Wednesday CoronaBuzz, April 15, 2020: 45 pointers to new resources, useful stuff, research news, and more.

Wash your hands and stay at home as much as you can. Please be careful. I love you.


Rensselaer: Data Visualization Tool Examines Community Factors Underlying COVID-19 Outcomes. “A new data visualization tool examines how and why COVID-19 impacts regions differently. Using daily updated data, COVIDMinder compares community risks, mediation tools, and outcomes related to COVID-19 by state across the United States, and by county within New York state.”

WOWT: Iowa rolls out new COVID-19 data tool as state reports highest number of new cases. “In her daily update Tuesday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds unveiled a new tool available on the state’s COVID-19 website offering Iowans more access to the data behind the state’s cases.”

Business Insider: Apple just released a tool that shows how well people in your area are staying home. Take a look.. “Apple’s mobility tracker lets you specific location and see how well people are social distancing. Hundreds of millions of people across the globe have been advised by governments to stay home to reduce the spread of COVID-19.” It seems to be that you can look up countries and specific major cities. For example, I could look up Chicago but not North Carolina.

San Francisco Chronicle: San Francisco company links people online with coronavirus clinical studies. “A San Francisco health startup is launching a new website to help people participate in clinical studies working on potential treatments for COVID-19 or a vaccine for the coronavirus that causes it.”

KTUU: State of Alaska launch new website to help Alaskans find resources during COVID-19. “The new website includes daily case count updates, health information for those that are sick with COVID-19, and news and announcements from the state. Now Alaskans can also access information for business help, impacts to state agencies, and personal financial information all in the same place.”

Johns Hopkins: Johns Hopkins Launches New U.S.-focused Covid-19 Tracking Map. “Johns Hopkins University has launched a data-rich, U.S.-focused coronavirus tracking map, adding to existing efforts that have made the university a go-to global resource for tracking confirmed cases of COVID-19 and related data over the past three months. Created through a multidisciplinary collaboration by experts from across Johns Hopkins, the new map features county-level infection and population data, allowing policymakers, the media, and the public to find specific, up-to-date information about the outbreak and how it is affecting communities across the nation.”

WAVY: ODU center launches COVID-19 prediction tool online. This is for Virginia only. “The Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center produced the tool to give predictions about the virus’ spread and give a daily tally of COVID-19 symptom tweets. The online tool also includes age ranges and hospitalization outcomes forecasts, other COVID-19 modeling resources, and more.”

FiercePharma: J&J tracks the path to a COVID-19 vaccine in new online news series. “What will it take to develop a vaccine for COVID-19? Johnson & Johnson is taking viewers behind the scenes with an original online video series. Beginning Tuesday, producer and journalist Lisa Ling will host a program titled, ‘The Road to a Vaccine.’ Each 30-minute show will air live online on Tuesdays on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and”

Sydney Morning Herald: New database to predict which Sydney suburbs could have restrictions eased. “A new database could be the key to determining in which suburbs the NSW government could relax its social distancing measures and where to exercise greater control to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The interactive dashboard created by University of Sydney researchers combines NSW Health and ABS data to identify the neighbourhoods most vulnerable to outbreaks: postcodes with a high proportion of people aged over 60, and socio-economically disadvantaged families.”


CNET: Free entertainment to help you survive coronavirus social distancing. “Hang in there, everyone. While the coronavirus situation seems to be getting worse, the free-entertainment situation is getting better. Nearly every day I learn of some new offering to help keep you occupied while you wait it out at home. Games, movies, comics, virtual tours, live theater, guitar lessons — all that and more, and all you need for most of it is a computer, phone, tablet or TV. I’m updating this post regularly, so bookmark it and check back often for new additions. In the meantime: Stay safe, stay healthy and stay home.”

New York Times: Answering Kids’ Questions About the Coronavirus, in Free Picture Books. “‘My Hero Is You’ is one of several new children’s books about the virus that publishers and nonprofits are releasing free of charge, with the aim of giving children age-appropriate ways to learn about the pandemic. That title and others are being made available as downloads and through free e-reading platforms like Worldreader, a nonprofit that provides e-books to disadvantaged readers in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Central and South America. The group’s growing collection of coronavirus-themed titles includes picture books about the importance of hand washing, illustrated stories and a graphic novel about children trying to cope during the pandemic, as well as straightforward reference materials about Covid-19.”

North Carolina State University: Free Math Mapper Tool Helps Parents, Teachers Advance Mathematical Learning for Middle Grades Students at Home During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic . “As schools in North Carolina have moved toward remote learning to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Jere Confrey, Ph.D., Joseph D. Moore Distinguished Professor of mathematics education at the NC State College of Education, and the Scaling Up Digital Design Studies (SUDDS) team are offering an online mathematics diagnostic tool for free to the public. The Math Mapper tool offers free diagnostic practice problems and assessments designed to evaluate middle school students’ mathematical progress on learning trajectories to determine what students know and what they still need to learn.”

