Tuesday CoronaBuzz, May 26, 2020: 40 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.


UC Davis: Vice Chancellor for Research, Graduate Student Develop COVID-19 Contact-Tracing Tool. “Digital platforms for mobile devices have been developed but raise concerns about privacy. Contacts can be traced by physical location using GPS or proximity via Bluetooth exchange. Companies like Google and Apple have said they would ban the use of location tracking in contact-tracing apps and are working together to develop a cross-platform system to notify people who have been near others who have tested positive for COVID-19. Prasant Mohapatra, vice chancellor for research and distinguished professor of computer science at UC Davis, and Vikram Rao, graduate student in the Department of Computer Science, developed We-Care as an alternative solution. The web-based contact-tracing application allows users to voluntarily check in to locations without sharing personal information with other devices.”


Mashable: Ryan Reynolds joins Taika Waititi for a live reading of ‘James and the Giant Peach’. “If you’re looking for a dose of wholesome to brighten your lockdown Memorial Day, look no further than author Roald Dahl’s official home on YouTube, Roald Dahl HQ. For the past week, filmmaker Taika Waititi (director of Thor: Ragnarok, among others) has been staging a live reading of Dahl’s beloved book, James and the Giant Peach. He’s had celebrity help every step of the way, from the Hemsworth brothers (plus Nick Kroll) to freaking Meryl Streep and Benedict Cumberbatch.”


Poynter: The thrombosis myth that won’t die…. “For the past four months, 88 fact-checking networks in more than 70 countries have worked collaboratively to fight misinformation about COVID-19 by fact-checking claims on social media as well as questions from readers. While we had newcomers to this week’s Top 5 list, 20,000 users (roughly 30%) were still interested in a claim we looked at two weeks ago— that Italian doctors had discovered COVID-19 is actually a blood-clotting disease.”


News & Observer: Hospitalizations for coronavirus at a new high in NC. “North Carolina has 23,964 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the state reported Monday, representing a day-over-day increase of 742. The number of patients reported hospitalized with COVID-19 reached a new high since the state Department of Health and Human Services started releasing that data, with 627 people receiving in-patient care, and 81% of hospitals reporting. The state reported 754 deaths from COVID-19 on Monday, up 10 from Sunday.”


Raw Story: WATCH: Staten Island grocery shoppers drive out woman who refuses to wear a mask in the store. “A group of angry shoppers at a Staten Island ShopRite were captured on video driving out a woman in the store who refused to wear a face mask. The 20-second video clip shows masked shoppers swarming around a shopper who is pushing her cart around without any kind of face covering.”

BBC: Coronavirus: The strangers reaching out to Kyrgyzstan’s lonely teenagers. “Maksat (not his real name) feels alone and misunderstood. He often expresses suicidal feelings – a noticeable change, his teachers say, from the boy they knew before the curfew was brought in. And then he met a ‘phone pal’ – Jalalbek Akmatov, a university student in the capital Bishkek. Jalabek is one of around 100 young adults taking part in a project to reach out via phone to teenagers just like Maksat, thousands of whom have been stuck at home for weeks.”

BBC: Coronavirus: Call for clear face masks to be ‘the norm’. “It’s now part of daily life now for many of us – struggling to work out what someone in a supermarket or at work is saying when they’re wearing a face mask. But for people who are deaf or have hearing loss, masks can prevent them understanding anything at all.”

CNN: Airbnb hosts are planning to sell off their properties because of the pandemic. “Amy Offield always dreamed of running a vacation rental in Galveston, Texas. Five years ago, she and her husband Chris got their wish and bought a house there minutes away from the beach. They immediately began restoring the property, which she named the ‘Blue Skies Beach Bungalow,’ adding vintage items as well as retro and bright-colored decor. But as coronavirus spread across the United States in March, Offield, who has been a full-time Airbnb host for nearly two years, started seeing a wave of cancellations.”

Mashable: Facebook role play groups offer a mundane escape from the pandemic. “The pandemic has devastated the American economy; as of Thursday, a staggering 38.6 million Americans filed for unemployment in just nine weeks. Essential workers are putting their lives on the line to keep society running, and many nonessential workers who did keep their jobs are working from home. With stay-at-home orders for some states are being extended well into the summer, everyone is struggling to adjust to the new reality. But in ‘A group where we all pretend to work at the same office,’ thousands of employees are still clocking in. ”

Route Fifty: As Reopening Begins, Cities Get First Glimpse of How Many Businesses Are Closed Permanently. “As states start to reopen, the first picture of how many businesses have closed their doors for good is starting to emerge. Businesses have struggled to pay rent and retain employees as the pandemic forced governors to order major shutdowns across the country. Small, locally owned companies were particularly hard hit, especially those owned by minorities and people with criminal records, who did not see much help from federal programs intended to keep businesses afloat during the pandemic. Some who received aid said the rules about spending it are so convoluted and restrictive they’re afraid to use the money available to them.”

