Monday CoronaBuzz, May 4, 2020: 46 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.


The Star (Malaysia): Covid-19 database now available. “SCIENTISTS from Malaysia and the United Kingdom have developed an online resource for new and emerging Covid-19 research publications. The initiative was in response to an urgent need to enable access to research publications on the virus so that a way to stop the spread of the pandemic can be found. The web-based resource was created by a multi-disciplinary led by Universiti Malaya (UM) Faculty of Medicine Department of Biomedical Imaging medical physicist Prof Dr Ng Kwan Hoong.”


CNET: Make papercraft models of vintage computers and gaming systems. “If you’re looking for a nostalgia fix and something crafty to do during your coronavirus lockdown, why not build a vintage computer or gaming system with these easy paper model kits? These highly detailed color paper models are free to download and share.”

Datamation: Expert Tips for Data Analytics: COVID-19 to Dark Data. “Register for this live video webinar – Thursday, May 7, 9 AM PT Ask the experts – get your Data Analytics questions answered by two industry experts. In a wide ranging conversation with two of data analytic’s top thought leaders, we’ll delve into some key questions in analytics today.” I’m pretty sure this is free, but not 100% positive.


BBC: Coronavirus lockdown: Can nature help improve our mood?. “While the impact of experiencing nature on our physical health is less well documented, a wealth of studies have demonstrated the positive effects of the natural world on our mental health. Even a brief nature fix – 10 minutes of wind brushing across our cheek, or the sun on our skin – can lower stress, explains Dr Mathew White, from the University of Exeter. If we immerse ourselves in beautiful landscapes, like a rich coastline or a wild forest teeming with an array of species, we feel more intense emotions, he adds.”

MakeUseOf: 5 Free Zoom Alternatives for Video Conferencing and Online Meetings. “When you’re working remotely and conducting video conferences, you need them to be easy to set up, secure, and fast for everyone. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to free video calling apps on both desktop and mobile. Zoom and Skype are always popular choices. But it’s not without its flaws. This guide helps you pick an alternative video chat software for your requirements.”

And in case you like Zoom just fine, from MakeUseOf: 10 Fun Things to Do With Zoom. “For the uninitiated, Zoom is a video and audio conferencing tool. Its primary focus is on enterprise meetings, but it also works as a platform for catching up with family and friends. While everyone knows how to simply sit and chat on Zoom, there are lots of other fun things to do with Zoom. All of which will liven up even the dullest Zoom chat. If it’s appropriate to do so.”

Mashable: The complete guide to cleaning your headphones during a pandemic. “Going outside without music or podcasts to listen to can be a drag. During the coronavirus pandemic, however, you might consider taking some extra precautions so you can jam out safely during your grocery runs. The CDC recommends properly cleaning personal electronics as necessary. While headphones and earbuds aren’t specifically named in its guidelines, you probably touch them enough to warrant proper disinfection just to be safe. The good news is there are fairly easy ways to do this.”


CNBC: The US just reported its deadliest day for coronavirus patients as states reopen, according to WHO. “The United States just had its deadliest day on record due to the coronavirus as states across the country begin to ease restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus, according to data published by the World Health Organization. The U.S. saw 2,909 people die of Covid-19 in 24 hours, according to the data, which was collected as of 4 a.m. ET on Friday. That’s the highest daily Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. yet, based on a CNBC analysis of the WHO’s daily Covid-19 situation reports.”

PBS Newshour: 52 people who worked or voted in Wisconsin election have COVID-19. “There are no plans to postpone or otherwise alter a special congressional election in Wisconsin that is less than two weeks away, even though more than 50 people who voted in person or worked the polls during the state’s presidential primary this month have tested positive for COVID-19. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers tried to change the April 7 election so that it would be conducted entirely by mail, but he was blocked by the Republican-led Legislature and conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court.”

The Guardian: YouTube deletes conspiracy theorist David Icke’s channel. “YouTube has deleted conspiracy theorist David Icke’s account. The video-sharing site said the 68-year-old violated its policies on sharing information about coronavirus. The former footballer has made controversial unproven claims about the virus on several internet platforms, including one that it is linked to the 5G mobile network.”

