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  1. Blood donors will help researchers figure out how long novel coronavirus antibodies last The Red Cross is giving antibody tests to every donor A blood drive in Chicago at the Field Museum of Natural History. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images The American Red Cross is testing all donated blood for novel coronavirus antibodies and will use that information to learn more about the spread of COVID-19. They’ll also check back in with donors to find out how long their antibodies last. If someone has antibodies to the novel coronavirus, it’s a sign that they were, at one point, infected with the virus. While the tests on the market now aren’t perfect, many people are still interested in getting them — including people who thought they had COVID-19, but weren’t able to get tested when they were sick. One goal of the antibody testing initiative is to encourage more people to donate blood, says Susan Stramer, vice president of scientific affairs at the Red Cross. Stay-at-home orders meant fewer people than usual donated blood over the past few months, and supplies have been running low. The organization has seen about an 150 percent increase in the number of donation appointments since the antibody testing started on June 15th. When someone donates blood to the Red Cross, they consent to allow their blood samples to be used in research studies. Thousands of people all over the country donate blood each month, which gives the organization a huge pool of blood samples to analyze. By testing all of those samples for novel coronavirus antibodies, the organization will also be able to get a sense of how widespread the virus is. “We collect 40% of the nation’s blood supply, so we have an easy picture to answer questions around how many people are antibody positive,” Stramer says. So far, with two weeks of data, around 1.2 percent of blood donors have novel coronavirus antibodies. The Red Cross will reach out to donors who have antibodies and ask them if they’re interested in participating in an additional follow-up study to test how their antibody levels may change over time. These antibodies probably help protect people against getting sick from the virus again, but a lot more research still needs to be done. Researchers still don’t have a good sense of how long antibodies against this virus actually stick around in the body. Some preliminary data suggests novel coronavirus antibodies might only linger for a few months, especially in people who didn’t have symptoms when they were infected. The study will check in once a month to retest participants’ antibody levels. “We hope to enroll as many people as possible, but I think if we get over 30 percent, we would consider that a success,” Stramer says. The Red Cross is also participating in a nationwide antibody study, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That study will include multiple blood donation organizations and will check the percentage of the population with novel coronavirus antibodies this fall and again in 2021. “It’s certainly the largest serosurvey I’ve ever been involved with,” Michael Busch, who’s helping lead the efforts as director of the Vitalant Research Institute, told Science. Each of those surveys will include 50,000 blood samples. The projects are similar but different in scope. “Ours is really a deep dive into the details of our donors and the antibody duration, whereas the CDC program will look at changes over time,” Stramer says. Blood donation centers have taken advantage of the thousands of samples at their disposal for scientific research for decades. Studies started through the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute began studying donated blood in 1989 over concerns about the impact of HIV on blood transfusion safety. Since then, donated blood has helped scientists understand more about diseases like Zika and West Nile virus. Donated blood won’t give us a perfect snapshot of a population. Some groups are also excluded from donating blood entirely. Men who’ve had sex with another man in the past three months are ineligible, which effectively excludes non-abstinent gay men from donation. The Red Cross is also advertising their antibody tests, so people who were sick might be more likely to volunteer as blood donors — which could skew the data they’re collecting and make it more heavily weighted toward people who have antibodies. The organization is surveying donors to ask why they decided to donate, though, so they’ll have that information to accompany the study. People also have to be entirely healthy in order to donate blood, and because COVID-19 can linger, there could be a time lag between when people are sick and when they’d be counted in these types of studies. It’s still valuable to understand how many people who are currently healthy have novel coronavirus antibodies, Stramer says. “It really represents those individuals who may not know they were infected, or who were infected and are now symptom-free.” Blood donors will help researchers figure out how long novel coronavirus antibodies last
  2. What are contact-tracing apps and how will they help you? Three systems, one goal (Image credit: Shutterstock) One thing that’s come out of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is the development of a new type of app. These are known as contact-tracing apps, and you’ve likely heard of them. The name gives you the core idea of what these apps do – essentially allowing users to identify if they may have been in contact with someone infected with the coronavirus. However, while a number of countries around the world are planning to start using contact-tracing apps (and in some cases already have started), the exact apps and systems vary from place to place. Below then, we’ll give you an overview of the solutions being worked on for the US, UK, and Australia. But first though, here’s a closer look at what exactly contact-tracing apps do. What do contact-tracing apps do? Contact-tracing isn’t a new idea. All it really means is attempting to identify people that may have contracted a specific illness, usually by asking someone who’s known to have it where they’ve been and who they’ve been in contact with. But with Covid-19 the scale of the challenge is much greater than normal, given how many people already have it and how easily it spreads. So rather than questioning individuals, contact-tracing apps are being designed to automate the legwork. These would run in the background on your phone, tracking where you’ve been and who you’ve been in contact with. If someone you’ve been in contact with tests positive for Covid-19 (and enters that data into the app), then the app would alert you to this, so you would know to self-isolate or get tested yourself. It’s a method then of not just tracking who already has Covid-19, but of potentially getting countries safely up and running again while we wait for a vaccine. Though of course how effective it is depends not just on the technology of each specific contact-tracing app, but also on how many people have the relevant app running on their phones. Contact-tracing in the US The main contact-tracing app used in the US is likely to be a joint venture from Apple and Google, so of course the same app would work on both iOS and Android. Powered by Bluetooth, the app would exchange anonymous ‘beacon keys’ with everyone you come in contact with (assuming they’re also using the app). Then, if someone tests positive for Covid-19, they’re able to log this with the contact-tracing app, and it would alert those who the person came in contact with that they’d been exposed to the virus. The alert may not come until days later, as the infected person may not have initially known they were infected, and the contract tracing app only ‘periodically’ downloads the beacon keys of everyone who has tested positive in a user’s region. Importantly, these keys are anonymous – so if you get an alert that you’ve been in contact with someone infected, you won’t know who, when or where. But that’s okay, because if most people are running the app then everyone relevant will be alerted anyway. Users would also need to give consent for the app to share the fact that they’ve been diagnosed with Covid-19 (even though it’s kept anonymous). (Image credit: Apple / Google) (Image credit: Apple / Google) The system doesn’t sound like it’s without its problems though. For one thing, it requires Bluetooth Low Energy to function, which could count out as many as two billion phones across the world. Its focus on privacy meanwhile could hamper its effectiveness. Aside from requiring people to opt in, the fact that it doesn’t use location data could also limit the ability to identify coronavirus hotspots and map viral transmissions. As such, there are rival apps in the works. Utah for example is working on a contact-tracing app called Healthy Together, which uses GPS and location data as well as Bluetooth. Note that the Apple/Google app doesn’t have a name as such yet. In fact, it’s not likely to be a single app. Rather the tech could be integrated into an app for each country that chooses to use it. The actual app could vary from country to country, but the two tech giants have said they will limit the system’s use to one app per country, except where there’s a federated system in place, such as the United States. So the app you have access to may end up depending on what state you’re in, and in some cases – as with Healthy Together – you might not be using Google and Apple’s system at all. Contact-tracing in the UK While the Apple/Google initiative being used in the US would have been an option for the UK, the NHS has decided to go in a different direction, using an app developed by the NHSX (the NHS’s digital division). This decision seems to have been made because the NHS favors a centralized rather than decentralized system, the difference being that whereas a decentralized system carries everything out with users’ smartphones, a centralized one uses a computer server to work out who to send alerts to. There’s no official name for the app at the time of writing, but it in some ways sounds similar to the Apple/Google model, in that it’s powered by Bluetooth, allowing it to log when you come in contact with anyone else using the app. The NHS is opting for a centralized database (Image credit: Shutterstock) Then, if someone using the app gets diagnosed with Covid-19 or reports that they have symptoms, you’ll be sent an alert saying you were in contact with a potentially infected person. This alert may come days later, however, if they only got a diagnosis a while after you came in contact. As with the Apple/Google contact-tracing system, this would all be anonymous – you wouldn’t know who the infected person was, just that someone you crossed paths with was diagnosed or had symptoms. However, using a centralized system means the data is potentially more vulnerable to being mishandled by authorities, or accessed by hackers. On the other hand, in a conversation with the BBC, the NHS argued that having a centralized system makes it easier to audit the system and adapt it quickly based on the latest scientific evidence. Another downside to this system is that the NHS’s app will need to wake up every time your phone detects another device running the app, which shouldn’t be required on Apple and Google’s system. It’s a difference which will likely mean the NHS app uses more of your phone’s battery. Contact-tracing in Australia Unlike the US and UK, which are still developing and trialing their apps and systems at the time of writing, Australia has fully launched its coronavirus contact-tracing app. The app is called CovidSafe, and it’s available for those in Australia to download from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. Doing so isn’t mandatory, but the more people who use it the more effective it will be. (Image credit: Australian Department of Health) To set up the CovidSafe app you’ll be asked for your name (or a pseudonym), your phone number, age range, and post code, all of which will be stored on an encrypted government server. Then, the app will work much like most other contact-tracing apps – it will use Bluetooth to automatically (and anonymously) log other app users that you’re in contact with, the data from which stays on your phone unless you come into contact with someone infected. If someone is infected with Covid-19, and they consent to share this with the app, it will then send anonymized ID’s of everyone they’ve been in contact with for the last 14 days to the government’s secure server, allowing the relevant health officials to get in touch with affected people. Having a centralized database like this comes with privacy and security concerns, but the app doesn’t track location, and the Australian government has assured citizens that the data can only be accessed by relevant health officials, and only for contact-tracing. Source: What are contact-tracing apps and how will they help you? (TechRadar)
  3. The coronavirus will change Windows forever And that’s partly because it’s making it easier for Microsoft to head in a direction it was already taking. Martin Sanchez (CC0) It’s clear that the coronavirus pandemic will forever change the world we know — in the ways we live, work and communicate. And that means technology and software will have to change as well. How? If we look at one dominant software product, Windows, we can already get some ideas. Although it’s still too early to know precisely what Microsoft will do differently with the operating system, there’s plenty of evidence suggesting what it might look like. Here’s what to expect from Windows in the age of pandemics. The first piece of evidence comes from the upcoming Windows 10 May 2020 Update; Microsoft has changed how it will handle all Windows updates for as long as the pandemic lasts. The Windows 10 May 2020 Update offers no major new features, has no significant changes, and looks and works pretty much the same as the previous version of Windows. That’s particularly striking, because it’s been a year since the last major Windows 10 update, and you would expect that Microsoft would come up with some notable improvements in that time. In addition, Microsoft announced that, effective May 1, it will pause the release of non-security Windows updates and only issue security patches. That’s due to the pandemic — IT staffs, which are struggling to keep systems running while working from home, will have to deal with far fewer updates this way. What do these two facts mean for the future of Windows? Expect very few new features for a while — and expect “for a while” to mean something longer than the duration of the pandemic. The Windows you see today will very likely be the Windows you see tomorrow. Expect fewer patches, and don’t look for much in Microsoft’s updates. It’s likely that what the company refers to as “feature updates,” which used to be released twice a year, will only be released once a year, and even then will be minor. There is good reason to believe that the end of the pandemic will not be the end of these changes. Microsoft has been traveling down this path for a long time, with fewer and fewer new features added to Windows. The pandemic has only accelerated that trend. Microsoft developers have been working at home for quite some time, and will continue to do so for a while yet. During that time, Microsoft will have to make hard decisions about which products need updating the most and which can be left fallow. And it’s clear that Windows needs fewer updates in the short term, because it’s no longer the company’s cash cow and doesn’t have fast growth ahead of it no matter how many bells and whistles are added. And that gets us to what new things will be put into Windows. The best evidence comes from the most recent Microsoft earnings report. The report showed that use of Teams, Microsoft’s collaboration chat and meetings app, has skyrocketed due to the coronavirus and the subsequent mass exodus from offices. As of late April, Teams had 75 million daily active users, the company said, up from 20 million users in January. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella explained the spike this way: “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months. From remote teamwork and learning, to sales and customer service, to critical cloud infrastructure and security — we are working alongside customers every day to help them adapt and stay open for business in a world of remote everything.” The company believes the pandemic is a wake-up call that we need to change the nature of work. Disruption will likely become the new normal, with other pandemics and larger and more dangerous storms fed by global warming ahead of us. In that kind of world, remote collaboration will become king. Jared Spataro, head of Microsoft 365, says, “It’s clear to me there will be a new normal. If you look at what’s happening in China and what’s happening in Singapore, you essentially are in a time machine. We don’t see people going back to work and having it be all the same. There are different restrictions to society, there are new patterns in the way people work. There are societies that are thinking of A days and B days of who gets to go into the office and who works remote. … The new normal is not going to be like what I thought two weeks ago: that all is clear, go back everybody. There will be a new normal that will require us to continue to use these new tools for a long time.” What does that mean for Windows? Expect some form of Teams and possibly other collaboration tools to be built directly into Windows, rather than tacked on afterwards when you decide to download and install the software. That’s what Microsoft did with OneDrive cloud storage. OneDrive began life as a standalone storage service, and eventually migrated directly into Windows. Everyone gets a basic amount of OneDrive storage; those who want more can pay more for it. The same things will likely happen with Teams and other collaboration tools. Everyone will get a free copy in Windows with a license for a small number of people, or perhaps with an incomplete set of features. Various for-pay tiers will be able to be bought at differing fees for companies of all sizes. At first, Teams will be tacked onto Windows. But over time, as remote collaboration becomes an important part of everyone’s working life, it will become more intimately integrated into it, directly into the file system, for example, built into video and audio tools, enabled by voice. Eventually, expect that Windows will no longer be designed for one-person use, but for multi-person use. It’s hard to know right now exactly what that means. But expect collaboration to be baked directly into every aspect of the operating system in one form or another. Full integration will be years away. But it’s coming our way. Remote collaboration is the future of Windows in the same way that it will become the future of work. Source: The coronavirus will change Windows forever (Computerworld - Preston Gralla)
