Thursday CoronaBuzz, April 23, 2020: 42 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.


Georgia Tech Research Horizons: Interactive Tool Helps People See Why Staying Home Matters During a Pandemic. “The beauty of VERA is that users do not need a background in complex mathematical equations or computer programming to explore it. A high school student interested in finding out what it looks like to “flatten the curve” can log in to VERA and investigate. A parent handling middle school science lessons from home can log in to VERA and demonstrate the reason that it is important that they do lessons from home during the COVID-19 outbreak. For example, a user can input 16 people as the ‘average contacts per day per person’ and see a simulation of the possible outcomes. Then, the user can lower the number of “average contacts per day per person” to 12, a reduction in social contact but not a substantial one. Upon running the simulation again, users see a marked difference in ‘peak cases’ of 7,000 rather than 8,000, and healthcare capacity being exceeded after 20 days, rather than the original 15. Users can continue to adjust these numbers to see the impact of social distancing transform possible health outcomes before their eyes.” Using the tool does require registration as a beta users, but information required is minimal and it’s free.

National Institutes of Health: Expert U.S. panel develops NIH treatment guidelines for COVID-19. “A panel of U.S. physicians, statisticians, and other experts has developed treatment guidelines for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). These guidelines, intended for healthcare providers, are based on published and preliminary data and the clinical expertise of the panelists, many of whom are frontline clinicians caring for patients during the rapidly evolving pandemic.”


Penn State News: New website helps K-12 teachers tackle remote learning. “The K-12 Media Repository provides a comprehensive list of links to educational resources that provide information on varied topics related to online education. The posts are organized into categories such as individual grade levels (K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12), early childhood education, family literacy, special education, and technology tools for teaching.”

TimeOut: You can now virtually tour these Miami museums for free. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned while social-distancing is that we don’t visit Miami’s cultural institutions enough. Right now, we miss the days we almost went to PAMM, or drove by the Bass but wound up at Sweet Liberty instead. We’re lucky our cherished local museums don’t hold grudges and continue to welcome us back, albeit virtually, to entertain and educate us while we’re home. Ready to explore? Just follow the links below.”

Variety: Cannes Lions Goes Digital with ‘Lions Live’. “The platform will run throughout June under the theme ‘Creativity Matters,’ and activity will coincide with the original dates of the Lions, June 22-26. The initiative will be free to use for all…. Lions Live will include masterclasses and ‘hangouts’ with creative industry legends, as well as lectures from speakers previously confirmed for the festival, and professional classes and learning modules.”

CrunchyRoll: Sailor Moon Official YouTube Channel to Stream First Three TV Series in 1990s for Free. “The official website for the two-part film Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal The Movie announced today that the first three original Sailor Moon TV anime series in the 1990s will be streamed on the Sailor Moon franchise’s official YouTube channel for free from this Friday, April 24. This is part of the promotional project for the theatrical release of the film’s first part that will open in Japan on September 11, 2020. Ten episodes from a total of the 127 episodes from the three series will be added each week.”


CBS Sacramento: Gov. Newsom Launches New Website, Initiative ‘Californians For All’ For People Who Want To Volunteer. “California is trying to make it easier for people who are healthy to volunteer during the coronavirus pandemic. Urging people to help those affected by the virus, Governor Newsom on Tuesday, along with the state’s Chief Service Officer, Josh Fryday, announced a new initiative and accompanying website called ‘Californians For All.'”

FarmingUK: Coronavirus: Database helps small-scale farmers deliver to public. “Hundreds of small-scale farmers across the UK have joined a new initiative to help connect the public with food producers who many be suffering as a result of Covid-19. Farms to Feed Us, a not-for-profit organisation run by volunteers, aims to help link consumers with farmers and food producers during the pandemic. The ambition of the initiative is to provide an online database highlighting the location of farms and where they can deliver.”