AP News: Many field hospitals went largely unused, will be shut down. ” Gleaming new tent hospitals sit empty on two suburban New York college campuses, never having treated a single coronavirus patient. Convention centers that were turned into temporary hospitals in other cities went mostly unused. And a Navy hospital ship that offered help in Manhattan is soon to depart. When virus infections slowed down or fell short of worst-case predictions, the globe was left dotted with dozens of barely used or unused field hospitals. Some public officials say that’s a good problem to have — despite spending potentially billions of dollars to erect the care centers — because it’s a sign the deadly disease was not nearly as cataclysmic as it might have been.”

CNN: Exclusive: Uber will soon require drivers and riders to wear face coverings in the US. “As it anticipates a restart to its core rideshare business amid the pandemic, Uber (UBER) plans to require drivers and riders to wear face masks or face coverings when using the platform in certain countries, including the United States, CNN Business has learned.”


Salon: Evangelical fundamentalists who openly defied social distancing guidelines are dying of COVID-19. “Countless non-fundamentalist churches in the United States, from Catholic to Lutheran and Episcopalian, have embraced social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic and temporarily moved their activities online. But many Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals have been irresponsibly downplaying the dangers of COVID-19 and doing so with deadly results: journalist Alex Woodward, in the U.K.-based Independent, reports that the pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 30 pastors in the Bible Belt.”

Washington Post: Excess U.S. deaths hit estimated 37,100 in pandemic’s early days, far more than previously known. “The United States recorded an estimated 37,100 excess deaths as the novel coronavirus spread across the country in March and the first two weeks of April, nearly 13,500 more than are now attributed to covid-19 for that same period, according to an analysis of federal data conducted for The Washington Post by a research team led by the Yale School of Public Health. The Yale team’s analysis suggests that the number of excess deaths accelerated as the pandemic took hold. There were 16,600 estimated excess deaths just in the week of April 5 to April 11, compared with 20,500 over the prior five weeks.”

ProPublica: Inside the Jail With One of the Country’s Largest Coronavirus Outbreaks. “The Cook County Jail in Chicago is one of the largest in the country. Sprawling across 96 acres on the Southwest Side, the facility houses more than 4,000 people, most awaiting trial. Its cramped living conditions made it a perfect petri dish for COVID-19. Today, the jail is home to one of the largest known outbreaks in the country and has been a flashpoint in the national debate over how to contain the virus in correctional facilities. More than 9,400 cases have emerged in prisons across the U.S., according to an analysis by The Marshall Project. In the Cook County Jail, nearly 500 detainees and more than 300 correctional officers have tested positive. Seven people have died: six inmates and one guard.”

Washington Post: Voices from the Pandemic: ‘I apologize to God for feeling this way.’. “If I get this virus, I’m afraid it would be the end of me. I’m 75. I’ve got all I can handle already with my asthma, fibromyalgia and an autoimmune disorder. The best way for me to survive is by sitting in my house for however many weeks or months it’s going to take. But how many computer games can you play before you start to lose it? How many mysteries can you read? I realize time is supposed to be precious, especially since mine is short, but right now I’m trying every trick I know to waste time away.”

New York Times: Bridge Was Their Passion. Then People Started to Die.. “For decades, the Colorado Springs Bridge Center had been a social hub for retirees immersed in the world of trumps, tricks and cutthroat bidding strategies. The players would spend afternoons inside their clubhouse with a view of Pikes Peak, snacking on popcorn and celery sticks and showing off photos of their grandchildren while playing hand after hand. Now, the club had become a new breeding ground for a virus that has carved through family funerals, church gatherings, nursing homes and choir practices across the country, striking groups of older, vulnerable people with cruel efficiency.”

New York Times: Dozens of Decomposing Bodies Found in Trucks at Brooklyn Funeral Home. “The call came in at shortly after 11 a.m. on Wednesday: A terrible stench was coming from a pair of trucks parked outside a funeral home on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn. When the police arrived, they made a gruesome discovery. Inside the trucks — a U-Haul rental and what seemed to be a tractor-trailer — were several dozen decomposing bodies.”

Egyptian Streets: TikTok: The Social Media Craze at the ForeFront of Quarantine. “Dance routines, dramatic scenes, hacks and tricks -TikTok is unleashing everyone’s inner content creator and untapped performer. Although the social media platform has been around long before the COVID-19 outbreak and quarantine to follow, TikTok has reached new levels of fame and use worldwide following the aftereffects of the pandemic.”