  4. Australia's CovidSafe tracking app is now available – here's what you need to know Now available for Android and iOS (Image credit: Australian Department of Health) Following on from the release of its official coronavirus information app, the Australian Government has now launched its voluntary CovidSafe tracking app with the goal of tracing the spread of Covid-19 more accurately. Available now for Android and iOS, the CovidSafe app works by recognising and keeping track of other devices with the app installed and Bluetooth switched on, essentially keeping a record of the people (who have also opted in) who come within 1.5 metres of you for a period of at least 15 minutes. The idea is that the app will speed up the current process of notifying people who have been in close proximity to someone with Covid-19. The CovidSafe app will take note of the "date, time, distance and duration of the contact," as stated by the Department of Health's website. If diagnosed with Covid-19, users will have the option of consenting to the release of their contact data, in turn allowing the app to get in touch with other users who have been in close proximity to the affected patient. While the app's source code has not been released at this time, Twitter developer Matthew Robbins has independently decompiled the Android app and has found it to be "above board, very transparent and follows industry standard," as reported by Ausdroid. Privacy According to the CovidSafe app's privacy policy, the Australian Government will ask for your consent to collect your mobile phone number, name, age range and postcode. The collected personal data will reportedly be encrypted and stored on your device alone and will be automatically deleted after 21 days. If you are under 16 years of age, a parent or guardian will have to consent for you. For the app to work, the site admits that some data will have to be recorded elsewhere. This includes "the encrypted user ID, date and time of contact and Bluetooth signal strength of other COVIDSafe users with which you come into contact." The policy states that a new "encrypted user ID will be created every 2 hours," however, this information "will be logged in the National COVIDSafe data store, operated by the Digital Transformation Agency, in case you need to be identified for contact tracing." The data store is described as a "cloud-based facility, using infrastructure located in Australia, which has been classified as appropriate for storage of data up to the ‘protected’ security level." As for how long your data will remain in the cloud, the Department of Health's website states that "We will delete all data in the data store after the COVID-19 pandemic has concluded as required by the Biosecurity Determination." Your data will reportedly also be deleted if you uninstall the CovidSafe from your device or if you "upload your contact data to the data store." The policy stresses that "No location data (data that could be used to track your movements) will be collected at any time." The Australian Government has also released a more thorough 78-page Privacy Impact Assessment in PDF form. Other issues and concerns For the CovidSafe app to work effectively, your device's Bluetooth will need to remain switched on at all times so that the app can continuously ping other users. Of course, this is expected to drain your phone's battery life quicker than usual. While Android devices will be able to run the CovidSafe app in the background, meaning "you can use your phone as normal without having to open or check COVIDSafe," the app FAQ stipulates that iOS devices will need to "Keep COVIDSafe running and notifications on when you're out and about, especially in meetings and public places" – a barrier which could prove a nuisance for many. That said, while the app certainly has its drawbacks, it appears to be secure and seems to take users' privacy into consideration. With this in mind, potential users will need to weigh these minor downsides against the app's proposed benefits – namely, a far more accurate way of tracing the spread of coronvirus, which should in turn help speed up Australia's return to normalcy (or something like it). Source: Australia's CovidSafe tracking app is now available – here's what you need to know (TechRadar)
  5. Bill Gates says countries will probably use interviews and databases to track the coronavirus Photo by Nicolas Liponne/NurPhoto via Getty Images Bill Gates thinks most countries will fight COVID-19 with interview-based contact tracing and a central database to track exposure. Gates posted a paper today outlining potential pandemic treatments, vaccines, and containment strategies. He calls contact tracing, which helps identify and isolate people who could spread the virus, an “ideal way” to stop the pandemic. But he downplayed the importance of decentralized tech-only options like those proposed by Apple and Google, focusing on more traditional methods combined with large-scale data analysis. Gates believes privacy concerns will stop many countries from adopting GPS tracking like that used in South Korea and China. He also seems lukewarm on Bluetooth-based contact tracing systems, especially ones that operate without experts getting access to the data. “If most people voluntarily installed this kind of application, it would probably help some,” Gates writes. But he points out that someone can leave the virus on a surface where it’s later picked up by another person, even if the two never come near each other. These systems also require large-scale adoption that can be difficult to get. “I think most countries will use the approach that Germany is using, which requires interviewing everyone who tests positive and using a database to make sure there is follow-up with all the contacts. The pattern of infections is studied to see where the risk is highest and policy might need to change,” writes Gates. This raises obvious privacy questions and would require huge numbers of interviewers, something Gates acknowledges. “Every health system will have to figure out how to staff up so that this work is done in a timely fashion,” he writes. “Everyone who does the work would have to be properly trained and required to keep all the information private. Researchers would be asked to study the database to find patterns of infection, again with privacy safeguards in place.” While Gates doesn’t mention it, Germany is one of the prime drivers of a Bluetooth-based contact tracing initiative called the Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing project. The system is similar in some ways to Apple and Google’s plans for a tracking system built into iOS and Android. But the anonymized data would be held on a central server, while Apple and Google have favored a system that’s supposed to store as much data as possible on users’ devices. (There’s still a lot we don’t know about its process.) Meanwhile, a separate group of experts has proposed a system called Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing. American health authorities are attempting to rapidly scale up a contact tracing interview system that may require an “army” of disease detectives. Massachusetts recently budgeted for 1,000 people to interview infected citizens over the phone and determine who they’ve been in contact with. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also sent contact tracing teams to eight states. Tracing efforts also depend heavily on having a robust testing system, which the country has been slow to roll out. Gates’ views on the pandemic are fairly mainstream, but he’s become a target of conspiracy theorists in recent weeks. Former Trump adviser Roger Stone made headlines for repeating a baseless claim that Gates wants to microchip people who receive a novel coronavirus vaccine, misinterpreting a comment the Microsoft co-founder made in a Reddit AMA. This week, right-wing extremists circulated a list of email addresses and passwords that included members of the Gates Foundation, prompting claims of a hack — but the credentials appeared to be cobbled together from past data breaches. Source: Bill Gates says countries will probably use interviews and databases to track the coronavirus (The Verge)
  6. Tickler

    CoronaVirus: News and Updates

    The coronavirus has infected more than 1,700 healthcare workers in China, killing 6 of them As of Friday, 1,716 healthcare workers who were treating patients in China have been infected. Six are dead, National Health Commission Vice Minister Zeng Yixin said at a news conference, according to Reuters. A nurse wrote on Weibo that she is among almost 150 people who work at Wuhan Central Hospital and have either been infected or are suspected to have the coronavirus, CNN found. The nurse added that she holds her breath when her fellow healthcare workers enter the room to check on her, saying, “I’m afraid the virus inside my body will come out and infect these colleagues who are still standing fast on the frontline.” Of the infected medical workers, 1,102 are located in Wuhan alone, and another 400 became ill elsewhere in the Hubei province. Wuhan was the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in December and the threat level skyrocketed for multiple reasons, including a shortage of medical resources to handle the deluge of highly contagious patients.
  7. Tech supply chains are still a complete mess Coronavirus lockdowns are wreaking havoc on our fragile manufacturing system Last week, we made the case that tech manufacturing was uniquely vulnerable to pandemic problems, from a combination of just-in-time manufacturing practices and a far-flung network of suppliers. But just a week later, the news is even worse. On Friday morning, analysts at S&P’s Panjiva Research laid out a grim picture, with US sea imports from China (which includes most of the electronics you buy) down more than 50 percent in the first three weeks of March, a result of the countrywide lockdown in China. At the same time, the subcontracting companies that actually build the hardware (the most famous is Foxconn, but of course there are a lot of them) are thinking about getting out of China entirely, at least as much as they can. Wistron Corp, which does a lot of work for Apple, boasted last week that it could move as much as half of its business outside Chinese borders within a year. It’s a huge sea change for tech manufacturing, and while it has been building for a long time, it’s going to be a lot faster and messier because of the pandemic. It also means that, while these companies are scrambling for labor and parts, they’re also going to be scrambling to stand up a whole new set of factories. At the same time, there are real concerns about the supply chain for lithium. A Benchmark report lays out the quarantine situation for a number of major lithium exporters, from Australia to Chile, and while there haven’t been any intense shortages yet, mines are having a lot of trouble getting shipments out. “It’s not the orders and it’s not the production, it’s [about] can we get it shipped?” one mining CEO said. “Can we get the vessels? Can we get the containers?” The result will be a lot less lithium for manufacturers, which could be a huge problem for anything with a battery. It’s hard to say what all this adds up to. It’s getting harder to make electronics, but with so many people out of work, there is less demand to meet. If the factories are half-closed, maybe it doesn’t matter if the lithium shipment comes in a little late. The current situation is so chaotic that it’s hard to be sure of anything. But the result is scary news for anyone trying to get a shipment of phones out on time — and you can be sure there is a lot of chaos happening behind the scenes. Source: Tech supply chains are still a complete mess (The Verge)
  8. Experts worry that social distancing and stay-at-home-orders are exacerbating abuse. For weeks, experts and advocates have been raising alarms that the coronavirus outbreak could be disastrous for people in abusive relationships. With nearly three in four Americans being asked not to go out, more victims are isolated in unsafe homes. Abusers may be aggravated by mounting financial pressure and stress. And domestic violence organizations are already strained by social distancing requirements. Barbara Paradiso, director of the Center on Domestic Violence at the University of Colorado-Denver, says the current moment “feels almost like a petri dish for the levels of violence to increase within family relationships.” Data from police departments and local news coverage from around the country suggests that these concerns are justified. Mother Jones has identified 13 cities and counties that have reported increases in emergency calls to 911 or domestic violence hotlines over the past month. Several places have seen double-digit increases: Police in Seattle, the first US city hit by a wave of coronavirus cases, received 22 percent more domestic violence calls in the first two weeks of March than they did during same period last year. Police in San Antonio, Texas, reported a 21 percent increase in family violence calls, with more than 500 additional calls during the first three weeks in March compared to the same period last year. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department in North Carolina reported nearly 400 more domestic violence calls in March compared to the previous year—a 16 percent increase. Nassau County, on western Long Island, has seen a 10 percent increase in domestic violence 911 calls since January compared to last year, leading the county to announce last week that it was opening a second domestic violence shelter. Police in Portland, Oregon, made 38 domestic violence arrests during a 10-day period in mid-March—a 27 percent increase from the 30 arrests over the same period last year. As of March 22, New York City police had received 7 percent more complaints for domestic violence involving felony assault since January 1 compared to the same period last year. Law enforcement in Salt Lake City; Charleston, South Carolina; and Collier County (which includes Naples), Florida, have also reported upticks in domestic violence calls. During the week that Californians were ordered to shelter in place, domestic violence calls to police in Fresno, went up by more than 50 percent before returning to normal the following week. Some local domestic violence hotlines are reporting a spike in call volume too, including those in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Austin, and Charlotte. Some cities, including Los Angeles, Miami, and Denver have had no notable increases in domestic violence call volume in recent weeks. In East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, there was a downturn in calls. Ruth Glenn, the president of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, points out that police data is not a perfect gauge of whether domestic violence is getting worse. More 911 calls could indicate more violence, but they also could indicate greater trust of local law enforcement during times of crisis—or, simply, more neighbors overhearing arguments or disturbances. “My concern is victims that don’t report,” Glenn says. It’s still early in the coronavirus crisis, and domestic violence tends to escalate as people spend more time in close quarters. In Seattle, most of the 911 calls were for “disturbances”—arguments that did not lead to arrests or criminal charges. With time, Glenn says, “we may see an escalated type of domestic violence calls being made: threats with guns, ‘he strangled me,’ that kind of thing. Abusers escalate.” Isolation is already a well-known tactic of domestic abusers. But now, quarantines and shelter-in-place orders meant to protect public health may be fueling abusive relationships. With families being urged or required to stay home, “essentially, you’re sentencing victims and their children to being 24/7 with their abuser,” Paradiso says. “And that can be a terrifying prospect.” And because many workplaces are closed and visits to family and friends are off the table, many of techniques survivors rely on to deescalate tensions at home have vanished. So have the safety plans many survivors make to escape their abusers during violent episodes. “If things are beginning to get too hot, then they go visit mom for a while,” Paradiso says. “Or, when their partner is away at work for eight hours, the chances of things being able to deescalate are much higher.” Advocates on the ground report that abusers are using social distancing as a means of exerting control over their partners and victims. Twahna Harris, an advocate for survivors in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has been taking calls from victims who say the coronavirus has already intensified the fear and controlling behavior they live with on a daily basis. One woman who called Harris’ nonprofit, The Butterfly Society, wasn’t able to go to the grocery store to get essential supplies for her family because her husband controlled all their money. Another, a teacher stuck at home because schools are closed, said her partner demanded to review the receipt when she left the house to shop. “He looks over the receipt, what she’s paid, what time did she leave home, how long it took her to make it to Walmart, if the timeline adds up,” Harris says. She recalls the teacher telling her, “I am enslaved to him.” Over the last few weeks, Paradiso has heard stories of injured victims who would not go to a hospital for help because the were afraid of becoming infected with the coronavrius. She’s also heard of abusers threatening to expose their partners to the virus by kicking them out of their homes. Abusers may weaponize fears of contagion by withholding medical supplies or hand sanitizer from their victims, reports the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “An abusive partner will use any tool in the toolbox to exert power and control,” says Crystal Justice, the