CNET: Lonely? Need to talk? Chat confidentially with these apps for free. “The premise is intriguing. We all need to talk sometimes, but you might not always be comfortable opening up to a friend or loved one about certain topics. And professional therapy might not be an option right now. So why not chat with a stranger, who can lend a sympathetic ear and help you talk things through? Recently, I told you about HearMe, a free app that matches up folks who need to talk with empathic ‘listeners.’ More recently, I’ve run across another app called Lyf that seems helpful as well.”


San Francisco Chronicle: First known U.S. coronavirus death occurred on Feb. 6 in Santa Clara County. “A person who died at home in Santa Clara County on Feb. 6 was infected with the coronavirus at the time of death, a stunning discovery that makes that individual the first recorded COVID-19 fatality in the United States, according to autopsy results released by public health officials late Tuesday. That death — three weeks before the first fatality was reported in the U.S., in Washington state on Feb. 28 — adds to increasing evidence that the virus was in the country far earlier than once thought.”

Search Engine Land: Google testing Question Hub in US for COVID related queries. “Back in 2018 Google began testing a way for searchers to submit questions to Google manually. It launched in Google India in 2019 as Question Hub, as a way for searchers to let Google know when they haven’t been able to find the content they are searching for. Now this is being tested in U.S. based Google searches as a way for Google to identifying content gaps for COVID-related queries, a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land.”

PC Magazine: Got a Zoom-Bombing Problem? Zoom Will Soon Let You Report Attacks in Real Time. “Did your Zoom meeting just get hijacked? Well, you’ll soon be able to report the incident directly to the company. The video conferencing service is adding a new ‘report a user to Zoom’ button, which is scheduled to roll out on Sunday, April 26 in a software update.”

ARTnet News: Following Coronavirus Closures, Museums in Germany, Austria Plan Reopenings. “Per a report in the Art Newspaper, small museums in the German state of Brandenburg were the first to reopen their doors to the public today, albeit with strict security precautions, including the widespread use of disinfectant and the use of credit cards in place of cash. Thuringia has announced a reopening date of April 28 for its cultural institutions, though the German Association of Museums stated institutions in the country’s larger metropolitan centers may not reopen until May.”

Politico: Trump administration reverses prisoner coronavirus release policy, advocates say. “Prison officials indicated earlier this month that inmates who had served less than half their sentences could still be considered for early release to limit the spread of infection behind bars. However, inmates in various prisons who had been put into prerelease quarantine almost two weeks ago were advised Monday by authorities that the policy had changed, lawyers and associates said. Officials would not waive a requirement that prisoners must have completed 50 percent their sentence to be eligible for early release during the pandemic, the inmates were told.”


NOLA: ‘It’s disturbing’: Coronavirus kills black residents at dramatic rates across Louisiana . “Nearly 57% of the 1,405 people who have lost their lives to the coronavirus in Louisiana are black, while African-Americans make up only 33% of the state’s population. As of Tuesday, more than 52 out of every 100,000 black residents of the state had been killed by COVID-19, about 2.65 times as high as the rate at which those of other races had succumbed.”

MIT Technology Review: Many covid-19 survivors will be left traumatized by their ICU experience. “For those who make it out the other side, their stay in intensive care is likely to be one of the most traumatic things they will ever experience. Being able to breathe is something we take for granted. But patients who have such difficulty breathing that they need to be intubated (which involves having a tube inserted into their mouth and down their airway) often believe they are going to die at some point during their stay in intensive care. Anecdotally, ICU doctors say patients with covid-19 tend to need a particularly large amount of sedation, which damages muscles and nerves, especially in the lungs. That damage can be permanent—which can in turn undermine the patient’s mental health.”

Poynter: In a pandemic, many photojournalists face an impossible choice: Stay safe or get out there to pay the bills?. “Covering the coronavirus is scary. Journalists can make phone calls and send emails and FaceTime sources, but at some point, they have to do what reporters have done forever — get out of the office and go where the story is. But that’s also where the danger is. And no one exposes themselves to that danger more than photojournalists.”

Poynter: Students are suing universities over COVID-19 campus shutdowns. “This is happening enough that it soon will be a trend. Michigan State University students filed a lawsuit demanding reimbursement for tuition, housing and fees because the school closed its doors and transitioned classes into virtual teaching. The same New York law firm that filed the Michigan State lawsuit also sued on behalf of students at Purdue University.”