Canada’s National Observer: ‘COVID-19 kills in many ways’: The suicide crisis facing health-care workers. “In New York City, as in other hard-hit locations, health-care providers have been forced to work exhausting hours, often in overcrowded and under-resourced settings, with no clear end in sight, all while dealing with the fear of exposing themselves or their families to the virus. Without adequate protective gear, some New York City doctors describe going to work every day as a ‘suicide mission.’ At the same time, as hospitals have filled up with sick and dying patients, doctors have been left with the burden of making excruciating decisions about rationing life-saving medical equipment and watching as their colleagues fall ill and even die from the virus. These front-line health-care workers bear constant witness to the human toll of the pandemic. And, all too often, they become part of it.”

Mashable: Closer in quarantine: How some friends and families are actually connecting more in isolation. “I’ve FaceTimed my best friend for two Fridays in a row now. OK, I know, that doesn’t seem like much to brag about. But that’s something we never really did before — gestures vaguely at the state of the world — all of this. I love my best friend. We grew up together; I was the best man at his wedding. But he lives in a different city, we’re busy, and we don’t call or text as much as we’d like. On a pre-pandemic Friday, we’d likely be caught-up in other things, relishing the comfort of the coming weekend. But now… well now, we don’t have shit to do beyond mixing up an adult beverage and talking via the magic of FaceTime. Weirdly, I feel closer to him, despite — gestures vaguely again — all of the horror. I’m not alone in that experience. People across the world told me they’ve experienced something similar.”

The Guardian: ‘I was alone’: how giving birth is changing during the pandemic. “Maternal care has been derailed due to coronavirus – and advocates warn the outcome could be disastrous for black mothers as they navigate US hospitals.”

Associated Press: ‘We don’t know how it will end’: Hunger stalks amid virus. “Before the pandemic, food policy experts say, roughly one out of every eight or nine Americans struggled to stay fed. Now as many as one out of every four are projected to join the ranks of the hungry, said Giridhar Mallya, senior policy officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for public health. Immigrants, African Americans, Native Americans, households with young children and newly jobless gig workers are among those most at risk, said Joelle Johnson, senior policy associate at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.”


Axios: Cuomo announces 7-state consortium for buying PPE. “New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday that New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Delaware are forming a regional consortium to reduce competition when purchasing personal protection equipment (PPE).”

WBTV: Hurricane season preparation includes some coronavirus considerations this year. “North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has declared this week as Hurricane Preparedness Week across the state. The typical hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, although tropical systems can occur outside those parameters as well. The governor’s advice is to use this week to talk about emergency plans with family members, update any emergency supplies and make sure your insurance is up to date. With the threat of coronavirus still out there, the governor also said evacuation plans should include an idea to stay at a hotel or inland with friends and family as emergency shelters may not be able to maintain much social distancing.”

BBC: Coronavirus: Which African countries are ahead on testing?. “Testing plays a major role in the response to the coronavirus, as it helps us understand how far the disease has spread. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which co-ordinates pandemic responses across the continent, says there is a large gap in testing rates between nations. So which countries are succeeding in testing, and which are lagging behind?”

CNN: SpaceX COO outlines SpaceX’s Covid-19 response, striking contrast with Elon Musk. “SpaceX’s chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell, on Friday asked space enthusiasts to stay home to watch footage of the company’s first-ever crewed mission take off from Florida this month amid the Covid-19 pandemic. She added that SpaceX has put measures in place aimed at ensuring the safety of the two astronauts who will pilot that mission and for the company’s broader workforce. Shotwell’s comments struck a very different tone than SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has taken on Twitter lately, where he has repeatedly expressed his belief that the United States’ coronavirus response is overblown and shared misinformation about its threat.”

Man of Many: Nike Adapts Manufacturing to PPE Face Shields and Lenses. “Nike knows a thing or two about producing personal gear, so turning their attention to personal protective equipment is a natural reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. The athletic gear giant partnered with Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) to start producing the personal protective equipment that frontline medical workers and others are in need of, including full-face shields and powered, air-purifying respirator lenses that can protect against the coronavirus.”

