Monday CoronaBuzz, May 25, 2020: 39 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.


World Health Organization: WHO launches new search feature for questions on COVID-19. “WHO’s COVID-19 webpage now features an enhanced natural language processing search bar, which understands questions posed in everyday language and more accurately delivers answers to those queries. Unlike traditional index-based search that delivers links, when someone enters a question about COVID-19 into the search bar on WHO’s COVID-19 page, the new search finds the most accurate information related to that question from WHO’s website. Yext, the technology company that developed this search function, provides WHO’s web team with regular feedback on the questions that visitors are asking so that WHO can adapt information on the web to meet the demand.”


Caltech: 10-Minute Talks Give Everyone a Chance to Explore Caltech. “The talks, part of Explore Caltech, are targeted to a general audience, and recent discussions have focused on topics including 3-D printing, cosmology, climatological history, and the science of glaciers in Disney’s Frozen 2. Explore Caltech was launched in 2018 as Science for March, an event initiated by Caltech postdoctoral scholars seeking to share their passion for STEM with the local community. Scientists from all of Caltech’s six academic divisions and JPL participated, bringing the joy of discovery to the more than 2,000 members of the local community in attendance.”

Alteia: Treasured art collection at Princeton now free online for limited time. “The Index of Medieval Art, a treasured collection of medieval artwork at Princeton University, is normally available for subscription fees starting at $250 a year for individuals. Now, due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, it is free for a limited time period. The free period has just been extended until the end of June, said Pamela A. Patton, Director of Princeton University’s Index of Medieval Art. David Clayton’s Way of Beauty blog earlier had reported that it was free until June 1.”


WTOP: New interactive map shows coronavirus testing sites in Maryland. “Maryland introduced a new website on Saturday that allows residents to find their nearest coronavirus testing site. Gov. Larry Hogan tweeted out a link to the new tool from the Maryland Health Department, noting that Marylanders can use it to check on locations’ hours and appointment policies.”


The Next Web: Disney debuts Zenimation, which mixes soothing sounds with familiar art. “Disney today launched its latest series, called Zenimation, a collection of shorts that combine the company’s animation with some soothing sound effects.”


Salt Lake Tribune: How the coronavirus spreads in those everyday places we visit. “One London School of Hygiene analysis suggested that 80% of the secondary transmissions were caused by just 10% of infected people. In other words, if you want to avoid getting COVID-19, one of your major focuses should be avoiding a superspreading event. So as Utahns leave their homes and reengage with society, we thought now would be a good time to scour the research to note where these events have been documented and where they haven’t. We can also learn about the circumstances that led to each superspreading event, and do our best to avoid them.”

USDA: Tips for Handwashing When Running Water is Not Accessible. “By now, many of us have heard several times that washing hands with soap and water is an effective way to get rid of germs, including those that cause foodborne illness. We are advised to wash our hands often, especially before and after handling food. This advice is easy to follow when we have access to clean, running water. But how do you wash your hands if you find that clean, running water is out of reach?”

Make Tech Easier: 4 Useful Apps to Connect You to Your Neighbors. “How well do you know who lives next to you? Want to connect with your community? Do you have a great idea that could benefit your local community but don’t know how to get it off the ground? The following online services provide useful apps to connect you to your neighbors. You’ll make friends, connect with local businesses and engage in community projects and events in no time.” I had heard of Nextdoor but not the other three.

Mashable: Feeling overwhelmed by coronavirus info? These trackers can help.. “In an April Gallup poll, 36 percent of nearly 1,700 U.S. adults surveyed said they ‘feel overwhelmed’ by the amount of coronavirus information out there. But instead of retreating from the plethora of (inconsistent and often inaccurate) data, I’ve identified the COVID-19 trackers that work for me. So if you’re on the hunt for pandemic information, below are some different options to suit your needs.”

Stars and Stripes Japan: If you can’t travel, here’s 11 virtual tours of Japan. “Let the power of technology, like virtual museum tours or live video feeds, decide where to visit on your next holiday—or help you pass your time during a spot of social distancing as coronavirus worries continue. Whether you’re already in Japan, scratching your head because of the closed attractions or still planning your next trip, these fantastic e-tours and live feeds will help you pass the time and maybe even add a few new places to your bucket list.”