hotline’s communications officer. On top of all of this, financial insecurity can increase aggression in abusive relationships, according to Paradiso. Uncertainty around money, or job security, or ability to make the next rent payment or put food on the table—all of this stress adds fuel to the fire. “Any time that somebody who chooses to use violence experiences heightened levels of a lack of control in their lives, the tendency for violence escalates,” Paradiso says. Politicians are urging victims to leave their homes if they’re facing abuse. “I can’t stress enough: you do not need to stay in your home in a dangerous situation,” said Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz during a Monday press briefing. “There are places of sanctuary for you to get out of that.” But domestic violence shelters are in a tough spot, simultaneously facing increased demand in some places and the need observe social distancing guidelines. Some organizations have reduced their bed count or sent survivors to motels. Many, like Charlotte’s Safe Alliance, have asked for donations to help with increased costs for food and cleaning. Last week, two dozen US senators sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services urging the Trump administration to ensure that domestic violence organizations, many of which receive federal grants, have the “flexibility, resources, and information” needed to help survivors and their families during the pandemic. In the absence of other options, some advocates are suggesting that victims stay in cars or trailers. Harris has been telling people who can’t or won’t leave their homes to find safe spaces like closets, attics, or bedrooms with a lock, where they can take a few minutes alone to unwind. She encourages them to reconnect with family or friends digitally if they can, or plan a trip to the grocery store with a neighbor. Harris also knows the mental and physical toll that social isolation can take on someone living with abuse. She’s been through it herself, with a former partner who threatened to kill her if she left him. She was eventually able to escape with help from her boss. It’s not difficult for Harris to imagine how the current situation might have exacerbated her former partner’s attempts to control her. “If I was where some of these victims are right now, with my ex-abuser,” Harris says, “I don’t think I would have made it.” Despite the new constraints facing many survivors and the organizations that serve them, experts and advocates resoundingly encourage those in abusive relationships to reach out for help. “I think the most important message to get out there is that people should call,” Paradiso says. “Call 911 if you’re in fear.” The National Domestic Violence Hotline takes calls 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-799-7233 for TTY. If you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522. The Department of Health and Human Services has compiled a list of organizations by state. Source : Mother Jones
  9. New York hospitals will trial using antibodies to treat coronavirus cases It's a relatively simple means of potentially helping the worst cases. Enlarge / The machine at right can separate out blood plasma and simultaneously return red blood cells to the donor. Mikhail Tereshchenko/Getty Images 59 with 38 posters participating Back in our exhaustive review of potential treatments for SARS-CoV-2 infections, we mentioned one option that was relatively quick, easy, and required no further approval for use: transfer of blood plasma from those who had previously had an infection. The reasoning being that this plasma will contain antibodies that could neutralize coronaviruses in the blood stream, severely limiting the progression of an active infection. Now, trials of this method are starting in New York City, the hardest hit location in the US. We'll quote our earlier coverage of this potential therapy, which explains why it might be a quick route to a treatment, albeit with limitations: Spike is a complicated protein that provides a wealth of targets for potential therapies. As the most prominent feature of the virus' exterior, spike is the main target of antibodies against the virus produced by the immune system. This has already led to one option for therapies: purifying plasma from people who have fought off a coronavirus infection, on the assumption that the plasma contains antibodies that can neutralize the virus. This plasma can then be infused into sick people, where the antibodies should help the immune system clear the virus. While it's only a temporary fix—antibodies don't survive indefinitely in the blood stream—it may give a patient's immune system sufficient time to develop its own antibodies. There are unknowns about whether infected individuals produce effective antibodies. But the big issue here is scaling, as plasma treatment relies on having enough healthy, formerly infected individuals who are willing to donate blood plasma. If used strategically—on the most at-risk patients, or to help infected health care professionals—it could be a helpful tool but isn't likely an effective general therapy. There have been some anecdotal reports of the approach being used by countries like China, which were hit hard early in the pandemic; one published today indicated that plasma treatment improved the condition of five critically ill patients. But no detailed studies of its effectiveness have been reported so far (at least to our ability to determine). That may now be about to change, according to the New York Times. Several New York City hospitals are planning a joint test of plasma transfusions as a therapy, relying on the large and growing population of formerly infected people in the area. Initially, it will be tested in those who are suffering COVID-19 symptoms who require hospitalization but who have not progressed to severe breathing impairment. The Food and Drug Administration approved the research on Tuesday. The plan is to use the New York Blood Center, which normally coordinates blood, platelet, and bone marrow donations, as a sort of clearing house for the plasma. It will obtain it from donors and screen it for additional infections before approving it for use. (As a side benefit, this may help us better understand how long after infection the coronavirus persists in individuals.) The Blood Center will also ensure that the plasma has high titers of antibodies against the coronavirus. One good aspect of this method is that we have the ability to separate the plasma from the oxygen-carrying red blood cells and re-inject the latter during the donation. Since plasma is replenished more rapidly than red blood cells, this will allow a single donor to make repeated contributions. We still don't know whether antibodies are effective against an infection in progress; the therapy may do nothing, or only slightly slow the progression. But there's a reasonable chance it will help, and this trial will be a good opportunity to understand if it does. Source: New York hospitals will trial using antibodies to treat coronavirus cases (Ars Technica)
  10. What World War II Can Teach Us About Fighting the Coronavirus Some manufacturers are racing to make ventilators, respirators, and face shields. But the situation is nothing like it was in the 1940s. During World War II, Ford's Willow Run plant near Detroit switched from making cars to B-24 bombers.Courtesy of Library of Congress Facing the continued spread of the novel coronavirus across the US, Ford announced Tuesday that it will not resume production, as initially planned, of trucks and SUVs next week. But while the automaker’s workers aren’t stamping metal, they’re not entirely idle either. They’ve started several projects aimed at helping fight the pandemic. That means collaborating with 3M on a new respirator design using stockpiled parts like the fans made to cool the fannies of F-150 drivers. The automaker is working with GE Healthcare to increase production of ventilators, a crucial tool for Covid-19 patients struggling to breathe. In addition, Ford designers are producing new sorts of transparent face shields to protect medical workers and first responders. It hopes to soon be making 100,000 a week at a subsidiary’s plant. Other automakers are working on similar efforts. Tesla bought more than 1,200 ventilators in China and donated them to the public health effort in California; CEO Elon Musk said his company is looking at how to build more. General Motors is helping Ventec Life Systems scale up its ventilator production and considering other ways to help, its CEO Mary Barra says. “We’re just going as fast as we can,” executive chairman Bill Ford said on CNBC Tuesday. “This is what very much our company does when we’re needed.” Indeed, Ford was a key part of the “arsenal of democracy” that helped power the US to victory in World War II. At its peak, the company was building a B-24 bomber every 63 minutes at its Willow Run plant west of Detroit. Efforts to combat Covid-19 fall far short of the contributions that Ford and other companies made to winning that war. In part, that’s because there’s no easy way to help: Just a few firms are set up for the complexity and precision of making the ventilators that patients need. But you could have said the same thing 80 years ago. To battle Germany and Japan, American manufacturers built new factories, trained massive workforces, and stopped what they were used to doing for what needed to be done. Frigidaire made machine guns. Lingerie factories churned out camouflage netting. Road-building companies made fighting ships. Parts designed for vacuum cleaners went into gas masks. Yes, the coronavirus calls for a different bill of munitions, on a different timescale. Health experts don’t need the same range of tools that the 1940s military demanded—ventilators and protective equipment top the list—but they need them desperately, immediately. World War II played out over years; the coronavirus has transformed life for billions in the past few weeks. American factories aren’t shut because the economy is already crippled, but because their workers must keep their distance. In 1941, most of the materials America needed to build its army lay within its borders. Today’s supply chains wrap around the globe. Still, the way American industry mobilized for war is remarkable for its scale, speed, and success—and offers lessons for anyone trying to help today. The first of these, sadly, isn’t much good now: Prepare well in advance. President Franklin D. Roosevelt got serious about stocking his armory (and drafting soldiers) more than a year before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, soon after France fell to Germany. By April 1941, the government had ordered $1.5 billion (that’s $26.4 billion today) worth of plane engines, tanks, machine guns, and other tools just from the auto industry—the country’s great manufacturing powerhouse. By the time Congress declared war eight months later, the auto industry was well into the process of realigning supply chains and preparing to arm America. “We weren’t ready to fight in December of 1941,” says Rob Citino, the senior historian at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, citing early losses like the fall of the Philippines. “But we were more prepared to fight than we would’ve been had Roosevelt not gotten us started early.” Ford workers are assembling plastic face shields for health care workers, aiming to make 100,000 a week. Photograph: Charlotte Smith/Ford This year, by contrast, US officials dithered for weeks while the virus approached, and it’s now too late to prepare. But in the past week, more companies have announced plans to join the fight. Beyond the automakers, Givenchy, Dior, and liquor giant Pernod Ricard, which use alcohol in their products, are making hand sanitizer in France and the US. Honeywell is hiring 500 workers to run an extra production line to crank out N95 masks. Prestige Ameritech has quadrupled its typical production to 1 million masks a day. Amazon is hiring 100,000 workers to meet demand for shipments to people stuck at home, and is now accepting only essential items at its warehouses. These efforts are worthy but scattershot. In his CNBC interview, Bill Ford said his company had no guidance from the White House, that it was figuring out how to help on its own. And so comes the second lesson from the war: Coordination is key, and should come from the federal government. Yet President Trump has left it to governors to acquire the supplies they need, saying of the federal government, “we’re not a shipping clerk.” That’s left states competing with each other—and with the feds—for supplies, New York governor Andrew Cuomo has said, driving up prices for everyone. That perverse result is reminiscent of the early days of the Civil War, says Mark Wilson, a historian at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, when states sent their own delegations to the same manufacturers for blankets, rifles, and so on. “That was a very inefficient and chaotic and, I think, wrong-headed process,” he adds. Unfortunately for the Nazis, by the 20th century the US opted for organizing things from the top. Coordination helped at lower levels too. While automakers today are each trumpeting their own, possibly overlapping initiatives, in 1941 they and their suppliers formed the Automotive Council for War Production, which put 192 manufacturing plants to work for the war effort. They created a shared list of every machine tool not being used to capacity, to squeeze out more productive power. They pledged to make their facilities available to other companies that might need them. In the five weeks after Pearl Harbor, the federal government let out contracts worth $3.5 billion ($61.6 billion today) to the automakers. Manufacturers were motivated by national unity and profits; a federal ban on the production of civilian cars all but ensured the auto industry would turn to munitions. The US government also pressured companies into sharing intellectual property, so production wasn’t limited by the capacity of a single company. When the military needed more B-17 bombers than Boeing could produce, it hired Lockheed to pick up the slack, requiring it to pay Boeing a modest licensing fee, according to Wilson. And during the war years, FDR’s government eased off antitrust enforcement. The same sort of moves now could help increase production of ventilators and other tools, but Trump has mostly abstained from directing private sector efforts, and resisted using the 1950 Defense Production Act. “We're a country not based on nationalizing our business,” Trump said Sunday. “Call a person over in Venezuela, ask them how did nationalization of their businesses work out? Not too well." The law wouldn’t nationalize anything, though. It would allow the government to make companies accept government contracts, and to protect companies from antitrust actions if they work together. During World War II, the US government paid to build plants, owned them, hired companies to use them, and bought all the output. That allowed companies to expand their footprint without worrying about a return on their investment, and ensured that the government got what it needed, when it needed it. That’s how road-building company Brown & Root ended up with a $90 million Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, and how Ford got the mile-long assembly line at the Willow Run bomber plant. This effort “was really at the core of US mobilization,” says Wilson. Instead of waiting for corporate executives to decide if a plant made financial sense, “the government just threw money at the problem and said, ‘Don’t worry about that, we’ll absorb the risk.’” The economics aren’t as clear for companies enlisting in the fight against the coronavirus. “We haven't talked to anybody about any kind of reimbursement or anything like that,” Bill Ford told CNBC. But it’s hard to imagine any company launching a large-scale effort to boost production of ventilators or other products without considering how it will recover the costs. During the war, the feds made helping out rather tempting, promising its business partners profit margins of 8 percent, says Citino of the World War II museum. It wasn’t just patriotism that won the war, an old joke went—it was patriotism and that 8 percent. The key to winning a global fight—in the 1940s and maybe today too—was finding the right incentives to push every needed effort in the right direction, Citino adds: “You get to do good and do well at the same time.” WIRED is providing unlimited free access to stories about the coronavirus pandemic. Sign up for our Coronavirus Update newsletter for the latest updates, and subscribe to support our journalism. Source: What World War II Can Teach Us About Fighting the Coronavirus (Wired)
  11. Dyson developed and is producing ventilators to help treat COVID-19 patients The company plans to produce 15,000 ventilators Dyson — the British technology company best known for its high-powered vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, and fans — has designed a new ventilator, the “CoVent,” in the past several days, which it will be producing in order to help treat coronavirus patients, via CNN. The company reportedly developed the ventilator in 10 days based on Dyson’s existing digital motor technology. Dyson is still seeking regulatory approval in the UK for the rapidly designed device, but it’s already received an order from the UK Government for 10,000 ventilators, of which the National Health Service (NHS) is in dire need. The CoVent is a bed-mounted and portable ventilator, with the option to run on battery power should the need arise. “This new device can be manufactured quickly, efficiently and at volume,” company founder James Dyson noted in a letter to the company obtained by Fast Company, adding that the CoVent was “designed to address the specific clinical needs of Covid-19 patients.” Dyson also pledged in the letter to donate an additional 5,000 ventilators to “the international effort, 1,000 of which will go to the United Kingdom.” “The race is now on to get it into production,” Dyson noted in his letter, with a company spokesperson telling CNN that the ventilators would be ready in early April. Ventilators — which provide assisted breathing for patients who are unable to breath themselves — are critical for the treatment of severe cases of COVID-19, which causes respiratory symptoms in some patients. Dyson isn’t the only major company that’s pivoted to ventilator design and production in recent days — carmarkers like Ford, Tesla, and General Motors have also pledged to repurpose their plants toward developing the critical treatment devices as shortages around the world continue to grow. Source: Dyson developed and is producing ventilators to help treat COVID-19 patients (The Verge)