Associated Press: Death and denial in Brazil’s Amazon capital. “Manaus is one of the hardest hit cities in Brazil, which officially has lost more than 23,000 lives to the coronavirus. But in the absence of evidence proving otherwise, relatives like das Graças are quick to deny the possibility that COVID-19 claimed their loved ones, meaning that the toll is likely a vast undercount. As ambulances zip through Manaus with sirens blaring and backhoes dig rows of new graves, the muggy air in this city by the majestic Amazon River feels thicker than usual with such pervasive denial. Manaus has seen nearly triple the usual number of dead in April and May. Doctors and psychologists say denial at the grassroots stems from a mixture of misinformation, lack of education, insufficient testing and conflicting messages from the country’s leaders.”


NBC News: ‘I’m looking for the truth’: States face criticism for COVID-19 data cover-ups. “While the U.S. has reported more cases and deaths than any other country, the method for counting COVID-19 deaths varies by state. In testimony before the Senate earlier this month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said the actual number of people who’ve died as a result of the pandemic is ‘almost certainly’ higher than what’s been counted. Such data has been the basis for how quickly states are beginning to open up and return to a sense of normalcy. But government officials in a number of states are facing questions about how open and honest they’re being about how the virus is impacting their state.”

Politico: California church appeals to U.S. Supreme Court over lockdown. “The battle over the impact of coronavirus lockdown measures on Americans’ religious observances has reached the Supreme Court as a Southern California church and its pastor made an emergency appeal for relief from executive orders issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Lawyers for the South Bay United Pentecostal Church and Bishop Arthur Hodges asked the justices to step in Sunday after a federal appeals court panel rejected a similar emergency application Friday.”

New York Times: Wealthiest Hospitals Got Billions in Bailout for Struggling Health Providers. “With states restricting hospitals from performing elective surgery and other nonessential services, their revenue has shriveled. The Department of Health and Human Services has disbursed $72 billion in grants since April to hospitals and other health care providers through the bailout program, which was part of the CARES Act economic stimulus package. The department plans to eventually distribute more than $100 billion more. So far, the riches are flowing in large part to hospitals that had already built up deep financial reserves to help them withstand an economic storm. Smaller, poorer hospitals are receiving tiny amounts of federal aid by comparison.”

New York Times: Putin Speaks, Officials Shrug, and Doctors Are Caught in the Middle. “Assailed by critics as an absentee leader at the start of the coronavirus crisis in Russia, President Vladimir V. Putin re-emerged with a splash on state television last month to show that he cared and was taking charge. He promised cash bonuses of up to $1,100 a month for each doctor, nurse and other ‘front line’ health worker involved in fighting the virus. But for an all-powerful leader whose every word must be taken as a command, Mr. Putin has had a surprisingly hard time making his voice heard. More than a month after he spoke, the money has yet to materialize for many. Instead, some doctors have received visits from police investigators and prosecutors demanding to know why they complained publicly about not getting their bonuses.”

Associated Press: Florida baseball team lists stadium on AirBnB for $1500. “A Florida team is selling people the ‘ultimate baseball experience’ by putting their oceanview stadium up for rent on AirBnB for $1,500 a night. The Pensacola Blue Wahoos says guests will have access to the clubhouse, a large bedroom, the batting cage and the field.”

Washington Post: While U.S. struggles to roll out coronavirus contact tracing, Germany has been doing it from the start. “There’s no sophisticated technology in the northern Berlin office where Filiz Degidiben spends her days tracking down contacts of people infected with the novel coronavirus. Her main tools are the phone by her side, a yellow calendar on the wall and a central database, accessible from her desktop computer, that was developed with infectious diseases such as measles in mind.”

Daily Beast: Italy to Recruit 60,000 ‘Social Distancing Enforcers’ to Help Stem Second COVID Wave. “Italian authorities plan to recruit and deploy 60,000 volunteers to patrol the bars and beaches to help keep people socially distanced. It’s part of an effort to mitigate a second wave of COVID-19. Italy—one the first epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic—has seen its daily number of new cases and COVID-related deaths drop dramatically after two months of a draconian lockdown, but photos of people partying over the weekend after the country partially unclocked sparked concern that the population could be celebrating too soon.”

New York Times: Latvia to Launch Google-Apple Friendly Coronavirus Contact Tracing App. “Early success of tracing apps in countries like Singapore and Australia has been patchy because Apple’s iPhone does not support their approach to using Bluetooth short-range radio as a proxy for measuring the risk of infection. Latvia’s Apturi Covid (Stop Covid) app is, by contrast, based on technology launched last week by Apple and Google, whose iOS and Android operating systems run 99% of the world’s smartphones.”