New York Times: A Closed Border Can’t Stop This Elderly Couple: ‘Love Is the Best Thing in the World’. I dare you to read this and not get all mushy. “She brings the coffee and the table, he the chairs and the schnapps. Then they sit down on either side of the border, a yard or two apart. And that is how two octogenarian lovers have kept their romance alive despite the closure of the border that falls between his home in the very north of Germany and hers in the very south of Denmark. Every day since the police shut the border to contain the virus, Karsten Tüchsen Hansen, an 89-year-old retired farmer, and Inga Rasmussen, an 85-year-old former caterer, have met at the Mollehusvej border crossing to chat, joke and drink, while maintaining a modicum of social distance.”

Huffington Post: Pawning During A Pandemic. “Many businesses in Nevada are shut down. But the state deemed pawn shops essential during the pandemic, like several other states across the country, because they are federally regulated financial institutions. And business is booming, according to some pawnshop owners in Nevada.”

The Atlantic: Would You Sacrifice Your Privacy to Get Out of Quarantine?. “As general counsel of the NSA in the 1990s, Stewart Baker advocated for limiting the government’s intelligence-gathering powers in the name of civil liberties. Then the 9/11 attacks happened, and Baker concluded that the limits he’d supported contributed to the security lapse. So he began pushing the case for surveillance—first while serving as a member of the George W. Bush administration, then by writing op-eds, hosting podcasts, and sparring with opponents who believe that his proposals endanger fundamental rights. As the country struggles to contain the coronavirus, he thinks that many Americans will experience a conversion like his, becoming more willing to make sacrifices to their privacy.”

Axios: Another pandemic woe: Zoom fatigue. “The rapid trajectory of videoconferencing service Zoom has entered a new phase: What started as a social lifeline during the pandemic, and then became an object of privacy and security concerns, has now become a grind. Why it matters: Zoom is wearing a lot of us down, and as our era of enforced online work and socializing drags on, we’re all going to have to learn how to better conserve our physical and psychological energy. There are several reasons why videoconferencing is so exhausting.”

Reuters: Beneath the Sickened City. “A Reuters reporter and photographer spent several hours traveling under [New York City] to talk to those with nowhere else to go. Afraid of the coronavirus in the shelters, many are sleeping on ghost trains and on platforms abandoned by almost everyone else during the lockdown.”


New York Times: Spectrum Employees Are Getting Sick Amid Debate Over Working From Home. “More than 230 workers at Charter Communications, the cable and internet giant known as Spectrum, have tested positive for Covid-19, as employees question how many of them must work in the office.”

ProPublica: NYC Mayor and Health Officials Misled Public About Plans to Move COVID-19 Patients Into Nursing Home, Advocates Say. “New York City public health officials are moving patients suffering from COVID-19 into beds within a nursing home on Roosevelt Island that cares for hundreds of residents with a wide range of severe medical conditions, including dementia and other age-related ailments­­, paralysis, traumatic brain injury and profound developmental disabilities. The move comes after Mayor Bill de Blasio and city officials made a series of inaccurate and contradictory statements about their intention to use the facility to house COVID-19 patients and about their ability to protect the medically vulnerable residents of the Coler Rehabilitation and Nursing Care Center.”

Neowin: Minecraft creators partner up with UNDP to spread awareness about COVID-19. “Microsoft has announced that video game developer Mojang will be partnering with the United Nations Development Programme and its partner Heart17 to promote health and safety information concerning the novel coronavirus. The campaign aims to spread information concerning COVID-19 using the game’s social media pages. According to this newly announced initiative, over the next few weeks, all Minecraft social media channels will be dedicated to promoting advice pertaining to COVID-19 in line with the official recommendations provided by the World Health Organisation.”