  12. The Covid-19 Pandemic Is a Crisis That Robots Were Built For Robots can help doctors distance from patients, and help those in isolation cope. But getting the machines into hospitals is fraught with difficulties. An engineering student configures a robot modified to screen and observe COVID-19 patients. A group of roboticists is today calling for the field to fast-track development of such medical machines.Photograph: Lillian Suwanrumpha/Getty Images We humans weren’t ready for the novel coronavirus—and neither were the machines. The pandemic has come at an awkward time, technologically speaking. Ever more sophisticated robots and AI are augmenting human workers, rather than replacing them entirely. While it would be nice if we could protect doctors and nurses by turning more tasks over to robots, medicine is particularly hard to automate. It’s fundamentally human, requiring fine motor skills, compassion, and quick life-and-death decision-making we wouldn’t want to leave to machines. But this pandemic is a unique opportunity to jumpstart the development of medical robot technologies, argue a dozen roboticists in an editorial out today in the journal Science Robotics. Perhaps “people start to reflect that for situations such as this, how robots can be used not only to help with in terms of social distancing, but also that can be used for increasing social interaction,” said Guang-Zhong Yang, founding editor of the journal, during a press conference. The editorial serves as a call to arms for more research. “Robotics and automation could play a major role in combating infectious diseases, such as COVID-19,” Yang and his fellow editors write in their piece. In particular, they argue: “Robots have the potential to be deployed for disinfection, delivering medications and food, measuring vital signs, and assisting border controls. As epidemics escalate, the potential roles of robotics are becoming increasingly clear.” Additionally, robots could enable a form of telemedicine that would keep humans out of areas of contagion. “COVID-19 could be a catalyst for developing robotic systems that can be rapidly deployed with remote access by experts and essential service providers without the need of traveling to front lines,” they write. A cruel irony of the coronavirus pandemic is that medical professionals know better than anyone that social distancing is critical for slowing the rate of new infections, yet they’re forced to be the closest to the disease. And those that need social interaction perhaps more than anybody—the elderly—are the ones who need to isolate the most, as they’re the most susceptible to the disease. But if machines can help care for patients, it’s less likely that human caregivers will themselves get infected. Autonomous robots, for instance, can roam rooms, disinfecting surfaces with UV light. Or they can deliver supplies, as a robot named Tug is already doing. Smarter AI can help diagnose people with Covid-19, and the article’s authors suggest that engineers might develop mobile robots to perform simple tasks like taking a patient’s temperature. This could all go a long way to lightening the burden on human health care providers and helping them keep their distance from the infected. That could help stave off future bottlenecks, in which so many workers are ill or quarantined after potential exposure that hospital staff cannot adequately care for incoming patients. There’s plenty of precedent for machines helping humans do their jobs, notes MIT roboticist Kate Darling, who wasn’t involved in the editorial. “ATMs allowed banks to expand teller services,” she says. “Bomb disposal robots let soldiers keep more distance between themselves and danger. There are cases where automation will replace people, but the true potential of robotics is in supplementing our skills. We should stop trying to replace and start thinking more creatively about how to use technology to achieve our goals.” It’s not hard to imagine a future in which delivery robots bring food and supplies to quarantined people’s homes, preventing delivery workers from potentially infecting them. Quarantined folks are already keeping in touch with friends and relatives via Zoom and FaceTime, but social robots could also keep people company in the absence of human peers. The telepresence robot, often something as simple as a screen on wheels, has begun appearing in nursing homes to help family members connect with otherwise isolated elders. In hospitals, such robots could “teleport” a specialist doctor in London to a patient in San Francisco. Still, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more sensitive interaction between humans than the doctor-patient relationship, and this has remained a thorny problem in hospital robotics. A doctor has to keep people alive, but also keep them well, empathizing in a particularly difficult time. Robots don’t do empathy. How well a robot can tackle a health worker’s task depends, in some measure, on whether it’s replacing that human interaction, or simply channeling it. “It does depend on: Is the robot acting as a medium for a doctor or another healthcare provider or professional? Or is the robot in itself supposed to be running some sort of task?” asks Julie Carpenter, a roboticist and research fellow at the Ethics and Emerging Sciences Group at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, who wasn’t involved in the new paper. “Certainly making them less threatening to people is important.” Take that Tug robot, for example. It’s more or less a rolling box that autonomously roams hospital corridors. It tells you in a friendly voice if it’s waiting for an elevator, and some hospitals even dress it up in costumes for the kids. Robots need to balance functionality and the patient experience. “For example, a robot may need to be very big in order to lift a patient, but then its sheer size can be intimidating,” says Carpenter. “Mitigating someone's psychological stress should absolutely be a significant and thoughtful part of designing robots, especially in caregiving scenarios.” Engineers also have to consider their hospital worker users when designing medical robots—which they haven’t really been doing up to this point. “They’re designed by engineers, for engineers,” says Henrik Christensen, the director of the UC San Diego Contextual Robotics Institute and a coauthor on the editorial. Nurses and doctors are already stressed and strapped for time. If you tell them it’ll take two hours to teach them to use a robot, “then you've already lost them,” Christensen adds. “We're not good enough today at designing robots that are truly fluent.” One of the bolder ideas to come out of the Science Robotics press conference was a competition for medical robots. Darpa famously ran a robotics competition in 2015 that pitted humanoid machines against one another, greatly furthering research in robot autonomy. Now Darpa is running another challenge for robots to navigate underground environments. (Not to mention the Darpa Grand Challenge, which offered $2 million to the first team that could race an autonomous vehicle between cities in California and Nevada; the Stanford Racing Team won the prize in 2005.) So why not set up a robotics challenge in a hospital? “No doubt," says Christensen, "this is a way of crowdsourcing innovation.” WIRED is providing unlimited free access to stories about the coronavirus pandemic. Sign up for our Coronavirus Update to get the latest in your inbox. Source: The Covid-19 Pandemic Is a Crisis That Robots Were Built For (Wired)
  13. COVID-19 anxiety taking a toll? There’s a subreddit for that Reddit might not be reliable for COVID-19 information, but it could be the internet’s best support group COVID-19 is all anyone can talk about in real life, which means it’s all anyone can talk about on the internet, which means it’s all anyone is discussing on Reddit. There’s r/Coronavirus (1.4 million members), r/Covid19 (101,000 members), and the racist-ly named r/China_flu (101,000 members, disappointingly). These subreddits have quickly been overflowed with people seeking news about how the pandemic has thrown world economies and health care systems into collapse. They exist to disseminate information — and of course, are victim to misinformation. But there’s one much smaller, more intimate COVID-19 subreddit — Covid19_support, which boasts only 11,900 members — that is doing something different. The service it provides Reddit users is not one of news and information, but emotional support. One post in the r/Covid19_support group asked if anyone else had trouble going grocery shopping for fear of being sick, with one user responding, “I’m not so worried I’ll get the virus, I think just seeing shelves empty or a ton of people buying it will stress me out.” Others replied with worries for workers who have been deemed “essential.” Many of the posts focus on a topic that concerns many people. What about our parents and grandparents? People are having to make the difficult decision to isolate from family during a period that you want to be with them more than ever. Luckily, on r/Covid19_support, members are not alone in this struggle. Governments around the world have laid out varying instructions on how to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 which, for many people, has meant staying at home. But there’s been little direction on how to actually live through a pandemic. How does one reckon with quarantine life? What about those with mental health issues strained by isolation? How about the self-quarantining individuals who are navigating symptoms but are not in need of immediate hospitalization — who is speaking to them? As people spend more time inside the house globally, those with the privilege of having access to a phone or a computer with a clear Wi-Fi signal can try to find support for the varied problems that inevitably come with staying put, avoiding illness, or simply attempting to navigate the financial hardship that has already hit many working class people. r/Covid19_support also offers a space for those who have been let down the most by our systems — those who may not be guaranteed sick leave and can’t work from home — to seek some sort of advice on how to handle the realities they face. One member with asthma (and elderly parents) posted about having to leave work early because co-workers were joking about “survival of the fittest” and they couldn’t take it anymore. “I do think people need online forums more as the outbreak goes on, though,” moderator u/JenniferColeRhuk tells The Verge. “They want to ask questions that are very specific to them and to their situation, which aren’t going to be easily answered by FAQs or government advice. Or they see something they don’t quite understand and want someone to clarify it for them.” Unlike most subreddits, which are a free-for-all, r/Covid19_support has strict rules about who can post. It’s not that they want to censor the way people cope with the crisis, but moderators are attempting to make the community “troll-proof.” u/JenniferColeRhuk considers this paramount when “you’ve got people who are looking for reassurance and support” in creating a space for people to feel their emotions freely about a grim reality. The subreddit requires only a little moderation for misinformation, since most users are sharing their personal stories, not news. Naturally, the moderators come down the hardest on things that are emotional. u/JenniferColeRhuk explains there is zero tolerance for redditors who don’t show other users support, especially if they’re provoking others. People can get banned for telling someone to “get a grip.” r/Covid19_support originated out of a post in r/Coronavirus by u/thatreddittherapist inquiring what everyone was doing for their mental health. That idea got picked up by u/JenniferColeRhuk, so the two of them created r/Covid19_support. “[The] main difference from the other COVID-19 subs is that it’s mainly self-posts from people who are struggling with various aspects of the outbreak — worried about their friends and family, or their own health, or what will happen to their jobs,” u/JenniferColeRhuk says. Those realities are existential. Members of the subreddit, like the rest of the world, brace for the “new normal” as we look onward at a pandemic that has yet to be contained, an economy collapsing, and a global workforce no longer able to work. Internet access has become an indisputable necessity as many people socially distance in their homes or nervously await news of what is to come as they journey to their jobs, risking illness to be able to pay their rent. Subreddits such as r/Covid19_support will continue to be more important as this pandemic tolls on. As the world awaits what is to come, there is some solace to be found in anonymous strangers on the internet sharing that they too miss their parents, that they also can’t handle the boredom with their ADHD, and that they as well have struggled with layoffs due to the virus. There is an understanding hand of humanity reaching out in a latex glove to give you a pat on the back. Having been in my own house for eight days, I’ve often visited r/Covid19_support to find some sort of relief for the various stresses that this has brought on. I scroll the subreddit as I stress about whether there will actually be a rent freeze, as I wait for phone calls from home about my family members getting sick because they’re in jobs deemed “essential,” as the boredom only heightens all of my anxieties. Until the pandemic is over, whenever that is, r/Covid19_support may be one of the many ways that people are trying to cope with the crisis, together and alone in our bedrooms. Source: COVID-19 anxiety taking a toll? There’s a subreddit for that (The Verge)
  14. What Coronavirus Isolation Could Do to Your Mind (and Body) Social distancing can lead to adverse psychological and physiological effects. But there are things you can do to maintain your overall health. Photograph: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images By now, you may have noticed a divide among your friends. As social distancing and self-imposed quarantine wear on and more workplaces urge employees to avoid the office, the Covid-19 outbreak has left many people more alone than they’ve been in a long time, or ever. Some are responding by hunkering down into cozy domesticity: baking bread, reading books, taking long baths. Others have begun to fray: FaceTiming with friends is a necessity, not a luxury; the closure of a favorite coffee shop is cause for tears; the walls seem to be closing in. Be kind to your local extroverts. They’re having a hard time. Still, no matter how hygge you’re feeling at this moment, experts suggest that the negative feelings and experiences associated with prolonged isolation will come for us all. Humans are social creatures—yes, all of us. While the coronavirus pandemic is an extreme, largely unprecedented moment, the kind of seclusion that’s been eating at people over the last few weeks is not as uncommon an experience as you might imagine. The impacts of social isolation on our bodies and minds have been felt and studied in a variety of different groups, from astronauts to incarcerated people to immunocompromised children to Antarctic researchers to the elderly. The patterns that have emerged from their experiences with radical aloneness illuminate ways to understand and improve your own. First off, it’s important to remember that isolation doesn’t just numb your brain with boredom. “People start getting lethargic when they don’t have positive inputs into their small worlds,” says John Vincent, a clinical psychologist at the University of Houston. “We can expect depression to kick in, and depression and anxiety are kissing cousins.” These symptoms are likely to be particularly intense during coronavirus-related isolation, according to Lawrence Palinkas, who researches psychosocial adaptation to extreme environments at the University of Southern California. “Oftentimes, if you have a very well defined period of time in which you’re isolated people do pretty well up until the halfway point,” Palinkas says. “Then they experience a let down. But when you’re in a situation like we are now, when you’re not certain how long you’ll be asked to maintain social distance, that produces anxiety as well.” When people, like those kept in solitary confinement or scientists working in a remote region, know their sentence is nearly up, their mood lifts again in anticipation. Those practicing social distancing due to Covid-19 may not get that any time soon. “Open, transparent, consistent communication is the most important thing governments and organizations can do: Make sure people understand why they are being quarantined first and foremost, how long it is expected to last,” says Samantha Brooks, who has studied the psychological impact of quarantine at King’s College London. “A huge factor in the negative psychological impact seems to be confusion about what's going on, not having clear guidelines, or getting different messages from different organizations.” So far, many governments, including the United States’, haven’t been heeding this advice. Perhaps even more concerning is that the psychological strain of loneliness manifests physiologically, too. Harry Taylor, who studies social isolation in older adults, particularly in the black community, says that it’s one of the worst things that humans can do to their overall well-being, adding that “the mortality effect of social isolation is like smoking 15 cigarettes per day.” In older people, social isolation seems to exacerbate any preexisting medical conditions, from cardiovascular diseases to Alzheimer’s, but its ill effects aren’t limited to those over 60. Alexander Chouker, a physician researcher who studies stress immunology at the University of Munich, has seen radical changes in the bodies of people participating in simulations of manned spaceflight missions like Mars-500. “They were young and trained people not in a condition of real threat,” he says. “The pure fact of being confined affects the body. If you change your environment in a quite extreme way, it is changing you.” Participants, some of whom