Health Portal, WebMD, announced Tuesday the winners of their 2021 Health Heroes Award, with recipients ranging from frontline health workers, the well-known infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, a Native American fashion executive and a teen entrepreneur.
For the WebMD editorial team, these persons, and more represent individuals working “tirelessly on the frontlines on the pandemic.”
Now in its 14th year, this year the awards honor the everyday heroes who risk their own health and safety to make a difference in communities impacted by COVID-19.
WebMD’s editorial team, composed of board-certified health care professionals and award-winning journalists, selects the recipients. The winners are featured in a special edition of the April/May/June issue of WebMD Magazine, the organization said in a release.
The WebMD 2021 Health Heroes Awards are:
Frontline Champions Award: Essential workers nationwide
WebMD recognized the contributions of the nation’s essential workers with a grant to the CDC Foundation, a non-profit organization supporting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s health protection work.
The CDC Foundation, through their donors provided personal protective equipment (PPE), surge staff and other critical supplies to frontline workers throughout the pandemic.
These essential workers are “the backbone of our society,” says Judy Monroe, MD, president, and CEO of the CDC Foundation. “They’re called essential workers because honestly, society doesn’t function without them.”
Lifetime Achievement: Anthony Fauci, MD, Director, National Institute of Allergy, and Infectious Diseases
As the U.S.’s top infectious disease expert, Fauci, who joined President Joe Biden’s administration this year as chief medical adviser, has led efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and Zika as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Still, he says he is never seen anything quite like the novel coronavirus.
That the outbreak hit right in the middle of a divisive election year only added to the difficulty of containing it. As unimaginably dark as the pandemic has been, there have also been bright spots. Three vaccines have been developed, approved, and rolled out and into millions of arms within a matter of months—an effort that would have previously taken 7 to 10 years.
According to Fauci, the combination of vaccines and widespread adherence to public health measures such as mask wearing, and social distancing will finally “end the outbreak as we know it.” However, he knows that the threat of infectious disease outbreaks will continue.
“The better prepared we are to address a pandemic,” he says, “the less likelihood that we will get an outbreak of the magnitude that we’re seeing now.”
Fauci’s modest and businesslike manner have made him a nationally recognized figure, dispensing fact, and science amid a flood of misinformation.
Trailblazer Award: Amy Denet Deal (formerly Amy Yeung), Founder, Orenda Tribe clothing company, Navajo Nation Diné Tribe, New Mexico
A highly sought-after fashion executive in Los Angeles, Denet Deal moved to New Mexico to reintegrate with her Navajo Nation tribe (Diné) after her daughter graduated high school, and she was shocked by the lack of basic infrastructure and access to food (nearly one-third of Navajo homes are without running water, 15,000 lack electricity, and there are only 13 supermarkets serving an area of 27,000 square miles.)
When COVID-19 hit, Denet Deal realized she had the skills to fill some of her community’s critical needs. She transitioned her upcycled clothing company, Orenda Tribe, to manufacturing face masks, and called in connections at companies like Patagonia and Outdoor Voices for fabric.
To finance her efforts, Denet Deal solicited donations and held fundraisers, including one with the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Jewel, raising enough to fund 42,000 care boxes for the children of the Diné community and their families.
Over the last eight months, Denet Deal and the group of female volunteers who make up her Dzil Asdzáán (Mountain Woman) Command Center have raised more than $835,000 and have distributed more than 1 million PPE units and 1 million servings of food.
Innovator Award: Taft Foley III, Entrepreneur and High School Student, Houston
In the summer of 2020, 17-year-old Taft Foley III became the youngest EMT in Texas, caring for many desperately sick COVID-19 patients in the back of an ambulance. But before starting his work as an EMT, he had to get a COVID-19 test, which typically demanded a three- to four-hour wait at one of the state’s testing centers, and then two weeks to get results. During his quarantine, he decided there had to be a better way.
Foley went on to raise $60,000 (by selling his vintage comic books and video game collection and doing yard work in the neighborhood, among other things), which his father matched, and used the money to buy a van and testing supplies.
While finishing his senior year of high school, he spends 20 hours a week working in his Texas Mobile Medical Labs vehicle, bringing 15-minute COVID-19 tests to anyone in the Houston area who needs one. He charges a $150 fee to those who can pay.
A portion of that fee goes to fund free tests for the elderly, homeless, and veterans in the community. To date, the business has provided more than 4,000 free tests.
Sleep therapy device raises over $315.38 in crowdfunding
A UK-designed sleep therapy solution with global ambitions raised over $314.21 in the first week of a Crowdcube crowdfunding campaign.
SleepCogni, a portable device with data support for people suffering from insomnia, has so far attracted funds from 157 different investors in this latest fundraiser that combines venture capital investments and crowdfunding.
The firm’s latest lenders include Chasnay Capital Investments, a new private investment fund founded by three former senior executives from General Electric (GE) Healthcare.
Co-founded by Sheffield-based entrepreneur Richard Mills, who has personally suffered from sleeping disorders, and Dutch chronobiologist and sleep expert, Dr Maan van de Werken, said the device allows users to self-manage their insomnia, a condition which affects one in three people across the world.
“Our successful crowdfund campaign builds on the momentum of last month’s FDA registration and the completion of clinical trials where SleepCogni achieved extraordinary results reducing clinical insomnia in just seven days.”