TechCrunch: Coronavirus-related Facebook support groups reach 4.5M in US as misinformation and conspiracies spread. “Facebook has already come under fire for hosting groups organizing anti-quarantine protests in response to government lockdowns amid the coronavirus outbreak, and those promoting fake coronavirus cures and misinformation. Now it’s trying to figure out what to do with the growing number of COVID-19 community groups on its platform worldwide. In hopes of better educating group admins, the company today began its first-ever digital event for those running COVID-19 groups. The event, ‘Community Connect: Navigating COVID-19,’ takes place April 21-23 depending on timezone, and focuses on best practices for COVID-19 groups.”

Washington Post: Pentagon plans to dispatch Blue Angels and Thunderbirds in coronavirus tribute. “The Pentagon is planning a multicity tour of the U.S. military’s top flight demonstration teams to “champion national unity” amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to senior U.S. officials and a memo obtained by The Washington Post. The Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds, the demonstration squadrons for the Navy and Air Force, will fly over some cities together and others separately, according to the memo. The flyovers will take place in the next several weeks ‘to thank first responders, essential personnel, and military service members as we collectively battle the spread of COVID-19.'”


Financial Times: Coronavirus death toll in UK twice as high as official figure. I don’t usually include FT stories because they have a pretty unforgiving paywall, but this one is marked Free to Read. “The coronavirus pandemic has already caused as many as 41,000 deaths in the UK, according to a Financial Times analysis of the latest data from the Office for National Statistics. The estimate is more than double the official figure of 17,337 released by ministers on Tuesday, which is updated daily and only counts those who have died in hospitals after testing positive for the virus.”

Washington Post: In two states, a vast testing gap shows what it means to have no national strategy. “When it comes to battling the spread of the novel coronavirus, Kentucky and Rhode Island might look similar on paper. They’ve done comparable numbers of diagnostic tests and lost similar numbers of residents to the disease. But there’s one key difference. Kentucky has more than four times Rhode Island’s population, meaning it has tested 0.7 percent of its residents, compared with Rhode Island’s 3.7 percent, the highest per capita testing level in the United States. The difference suggests Rhode Island probably has a better sense of the virus’s spread throughout the state, making it better prepared to curb it.”

USC News: Early antibody testing suggests COVID-19 infections in L.A. County greatly exceed documented cases. “Based on the results of the first round of testing, the research team estimates that approximately 4.1% of the county’s adult population has an antibody to the virus. Adjusting this estimate for the statistical margin of error implies about 2.8% to 5.6% of the county’s adult population has an antibody to the virus — which translates to approximately 221,000 to 442,000 adults in the county who have been infected. That estimate is 28 to 55 times higher than the 7,994 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported to the county at the time of the study in early April.”

CNET: New ventilator gets us ready for a second or third wave of coronavirus. “The hospital ventilator sits at an intersection: It’s complicated, expensive and scarce. The Spiro Wave ventilator from an ad hoc team of makers, inventors and health care experts seeks to address these logistical problems by moving ventilators to a different place. Developed by New York based consortium Emergency Ventilator Response, the Spiro Wave is what it looks like: a robot that operates a balloon-style manual resuscitator by mounting it in a frame with software, sensors and actuators.”

ACLU: New Model Shows Reducing Jail Population will Lower COVID-19 Death Toll for All of Us. “The ACLU partnered with epidemiologists, mathematicians and statisticians to create a first-of-its-kind epidemiological model that shows that as many as 200,000 people could die from COVID-19 — double the government estimate — if we continue to ignore incarcerated people in our public health response. But we have the power to change this grim outcome. We can save as many as 23,000 people in jail and 76,000 in the broader community if we stop arrests for all but the most serious offenses and double the rate of release for those already detained.”

Vox: A disturbing new study suggests Sean Hannity’s show helped spread the coronavirus. “The paper — from economists Leonardo Bursztyn, Aakaash Rao, Christopher Roth, and David Yanagizawa-Drott — focused on Fox news programming in February and early March. At the time, Hannity’s show was downplaying or ignoring the virus, while fellow Fox host Tucker Carlson was warning viewers about the disease’s risks. Using both a poll of Fox News viewers over age 55 and publicly available data on television-watching patterns, they calculate that Fox viewers who watched Hannity rather than Carlson were less likely to adhere to social distancing rules, and that areas where more people watched Hannity relative to Carlson had higher local rates of infection and death.”