were only isolated for three months, experienced changes to their sleep, changes to their immune, endocrine, and neurocognitive systems, and alterations to their metabolisms. “Being confined and isolated affects the human physiology as a whole,” Chouker says. Does this mean your body will go wonky like an astronaut trapped on fake Mars for over a year? Not necessarily. You probably aren’t truly socially isolated, at least not to that extreme degree. And even those who study the negative consequences of social isolation still think practicing social distancing is a good idea. “Covid-19 is flipping everything on its head,” Taylor says. “This is the first time since we have been alive that actively practicing social isolation is a method to improve health.” The people who are most at risk from the isolation associated with Covid-19 are the people who are at heightened risk of social isolation in the first place. “Among older adults, lower income people and men experience isolation at a different level,” says Thomas Cudjoe, a geriatrician researching the intersection of social connections and aging at Johns Hopkins University. (In both cases, Cudjoe says that a lack of time or inclination to develop social ties outside of work creates the disparity between those groups and their female or higher income counterparts.) Taylor points out that anyone who is marginalized is more likely to have a more limited social network, whether they are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a survivor of domestic abuse, or just live in a more isolated rural area. These people may not have friends or family to call, or may be unable to do so. “Some people have posited technology as a means of connecting people, but lower income groups might not even have FaceTime or Skype or minutes on their phone,” Cudjoe says. “People take that for granted, using their devices can be a strain on people’s incomes.” Particularly if Covid-19 has left them out of a job. “Minority bodies are going to be hit particularly hard because they often work in service industries, which increases risk for social isolation and loneliness and coronavirus,” says Taylor. “It could create an economic and social recession.” No matter what your unique situation is, there are many things you can do to improve your experience while being socially isolated. Chouker and others recommend exercise as a mood boost. “Create as much structure and predictability as you can with the pieces of your life that you do have control over,” Vincent says. Pursue neglected projects, get on with life, but also be patient with yourself—both now and when this strange time eventually ends. People who go through a period of isolation, whether they’ve been on the International Space Station or in quarantine, often experience PTSD symptoms and struggle while reintegrating back into their ordinary routine. Social isolation may gradually become your normal, and losing it may still be a jolt. Fortunately, you’re not in this alone, and you shouldn’t leave others that way, either. “For the general public who are not isolated, think about those people who were in your network that you haven’t heard from in a while, and give them a call or write a letter,” Cudjoe says. “Strengthen those weak connections.” With any luck, you’ll emerge from social distancing a whole lot closer. WIRED is providing unlimited free access to stories about the coronavirus pandemic. Sign up for our Coronavirus Update to get the latest in your inbox. Source: What Coronavirus Isolation Could Do to Your Mind (and Body)
  15. Employees at nine Amazon warehouses have contracted the coronavirus Amazon has more than 750,000 workers worldwide. Enlarge Lawrence Glass / Getty 82 with 52 posters participating A week after the first Amazon warehouse worker tested positive for COVID-19 at a facility in Queens, New York, a total of nine Amazon warehouses have seen employees contract the virus, according to local news reports. Workers have tested positive for the virus at Amazon distribution facilities near Oklahoma City, Louisville, Houston, Jacksonville, and Detroit. There have also been coronavirus cases at Amazon facilities on Staten Island, New York; Wallingford, Connecticut, and most recently Moreno Valley, California, east of Los Angeles. “We are supporting the individuals, following guidelines from local officials, and are taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of all the employees at our sites,” an Amazon spokesman told Ars. Amazon has more than 750,000 employees, many of whom work at distribution facilities around the country. So recent cases represent a tiny fraction of Amazon's warehouse workforce. Amazon says that it is taking a number of precautions to minimize the spread of the virus. The company has stepped up efforts to clean and sanitize its distribution facilities. It has also limited face-to-face meetings and staggered start and break times to promote social distancing. But some workers say Amazon isn't doing enough to protect workers. A worker petition calls on Amazon to offer paid sick leave to all workers, offer workers time-and-a-half hazard pay, and suspend productivity quotas that could make it impractical for workers to take precautions against the spread of the coronavirus. Customers have become increasingly reliant on Amazon deliveries as they have limited travel outside their homes. Amazon has seen customer demand surge in recent weeks, forcing the company to delay deliveries of non-essential items so it can focus on delivering essential goods like baby products, health items, and pet food. The company announced last week that it is looking to hire 100,000 more workers to help deal with increasing order volumes. Source: Employees at nine Amazon warehouses have contracted the coronavirus (Ars Technica)
  16. At Trump’s request, Ford and GM help ventilator makers boost output It's not easy to build a ventilator assembly line from scratch. Enlarge Taechit Taechamanodom 90 with 51 posters participating One of the most crucial things the United States can do to prepare for the surging coronavirus outbreak is to beef up our stockpile of ventilators. These mechanical breathing machines are crucial for keeping patients with severe cases of COVID-19 alive. The United States currently has around 170,000 of the devices; experts say that may not be enough if the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow exponentially. On Sunday, President Donald Trump tweeted that "Ford, General Motors and Tesla are being given the go ahead to make ventilators and other metal products, FAST!" (Presumably he meant "medical products.") This is an apparent reference to new guidance from the Food and Drug Administration, published Sunday, that dramatically loosens the agency's normally strict oversight of ventilator technology. The new policy not only gives medical professionals broader latitude to modify existing FDA-approved ventilators, it also creates a streamlined process for complete newcomers to the ventilator market to get FDA approval. So car companies have been swinging into action. GM announced a partnership with ventilator manufacturer Ventec last Friday. On Tuesday morning, Ford announced its own ventilator partnership with GE Healthcare. But ventilators are complex machines that can cost as much as $50,000 apiece. Reliability is crucial, since even a brief malfunction or loss of power could cost a patient his or her life. So it wouldn't be practical for any company to design and build ventilators from scratch in a few months. Instead, car companies are looking for ways to help existing vendors expand their output. GM and Ford are supporting existing ventilator companies Enlarge / Operators and assemblers assemble medical face shields. Ford is aiming to produce 100,000 plastic face shields per week. In a Friday press release, GM announced a partnership with medical device company Ventec. "Ventec will leverage GM’s logistics, purchasing and manufacturing expertise to build more of their critically important ventilators," the two companies wrote in a joint press release. GM's main contribution seems to be helping Ventec beef up its supply chain. Like other automakers, GM sits at the apex of a vast network of suppliers, some of which have sophisticated manufacturing capabilities. GM is working to connect Ventec with suppliers who can supply scarce parts, allowing Ventec to boost output. Dustin Walsh, writing for Crain's Detroit, points to one example where GM has been helping Ventec. A GM supplier called Meridian is "helping GM procure six different ventilator compressor parts made of magnesium for an estimated 200,000 ventilators," Walsh wrote. Meridian's own machines couldn't produce the necessary parts, but Meridian connected GM with two other companies—competitors of Meridian—that were able to produce them. Another GM supplier "plans to start manufacturing foam parts for ventilators," according to Walsh. On Tuesday, Ford announced it was also getting into the ventilator business, though the details remain hazy. "Ford and GE Healthcare are working together to expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design to support patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing caused by COVID-19," Ford said in a press release. "These ventilators could be produced at a Ford manufacturing site in addition to a GE location." Ford says that "work on this initiative ties to a request for help from US government officials." Ford is also planning to manufacture other medical equipment, including respirators (in partnership with 3M) and face shields. Other ventilator makers are expanding on their own Tesla, meanwhile, has talked to leading medical device company Medtronic. "Just had a long engineering discussion with Medtronic about state-of-the-art ventilators," Elon Musk tweeted on Saturday. "Very impressive team!" Medtronic's own tweet about the meeting was cordial but noncommittal: " We are grateful for the discussion with @ElonMusk and @Tesla as we work across industries to solve problems and get patients and hospitals the tools they need to continue saving lives," the company wrote. Medtronic has been working to boost its output without help from Tesla. Last week, the company announced that it was on track to double its rate of ventilator production and said it intended to double the workforce at its ventilator factory in Ireland. "Ventilator manufacturing is a complex process that relies on a skilled workforce, a global supply chain and a rigorous regulatory regime to ensure patient safety," Medtronic said in its press statement. Meanwhile, existing ventilator makers have been rushing to increase their output. GE's Health Care division announced plans to increase ventilator production—including having staff work around the clock. Swedish medical device company Getinge, Swiss company Hamilton, and Dutch electronics giant Philips are also working to boost ventilator production. The importance of government orders One of the most important things governments can do to promote ventilator production is to commit to buying ventilators in the future. Right now, medical device companies are able to sell ventilators as fast as they come off their existing assembly lines. But big increases in ventilator output will require companies to make expensive investments in new manufacturing capacity. That's a risky bet because the investments might become worthless if the coronavirus crisis peters out after a few months. The world could wind up with a big surplus of ventilators. Hospitals, too, may be reluctant to spend tens of thousands of dollars on ventilators that they might only need for a few months. Governments can reduce the risk manufacturers face by placing big orders for ventilators now. Having big orders in hand will make manufacturers more willing to make up-front investments to fill those orders. Of course, that creates a risk that the government will end up with a glut of ventilators it doesn't need. But it seems better to risk having too many ventilators in a few months than to risk having too few. Source: At Trump’s request, Ford and GM help ventilator makers boost output (Ars Technica)
  17. The US Army Corps of Engineers Deploys Against Coronavirus The US is desperate for hospital beds. The USACE can build thousands of them in a matter of days. Rather than responding to a disaster, the US Army Corp of Engineers is racing to help avert one by converting sites like New York’s Javits Center into field hospitals.Photograph: BRYAN R. SMITH/Getty Images The Jacob K. Javits Center occupies over 22 million square feet on the west side of New York City, a block or so down from where the Lincoln Tunnel splashes into the Hudson River. This week, it had been scheduled to host the World Floral Expo until coronavirus fears scuttled those and most other nonessential plans. Instead, thanks to the US Army Corps of Engineers, the convention center is being transformed into four field hospitals with 1,000 total beds. And that’s only the beginning. Since its founding in 1802, the USACE has often played a central role in times of crisis; its mission is to provide engineering services that strengthen national security and reduce risks from disasters. Recently, that has meant stepping in to speed recovery after the attacks of 9/11 and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The novel coronavirus presents a different kind of challenge. It requires national mobilization, not the localized efforts that those specific traumas demanded. Rather than responding to a disaster, the USACE is racing to help avert one by providing enough hospital beds to keep the health care system afloat. “I’ve never seen anything as unique as this in my lifetime,” says Fletcher Griffis, a professor at New York University’s Tanden School of Engineering who spent decades in the USACE, including as commander and chief engineer in the New York district. For parallels to the scale and scope of the Corps’ coronavirus mission, Griffis reaches back to World War II, and even further to helping map out the railroads that drove westward expansion in the 1800s. The stakes are impossibly high. Take New York City, the current epicenter of the coronavirus in America and also the locus of the USACE’s efforts. New York governor Andrew Cuomo estimated Tuesday that the state would need 140,000 hospital beds to care for the incoming wave of Covid-19 patients, with an apex coming within 14 to 21 days. There are 53,000 beds under normal circumstances. Cuomo has ordered hospitals to increase capacity by 50 percent, and more if they’re able, but that still leaves a shortfall. Enter the USACE. New York governor Andrew Cuomo toured construction of temporary hospital space at the Javitz Center this week.Photograph: Don Pollard/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo Specifically, enter a standardized design, created by the Corps, that with a few site-specific modifications can turn any hotel or dorm space—or convention center—into a makeshift hospital. The USACE has created a model that can be replicated in any city in the country, quickly. “This is an unbelievably complicated problem, and there’s no way we’re going to be able to do this with a complicated solution,” Lieutenant General Todd Semonite said in a briefing last week. “We need something super simple.” That simplicity belies the incredible logistical efficiency required to go from design to construction, from the USACE, state governments, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which funds the efforts and helps prioritize where to send the Corps. Take the timeline of New York, as described by Semonite and Cuomo’s office. FEMA approved the funds to identify and refit the sites last Tuesday. That Thursday, a USACE inspection team and New York state officials toured Javits and some State University of New York dorms. By the end of the week, they’d hit 10 more potential sites, and narrowed down the group to four viable candidates for field hospitals on Saturday. On Monday, the Javits conversion was already well underway. It should be finished sometime next week. “This was never an anticipated use, but you do what you have to do,” Cuomo said at a press conference at Javits Monday. “That’s the New York way, that’s the American way.” The USACE has created standard plans that allow contractors to convert any convention space, or hotel or dorm, into makeshift hospitals in a matter of days.Photograph: Ron Adar/Getty Images Each of the four hospitals that will occupy Javits will take up about 40,000 square feet on the main floor. Together, the hospitals will provide 1,000 beds, staffed by 320 federal workers total. The USACE is also working on a separate facility at Javits that can support an additional 1,000 beds. The Westchester Convention Center will get a similar large-space makeover. But it’s the dorm locations, at SUNY Stony Brook and SUNY Old Westbury, that will follow the template the USACE hopes to replicate more broadly. Like most higher learning institutions, the SUNY campuses are closed for the remainder of the semester. “Think of the second floor of a standard hotel,” Semonite said at last week’s briefing. “The rooms would be like a hotel room, and then we would build nurse’s stations in the halls, we would have all of the equipment, wireless, going into the nurses stations so you could monitor.” Hotels and dorms are the preferred sites for these kinds of conversions not only because they're largely empty at the moment. They also often have self-contained air-conditioning units, which you can adjust to create negative pressure inside the room, a measure taken in hospitals to reduce the chances of cross-contamination. “You adjust that unit to be able to suck more air out down through the bathroom vent to be able to have negative pressure,” said Semonite. “On the door you put a great big piece of plastic with a zipper on it so you can zip in, go into the room. It’s a relatively simple process.” Each room will have the same standardized set of supplies, as determined by FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services. Elsewhere, the plan allows for modifications if, say, the hotel has central air or other deviations. The Corps itself typically won’t do the actual construction, but will issue contracts to its expansive network of builders. Each room comes with standardized medical supplies like those pictured here.Photograph: BRYAN R. SMITH/Getty Images New York is the first state to implement the Corps' coronavirus plan. Where exactly the USACE sets up shop from here depends on state governments and FEMA. States nominate proposed sites for pop-up hospitals, FEMA cuts a check, and Corps engineers and their outside contractors make the necessary modifications. The USACE is looking at California and Washington as likely places to expand the project next, but the Corps has people ready in all 50 states to assess potential sites. Semonite also urged states to move forward without their help if they have the means. The Corps can’t be everywhere at once, but its network of partners can. And they've given states a playbook for how to use them. “They have a team of contractors and engineers and architects that they use, and depending on how they use that team they can do almost unlimited work,” says Griffis. “The Corps provides the leadership. It’s just a very effective way of getting construction done.” New York will likely need more than the Javits Center and some dormitories to weather its Covid-19 outbreak. Other cities will likely find that there simply aren’t enough empty hotels and dorms to accommodate the impending overflow. But each additional bed represents one patient that doesn’t get turned away, and buys just a little more time before the health care system becomes totally overwhelmed. Creating that kind of capacity in a matter of weeks is unlike anything the Army Corps of Engineers has ever done before. It’s also exactly what the Corps was built to do. WIRED is providing unlimited free access to stories about the coronavirus pandemic. Sign up for our Coronavirus Update to get the latest in your inbox. Source: The US Army Corps of Engineers Deploys Against Coronavirus (Wired)