Digital Trends: Need online lessons for your kid? This site lets them Skype with a scientist. “Interested in ichthyology or curious about crustaceans? Skype a Scientist lets you bring experts into your home (virtually) to answer all your questions — for free. Dr. Sarah McAnulty is a squid biologist and executive director of Skype a Scientist. She started the program in 2017 as a way to connect classrooms with scientists, but with everyone now at home due to the coronavirus, it’s been expanded to allow families to chat with experts as well.”


WPTV: ‘Keep Florida Growing’: State launches site to connect farmers with buyers, consumers. “Florida’s Department of Agriculture launched a new website Monday in an effort to help the state’s farmers and ranchers amid the coronavirus crisis. The new Keep Florida Growing webpage, announced in a social media video by Commissioner Nikki Fried, is a portal that provides food and agriculture-related information.”

TechCrunch: Stanford and Google create an embeddable COVID-19 map for local journalists. “Stanford University’s Big Local News and Pitch Interactive projects, along with the Google News Initiative, are launching a new tool today that allows local journalists to embed customized, up-to-date maps of COVID-19 cases in the United States. The COVID-19 Case Mapper might sound pretty basic — and indeed, Google Data Editor Simon Rogers admitted that he’d expected something like this to exist already.”

Tip o’ the nib to Esther S. for this one from ProgrammableWeb: ProgrammableWeb Launches Covid-19/Coronavirus Developer Resource Center. “ProgrammableWeb has launched a special resource center to help developers find the top COVID-19 related APIs and other appdev resources. The content in this resource center is curated by the ProgrammableWeb staff and is designed to provide developers with the most up to date information and tools to help them build solutions related to the coronavirus pandemic. These could be tracking solutions, reporting solutions or any type of innovation that these resources might inspire.”

The Southern Illinoisan: Comptroller’s new online tool shows Illinois has spent nearly $170 million on COVID-19 fight. “The state of Illinois spent almost $170 million on cleaning supplies, face masks, gloves, thermometers and other supplies to battle the novel coronavirus in roughly three weeks, according to data from the comptroller’s office.”


T74: From Coding and Origami for Robots to Electrical Circuits and Animation, 9 Online Sources that Bring Hands-On Technical Learning Home. “There’s a YouTube crash course on how to build bots for WhatsApp messaging, and entire websites devoted to student coding, and from learning about how origami can make a difference when building robots to helping kids craft animations. Here’s a list of suggested starting points, all meant to give a glimpse of what is available while showing a depth of variety.”


Google Blog: A Global Journalism Emergency Relief Fund for local news. “The Google News Initiative wants to help by launching a Journalism Emergency Relief Fund to deliver urgent aid to thousands of small, medium and local news publishers globally. The funding is open to news organizations producing original news for local communities during this time of crisis, and will range from the low thousands of dollars for small hyper-local newsrooms to low tens of thousands for larger newsrooms, with variations per region.”


BBC: Coronavirus: ‘World faces worst recession since Great Depression’. “The global economy will contract by 3% this year as countries around the world shrink at the fastest pace in decades, the International Monetary Fund says. The IMF described the global decline as the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

BBC: Coronavirus: Gambling addicts ‘at greater risk during lockdown’. “Gambling addicts may be at greater risk during the coronavirus pandemic despite a lack of top-level sport, the leading UK charity for problem gamblers says. GamCare has noted more people seeking to end self-exclusion schemes that stop them accessing online betting.”

Techdirt: It Shouldn’t Have Taken A Pandemic To Make Us Care About Crappy U.S. Broadband. “…Americans have paid some of the highest prices in the world for broadband service that’s not only spottily available, but routinely ranks as mediocre across a wide variety of metrics. From telecom linked think tankers and hired economists to consultants and lobbyists, there’s an entire secondary industry dedicated to pretending this problem is either overblown, or doesn’t exist at all. Needless to say, it shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to expose the superficiality of such claims, or the fact that US telecom issues deserved more attention. With millions of Americans hunkered down at home, a brighter light than ever is being shined on the fact that 42 million Americans lack access to any broadband whatsoever (twice what the FCC claims). Millions more can’t afford service because we’ve allowed an essential utility to be monopolized.”