Washington Post: States rushing to reopen are likely making a deadly error, coronavirus models and experts warn. “As several states — including South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida — rush to reopen businesses, the sudden relaxation of restrictions will supply new targets for the coronavirus that has kept the United States largely closed down, according to experts, math models and the basic rules that govern infectious diseases. ‘The math is unfortunately pretty simple. It’s not a matter of whether infections will increase but by how much,’ said Jeffrey Shaman, a leading epidemiologist at Columbia University.”


USA Today: Delaware medical supplier says FEMA seized 400,000 N95 masks, now he’s out millions of dollars. “As pleas for protective masks continue amid the coronavirus pandemic, a Delaware supplier of medical equipment is disputing the legality of what he said were federal seizures of hundreds of thousands of N95 respirators. George Gianforcaro, owner of the small, Newark, Delaware-based Indutex USA, said the Federal Emergency Management Agency did not pay him when it took possession of two imported shipments of masks bound for customers across the United States.”

Yahoo News: Birx says Georgia residents ‘can be very creative’ about getting tattoos and haircuts while social distancing. “Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the leading medical experts on President Trump’s coronavirus task force, tried to reconcile the controversial order by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp reopening some businesses across the state with the task force recommendations that call for continued social distancing. Among the businesses that Kemp, a Republican and a strong supporter of President Trump, plans to allow to reopen on Friday are hair and nail salons and tattoo parlors.” Don’t you want to get a tattoo from someone who’s six feet away from you and holding the tattoo gun or whatever it is on a stick?

New York Times: The Quiet Hand of Conservative Groups in the Anti-Lockdown Protests. “An informal coalition of influential conservative leaders and groups, some with close connections to the White House, has been quietly working to nurture protests and apply political and legal pressure to overturn state and local orders intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus.”

Politico: Southern governors create a Covid-19 coalition and experts fear a ‘perfect storm’. “Republican governors across the Southeast are teaming up to reopen the region’s economy, even as they lack the testing to know how rapidly the coronavirus is spreading. One health expert called the political decision a ‘perfect storm’ for the virus to reassert itself. The newly formed coalition includes Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, a part of the country that has underfunded health systems, as well as high rates of obesity, diabetes and other illnesses that amplify the deadliness of the coronavirus.”

Wall Street Journal: Health Chief’s Early Missteps Set Back Coronavirus Response. “On Jan. 29, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told President Trump the coronavirus epidemic was under control. The U.S. government had never mounted a better interagency response to a crisis, Mr. Azar told the president in a meeting held eight days after the U.S. announced its first case, according to administration officials. At the time, the administration’s focus was on containing the virus. When other officials asked about diagnostic testing, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, began to answer. Mr. Azar cut him off, telling the president it was ‘the fastest we’ve ever created a test,’ the officials recalled, and that more than one million tests would be available within weeks. That didn’t happen.”

Reuters: Special Report: HHS chief Azar had aide, former dog breeder, steer pandemic task force. “As is now widely known, two agencies [Alex] Azar oversaw as HHS secretary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, wouldn’t come up with viable tests for five and half weeks, even as other countries and the World Health Organization had already prepared their own. Shortly after his televised comments, Azar tapped a trusted aide with minimal public health experience to lead the agency’s day-to-day response to COVID-19. The aide, Brian Harrison, had joined the department after running a dog-breeding business for six years.”

Politico: State report: Russian, Chinese and Iranian disinformation narratives echo one another. “China, Iran and Russia are using the coronavirus crisis to launch a propaganda and disinformation onslaught against the United States, the State Department warns in a new report. The three governments are pushing a host of matching messages: that the novel coronavirus is an American bioweapon, that the U.S. is scoring political points off the crisis, that the virus didn’t come from China, that U.S. troops spread it, that America’s sanctions are killing Iranians, that China’s response was great while the U.S.’ was negligent, that all three governments are managing the crisis well, and that the U.S. economy can’t bear the toll of the virus.”

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