KBS World Radio: S. Korea to Require Clubs, Bars to Keep Digitized Visitor Logs. “The government has decided to introduce a digitized registry of visitors at high-risk entertainment establishments such as clubs and bars, starting next month. Health Minister Park Neung-hoo unveiled the decision on Sunday during a regular press briefing, saying that the government experienced many difficulties in tracing individuals linked to the recent Itaewon club cluster.”

Poynter: How battleground states are preparing for the pandemic election’s massive increase in voting by mail. “About half of voters in Lee County, Florida, decided to cast their votes by mail in the past two statewide elections. Elections supervisor Tommy Doyle expects that to climb to 70% in November due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. Doyle, a Republican in a conservative-leaning county that is home to Fort Myers, has encouraged voters to mail their ballots this year out of concern for their safety. He is sending information about voting by mail, with a postage-paid return envelope, to every address in the county. For voters who had already requested a ballot, he is sending a card to confirm that their address remains current. At the same time, Doyle is doing his best now to ensure that Election Day is safe for people who want or need to cast their ballots in person. ”

Route Fifty: In Hard-Hit New Jersey, COVID-19 Saddles Some Small Health Departments With Crushing Workload. “… in a state where nearly 11,000 people have been killed by COVID-19, the same public health system that struggled to implement widespread testing faces what could be an even larger challenge: preventing a second wave of infection that experts say is almost inevitable without coordinated, aggressive efforts. And more than almost any state in the country, New Jersey relies on small, local health departments, which have found themselves stretched far beyond their missions by the pandemic.”

ProPublica: Bill Barr Promised to Release Prisoners Threatened by Coronavirus — Even as the Feds Secretly Made It Harder for Them to Get Out. “Even as the Justice Department announced that federal prisons would release vulnerable, nonviolent inmates to home confinement to avoid the spread of COVID-19, the agency was quietly adopting a policy that makes it harder for inmates to qualify for release, not easier. The result has been that more than 98% of inmates remain in federal custody, while a handful of celebrity inmates, like former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, have been released to home detention.”

Stars and Stripes: South Korea to provide 10,000 face masks to help Navajo veterans fight coronavirus. “South Korea will provide 10,000 masks and hand sanitizer to help Navajo veterans of the 1950-53 Korean War fight the coronavirus, the government said [May 18]. It was the latest in a series of humanitarian shipments from South Korea to foreign veterans ahead of the 70th anniversary of the June 25 start of the war that pitted the United States and the South against the communist-backed North.”


CNN: How a Kawasaki-like syndrome left this 6-year-old fighting for his life on a ventilator. “Britain’s National Health Service, the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are now issuing alerts to pediatricians to be on the lookout for cases. While not all affected children test positive for the coronavirus, the CDC and physicians in Britain believe the syndrome comes as a result of the body’s reaction to infection with Covid-19.”

Gotham Gazette: Front-Line Workers Must Prove They Contracted Coronavirus on the Job to Receive Workers’ Comp. “Infected front-line staff, from health-care workers to grocery store clerks, are being asked to prove they contracted the virus on the job in order to receive workers’ compensation and death benefits, union leaders and elected officials say. In some cases, insurance companies are asking nurses to identify which patient may have exposed them to the virus or when they had a breach of personal protective equipment, the officials said.”

Associated Press: WHO warns that 1st wave of pandemic not over; dampens hopes. “As Brazil and India struggle with surging coronavirus cases, a top health expert is warning that the world is still smack in the middle of the pandemic, dampening hopes for a speedy global economic rebound and renewed international travel.”


CNET: More harm than good? Twitter struggles to label misleading COVID-19 tweets. “Automated technology that Twitter began using this month to label tweets containing coronavirus misinformation is making mistakes, raising concerns about the company’s reliance on artificial intelligence to review content.”

The Verge: 3D Printers Are On The Front Lines Of The Covid-19 Pandemic. “The US continues to struggle to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, both at a state and federal level. So DIY efforts from academics, hobbyists, manufacturing experts, and professional firms have coalesced around COVID hotspots like New York City to meet the needs of health care workers and others on the front line of the response effort. Some of these initiatives are highly organized, involving partnerships across state lines to source materials and make use of industrial-grade manufacturing facilities. Yet almost all began in the living rooms of people with access to a 3D printer and the ingenuity to put together stopgap measures as existing supply lines struggled to keep up.”