NPR: North Carolina Reports Highest 1-Day Spike Of COVID-19 Cases. “North Carolina has reported its highest one-day spike in new COVID-19 cases, a development that comes a day after the state entered its second phase of reopening. In a statement on Saturday, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,107 infections — around 250 more cases than the state’s last highest daily tally.”

BBC: Coronavirus: Americans flock to beaches on Memorial Day weekend. “Americans have flocked to beaches and lakes for Memorial Day weekend, often flouting restrictions imposed to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. In Florida, state police dispersed an unauthorised gathering of hundreds of people in Daytona Beach on Saturday. In Missouri, bars at the Lake of the Ozarks were packed with revellers, who violated social-distancing rules.”


Techdirt: More Than A Game: The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Turned Esports Into An Economy Of Its Own. “One of the dangers when we talk about esports and its rapid growth, particularly during this pandemic, is that those not in the know can see this as hobbyists touting their own hobby. It’s understandable to some degree, what with this industry being both in its infancy stage and growing exponentially in speed. Still, while we’ve had several posts lately focusing on how esports is happily filling the void of traditional live sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is worth remembering that this isn’t just a hobby any longer. It’s an economy in and of itself.”

Phys .org: 4 ways COVID-19 has exposed gaps in the US social safety net. “As a scholar who studies how people enroll in public programs, I and my colleague Cecille Joan Avila, who researches social programs related to women’s health, have seen how well-intentioned policies can sometimes fail those they are supposed to help. We took a deeper look at how difficult it might be for people to navigate their way through the U.S.”s patchwork of social safety net measures as they try to stay afloat during the pandemic and economic downturn. Here are four gaps that we found.”

Sky News: Coronavirus: Rush to give away 15,000 Easter eggs after events cancelled. “Homes are needed for thousands of chocolate eggs left over after coronavirus forced the cancellation of Easter events, a heritage charity has said. The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) were given more than 30,000 boxed eggs by Cadbury for its egg hunts before the lockdown was imposed. Around half of the eggs have been donated to hospitals, food banks and community groups around Scotland.”

Mashable: This cellist is spending quarantine recording delightful retro multitracks. “Samara Ginsberg’s career as a session musician went on pause in March thanks to covid-19. Now, the London-based cellist is spending quarantine arranging elaborate covers of pop culture classics for her YouTube channel — including, most recently, the Knight Rider theme.”

NiemanLab: Aiming for novelty in coronavirus coverage, journalists end up sensationalizing the trivial and untrue. “When a clear beginning, middle, and resolution are not discernible, the demand for any morsel of new information can confuse, rather than clarify, the story. Journalists rushing to amplify any small update can mistakenly inflate its importance with sensational headlines or hyperbolic broadcast framing.”


BBC: Coronavirus in South Africa: Outbreak closes Mponeng gold mine. “Operations at the world’s deepest gold mine, in South Africa, have been halted after 164 cases of coronavirus were detected there. The Mponeng mine, like all others in the country, resumed operations last month after being closed in March as part of a national lockdown. It had been operating at 50% capacity but some workers have reportedly raised concerns about their safety.”

BBC: Coronavirus: Why reopening French schools is a social emergency. “It’s obvious that a lack of schooling has increased inequalities, says France’s Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer. ‘Social emergency’ is the term he uses to describe the need to unlock the country’s schools. France started reopening its education system after lockdown with primary schools, because it was even more important for young people than for older pupils, he explained.”

Philippine Star: This is how some heritage sites are coping amid COVID-19 pandemic. “On National Heritage Month, some heritage sites shared how they are adapting amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Tourism last Thursday hosted its 16th webinar titled ‘Paraparaan: Redefining the Use of Heritage Places for Covid-19 Survival’ where participants discussed how the COVID-19’s impact would reshape tourism, sustainability and conservation programs at the country’s heritage sites under the so-called ‘new normal.'”

