Thursday CoronaBuzz, June 4, 2020: 37 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.


Vanderbilt University: Vanderbilt University screening tool assesses COVID-19 risk. “A new virtual self-screening tool developed by Vanderbilt University professors will help individuals assess their risk of being infected with COVID-19. The app also offers capabilities for expediting test screening for providers and ultimately giving public health officials real-time anonymized data to identify, map and target interventions where they’re needed most.”

University of Virginia: UVA Creates Important New Tool For Developing Covid-19 Treatments, Vaccines. “Wladek Minor of the University of Virginia School of Medicine and other top structural biologists have led an international team of scientists in investigating the protein structures contained in the virus – structures that are vital to developing treatments and vaccines. The team has created a web resource that provides scientists an easy way to see the progress of the structural biology community in this area. It also includes the team’s assessment of the quality of the individual models and enhanced versions of these structures, when possible.”

Datanami: New Map Shows Hundreds of Counties in the COVID-19 Endgame — and Thousands on the Uptick. “As more and more states around the country begin to loosen the lockdowns that have kept most Americans inside for upwards of two months, people are waiting with bated breath for the dreaded second peak that some researchers say is looming on the horizon. Data analysts have been furiously poring over the numbers on a variety of levels, trying to identify the most telling signs of continued ebbing in COVID-19 cases – or their resurgence – in various areas. Now, a new tool from geographic information system firm Esri allows people to easily understand which way COVID-19 cases are trending in their own counties.”


News@Northeastern: Reopening After The Covid-19 Shutdown? This Course Can Help.. “Government leaders are calling for the economy to reopen. What does that mean for businesses that have been struggling to survive during the COVID-19 shutdowns? A new online course offers a free step-by-step guide to help owners of small and medium-sized businesses create and navigate a recovery plan. COVID-19: A Practical Approach to Enterprise Restart & Recovery Planning, created by Northeastern’s Global Resilience Institute in consultation with the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, can be applied to organizations other than businesses, including medical and educational facilities, churches, and non-governmental organizations that must not only bounce back from the lockdown but also adapt to new public-health regulations and limitations.”

PR Newswire: Nav Launches Free Calculator to Help Business Owners Estimate PPP Forgiveness (PRESS RELEASE). “Nav, a free service that provides business owners the fastest, easiest and most trusted path to financing, released a new tool today to help business owners calculate the amount of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness they may qualify for. The new tool — Nav’s PPP Loan Forgiveness Calculator — is free for any business owner to use.”


Campus Technology: Updated: Free and Discounted Ed Tech Tools for Online Learning During the Coronavirus Pandemic. “As more and more colleges and universities have shut down their campuses in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, education technology companies have stepped forward to help move student learning to the virtual realm. Some companies are making their paid services free through the rest of the school year; others are lifting limits to services and/or adding premium features to what’s free. The following list will be updated regularly as announcements are made.”


BBC: Shielding: Allowed to leave home – but choosing to stay indoors. “People across England and Wales with health conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to coronavirus were allowed to spend time outdoors on Monday for the first time in 10 weeks. But some opted to stay at home.”

Washington Post: More than 25,000 nursing home residents and 400 staff have died during pandemic, federal report shows. “More than 25,000 residents died and 60,000 were infected as the coronavirus swept through U.S. nursing homes in recent months, particularly affecting facilities with a history of low marks for staffing and patient care, the federal government reported Monday. The virus also infected 34,000 staff and took the lives of more than 400, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees the nation’s nursing homes.”

Los Angeles Times: First pregnant woman and first jail inmate die from coronavirus, L.A. County officials say. “Los Angeles County officials Monday reported an additional 22 coronavirus-linked deaths, including a pregnant woman who had tested positive for the virus and had underlying health issues and a person who was incarcerated in a jail facility. Both deaths are the first of their kind in the county related to COVID-19, health officials said.”