Medium: Conspiracy Theorizing in the Time of Covid-19: The Complementary Roles of Social and Hyper-Partisan News Media. “This post is a ‘data memo’ examining how social media and hyper-partisan online news media play complementary roles in the spread of conspiracy theories. It is a story about how a discredited scientist and vaccine skeptic became a household name in conversations about Covid-19. Well, it’s a small part of that story, one that is interwoven into a larger tapestry of politics and media in the Internet connected era. The story is told through snapshots of data, including a collection of tweets related to Covid-19, and views into public Facebook interactions provided by the Crowdtangle platform.”


CNBC: WHO pauses trial of hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus treatment amid safety concerns. “The World Health Organization on Monday temporarily suspended its trial of hydroxycholoroquine, the drug backed by President Donald Trump to combat the deadly coronavirus, over safety concerns.”

WBUR: Study: Many Thousands More Mass. Residents Likely Contracted Coronavirus Than Official Count. “A significantly larger number of Massachusetts residents may have contracted the coronavirus than official state numbers show, according to a new model from British researchers at the Imperial College London. Released late last week, the public research university’s study finds it is likely that 13% of the state’s population has been infected with the virus.”

The Verge: Amazon’s Kindle and Echo team now working on the company’s COVID-19 testing project. “Amazon’s Lab126, the hardware group responsible for developing the company’s Kindle e-reader and its Echo smart speaker, is hiring engineers to work on its COVID-19 testing initiative, according to job listings first reported by GeekWire on Monday. As of right now, Amazon is contracting with existing labs to process nasal swabs and saliva samples to test its workforce for the novel coronavirus. But Amazon’s ultimate goal is to build a robust testing network with a central testing hub, and these new hires are being brought on to help build that.”

BBC: Coronavirus: Sports events in March ’caused increased suffering and death’. “Two major sporting events held in March ’caused increased suffering and death’, the scientist leading the UK’s largest Covid-19 tracking project has said. Data gathered from millions of volunteers found coronavirus ‘hotspots’ shortly after the Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool’s Champions League match against Atletico Madrid.”


The Cut: How to Make a Realistic Duplicate of Your Head and Face (for Zoom). “Wouldn’t you love a guilt-free break from Zooming? Try to imagine it. The ability to have a single night’s relief from screaming into a computer during an ultimately dispiriting facsimile of a ‘hang-out’ with your friends or loved ones, without the stigma that accompanies turning down the invitation. The ability to act as a sounding board for your in-laws’ thoughts about lifting isolation restrictions, without having to be a sounding board for your in-laws’ thoughts about lifting isolation restrictions. The ability to present an attentive audience for your boss during a ‘meeting,’ while you just close your eyes or lie on the ground or do literally anything else, for the love of God. Believe me when I tell you: I can bring you this relief.”


World Economic Forum: Dramatic Rise of Cybersecurity Risks from COVID-19 Prompts Action Plan. “In a matter of weeks, the pandemic forced the global economy and society, organizations and individuals to become more reliant than ever on the internet and the digital economy. According to the Forum’s COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications, cyberattacks and data fraud are considered the most likely technological risks of COVID-19 for the world, and the third of greatest concern overall owing to abrupt adoption of new working patterns. To support business leaders responsible for reinforcing the cyber resilience of their organizations in an unforeseen, instantaneous new reality, the World Economic Forum today launched The Cybersecurity Leadership Principles: Lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic to prepare for the new normal.”


CNN: Trump threatens to pull Republican convention out of North Carolina. “President Donald Trump began a solemn Memorial Day railing against North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, ahead of the 2020 Republican National Convention, threatening to pull it out of Charlotte, where the convention is expected to be held August 24 to 27. Trump contended that Cooper is ‘unable to guarantee’ that the arena can be filled to capacity.”

NBC News: Trump says he’s no longer taking hydroxychloroquine. “President Donald Trump said he had ‘just finished’ taking a two-week course of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, the medication he has vigorously promoted as a preventative or curative treatment for the coronavirus, even as evidence piles up that the drug may cause more harm than good.”

NBC News: ‘This is not about politics’: GOP governor says wearing masks is a public health issue. ” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, on Sunday dismissed the politicization of wearing masks in public to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, imploring Americans during the Memorial Day weekend to understand ‘we are truly all in this together.’ With many states like Ohio beginning to relax stay-at-home restrictions, he underscored the importance of following studies that show masks are beneficial to limiting the spread of the virus.”

The New Yorker: The “Glaring Holes” in Congress’s Plan to Stabilize the Economy. “I recently spoke by phone with Bharat Ramamurti, a lawyer and political adviser serving on the covid-19 Congressional Oversight Commission, which still does not have a chairperson, because Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell have not agreed on whom to appoint to the role. Ramamurti is also the managing director of the Corporate Power program at the Roosevelt Institute and a former economic adviser to Elizabeth Warren. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed why our economic system is best equipped to save bigger businesses, the real reasons that so little money has reached its intended recipients, and the next steps that Congress should be taking to help struggling workers.”

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