Techdirt: How Steak-umm Became The Tweeting Voice Of Reason In A Pandemic. “Many, many years ago I wrote about the importance of recognizing that content is advertising and advertising is content. A key point I was making was that these were not redundant. Good advertising should be good content to make people happy to see it. But also, any kind of good content can be good advertising for something else. I was reminded of this last week after seeing the Twitter account of Steak-umm suddenly become one of the best Twitter accounts to follow during the pandemic.”

Slate: Fear and Isolation May Not Actually Bring a Rise in Suicides. “Talking about mental health openly normalizes the fact that we are all anxious, and rightly so. Proactively focusing on coping techniques will likely lead to better outcomes. We can also address potential risk factors like isolation or substance use by minimizing them and naming them out loud. We can work to get people the help they need proactively and preventively, and not only during crisis. The COVID-19–induced shifts to telemedicine and online counseling may help people connect with needed resources even after the epidemic has waned and reduce some of the barriers and access to care. The narrative needs to shift from one of despair to one of hope. We can advocate for optimal mental health by investing financially in infrastructure, staffing, and systemic change while also emphasizing that we can and will get through this together and come out stronger. The message should be that staying home can save lives—and perhaps even just that little bit of altruism and collectivism could help us all get through this, together.”

Phys .org: Coronavirus lockdowns are pushing mass transit systems to the brink – and low-income riders will pay the price. “Steep declines in ridership during the crisis have pushed public transit systems across the U.S. into deep financial distress. Though Congress included allocations for transit in the CARES Act, cities said it won’t be nearly enough. Even major systems in large metro areas like New York City and Washington, D.C., have serious concerns about long-term survival without more sustained support. Failure of transit systems would be a disaster for the large proportion of low income households that depend on buses and trains to get to work and elsewhere—not only in urban areas, but in rural ones too.”

CNET: Bears thrive at Yosemite National Park without pesky humans around. “With Yosemite National Park in California closed to the public due to coronavirus concerns, the wildlife seems to be flourishing. In fact, animals like bears, bobcats and coyotes that usually shy away from crowds are venturing into areas where people normally camp or park their cars.”

Fast Company: Selfies are over. Maskie is the new Instagram trend for our era. “In the age of the coronavirus, the hashtag has been swiftly appropriated from the beauty hordes who previously used it alongside wide-eyed pics of themselves in various mud and clay facial mask treatments. These women will probably need a new hashtag, because if you search it on Instagram nowadays, you’ll find lots of pictures of people wearing face coverings in the name of stopping the spread of COVID-19.”

ABC News: The unspoken COVID-19 toll on the elderly: Loneliness. “Mary Faines just turned 94 years old. For years the tradition has been to celebrate her special day with a festive dinner with her husband, son and daughter-in-law. It took a pandemic to break the long-standing tradition.”

San Antonio Express-News: Commentary: Here’s what surprised me most about teaching my college class on Zoom. “After roll call, I opened with William Blake’s ‘The Sick Rose’ as a teaching poem because I was going to focus on tone, ambiguity, tense and symbolism. I asked them to listen to the words and figure out tone. A student volunteered to read the poem aloud, slowly, carefully allowing the diphthongs to rise and fall with deliberate cadence. The poem had an impact. Students focused on the first lines about ‘Rose’ being sick because of an ‘invisible worm.'” When I see poetry referenced I always want the poem. Here it is.

Computerworld: The coronavirus is revealing our technology blunders. “With the United States leading the world both in total number of COVID-19 diagnoses and total number of deaths related to the virus, a lot of people have been asking how the richest country in the world could do so poorly in dealing with a pandemic. We might also be asking how the most technologically advanced country in the world can be so technologically backwards in some ways.”

WLNY: Social Media Roundup: Neighbors Leave Notes Offering To Lend A Hand With Groceries And Supplies. “From flyers to online posts, literal signs of hope are being shared everywhere. They’re notes from neighbors to complete strangers, volunteering to help. Messages have been popping up on doors, lampposts and all over social media with offers to lend a hand to whoever needs it.”

CNET: Bored of life indoors? Take a virtual vacation to the photogenic Faroe Islands. “Starting on Wednesday, curious tourists can take a hike, go kayaking or jump in a helicopter in the Faroes from their sofa thanks to a new remote tourism initiative. Through a web interface, people from anywhere in the world can take control of a Faroese person equipped with a live camera and microphone in minute-long blocks, telling them where to go and what to look at.”


Al Jazeera: China approves two coronavirus vaccines for human trials. “China has approved early-stage human tests for two experimental coronavirus vaccines as it battles to contain imported cases and prevent a second wave of COVID-19.”

CNET: MIT’s new face-shield design could help hospitals with PPE shortages. “Martin Culpepper, an MIT engineering professor, led a team to design a new type of shield cut with lasers that’s foldable so it can be stacked in mass quantities and shipped in boxes by the thousands.”