New York Times: Fancy Cakes? Quarantine Sourdough? Not for These Hapless Home Cooks. “When she began self-isolating in her apartment in College Station, Texas, in March, Melissa Hodges thought it would be her big opportunity to finally learn to cook. After all, so many of her classmates at Texas A&M University, where she is a senior, were posting Instagram photos of glossy strands of spaghetti carbonara and citrus scones drizzled with a sticky glaze. Then she tried to heat up a frozen cheese pizza.”

TechQuila: Analysts Predict Box Office to Plunge 50% due to Coronavirus Closures. “Research company MoffettNathanson has predicted that movie theatre closures and the uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic will have a devastating impact on the box office. The Wall Street analyst firm has said that revenues from ticket sales will be cut in half, falling from $11.4 billion in 2019 to $5.5 billion in 2020. Now that’s a huge plunge, around 52%, and it can go steeper if cinemas do not open in July. There are a few big-budget movies lined up for July, which, if pushed back more, can create a devasting effect.”

CNN: Evictions loom as state freezes on rent payments expire. “As states reopen, tenants are facing the end of freezes on rent payments and evictions put in place at the start of the pandemic despite still-rising joblessness and a stalled economy. The freezes didn’t cancel monthly payments, which means that with June 1 looming, renters may suddenly owe three months’ rent to cover April and May as well.”

Wired: Life is on hold in one of the last coronavirus-free places on Earth. “Vanuatu is one of the last places on Earth with no confirmed cases of Covid-19. It may be its isolated location in the South Pacific that spared the pristine archipelago from a devastating outbreak. Situated some 1,750 kilometres east of Australia, Vanuatu’s 300,000-strong population is spread over 65 of its 83 islands. To make sure the island group remains coronavirus-free, the government declared a state of emergency from March 26, closing all airports and cruise ports and banning travel between its islands – just three days after the last international flight left for Australia. A difficult call for an economy that depends heavily on tourism.”

University of California: How has coronavirus pandemic impacted California food, agriculture and environment?. “COVID-19 continues to affect parts of California agriculture in different ways. A new report from agricultural economists at the University of California examines the current and long-term impacts on California’s leading agricultural industries.”

Phys .org: Nothing changes: Lockdown gender gap remains firm. “While the world has been thrown into chaos by COVID-19, gender inequality has survived the pandemic intact, according to a report from Oxford’s Department of Sociology, with women still carrying out most housework and childcare, although they are disproportionately exposed to the virus—as the majority of front-line health workers.”


ProPublica: The Secret, Absurd World of Coronavirus Mask Traders and Middlemen Trying To Get Rich Off Government Money. “My descent into the pandemic PPE trade began with the story of one federal contractor whose failed attempt to find and sell N95 masks in a $34.5 million deal with the VA involved a private jet and the former attorney general of Alabama. The contract was ultimately canceled and referred to the inspector general for investigation. After the story ran and the federal inquiry began, my social media and email inboxes exploded with messages from people claiming to have giant stockpiles of masks or to know a guy who knows a guy with a stockpile.”

Federal Times: Federal food drive goes virtual to tackle hunger during the pandemic. “The annual federal campaign to stock food banks and pantries during lean summer months has turned to more virtual avenues in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic has kept many employees out of the office. The Feds Feed Families campaign, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and held in June and July when donations to food banks are traditionally at their lowest, launched June 1. This year, the agency also released a new website with virtual tools that allow federal employees to continue to contribute to hunger relief while ensuring pandemic safety.”

Mother Jones: Arkansas Told Corrections Officers to Keep Working Even If They’re Infected With COVID-19. “The Arkansas Department of Corrections, facing a lawsuit about prison conditions during the pandemic, told a court that due to a severe staff shortage, correctional officers who are currently infected are permitted to clock in at certain prisons as long as they are asymptomatic and wear a face mask. But since asymptomatic carriers can still spread the disease, attorneys for incarcerated people in Arkansas worry the policy will worsen infection rates.”

Motherboard: Whole Foods Just Fired an Employee Who Kept Track of Coronavirus Cases. “Whole Foods has fired a California employee who created a running count of COVID-19 cases in company’s US supermarkets because neither Amazon nor Whole Foods would make the information publicly available.”


