Spotify to add advisories to podcasts discussing COVID information – USA TODAY

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Sunday added their voices to the rising chorus speaking out against misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines on Spotify.
Later in the day, the streaming service sent the message that it’s listening.
In a public letter Sunday, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said the tech giant would be more transparent about its content rules and add an advisory directing listeners to a site with COVID-19 information to any podcast in which the topic was discussed.
“Based on the feedback over the last several weeks, it’s become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to widely-accepted information from the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this unprecedented time,” Ek wrote.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who in December 2020 signed an exclusive deal to produce content for the streaming service, released a statement through their Archewell foundation pressing Spotify to address misinformation issues.
“Last April, our co-founders began expressing concerns to our partners at Spotify about the all-too-real consequences of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform,” the statement said. “We have continued to express our concerns to Spotify to ensure changes to its platform are made to help address this public health crisis.”
Last week, singers Neil Young and Joni Mitchell said they wanted their music removed from Spotify to protest its role in the spread of misinformation. Young specifically pointed to podcaster Joe Rogan as a main culprit, saying, “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.” 
Neither the Sussexes nor Mitchell named any one person in particular, although the Canadian singer said in joining Young’s protest: “Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives.” She also posted on her website an open letter from more than 250 health professionals, scientists and academics calling on Spotify to implement a misinformation policy and citing Rogan specifically.
Also in the news:
►U.S. Rep. Colin Allred said Sunday he tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to his home in Dallas from an overseas trip with a congressional delegation.
►A Minnesota judge has upheld Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s vaccine-or-test mandate for bar and restaurant customers. The mandate that took effect this month requires customers to show proof of vaccination or a negative virus test within three days to dine at restaurants licensed by the city.
►Russia’s daily count of new coronavirus infections surged to a record of more than 121,000 on Sunday, eight times higher than the beginning of the month as the omicron variant spreads through the country.
►New York’s statewide mandate requiring face coverings in all indoor public places unless COVID-19 vaccinations are required will be extended until at least Feb. 10, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 74 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 884,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 374 million cases and over 5.6 million deaths. More than 211 million Americans – 63.7% – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
📘What we’re reading: The Biden administration’s mandate that began Jan. 15 calls for those with private health insurance to get a monthly allotment of free tests. Yet health experts say the ambitious federal plan to quickly extend home testing will be challenging because of the nation’s fragmented health care system.
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The average daily death toll from COVID-19 during the current surge from the omicron variant has surpassed the daily toll seen when the more severe delta variant dominated the pandemic just a few months ago.
Now the nation appears to stand about one week from reaching 900,000 coronavirus deaths. Andrew Noymer, a public health professor at the University of California, Irvine, says 1 million deaths is inevitable.
“That will cause a lot of soul searching,” Noymer said. “There will be a lot of discussion about what we could have done differently, how many of the deaths were preventable.”
The seven-day rolling average for daily new COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. reached 2,267 on Thursday. The delta variant’s death toll peaked at a out 2,100 over a seven-day period in September.
Omicron has a lower death rate than delta, but it is far more transmissible and thus more deadly because it has infected so many more people. Omicron,  Dr. Anthony Fauci said last week, “will find just about everybody.”
A group of what Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called “a small fringe minority” of truck drivers on Sunday caused a disruption in the capital city of Ottawa for the second day in a row. The truckers are protesting a COVID vaccine requirement to cross the U.S.-Canada border, and they have been joined by thousands of demonstrators also opposed to lockdowns and mask mandates.
Some of the participants parked on the grounds of the National War Memorial and danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, others carried signs and flags with swastikas and some used the statue of Canadian hero Terry Fox to display an anti-vaccine statement, sparking widespread condemnation.
Protesters compared vaccine mandates to fascism, one truck carried a Confederate flag, and many carried expletive-laden signs targeting Trudeau, who had to move out of his Ottawa home Saturday along with his family because of safety concerns.
Trudeau has said Canadians are not represented by this “very troubling, small but very vocal minority of Canadians who are lashing out at science, at government, at society, at mandates and public health advice.″
The BBC reports that about 90% of Canada’s 120,000 cross-border truck drivers are already vaccinated, on par with the national adult population.
Muscogee County in west-central Georgia confirmed nearly 50 of its inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus. The Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office released information Friday showing 47 positive cases among inmates. It also said more than 420 inmates are currently in quarantine, WRBL-TV reported. The jail has more than 900 inmates, the sheriff’s office said.
In addition, officials said eight employees have tested positive for COVID-19.
“Several months ago, the Muscogee County Jail was COVID free,” Sheriff Greg Countryman said in a statement. “Through mutation, this virus continues to show us that we are not out of the woods yet.”
A nationwide chain with hundreds of coronavirus testing sites is encouraging site operators to break off from Center for COVID Control management as the business suspends operations “indefinitely” and questions emerge about two other labs in the Chicago area. Center for COVID Control founders Aleya Siyaj and Akbar Syed  “encouraged the independent operators” of more than 300 of its affiliated collection sites to seek “affiliations with other vendors” and with a certified lab, spokesperson Russ Keene said.
The corporate name shutdown and the branching off leaves open the possibility that the company, under investigation by the FBI after, may not be truly going away. The more than 300 testing sites formerly managed through CCC may begin working with other vendors and labs.
The news comes as Center for COVID Control and its primary lab, Doctors Clinical Lab, are under investigation by state and federal officials. The company and lab “provide inaccurate and deceptive” test results, fraudulently reported negative results and “represented to the federal government” that people with private or public insurance were actually uninsured, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office alleged in a complaint.
– Grace Hauck
Contributing: The Associated Press


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