CNN: These companies plan to make working from home the new normal. As in forever. “The coronavirus pandemic has forced many companies to embrace work-from-home solutions. For some, the transition may stick. Several big businesses plan to let much of their staff work from home permanently, even after the pandemic. Working from home could become the new normal — at least for some…”

News & Observer: Drive-in prayers in Raleigh celebrate the end of Ramadan in the pandemic. “In years past, the celebration had thousands of Muslims in the Triangle standing and sitting shoulder to shoulder. After praying, they exchanged hugs and handshakes with their well-wishes, and handed children candy. The usual celebration would have brought people too close together in the age of COVID-19. The Islamic Association of Raleigh decided to adapt the customary communal prayer so Muslims could still celebrate together, but do so safely.”

BBC: Coronavirus: Chile’s president says healthcare system ‘very close to the limit’. “The coronavirus pandemic has pushed Chile’s healthcare system “very close to the limit”, according to President Sebastián Piñera. ‘We are very conscious of the fact that the health system is under a lot of pressure,’ he said on Sunday. Almost 70,000 cases of the virus have been recorded in Chile and more than 700 people have died.”

New York Times: They Survived the Worst Battles of World War II. And Died of the Virus.. “The question of what went wrong at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home will be with Massachusetts for a long time. With scarce protective gear and a shortage of staff, the facility’s administrators combined wards of infected and uninfected men, and the virus spread quickly through a fragile population. Of the 210 veterans who were living in the facility in late March, 89 are now dead, 74 having tested positive for the virus. Almost three-quarters of the veterans inside were infected. It is one of the highest death tolls of any end-of-life facility in the country.”

Al Jazeera: Qatar makes COVID-19 app mandatory, experts question efficiency. “Qatar is turning to technology to help contain the coronavirus. Although the country has only seen 23 confirmed deaths to date, its infection rate remains stubbornly high, with more than 40,000 people infected amid a population of roughly 2.8 million.”

BuzzFeed News: An Immigrant Man In ICE Custody Died After Contracting The Coronavirus. “A 34-year-old Guatemalan man who tested positive for COVID-19 died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at a Georgia hospital on Sunday, according to an internal government report obtained by BuzzFeed News. His death comes weeks after a 57-year-old man in ICE custody in San Diego died after testing positive for COVID-19. The San Diego County medical examiner’s office said the man, Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia, died of acute respiratory failure due to pneumonia resulting from COVID-19. He was the first immigrant in ICE custody to die of the disease.”


New York Times: Bethenny Frankel’s Dark Journey to Find Medical Masks. “It was late March, with the coronavirus starting to peak in New York and hospitals already running short on supplies, when Bethenny Frankel, the entrepreneur and reality television star, received an email from a publicist offering her access to 500 million medical masks, or about enough to fill 25 Madison Square Gardens. Ms. Frankel was intrigued. While spending eight seasons on the ‘Real Housewives of New York City,’ she began flying to places like Guatemala and the Bahamas to aid in disaster relief. Now, with the disaster down the road, she wanted to help. She called the New York governor’s office, and her home state drafted her to find masks.”


USA Today: Online programs used for coronavirus-era school promise results. The claims are misleading. “Misleading research claims are increasingly common in the world of ed tech. In 2002, federal education law began requiring schools to spend federal money only on research-based products. As more schools went online and demand for education software grew, more companies began designing and commissioning their own studies about their products. There is little accountability to make sure companies conduct quality research and describe it accurately, so they’ve been free to push the limits as they try to hook principals and administrators. This problem has been exacerbated by the coronavirus as widespread school closures forced districts to turn to online learning. Many educators have been making quick decisions about what products to lean on as they try to provide remote learning options for students.”


CNET: Using UV light to kill coronavirus: The benefits and risks. “Disinfection by way of UV light is nothing new: The International Ultraviolet Association says it’s been a useful technology for over 40 years, contributing to clean water and clean air. Many consumer devices also use UV light to disinfect things, such as self-cleaning UV light water bottles and UV-emitting cases that clean your dirty phone. When it comes to the coronavirus, though, things aren’t so clear-cut. There are risks that come with using UV light devices, especially when using them on your skin. Before ordering the first UV light sanitizer you see, read up on the current evidence about UV light disinfectants and the potential risks of using them on yourself.”