BBC: J Crew files for bankruptcy protection. “Fashion firm J Crew has filed for bankruptcy protection, making it the first big US retailer to fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic. Under the terms of the filing, its main creditors are set to take control of the group in exchange for cancelling its debts of $1.65bn (£1.3bn).”


New York Times: The Covid-19 Riddle: Why Does the Virus Wallop Some Places and Spare Others?. “The coronavirus has touched almost every country on earth, but its impact has seemed capricious. Global metropolises like New York, Paris and London have been devastated, while teeming cities like Bangkok, Baghdad, New Delhi and Lagos have, so far, largely been spared. The question of why the virus has overwhelmed some places and left others relatively untouched is a puzzle that has spawned numerous theories and speculations but no definitive answers. That knowledge could have profound implications for how countries respond to the virus, for determining who is at risk and for knowing when it’s safe to go out again.”

ABC News: Some children with COVID-19 are experiencing symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease. “In less than 24 hours, Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., admitted several children with COVID-19 who are also experiencing a constellation of symptoms that resemble ‘Kawasaki disease,’ a rare inflammatory syndrome typically affecting children under the age of 5.”

CNET: Can vaping make coronavirus infections more severe? 3 doctors weigh in. “As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the globe, scientists are looking into any factors that may exacerbate the spread of the virus and the illness it causes. We know that the immunocompromised and the elderly are at higher risk, but researchers are starting to turn their attention to another potential risk factor: vaping.”

EPFL: EPFL researchers put proximity tracing app to the test. “Over the past two weeks, EPFL computer scientists have been testing and refining the smartphone-based system developed by the international Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing project (DP3T), with the help of the Swiss Army. Their goal: to optimize the app’s ability to alert users after they’ve been in contact with someone contagious with COVID-19, while building trust around the open system.”

ScienceDaily: Green method could enable hospitals to produce hydrogen peroxide in house. “A team of researchers has developed a portable, more environmentally friendly method to produce hydrogen peroxide. It could enable hospitals to make their own supply of the disinfectant on demand and at lower cost.”

MIT Technology Review: This man assembled his own covid antibody tests for himself and his friends. “In Portland, Oregon, earlier this spring, a programmer named Ian Hilgart-Martiszus pulled out a needle and inserted it into the arm of social worker Alicia Rowe as she squinted and looked away. He was testing for antibodies to the coronavirus. He’d gathered 40 friends and friends of friends, and six homeless men too. As a former lab technician, Hilgart-Martiszus knew how to do it. Despite extensive debate over the accuracy of blood tests for coronavirus antibodies and how they should be used, by March anyone with a credit card and some savvy could order ‘research only’ supplies online and begin testing.”

Slate: What We Know About Whom COVID Kills. “By this point in the pandemic, we have internalized that the coronavirus could affect any of us. But COVID-19 is not an equal-opportunity killer, either. No one is immune, but in the United States, the disease has killed a disproportionate number of a few different demographic groups: men, older adults, and black people, according to preliminary data.”

Slate: It Will Probably Take Longer Than 12 to 18 Months to Get a Vaccine. “That timeline feels … long. And, though we might be able to get back to some kind of normalcy with the help of testing and therapies, it’s actually on the shorter side of when we will get a vaccine. ‘Everybody would love to say yes, we can achieve an 18-month vaccine turnaround—but it’s a goal,’ says Maria Elena Bottazzi, a virologist at Baylor who is working on a couple possible vaccines against COVID-19. ‘If you look historically, we’ve never been able to develop a vaccine with that timeline.'”


Washingtonian: Meet the 19-Year-Old College Student Who Flew an Airplane Over Maryland in a Flight Path That Spelled “F— Covid 19”. “On Tuesday around 4 PM, a Piper Cherokee took off from Harford County Airport near Churchville, Maryland. Over the next two hours, the pilot flew a complex path that took him as far west as Prettyboy Reservoir and back east as far as Perryville. When viewed end to end, his flight path, about 28 nautical miles end to end and about 191 nautical miles total, delivered a middle finger to the pandemic that continues to ravage the US and disrupt our lives: ‘F*CK COVID 19,’ it read.” Asterisk mine.