  18. The 'Fearless Girl' statue stands across from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) wearing a coronavirus mask. Photograph: Luiz Roberto Lima/Getty Images How Long Will the Outbreak Last? It Depends on What We Do Now People are working with a vast amount of uncertainty about Covid-19. But in two weeks, we might have enough data to take action with precision. Just before midnight Sunday, President Trump unleashed an all-caps tweet signaling a change of heart on national Covid-19 containment strategy. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” he wrote. “At the end of the 15 day period we will make a decision as to which way we want to go!” The immediate reaction to the tweet broke down along familiar lines. Either it was yet another example of erratic leadership from a president more concerned with how the state of the economy will affect his re-election prospects than with the public health, or it was a bold attempt to avert an oncoming devastating recession that has been fueled by partisan media hype. There are clearly a range of different economic consequences associated with different strategies for fighting the Covid-19 epidemic, although the chorus of right-wing economists who pounced on the President's tweet to argue that it was already time to end stay-at-home orders and send people back to work don’t appear to have thought through just how economically devastating a wholly unmitigated outbreak would be. More importantly, few, if any respondents to the tweet took time to note that the content actually mapped to what many public health experts and epidemiologists are telling us about Covid-19. In the not-so-far-away future we will know a great deal more than we do right now about every aspect of the disease, and we will be able to make much more finely tuned decisions on how to tackle it. “What I’ve been saying to policy folks,” says Ashish Jha, a professor of global health at Harvard, “is we are at least a couple of weeks, two to three, away, and then we have data, we have evidence and I can imagine some communities starting to loosen things up.” There are a myriad of caveats to Jha’s prediction. For it to come true will first require that the general public must aggressively embrace social distancing to a degree unthinkable just a few weeks ago. We will also need a vast ramp-up in testing, so policy makers and government officials can get a handle on hot spot locations and be equipped to do contact tracing and targeted quarantines. And we have to acknowledge that there will be immense regional variations; it’s hard to imagine New York, the current American epicenter of the outbreak, or Florida, which arrived late to the shut-down party, “loosening up” in the very short term. There also appears to be a depressingly high likelihood that a succession of recurrent Covid-19 flareups throughout the next year might require the reinstitution of shelter-in-place orders on an ad hoc basis. But if one of the most crippling aspects of the current dystopia is the vast amount of uncertainty that permeates our lives, as we try to get through our days with zero clarity on when schools or restaurants will re-open or how many people will get sick and die or how long-lasting the economic shock will be, there may be a ray of hope. With the passage of each day we will know a little more. We will know more about how the disease is spreading, we will better understand the biological nature of the disease, we will begin to develop effective treatments for it, and at the end of the rainbow, we should have a vaccine. None of it will be easy, but there is a reasonable argument to be made that we are poised right now to confront the worst of the crisis, and within a matter of weeks we will start to get some traction on the immense challenge of reducing its severity. “There is a massive execution risk,” Jha says. “There is a massive risk that we could just screw this up. But we know enough that if we execute it really effectively, we can thread this needle, and we can get through this.” Anyone who has ever played a real-time strategy game knows that the most vulnerable moments often come early on in the struggle, before you’ve marshaled resources, educated your population, developed key technologies, and built a thriving economy. At that point, avoiding mistakes and executing with precision has enormous repercussions, but eventually, if you do everything right, a tipping point arrives, momentum becomes unstoppable, and triumph is guaranteed. We’ve just started our moves. As of Monday, twelve states had instituted stay-at-home orders affecting about one in four Americans. Only five states (Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska and Wyoming) still have schools open. One of the consequences of what might be charitably described as laissez-faire federal leadership is that local governments are making up their own rules as they go along, resulting in what is in effect a national laboratory of randomized experiments in how to contain Covid-19. For example, on March 16, the San Francisco Bay Area became the first region in the United States to order shelter in place, at a point when only 335 cases of Covid-19 and six deaths had been recorded in the state of California (by contrast, Italy did not order a national lockdown until registering 9,172 cases and 473 deaths). The Bay Area and California writ large (which instituted a statewide stay-at-home order on March 19) will therefore be one of the first areas to generate useful data for epidemiologists on the impact of social distancing. Texas and Florida, two states that have taken more relaxed approach to implementing social controls, may produce data of a different kind—potentially indicating that a more lackluster response will result in higher growth rates for total cases and deaths. What’s already happened elsewhere provides the background for current US policy. Italy’s shocking surge in deaths served as a key incentive to California’s precipitous action. The release last Monday of a dire report from the UK’s well-regarded Imperial College predicting as many as a million deaths from Covid-19 in the United States, even with “the most effective mitigation strategy examined,” further focused international policy makers on the pressing need for immediate, sweeping action. Some critics attacked the Imperial College methodology and advocated for more aggressive containment strategies akin to China’s massive Wuhan lockdown or South Korea’s comprehensive testing and contact-tracing regimen, but public health experts cautioned against expectations that such models could be duplicated here. The United States, Jha says, does not have the bureaucratic or totalitarian capacity to put into effect a Wuhan-style lock down, and the moment when massive testing and contact tracing could have kept a national outbreak in check is long gone. But Jha also warned against putting too much credence into any specific death toll estimation. “If anyone is completely confident,” Jha says, “you should not be listening.” (In support of Jha’s point, a survey of American infectious disease researchers conducted on March 16-17 estimated death totals in 2020 in a range from 4,000 to one million.) Without any mitigation in the form of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, epidemiologists fear a massive spike in cases that will overwhelm the health care infrastructure. Spreading out that blow over a longer period of time has been the primary concern inspiring calls to "flatten the curve" by changing our behavior. But a second benefit of flattening the curve is that it also buys time to ramp up testing and understand where and how the disease is spreading. The latest data from Italy, where the percentage rise of new cases and the total number of new deaths has fallen over the last two days, precisely two weeks after a national lockdown was put into place, is a heartening sign that aggressive social distancing measures do work. Jha speculates that over the next 10 days to two weeks the US is “going to see the exponential rise starting to shift and plateau. The percentage growth in cases will slow.” And over that same period, he says, much more extensive new testing capabalities will come online, something that we are already seeing in New York. “Not as much as I would like,” he says, but enough “to identify everybody who is infected and to do contact tracing.” There are still vast challenges ahead, acknowledges Jha, who says that even with a major increase in testing it will still be difficult to track what’s happening with asymptomatic virus carriers. But for some observers, that problem is primarily a logistical question that can be tackled with the application of enough resources. As a widely shared Twitter threat by Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at the University of Washington argued last week, “this is the Apollo project of our times. Let's get to it.” With more data in hand, a wider spectrum of containment strategies becomes possible. “You could imagine in two or three weeks,” Jha says, “in places where it looks like things are really slowing down, we could start saying, all right, we’re going to open up offices and restaurants and let people go back to work [but at the same time] we’re not going to open up Major League baseball because we don’t want 30,000 fans in a stadium.” During the same period policy makers and public health experts in the US will start benefiting from data acquired from China and Italy and elsewhere on how the disease has spread. And in the longer run, judging by the vast amount of scientific resources currently being targeted at Covid-19, we will be well on the way to a more complete biological understanding of the disease that will enable effective treatments (which will lower mortality rates and reduce pressure on ICU wards), and, eventually, the holy grail of a vaccine. The obvious weakness in the theory that over the next few weeks the United States will start to gain an upper hand on the outbreak is the unavoidable reality that our execution to date has been anything but perfect. Our testing rollout has been a disaster, our efforts to supply our health infrastructure with the required protective gear and ventilators has been a national disgrace, and our federal government has been woefully unable to provide clear guidance to local governments on best practices. The angry suspicion that greeted President Trump’s signaling of a potential end to national lockdown policy in the short term was just one more data point describing a system in which broken politics has contributed to a widespread lack of faith in effective government leadership. It seems clear that the president’s desire to restart the economy is not linked to any data on the effectiveness of social distancing strategies on containment, but is instead a consequence of his alarm at the disastrous economic impacts of the nationwide shutdown. (Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, was pretty explicit about this Monday, telling Fox News “The president is right. The cure can’t be worse than the disease. And we’re going to have to make some difficult trade offs.”) Now, more than ever, say health experts like Jha, we need to be patient and give the new rules a chance to work. Then we’ll know how and where we can send people back to work. Today, no one can say exactly when schools will reopen or when it will be safe to congregate in bars or how long the economy will be in a downturn or how many people will die, but in 15 days we will be significantly less ignorant than we are now. We will know how and if social distancing works. We will know where the most drastic measures must be deployed and where we can let up on the reins. Right now we’re hitting everything with a hammer because that’s the only tool we have. In a few weeks, maybe we’ll be armed with scalpels. WIRED is providing unlimited free access to stories about the coronavirus pandemic. Sign up for our Coronavirus Update to get the latest in your inbox. Source: How Long Will the Outbreak Last? It Depends on What We Do Now (Wired)
  19. Scientists are racing to find the best drugs to treat COVID-19 The WHO is launching a multicountry trial to collect good data Photo: Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images Part of A guide to the COVID-19 pandemic Three months into the novel coronavirus pandemic, it’s still unclear which drugs could combat the viral disease and which won’t — despite public figures like President Donald Trump extolling the unproven promise of some medications. With public health on the line, the scientific community is searching for answers faster than ever. When the novel coronavirus tore through China in January and February, researchers and doctors quickly launched dozens of clinical trials to test existing medications against COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. But the research done so far in China hasn’t generated enough data for conclusive answers. “We commend the researchers around the world who have come together to systemically evaluate experimental therapeutics,” said Tedros Adhanom, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), in a press briefing. “Multiple small trials with different methodologies may not give us the clear, strong evidence we need about which treatments help to save lives.” In their fight for “clear, strong evidence,” the WHO is launching a multicountry clinical trial to test four drug regimens as COIVD-19 therapies: an experimental antiviral drug called remdesivir, the antimalarial drug chloroquine (or the related hydroxychloroquine), a combination of two HIV drugs, and those same two HIV drugs along with the anti-inflammatory interferon beta. The trial will be flexible and could add or drop additional treatment approaches or locations over time. In that way, it appears to be similar to the adaptive trial that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases started in the US in February, which initially set out to test remdesivir but could expand to other drugs. The US is not currently involved in the WHO trial. Hundreds of other clinical trials are underway, and other groups also continue to test the medications that the WHO selected — here’s a breakdown of some of the drugs that researchers are zeroing in on. Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine Studies found that hydroxychloroquine and the related chloroquine can stop the novel coronavirus from infecting in cells in the lab, and anecdotal evidence suggests that it may help patients with COVID-19. Because the drug has been around for decades as an antimalarial treatment, scientists have experience with it. “It’s a known medicine,” says Caleb Skipper, an infectious disease postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota who’s working on a smaller trial of the drug. “Little blips of lab data over the last several years show this drug has activity against viruses.” Skipper’s trial is looking to see if hydroxychloroquine can prevent people who are exposed to the virus from developing severe disease. They’re hoping to recruit health care workers, who are at a high risk of exposure to the virus, to participate in the trial. The goal, Skipper says, is to get the drug in people’s systems early. “Particularly with viruses, the earlier you inhibit their ability to replicate the better off you’re going to be. If a drug is going to work, it is more likely to work early on in disease,” he says. “If you catch someone really early and provide treatment early virus will have replicated a lot less.” The existing evidence on hydroxychloroquine points in the right direction, Skipper says, but all of the research on the drug is still in very early stages. “It’s a long ways from being proven effective,” he says. Despite the limited evidence available, public figures, including Elon Musk and Trump, are pushing the message that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are the solutions to the outbreaks. “I feel good about it. That’s all it is, just a feeling, you know, smart guy. I feel good about it,” Trump said in a press conference on Friday. As a result of the hype, demand for the drug has spiked, and manufacturers are increasing production. In Nigeria, two people overdosed on the medication after Trump said it could cure COVID-19. People who take it for other conditions, like lupus, are struggling to access their usual supply. To be very clear, there is still no conclusive evidence that chloroquine will treat COVID-19. And treatments that appear promising based on anecdotal reports or “feelings” often don’t end up working, which scientists know well: the majority of clinical trials fail, and they’re seeing that reinforced in coronavirus treatment efforts. lopinavir–ritonavir In February, doctors in Thailand said they saw their COVID-19 patients improve on the combination of two HIV drugs, lopinavir–ritonavir. The WHO is testing the drug combination in their trial, along with anti-inflammatory interferon beta, which the body produces naturally to ward off viruses. The drug combination was used in patients during the SARS and MERS outbreaks, and it appeared to help. But a clinical trial of those two drugs in China just found that patients with COVID-19 who were given the drugs did not improve more quickly than patients who didn’t receive it. The study, which was published this week, focused on a group of 199 severely ill patients, which may be why the drug wasn’t effective — the patients were already too sick. But Timothy Sheahan, a coronavirus expert and assistant professor at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, says he wasn’t surprised the drug didn’t work. “We’ve done work on that particular drug cocktail,” he says. “The fact it failed is totally in step with everything we’ve done in the past.” Remdesivir The antiviral drug remdesivir was first developed to treat Ebola, but research later showed that it could also block MERS and SARS in cells. Lab tests have shown that it can inhibit the novel coronavirus in cells as well. There’s also anecdotal evidence that remdesivir helps treat COVID-19 patients, but that’s also no guarantee that a clinical trial will show that it works better than a placebo. That’s why the data collected on the drug through the WHO trial, the US adaptive trial, and the other studies is so important: before giving it to sick people en mass, doctors have to be sure that it actually works. Other drugs Though not a part of the WHO trial, Chinese officials also reported that the Japanese anti-flu drug favipiravir, which it tested in clinical trials, was effective in treating COVID-19 patients. Japan is studying the drug more closely, though data from those trials on the drug has not yet been published. Based on the drug’s antiviral activity in cells, Sheahan says he’d be surprised if this drug ultimately ended up being effective. It doesn’t work against MERS in cells, he says, and MERS is similar to the novel coronavirus. In addition, some pharmaceutical companies are looking to repurpose anti-inflammatory drugs to try to calm lung inflammation in people with severe cases of COIVD-19; others are identifying the protective antibodies that people develop after they’re infected with the virus in an effort to manufacture a treatment. Clinical trials take time to collect data properly, so there likely won’t be concrete evidence until next month or later. Patients are already receiving these drugs through compassionate use programs, which allows doctors to order experimental medications in certain cases, and under off-label use, where doctors prescribe drugs outside of what they’re approved for. But ensuring the clinical trial process takes place alongside that, before jumping to conclusions about the best course of action, ensures patients can be treated based on evidence. The sheer number of trials going on around the world for each particular treatment approach will give researchers more data to work with and data from different groups of people. “The more populations you can show a particular intervention works or does not work for, the more valuable that is,” Skipper says. “The bigger amount of data available, the better.” A guide to the COVID-19 pandemic Source: Scientists are racing to find the best drugs to treat COVID-19 (The Verge)
  20. UK scientists have a smart plan to supply more respirators for coronavirus patients OxVent project aims to scale production of ventilators as required in local areas (Image credit: OxVent Project) A team of engineers and medics from Oxford University and King’s College London are collaborating in a project to test and build respirators that can be produced in university labs and SME workshops, in a bid to help treat coronavirus sufferers. The need for such ventilators to help those whose breathing is badly affected by the virus has been well-documented at this point, and the so-called OxVent project hopes to have a working prototype which can satisfy relevant safety standards in a ‘matter of weeks’, according to a report by Electronics Weekly. It would have to comply with MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) requirements, and if the initiative proceeds at the projected pace, the researchers believe a manufacturing network could be scaled up to produce the respirators within two to three months. The hope is that universities, small to medium enterprises and manufacturing facilities would be able to produce these ventilators on assembly lines close to local NHS services, scaling to the needed demand for respirators in any particular area. One of the OxVent team, Professor Farmery of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, observed: “Ordinarily, to develop a medical device such as this would be a huge task, and would take years. We have designed a simple and robust ventilator which will serve the specific task of managing the very sickest patients during this crisis. “By pooling available expertise from inside and outside the University, and making the design freely available to local manufacturers, we are pleased to be able to respond to this challenge so quickly.” Dr Formenti, another researcher on the project, added: “Thinking beyond the current pandemic, we are also aiming to share the know-how and refinement of this relatively inexpensive approach with other countries.” Prototype ventilator The scientists have already uploaded a video of the results of their first week of working on the prototype ventilator, as you can see above. The accompanying blog explains: “The Ambu or bag valve mask is confined within a rigid perspex box. This box can be pressurised from a 4 bar line. When it is pressurised, the Ambu compresses, providing an inhalation. When the pressure is switched off, the Ambu re-inflates.” This is one of many initiatives we’ve seen concerning producing medical equipment to help combat coronavirus, such as a call to produce an open source respirator, and Prusa kicking off a drive to make DIY 3D-printed face shields to help protect medical professionals who are treating patients with the virus. Meanwhile, over in the US, we’ve also heard that the big car makers Ford, GM and Tesla have been given the ‘go-ahead’ to make ventilators, and make them ‘fast’, President Trump made clear on Twitter. These car manufacturers have already been looking into how this might work, and indeed Ford could also be working with the UK government in producing necessary medical devices like respirators. Source: UK scientists have a smart plan to supply more respirators for coronavirus patients (TechRadar)
  21. Paul's Twitter account said he "is feeling fine and is in quarantine." Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Sunday became the first senator known to have tested positive for COVID-19. "Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for COVID-19," Paul's account tweeted. "He is feeling fine and is in quarantine. He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person." "He expects to be back in the Senate after his quarantine period ends and will continue to work for the people of Kentucky at this difficult time," the thread continued. "Ten days ago, our D.C. office began operating remotely, hence virtually no staff has had contact with Senator Rand Paul." Paul's chief of staff later clarified that he "decided to get tested after attending an event where two individuals subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, even though he wasn't aware of any direct contact with either one of them." Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., told colleagues at Sunday's policy meeting that he saw Paul at the Senate gym earlier in the day, his communications director confirmed on Twitter. Paul's account later tweeted that he visited the gym before he found out he had tested positive. Paul is the third member of Congress to announce a positive test for the coronavirus, following Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and Ben McAdams, D-Utah. Several Republican lawmakers also self-quarantined this month after they learned that they had interacted with someone who tested positive for the virus at the Conservative Political Action Conference. The White House said President Donald Trump, who attended CPAC and also interacted with multiple people at his Florida resort who later found out they were infected, tested negative for the virus. Source
  22. Alma Clara Corsini, 95, from Modena, Italy, was admitted to hospital on March 5 The grandmother who was diagnosed with coronavirus has since recovered Pensioner able to recover without 'antiviral therapy', according to Italian media Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor? A 95-year-old grandmother who was diagnosed with the coronavirus this month has become the oldest patient in the Italian province of Modena to recover from the illness. Alma Clara Corsini, from Fanano, was rushed to a hospital in the city's northern province of Pavullo on March 5 after showing signs of the virus- which has now claimed the lives of 5,476 in the nation. However medical staff have now confirmed the pensioner's body has shown a 'great reaction' and made a full recovery. Ms Corsini told Italian newspaper Gazzetta Di Modena: 'Yes, yes, I'm fine. They were good people who looked after me well, and now they'll send me home in a little while. ' Grandmother Alma Clara Corsini (centre), 95, from Fanano, Modena, Italy, has recovered from the coronavirus The pensioner, who was rushed to a hospital in the city's northern province of Pavullo on March 5, has made a full recovery, staff confirmed The 95-year-old has since been been discharged and has returned home. Specialists at the hospital added that the grandmother was able to recover without 'antiviral therapy'- medications which are administered to a patient to help them fight a viral infection. According to the Italian paper, Ms Corsini became the 'pride of the staff' during her stay at the hospital which has been trying to cope with the the rising number of cases of COVID-19 in the country. The latest recovery comes after doctors announced a 79-year-old Italian man, from Liguria, with the virus had recovered with the help of an experimental Ebola drug after 12 days in hospital. The drug also showed success in a critically-ill woman in the US and 14 Americans who tested positive for the coronavirus after catching it on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Today it was confirmed the death toll in Italy's worst-hit region had surpassed 3,450 in the last 24 hours after a rise of 360 fatalities in the northern region of Lombardy. Ministers in Rome were forced to place all 60million citizens into lockdown as the pandemic continued to spread with force across the country. The recovery comes as the government banned travel within the country in yet another attempt to slow the spread of the virus. Pictured: A nearly empty Porta Nuova station in Turin, Italy on March 22 Pictured: Medical staff carry away man who was lying unconscious on the ground in Rome, Italy, as the country continues its nationwide lockdown Italy, which recorded its first coronavirus death in February, now has more fatalities than China with 5,476, as well as having 59,138 infections with 7,024 recoveries. The third worst hit country is Spain with 1,720 fatalities and 28,572 cases, Iran with 1,685 fatalities and 21,638 cases, followed by France with 674 deaths and 16,018 cases, and the United States with 390 deaths and 31,057 cases. On Sunday, Italy banned travel within the country in yet another attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. A month after the first death from the highly infectious virus was registered in Italy, the government also issued an order freezing all business activity deemed non-essential in an effort to keep ever more people at home and off the streets. The businesses have until Wednesday to shut down operations and will have to remain closed until April 3. Source
  23. Spring arrived muted and virtually overlooked last week, drained of much of the hope and buoyancy normally associated with winter’s end. What we face next, according to Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, is a “coronavirus winter,” ruled by the menace of molecules coiled deep in a rampaging virus. This coming season has no known end, no equinox or solstice to mark its conclusion as it stretches ragged and bleak into an unknown future. Meanwhile, we’re ordered to settle like cats in cages, without rent money, or baseball, or the chance to check on Grandpa. Was there ever a moment like this? “At no time in the history of America,” said David Elesh, emeritus professor of sociology at Temple University, “have people been asked to shut down their normal day-to-day lives and convert them as radically as we are being asked. "In the short term, we’re probably being asked to do more as Americans than ever before.” A pandemic not unprecedented All this requires some perspective. First of all, the spread of virus is nothing new, scholars stress. Image: In June 2013, Reggie Batiste, program manager with AIDS Healthcare Foundation, administers a free HIV test as part of National HIV Testing Day in Atlanta. Epidemics have ravaged the globe to a far greater extent than we’re seeing now,” said Matt Ray, a Temple medical sociologist and an expert on pandemics. He added that HIV/AIDS, in fact, has continued to be a slow-moving plague for the last 40 years, thus far taking 32 million lives, according to the World Health Organization. In ancient times, the Plague of Justinian, identified as the bubonic plague, flew throughout Europe, Asia, North Africa, and Arabia, killing an estimated 30 million to 50 million people — believed to be half the world’s population — in A.D. 541. The Black Death, also a bubonic plague, killed around 25 million Europeans between 1348 and 1350. In 1793, yellow fever wiped out 5,000 of 50,000 citizens of Philadelphia, then the nation’s capital, forcing President George Washington to decamp to Germantown, according to Morris Vogel, professor emeritus of history at Temple and an expert on the history of medicine and public health. Nursing was considered man’s work back then, and as women and children were sent away, wealthy men like Philadelphia banker Stephen Girard stepped up to care for the sick, according to Pat D’Antonio, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and an expert in the history of the profession. Meanwhile, smallpox, cholera, SARS, MERS, Ebola, and other catastrophic illnesses upended life at different intervals throughout the years. Flu of 1918 In 1918 came the so-called Spanish flu, named not because it started in Spain, but because nations during that year, which coincided with World War I, were observing a news blackout and not reporting major stories like battles and pandemics. Because Spain never honored the blackout, its newspapers wrote about the flu, and the country’s name became forever affixed to the malady, D’Antonio said. Troops from around the world transmitted the disease wherever they went, with American soldiers eventually bringing it home. It is that pandemic, which killed 50 million people worldwide and nearly 700,000 Americans, that scholars say is the historic event most closely associated with the coronavirus. In Philadelphia, 20,000 died, many of them felled from illness generated by close contact during a Broad Street parade in September honoring the military. “That means this virus today is not unprecedented,” D’Antonio said. “It’s a 100-year event. The last time we had a pandemic like this was that 1918-1919 flu.” During that time in Philadelphia and elsewhere, people flocked to churches to pray for the scourge’s end. “And that became part of the problem of spread,” Vogel said. It was a consequence of not knowing enough about the nature of disease a century ago, D’Antonio said. With the coronavirus today, Wray said, “I don’t think we’ll see the same body count as we did with the 1918 flu,” partly because of social distancing. But, he added, there is a “shocking difference” that worries him “This pandemic is taking its toll in just a matter of months. From Wuhan [China, where the virus was first reported], to Iran, to Milan almost immediately. In the mid-20th Century, it would have taken a lot longer.” Image: People wearing protective masks prepare to enter the departure area of Manila's International Airport, Philippines on Wednesday. American sacrifice With the coronavirus taking up so much room in our lives so suddenly, it may be easy to forget that Americans historically have made sacrifices when calamities befell them. During the American Revolution, when men were pressed into battle against an elite foe, women rearranged their days to sew soldiers’ uniforms; in the Civil War, which generated nearly 500,000 deaths, people’s houses were taken over to serve as hospitals, said Lindsay Drane Amaral, a historian at the University of Houston. During World War II, when we lost around 405,000 military men, Americans bought bonds, rationed food, turned out the lights at night to avoid becoming bombing targets. The Rosie the Riveter poster stirred Americans to do their part during World War II. As the war progressed, Rosie the Riveter became a symbol of American resolve — a no-nonsense woman rolling up her sleeves to reveal the muscle and grit required to build bombers and bombs. The image stirred citizens to action. The common denominator, from 1776 to Pearl Harbor, Amaral said, was that people were asked to do things, and they complied, finding direct and immediate ways to help. “But it’s not so tangible now," Amaral continued. "Asking people to stay at home because they may or may not have a virus that may or may not spread to a stranger is intangible, and may be hard to take seriously for some.” After 9/11, when Americans suffered the “outside shock of terrorism," a stunned populace stoked by nationalism felt the need to get involved, said Jared Bernstein, economist and senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington. “So President Bush told us to take our money and go to Disney World” to aid the economy. It didn’t seem like a big ask then. But today, Bernstein said, "even that doesn’t work for us, leaving us a tougher problem to solve.” Today, to do our part, we’re told to stay in the house and play Jenga with the kids. ‘Fragility and mortality’ Unlike any time in memory, we must change the basic way we interact with one another, “depriving some of us of crucial income, and limiting ways to get the economy moving,” said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, a Washington nonprofit of aligned national organizations that help low-income Americans. We cannot rally in the public square, or decompress at the movies, or play volleyball in the park. We must isolate, which is against Americans’ gregarious nature, and our own Constitution, which guarantees the right to peaceably assemble We must regard others in the frozen-food aisle with suspicion. Neighbors who fed your cat while you were on vacation are now to be avoided. We are starkly facing our fragility and mortality,” said Cristina Bicchieri, a professor of philosophy and psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, and an expert on social norms. During our wars, our enemies were 3,000 miles away. Today, Bicchieri said, the foe is fighting us on our own soil. “And that is a much different experience.” From the standpoint of evolution, this pandemic will be seen as “just a blip” in the totality of human experience, Bicchieri added. “But for us as we live it, it’s hug She stressed that some good can be derived from hard times: "We are spending more time with family, and we can rediscover the important things that made us families in the first place. “In the end, that can bring positive feelings we take with us as we learn to survive this unusual moment." Source