Washington Post: A deadly ‘checkerboard’: Covid-19’s new surge across rural America. “As the death toll nears 100,000, the disease caused by the virus has made a fundamental shift in who it touches and where it reaches in America, according to a Washington Post analysis of case data and interviews with public health professionals in several states. The pandemic that first struck in major metropolises is now increasingly finding its front line in the country’s rural areas; counties with acres of farmland, cramped meatpacking plants, out-of-the-way prisons and few hospital beds.”


SiliconANGLE: Seven technologies and trends the COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate. “It’s well-understood that cloud and conferencing platforms will be the big winners coming out of the pandemic, but more subtle changes are lurking as well. SiliconANGLE asked executives from a variety of technology companies what other trends and technologies are likely to be forever transformed by the events of recent months. Here are a few they identified that are not making headlines – yet.”

Macworld: Fitbit is studying how to detect coronavirus before symptoms show up—and you can help. “Starting this week, users will find a new COVID-19 Study in the Fitbit app, which will help Fitbit determine if it can build an algorithm to detect COVID-19 before symptoms start. Fitbit is encouraging people who ‘currently have, or have had, symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or the flu’ to participate, but the study is open to everyone.”


EurekAlert: Researchers collaboratively test mask effectiveness to fight spread of COVID-19. “In the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, masks were in such short supply they were nearly impossible to find. As a result, people began creating substitute masks out of anything possible – scarves, repurposed old T-shirts, even vacuum bags. For researchers at Texas Tech University and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), this posed vitally important questions: Were such masks effective? Were they even safe?”

EurekAlert: Using machine learning to estimate COVID-19’s seasonal cycle. “One of the many unanswered scientific questions about COVID-19 is whether it is seasonal like the flu – waning in warm summer months then resurging in the fall and winter. Now scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) are launching a project to apply machine-learning methods to a plethora of health and environmental datasets, combined with high-resolution climate models and seasonal forecasts, to tease out the answer.”

NoCamels: Israeli Scientists Submit Patent For Self-Disinfecting, Reusable Mask. “A group of Israeli scientists submitted a US patent for a reusable, self-disinfecting protective face mask developed at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. The product was created by Professor Yair Ein-Eli, dean of the Technion’s Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering, who developed a reusable face mask that can be disinfected in a controlled manner using heat – a process that destroys any pathogens accumulated on the mask and renders it reusable.”

New York Times: How Upbeat Vaccine News Fueled a Stock Surge, and an Uproar. “Moderna’s stock price jumped as much as 30 percent. Its announcement helped lift the stock market and was widely reported by news organizations, including The New York Times. Nine hours after its initial news release — and after the markets closed — the company announced a stock offering with the aim of raising more than $1 billion to help bankroll vaccine development. That offering had not been mentioned in Moderna’s briefings of investors and journalists that morning, and the company chairman later said it was decided on only that afternoon.”


ABC News: Florida man allegedly kidnapped teen to drive him through coronavirus checkpoint. “According to Monroe County Sheriff’s Office officials, Alexander Michael Sardinas, 37, of Tavernier, and a 43-year-old woman from Islamorada tried to enter the Florida Keys in a taxi on Thursday morning, but were turned away at the highway checkpoint for not having proper identification. The Florida Keys are closed to non-residents, due to COVID-19 concerns, through the end of May, and proof of residency is required to get through the checkpoint.”


The Daily Beast: Trump Goes to Golf Club, Not Church, After Demanding Houses of Worship Open. “President Donald Trump headed to his Virginia golf club once again Sunday morning, according to a Wall Street Journal reporter, just days after he made a brief press statement demanding that houses of worship be opened ‘right now for this weekend’ during the coronavirus pandemic.”

CNET: Over 40% of Republicans think Bill Gates will use COVID-19 vaccine to implant tracking microchips, survey says. “Fighting misinformation and conspiracy theories about the novel coronavirus has almost been as hard as battling the pandemic itself. And a new survey has found that one conspiracy theory about Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is taking hold. A conspiracy theory that Gates is planning to use a future COVID-19 vaccine to implant microchips in billions of people in order to monitor their movements has gained supporters particularly among Fox News viewers and Republicans, the survey found.”

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