Phys .org: Air quality improves by up to 40% in cities that took action on COVID-19, researcher finds. “Cities that declared a state of emergency in February due to outbreaks of COVID-19 saw air pollution decrease by up to 40% as businesses close their doors and residents stayed home, a University of Toronto researcher has found.”

Georgia Tech: Digital Tool Helps Hospital Make Important Coronavirus Retest Decisions. “What-if questions can torment a doctor making coronavirus retest decisions: What if a patient’s initial negative test was a false negative, and he or she needs a second test? What if they don’t need it, and a retest would use up a scarce test kit and treatments that other patients need? Such challenges led Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta to establish a paper-based decision tree for ordering COVID-19 retests, and researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology turned it into an automated digital tool. Piedmont further developed the tool and has now built it into the hospital’s electronic medical record, where it influences the ordering of retests.”

TNW: Raspberry Pi’s $5 model is powering ventilators to fight coronavirus. “Ventilators are in high demand as hospitals are looking to provide treatment to coronavirus patients in critical condition. Companies such as Tesla, Ford, and Foxconn are using their manufacturing facilities to produce these machines. To make these newly designed ventilators, a lot of manufacturers are using the Raspberry Pi Zero, a $5 computer developed for small scale projects. While a single-core 1GHz processor with 512MB RAM might not sound too powerful, it’s enough to power a ventilator.”

EurekAlert: NTU Singapore researchers build disinfection robot to aid cleaners in COVID-19 outbreak. “Researchers from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed a semi-autonomous robot that can disinfect large surfaces quickly. The researchers are planning to have public trials to support Singapore’s fight against COVID-19. Named eXtreme Disinfection roBOT (XDBOT), it can be wirelessly controlled via a laptop or tablet, removing the need for cleaners to be in contact with surfaces, thereby reducing the risk of picking up the virus from potentially contaminated areas.”

New York University: Hazards of Releasing Prisoners Early are Surmountable, Marron Institute report says. “As many U.S. prisons and jails begin early-release initiatives to save the lives of corrections workers and prisoners caught in the path of COVID-19, a new report from NYU’s Marron Institute of Urban Management surfaces the unprecedented practical hurdles facing reentrants and recommends practices for assisting new releasees.”

CNET: Some coronavirus social distancing may be needed into 2022, study says. “Hopefully you’re comfortable wherever you’re sheltering in place, because a new study out of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health says periods of social distancing may be necessary into 2022 to curb the spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.”


BetaNews: Hundreds of thousands of stolen Zoom accounts for sale on hacker forums for next to nothing. “Problems for Zoom and users of the videoconferencing software seem just about unending. Following on from the revelation that a number of account credentials were available on the dark web, a new report shows that in fact there are credentials for hundreds of thousands of accounts available on hacking forums. In all, over half a million account details have been found available — some sold for fractions of a penny, and others made available completely free of charge.”

Slate: Florida Governor Expands Pandemic Essential Services to Include Professional Wrestling. “With the state stay-at-home order in effect until the end of the month, [Florida governor Ron] DeSantis has made the latest in his series of questionable decisions, announcing that WWE—yes, the professional wrestling entertainment behemoth—would now count as an essential service, exempting it from shutdown requirements. The order signed last week applies, technically, to ’employees at a professional sports and media production with a national audience—including any athletes, entertainers, production team, executive team, media team and any others necessary to facilitate including services supporting such production—only if the location is closed to the general public.’ The state lockdown had been in place less than a week at that point.”

CNET: Amazon fires two tech workers who criticized warehouse conditions. “Amazon has fired two tech workers after they spoke out publicly against warehouse conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. User experience designers Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, both active members of the advocacy group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, had reportedly offered match donations up to $500 for warehouse workers, citing insufficient protections.”

Reuters: Exclusive: Emails reveal breakdowns in U.S. drive-through virus testing. “As coronavirus infections exploded in New Orleans, state and local officials repeatedly told the Trump administration that its new drive-through testing effort wasn’t going well. Those tested often waited more than a week for results, and local officials had no information on who had been notified by a federally contracted call center, according to emails between local and federal officials reviewed by Reuters. As deaths mounted, local officials requested details on the notifications as they increasingly fielded calls by those left in limbo – including health workers. But Washington officials largely brushed off their concerns, according to the correspondence, which has not been previously reported.”

Washington Post: Tax change in coronavirus package overwhelmingly benefits millionaires, congressional body finds. “More than 80 percent of the benefits of a tax change tucked into the coronavirus relief package Congress passed last month will go to those who earn more than $1 million annually, according to a report by a nonpartisan congressional body expected to be released Tuesday.”

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