  24. Harvey Weinstein has tested positive for the novel coronavirus in prision. Just days after being transferred to the Wende Correctional Facility from NYC’s Rikers Island, the Oscar winning producer and convicted rapist is now in medical isolation, an Empire State law enforcement official confirms to Deadline. Under the policy that they “cannot comment on an individual’s medical record,” New York State’s Department of Corrections representatives did not respond to request for direct confirmation. “Our team …has not heard anything like that yet,” said Weinstein PR chief Juda Engelmayer on Sunday. “I can’t tell you what I don’t know,” the producer’s personal rep added. Moved to Wende on March 18, the just turned 68 years old Weinstein is one of two prisoners at the 961 capacity maximum security facility just east of Buffalo who was put in isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus. As the global pandemic spreads and surges, New York state has taken the biggest hit domestically of the ever expanding coronavirus. To that, he more than 43,000 prisoners in the state’s already over burdened system are increasingly seen as a high risk category. Already around 40 inmates at Rikers have reportedly been found positive for COVID-19 in the past week, coinciding with Weinstein’s time in that NYC Hellhole. It is unclear if Weinstein himself contracted the disease at the East River complex or when he was in hospital in Manhattan over the past few weeks. In a testament to the power of local journalism, among other things, the Niagara Gazette first reported Weinstein’s condition earlier today On February 24, the once mercurial mogul was found guilty by a New York jury of two sex crime felony charges after a nearly six week trial. Allegedly hobbled by health issues and often in court with a much mocked walker, Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years behind bars on March 11. Suffering from chest pains, the Pulp Fiction producer was back in NYC’s Bellevue that same day for second stint, literally. First admitted to America’s oldest public hospital almost immediately after being convicted late last month, Weinstein had only been out of Bellevue a mere six days. A few days after the second Bellevue sojourn, Weinstein was moved again to Rikers’ vast North Infirmary Command, where he remained until the move to Wende last week. In an America that has already shut down in many respects, today’s news will add a further complication, to put it mildly, to plans for an appeal of the New York case and the extradition of Weinstein to Los Angeles to face multiple sex crimes charges out West – charges that were made public by re-election seeking L.A. County D.A. Jackie Lacey on January 6, the opening day of Weinstein’s NYC trial. First arrested New York in late May 2018, Weinstein initially faced two counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of criminal sexual act in the first degree and one count each of first-degree rape and third-degree rape in New York. Subject to travel restrictions reinforced last August 7, he had been out on a $5 million bail after entering a not guilty plea on July 9, 2018. Weinstein entered a plea of not guilty again on August 26 last year when a new indictment was added. Accused by Ashley Judd in a now temporarily halted case, failing to get a sex-trafficking class action tossed out, and the subject of a more recent lawsuit from a woman who says he abused her when she was 16 in 2002, Weinstein is also facing allegations from close to 100 other women who say he sexually assaulted or sexually harassed them. Over the past few months, several of those individuals are refusing to participate in a potential $25 million over-arching settlement that is part of an overall $45 million deal on the table. Using terms like “insulting” to describe the proposed settlement,on March 9, several Weinstein accusers publicly called on New York Attorney General Letitia James to reject that proposed multimillion-dollar settlement with Weinstein and his former company – a deal that would see millions more for lawyers and former members of the Weinstein Company board with no admission of guilt on the part of Weinstein himself. Source
  25. We can do this — The doctor who helped defeat smallpox explains what’s coming We can beat the novel coronavirus—but first, we need lots more testing. Enlarge / Producer Larry Brilliant speaks onstage at the HBO Documentary "Open Your Eyes" Special Screening At The Rubin Museum at Rubin Museum of Art on July 13, 2016 in New York City. Paul Zimmerman | Getty Images 141 with 71 posters participating Larry Brilliant says he doesn’t have a crystal ball. But 14 years ago, Brilliant, the epidemiologist who helped eradicate smallpox, spoke to a TED audience and described what the next pandemic would look like. At the time, it sounded almost too horrible to take seriously. “A billion people would get sick," he said. “As many as 165 million people would die. There would be a global recession and depression, and the cost to our economy of $1 to $3 trillion would be far worse for everyone than merely 100 million people dying, because so many more people would lose their jobs and their health care benefits, that the consequences are almost unthinkable.” Now the unthinkable is here, and Brilliant, the Chairman of the board of Ending Pandemics, is sharing expertise with those on the front lines. We are a long way from 100 million deaths due to the novel coronavirus, but it has turned our world upside down. Brilliant is trying not to say “I told you so” too often. But he did tell us so, not only in talks and writings, but as the senior technical advisor for the pandemic horror film Contagion, now a top streaming selection for the homebound. Besides working with the World Health Organization in the effort to end smallpox, Brilliant, who is now 75, has fought flu, polio, and blindness; once led Google’s nonprofit wing, Google.org; co-founded the conferencing system the Well; and has traveled with the Grateful Dead. We talked by phone on Tuesday. At the time, President Donald Trump’s response to the crisis had started to change from “no worries at all” to finally taking more significant steps to stem the pandemic. Brilliant lives in one of the six Bay Area counties where residents were ordered to shelter in place. When we began the conversation, he’d just gotten off the phone with someone he described as high government official, who asked Brilliant “How the fuck did we get here?” I wanted to hear how we’ll get out of here. The conversation has been edited and condensed. Steven Levy: I was in the room in 2006 when you gave that TED talk. Your wish was “Help Me Stop Pandemics.” You didn't get your wish, did you? Larry Brilliant: No, I didn't get that wish at all, although the systems that I asked for have certainly been created and are being used. It's very funny because we did a movie, Contagion— We're all watching that movie now. People say Contagion is prescient. We just saw the science. The whole epidemiological community has been warning everybody for the past 10 or 15 years that it wasn't a question of whether we were going to have a pandemic like this. It was simply when. It's really hard to get people to listen. I mean, Trump pushed out the admiral on the National Security Council, who was the only person at that level who's responsible for pandemic defense. With him went his entire downline of employees and staff and relationships. And then Trump removed the [early warning] funding for countries around the world. I've heard you talk about the significance that this is a “novel” virus. It doesn't mean a fictitious virus. It’s not like a novel or a novella. Too bad. It means it's new. That there is no human being in the world that has immunity as a result of having had it before. That means it’s capable of infecting 7.8 billion of our brothers and sisters. Since it's novel, we’re still learning about it. Do you believe that if someone gets it and recovers, that person thereafter has immunity? So I don't see anything in this virus, even though it's novel, [that contradicts that]. There are cases where people think that they've gotten it again, [but] that's more likely to be a test failure than it is an actual reinfection. But there's going to be tens of millions of us or hundreds of millions of us or more who will get this virus before it's all over, and with large numbers like that, almost anything where you ask “Does this happen?” can happen. That doesn't mean that it is of public health or epidemiological importance. Is this the worst outbreak you’ve ever seen? It's the most dangerous pandemic in our lifetime. We are being asked to do things, certainly, that never happened in my lifetime—stay in the house, stay six feet away from other people, don’t go to group gatherings. Are we getting the right advice? Well, as you reach me, I'm pretending that I'm in a meditation retreat, but I'm actually being semi-quarantined in Marin County. Yes, this is very good advice. But did we get good advice from the president of the United States for the first 12 weeks? No. All we got were lies. Saying it’s fake, by saying this is a Democratic hoax. There are still people today who believe that, to their detriment. Speaking as a public health person, this is the most irresponsible act of an elected official that I've ever witnessed in my lifetime. But what you're hearing now [to self-isolate, close schools, cancel events] is right. Is it going to protect us completely? Is it going to make the world safe forever? No. It's a great thing because we want to spread out the disease over time. Flatten the curve. By slowing it down or flattening it, we're not going to decrease the total number of cases, we're going to postpone many cases, until we get a vaccine—which we will, because there's nothing in the virology that makes me frightened that we won’t get a vaccine in 12 to 18 months. Eventually, we will get to the epidemiologist gold ring. What’s that? That means, A, a large enough quantity of us have caught the disease and become immune. And B, we have a vaccine. The combination of A plus B is enough to create herd immunity, which is around 70 or 80 percent. I hold out hope that we get an antiviral for Covid-19 that is curative, but in addition is prophylactic. It's certainly unproven and it's certainly controversial, and certainly a lot of people are not going to agree with me. But I offer as evidence two papers in 2005, one in Nature and one in Science. They both did mathematical modeling with influenza, to see whether saturation with just Tamiflu of an area around a case of influenza could stop the outbreak. And in both cases, it worked. I also offer as evidence the fact that at one point we thought HIV/AIDS was incurable and a death sentence. Then, some wonderful scientists discovered antiviral drugs, and we've learned that some of those drugs can be given prior to exposure and prevent the disease. Because of the intense interest in getting [Covid-19] conquered, we will put the scientific clout and money and resources behind finding antivirals that have prophylactic or preventive characteristics that can be used in addition to [vaccines]. When will we be able to leave the house and go back to work? I have a very good retrospect-oscope, but what's needed right now as a prospecto-scope. If this were a tennis match, I would say advantage virus right now. But there's really good news from South Korea—they had less than 100 cases today. China had more cases imported than it had from continuous transmission from Wuhan today. The Chinese model will be very hard for us to follow. We're not going to be locking people up in their apartments, boarding them up. But the South Korea model is one that we could follow. Unfortunately, it requires doing the proportionate number of tests that they did—they did well over a quarter of a million tests. In fact, by the time South Korea had done 200,000 tests, we had probably done less than 1,000. Now that we've missed the opportunity for early testing, is it too late for testing to make a difference? Absolutely not. Tests would make a measurable difference. We should be doing a stochastic process random probability sample of the country to find out where the hell the virus really is. Because we don't know. Maybe Mississippi is reporting no cases because it's not looking. How would they know? Zimbabwe reports zero cases because they don't have testing capability, not because they don't have the virus. We need something that looks like a home pregnancy test, that you can do at home. If you were the president for one day, what would you say in the daily briefing? I would begin the press conference by saying "Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Ron Klain—he was the Ebola czar [under President Barack Obama], and now I’ve called him back and made him COVID czar. Everything will be centralized under one person who has the respect of both the public health community and the political community." We're a divided country right now. Right now, Tony Fauci [head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases] is the closest that we come to that. Are you scared? I'm in the age group that has a one in seven mortality rate if I get it. If you're not worried, you're not paying attention. But I'm not scared. I firmly believe that the steps that we're taking will extend the time that it takes for the virus to make the rounds. I think that, in turn, will increase the likelihood that we will have a vaccine or we will have a prophylactic antiviral in time to cut off, reduce, or truncate the spread. Everybody needs to remember: This is not a zombie apocalypse. It's not a mass extinction event. Should we be wearing masks? The N95 mask itself is extremely wonderful. The pores in the mask are three microns wide. The virus is one micron wide. So you get people who say, well, it's not going to work. But you try having three big, huge football players who are rushing for lunch through a door at lunchtime—they're not going to get through. In the latest data I saw, the mask provided 5x protection. That's really good. But we have to keep the hospitals going and we have to keep the health professionals able to come to work and be safe. So masks should go where they’re needed the most: in taking care of patients. How will we know when we’re through this? The world is not going to begin to look normal until three things have happened. One, we figure out whether the distribution of this virus looks like an iceberg, which is one-seventh above the water, or a pyramid, where we see everything. If we're only seeing right now one-seventh of the actual disease because we're not testing enough, and we're just blind to it, then we're in a world of hurt. Two, we have a treatment that works, a vaccine or antiviral. And three, maybe most important, we begin to see large numbers of people—in particular nurses, home health care providers, doctors, policemen, firemen, and teachers who have had the disease—are immune, and we have tested them to know that they are not infectious any longer. And we have a system that identifies them, either a concert wristband or a card with their photograph and some kind of a stamp on it. Then we can be comfortable sending our children back to school, because we know the teacher is not infectious. And instead of saying "No, you can't visit anybody in nursing home," we have a group of people who are certified that they work with elderly and vulnerable people, and nurses who can go back into the hospitals and dentists who can open your mouth and look in your mouth and not be giving you the virus. When those three things happen, that's when normalcy will return. Is there in any way a brighter side to this? Well, I'm a scientist, but I'm also a person of faith. And I can't ever look at something without asking the question of isn't there a higher power that in some way will help us to be the best version of ourselves that we could be? I thought we would see the equivalent of empty streets in the civic arena, but the amount of civic engagement is greater than I've ever seen. But I'm seeing young kids, millennials, who are volunteering to go take groceries to people who are homebound, elderly. I'm seeing an incredible influx of nurses, heroic nurses, who are coming and working many more hours than they worked before, doctors who fearlessly go into the hospital to work. I've never seen the kind of volunteerism I'm seeing. I don't want to pretend that this is an exercise worth going through in order to get to that state. This is a really unprecedented and difficult time that will test us. When we do get through it, maybe like the Second World War, it will cause us to reexamine what has caused the fractional division we have in this country. The virus is an equal opportunity infector. And it’s probably the way we would be better if we saw ourselves that way, which is much more alike than different. This story originally appeared on wired.com. Source: The doctor who helped defeat smallpox explains what’s coming (Ars Technica)
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