregard for indigenous culture, and many other equally important issues, if we can improve our approach to public health individually.

But just like with personal goals, meaningful cultural change doesn’t usually come quickly. We must have patience – both with ourselves and with others as we work to make the future better.

There’s no denying that the last two years have been tough. But taking individual steps to take care of ourselves and our mental health can be the first steps to addressing some of these long-standing difficulties this country faces.

Vivian Pender is President of the American Psychiatric Association. She wrote this column for the Dallas Morning News.

See the full opinion section here. Do you have an opinion on this topic? Send a letter to the editor and you might get published.

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Pandemic

Multiple COVID-19 outbreaks reported at Denver metro schools as omicron spreads

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DENVER — The omicron variant continues to spread in Colorado, accounting for 100% of all new cases, according to CDPHE.

It has made its way into schools as counties are now reporting multiple outbreaks, even those with measures.

As demand for safer learning environments grows, a group of students at Denver’s Thomas Jefferson High School plan to drop out next week if Denver Public Schools fail to meet their demands.

“[We have] 545 signatures so far. I think it’s amazing,” said 10th grader Haven Coleman on Saturday.

She is one of five students who helped create a petition on Change.org. Students are demanding that the district equip schools with N95 or KN95 masks, improve filtration in classrooms, conduct COVID-19 testing twice a week, improve and integrate virtual learning, and add weather-protected outdoor areas.

“We can see that tons of kids are still getting sick, still tons of outbreaks, and we have to change things,” Coleman said.

Though DPS is implementing a vaccination mandate for teachers and staff and requiring masks for everyone regardless of vaccination status, the district reports that at least 58 schools have five or more active cases. These schools meet the CDPHE definition of an outbreak.

Coleman’s school has at least 20 reported cases, but she worries that number could be higher.

“I know that our district has many more mandates than other districts. But that’s not enough,” she said.

In Douglas County, where there is no vaccination or mask requirement for teachers or students, the district is reporting outbreaks in at least five schools. However, some parents say more may be added to this list soon.

“We don’t know the nature of the exposure. We don’t know the true risk to our child because there are so many cases at the school at this point, so it’s upsetting,” said parent Amy Winkler.

She received an email from her child’s middle school, Mountain Ridge, on Friday notifying her that there was also an outbreak and more than 10 people reported having COVID-19.

“My kids wear masks to school, but the kids around them don’t wear masks, so we know they’re at risk of catching COVID from them,” Winkler said.

She and other parents are calling for universal masking regardless of immunization status, which the district deviated from on Dec. 8 when it lifted the mask mandate.

But in a video to the county this week, the health department president said all restrictions are being considered based on severity metrics such as hospitalizations and deaths, rather than case counts.

“Rather than responding to case numbers, we will respond to severity, rather than responding with fear-driven mandates and restrictions,” said Doug Benevento, president of the Douglas County Board of Health.

It’s unclear how sick students get with COVID-19, especially those who are vaccinated, but Coleman says even with safety measures like a vaccination mandate and mask requirements at her school, it’s not worth the risk.

“This really sucks. We don’t want to catch COVID, and we don’t want to risk our lives just to get a decent education,” she said.

DPS Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero says that as omicron spreads, some schools need to go remote. At least 13 had done so this week through Friday, according to district data.

Similarly, the Douglas County School District is warning on its website that if teachers or school staff are affected by COVID-19, some classes, classes or schools may need to be remotely controlled for at least five days. A spokesman confirmed Saturday that no schools or classes will be removed.

In lieu of conditionality, the district has purchased 3,750 air purifiers to be installed in every classroom. It also offers N95 and surgical masks, but doesn’t require them.

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Pandemic

Partisan COVID-19 divide continues as Oklahoma schools, parents make tough decisions

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OKLAHOMA (KFOR) — Metro hospitals are on the verge of a slump as staff shortages continue and a surge in patients arrive, but health systems and first responders are not alone in their struggle. The latest surge is also affecting schools and workplaces across Oklahoma as state lawmakers continue to debate how to protect Oklahomaans from COVID-19 weeks ahead of the 2022 legislative session. Republicans are pushing back on federal vaccination mandates and want to translate these views into state law.

“Trying to debate with the federal government about who is in charge is not productive,” said Sen. Julia Kirt, D-OKC.

“It’s so politicized that more than ever I think it needs to be put in the hands of the individual citizen,” said Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman.

“Prior to 2020, vaccines were good,” said Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman.

OSDH: COVID-19 hospitalizations, cases across Oklahoma steadily increasing

Debate rages on at the Oklahoma State Capitol about how best to protect Oklahomaners from COVID-19. A day after the US Supreme Court lifted a federal vaccination mandate for large companies, Oklahoma lawmakers are working to do the same here.

“I’ve seen several bills that certainly just eliminate the mandates,” said Standridge, a pharmacy owner.

The COVID-19 vaccine is administered.

Standridge has authored one of at least seven bills restricting vaccination mandates. His bills allow employees to file claims against companies if they are injured after being asked to get the shot.

“If you force someone to put something, a chemical, into their body, you should be held accountable for the results,” he said.

Data: ICU beds are not available in major Oklahoma City metro hospitals

Senator David Bullard, R-Durant, also filed a bill Friday that would make it “unlawful for any federal or state agency, political subdivision, or corporation contracted with the state to require any Oklahoma resident.” , a COVID-19 vaccine or a variant thereof.”

Senate Democrats say this sounds more like political theater and pushing back on the federal government.

“They’re really taking advantage of the political climate regarding COVID,” Boren said.

“We need to stop the spread of COVID instead of arguing about who has control of what part,” Kirt said.

Meanwhile, school districts across the Sooner State have closed their doors or switched to virtual learning because so many teachers have contracted COVID.

4. COVID-19 vaccine being offered to some immunocompromised Oklahoma residents

Mid-Del Schools said Tuesday its students will be back in class but will be required to wear masks. However, the district said mask opt-outs filed earlier this year will continue to be honored.

Oklahoma City public schools previously announced that students would return to in-person study Tuesday. On Friday, the district said students will study virtually that day instead. However, OKCPS said there’s always a chance they’ll have to stick with online learning if there are still staffing issues next week.

“You know, when the school is closed, we have problems,” said Angelica Johnson, a parent at Norman Public Schools.

Norman Mayor tests positive for COVID-19 while teaching in Costa Rica

Johnson is just one of several parents who are being forced to choose between working or staying at home with their child. Luckily, the Norman Parks and Rec Department has stepped up and given parents at three locations $25 per child relief. The parents felt the care was worth the money.

“It was immeasurable how important it was to have her here to support me as a single parent,” Johnson said.

“We’re all a community that’s working on this right now,” said Mitchell Richardson, the supervisor of the 12th Avenue Parks and Rec Center.

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