Washington Post: Florida county’s medical examiner begged officials to close beaches, internal emails reveal. “While many states were issuing directives to residents to stay home in March, officials in St. Johns County, home of St. Augustine, kept beaches open, even as the county’s medical examiner repeatedly said the county couldn’t handle a deadly outbreak, according to emails obtained by Columbia University’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation and reviewed by The Washington Post. The county later closed the beaches on March 29 and then partially reopened them two weeks later. As of Saturday, there have been four deaths from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and more than 200 confirmed cases in the county, a sliver of the 35,463 cases and 1,364 deaths in Florida, which are concentrated in more populated areas such as Miami and Fort Lauderdale.”

New York Times: Pence’s Virus Role Enhances His Profile While Showing Limits of His Influence. “In the most consequential mission of his career, Mr. Pence has tried to navigate the complexities of a mysterious disease and the vagaries of a mercurial president at the same time, steering the response to the most deadly pandemic in generations without getting caught up in the melodrama of the moment. Yet questions have lingered about how seriously he himself took the threat at first and what advice he gave the president in the days when it really mattered.”

Washington Post: Pence’s staff threatens action against reporter who tweeted about visit to clinic without surgical mask . “Vice President Pence’s office threatened to retaliate against a reporter who revealed that Pence’s office had told journalists they would need masks for Pence’s visit to the Mayo Clinic — a requirement Pence himself did not follow. Pence’s trip to the clinic Tuesday generated criticism after he was photographed without a surgical mask — the only person in the room not wearing one. The Minnesota clinic requires visitors to wear masks as a precaution against spreading the coronavirus.”

Miami Herald: Biden, Warren: There’s no oversight of coronavirus relief — because that’s what Trump wants. “Sixty-four thousand dead. Thirty million people out of work. Small businesses collapsing. Communities of color hit exceptionally hard. Even the most ideological conservatives have been forced to acknowledge that government is an essential part of the COVID-19 solution. Government delivers best when its actions are fair, transparent and accountable. But President Donald Trump’s approach to this crisis doesn’t reflect these values. Without change, more lives will be lost and more families will go broke.”

Washington Post: Maryland cancels $12.5 million PPE contract with firm started by GOP operatives. “The state of Maryland on Saturday terminated a $12.5 million contract for personal protective equipment with a firm started this spring by two well-connected Republican operatives. State officials said the company, Blue Flame Medical, failed to deliver masks and ventilators as promised and that the matter has been referred to Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) for review. Blue Flame received a down payment of nearly $6.3 million from Maryland in early April — after promising to provide within weeks desperately needed PPE for front-line medical personnel dealing with the novel coronavirus.”

NBC News: Government orders 100,000 new body bags as Trump minimizes death toll. “The federal government placed orders for well over 100,000 new body bags to hold victims of COVID-19 in April, according to internal administration documents obtained by NBC News, as well as public records. The biggest set was earmarked for purchase the day after President Donald Trump projected that the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus might not exceed 50,000 or 60,000 people.”

BuzzFeed News: After One Tweet To President Trump, This Man Got $69 Million From New York For Ventilators. “On March 27, as emergency rooms in New York and across the country began filling with coronavirus patients struggling to breathe, President Donald Trump posted on Twitter to urge Ford and General Motors to ‘START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!’ One of the thousands of replies that the tweet attracted struck an equally urgent tone: ‘We can supply ICU Ventilators, invasive and noninvasive. Have someone call me URGENT.’ Its author was Yaron Oren-Pines, an electrical engineer in Silicon Valley. A specialist in mobile phone technology, he currently has just 75 followers on Twitter and no apparent experience in government contracting or medical devices. But three days later, New York state paid Oren-Pines $69.1 million. The payment was for 1,450 ventilators — at an astonishing $47,656 per ventilator, at least triple the standard retail price of high-end models.”

Politico: Feds, Northam spar over Virginia stay-at-home order’s impact on churches. “The Justice Department and Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) are squaring off in court over whether Northam’s stay-at-home orders unfairly discriminate against churches and other religious institutions. Northam’s directives responding to the coronavirus pandemic have become a focus of a drive Attorney General William Barr announced last week to scrutinize the virus-related actions of state and local officials for unconstitutional intrusion on individual rights or federal prerogatives.”

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