Reinaldo Garcia from Chasnay Capital Investments added: “We’re excited by our investment into SleepCogni for many reasons: its patented technology and clinically validated solution addresses an unmet need in the global sleep aid market, and the company is backed by an excellent team. As experienced global senior leaders with a proven track record, we can add value in this next exciting stage of the business and help SleepCogni scale on a global level.”
Pfizer vaccine efficacy falls to 84% after 6 months
Pfizer and BioNTech published on Wednesday new data indicating their COVID-19 vaccine efficacy decline from 96 percent to 84 percent over six months.
These numbers are regarded as a big motivator to the drug makers currently developing a third “booster shot” to target the Indian Delta variant.
The released data shows that the antibody levels are much higher against the Alpha coronavirus variant and the South African Beta variant, after a third dose.
Based on the figures, the efficacy “declined gradually” as it dropped from 96 percent during the first week to around two months after receiving a second jab. The dose’s effectiveness then plummeted to 83.7 percent four to six months later with an average drop of 6 percent over the last two months.
The findings may be considered by U.S. health authorities in deciding when the pair’s booster shot might be needed.
The data, which involved tests of 23 people, was published by Pfizer and has not been peer reviewed by the scientific community.
The announcement of the data and was released on the day of the company’s earnings call.
During the call, Mikael Dolsten chief scientific officers described the new data on a third dose of vaccine “encouraging.”
“Receiving a third dose more than six months after vaccination, when protection may be beginning to wane, was estimated to potentially boost the neutralizing antibody titers in participants in this study to up to 100 times higher post-dose three compared to pre-dose three,” Dolsten said in a statement.
Despite Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech’s booster shot plans, both Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a joint statement highlighting that Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this moment in time.
The statement noted that FDA, CDC, and National Institutes of Health (NIH) are engaged in a science-based process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary.
Google delays return to office, mandates vaccines
Google is postponing a return to the office for most workers until mid-October and rolling out a policy that will eventually require everyone to be vaccinated once its sprawling campuses are fully reopened.
The more highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is driving a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Google’s Wednesday announcement was shortly followed by Facebook, which also said it will make vaccines mandatory for U.S. employees who work in offices. Exceptions will be made for medical and other reasons.
In an email sent to Google’s more than 130,000 employees worldwide, CEO Sundar Pichai said the company is now aiming to have most of its workforce back to its offices beginning Oct. 18 instead of its previous target date of Sept. 1.
The decision also affects tens of thousands of contractors who Google intends to continue to pay while access to its campuses remains limited.
“This extension will allow us time to ramp back into work while providing flexibility for those who need it,” Pichai wrote.
And Pichai disclosed that once offices are fully reopened, everyone working there will have to be vaccinated. The requirement will be first imposed at Google’s Mountain View, California, headquarters and other U.S. offices, before being extended to the more than 40 other countries where Google operates.
“This is the stuff that needs to be done, because otherwise we are endangering workers and their families,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University and a former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore. “It is not fair to parents to be expected to come back to work and sit shoulder-to-shoulder with unvaccinated people who could be carrying a potentially deadly virus.”
Because children under the age of 12 aren’t currently eligible to be vaccinated, parents can bring the virus home to them from the office if they are around unvaccinated colleagues, Wen said.
Various government agencies already have announced demands for all their employees to be vaccinated, but the corporate world so far has been taking a more measured approach, even though most lawyers believe the mandates are legal.
Delta and United airlines are requiring new employees to show proof of vaccination. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are requiring their employees to disclose their vaccination status, but are not requiring staffers to be vaccinated.
Less than 10% of employers have said they intend to require all employees to be vaccinated, based on periodic surveys by the research firm Gartner.
While other major technology companies may follow suit now that Google and Facebook have taken stands on vaccines, employers in other industries still may be reluctant, predicted Brian Kropp, chief of research for Gartner’s human resources practice.
“Google is seen as being such a different kind of company that I think it’s going to take one or two more big employers to do something similar in terms of becoming a game changer,” Kropp said.
Google’s vaccine mandate will be adjusted to adhere to the laws and regulations of each location, Pichai wrote, and exceptions will be made for medical and other “protected” reasons.
“Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,” Pichai explained.
Google’s decision to require employees working in the office to be vaccinated comes on the heels of similar moves affecting hundreds of thousands government workers in California and New York as part of stepped-up measures to fight the delta variant. President Joe Biden also is considering mandating all federal government workers be vaccinated.
The rapid rise in cases during the past month has prompted more public health officials to urge stricter measures to help overcome vaccine skepticism and misinformation.
The vaccine requirement rolling out in California next month covers more than 240,000 government employees. The city and county of San Francisco is also requiring its roughly 35,000 workers to be vaccinated or risk disciplinary action after the Food and Drug Administration approves one of the vaccines now being distributed under an emergency order.
It’s unclear how many of Google’s workers still haven’t been vaccinated. In his email, Pichai described the vaccination rate at the company as high.
Google’s decision to extend its remote-work follows a similar move by another technology powerhouse, Apple, which recently moved its return-to-office plans from September to October, too.
The delays by Apple and Google could influence other major employers to take similar precautions, given that the technology industry has been at the forefront of the shift to remote work triggered by the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Even before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March 2020, Google, Apple and many other prominent tech firms had been telling their employees to work from home. This marks the third time Google has pushed back the date for fully reopening its offices.
Google’s vaccine requirement also could embolden other employers to issue similar mandates to guard against outbreaks and minimize the need to wear masks in the office.
While most companies are planning to bring back their workers at least a few days a week, others in the tech industry have decided to let employees do their jobs from remote locations permanently.
SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP)
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