The Guardian: Schools reopening has not triggered rise in Covid-19 cases, EU ministers told. “The reopening of schools in 22 European countries has not led to any significant increase in coronavirus infections among children, parents or staff, a videoconference meeting of education ministers from around the EU has heard. With a debate raging in the UK over the risks of allowing children back into the classroom, some member states are planning summer lessons to aid pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Education Week: It Was a Bumpy Ride, But Virtual Schooling During the Coronavirus Boosted Teachers’ Tech Skills. “As the school year ends, a picture, though still a bit blurry, is emerging about what effect this nationwide experiment in ad hoc professional learning will likely have on K-12 education next school year and beyond. Will teachers be more likely to turn to tech in the classroom when students are back in school buildings? Or is this only a moment for temporary solutions to emergency problems, to be discarded as soon as teachers can return to more typical face-to-face teaching in physical classrooms?”


Phys .org: Nudging out the coronavirus with behavioral economics. “Human behavior is key in any pandemic. So how can a little nudge in the right direction change our behavior for the better? Researcher Nurit Nobel explains the science behind encouraging good behaviors—and how it can help us during the pandemic.”

STAT News: Anthony Fauci on Covid-19 reopenings, vaccines, and moving at ‘warp speed’. “Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has seen the photos of bars packed with mask-less patrons. He was not impressed. He was similarly unenthused about a decision by the biotech company Moderna to issue snippets of early data from the vaccine trial his agency has been conducting — without waiting for fuller results. That said, these days, Fauci sees reason for cautious optimism about Moderna’s vaccine, and others.”

BuzzFeed News: Internal FDA Documents Show How Little Evidence The Agency Had Before Allowing Malaria Drugs To Be Used To Treat COVID-19. “The Food and Drug Administration authorized two malaria drugs boosted by President Donald Trump to treat COVID-19 in March based on threadbare evidence, according to an agency review obtained by BuzzFeed News through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The review also raised serious questions about shoddy practices at overseas factories that manufactured and donated the drugs for use in American hospitals, according to the documents.”

Axios: Health care CEO pay outstrips infectious disease research. “The CEOs of 179 health care companies took home almost $2.5 billion in 2019, a majority of which came from cashing out stock, according to an Axios analysis of financial filings. The big picture: That amount is four times what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had to study and prepare for all ’emerging and zoonotic infectious diseases’ last year, right before the novel coronavirus outbreak turned into a global pandemic.”

Daily Beast: Community Transmission of COVID-19 in U.S. Began Weeks Earlier Than We Thought: CDC Report. “Community transmission of the novel coronavirus in the United States began as early as late January or early February—weeks before the first confirmed case of non-travel-related infection on Feb. 26, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.”

The Scotsman: Smaller care homes faring ‘better’ during Covid-19 pandemic. “There have been a total of 1,818 deaths linked to the virus in care homes, compared to 1,815 Covid-19 deaths recorded in hospitals. While the number of care home deaths has been declining, down from 124 a fortnight ago to 68 last week, the Scottish Government remains under growing pressure over how it has responded to the crisis.”


Phys .org: Killing coronavirus with handheld ultraviolet light device may be feasible. “A personal, handheld device emitting high-intensity ultraviolet light to disinfect areas by killing the novel coronavirus is now feasible, according to researchers at Penn State, the University of Minnesota and two Japanese universities.”

The Lancet: Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis. “The findings of this systematic review and meta-analysis support physical distancing of 1 m or more and provide quantitative estimates for models and contact tracing to inform policy. Optimum use of face masks, respirators, and eye protection in public and health-care settings should be informed by these findings and contextual factors. Robust randomised trials are needed to better inform the evidence for these interventions, but this systematic appraisal of currently best available evidence might inform interim guidance.”

Simon Fraser University: SFU researchers help develop AI tool for speedy COVID-19 diagnosis. “Simon Fraser University researchers and Providence Health Care (PHC) are collaborating on a new artificial intelligence tool that will help diagnose COVID-19 quicker.PHC leveraged SFU researchers’ expertise to validate a deep learning Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool to expedite the time healthcare professionals spend distinguishing between COVID-19 pneumonia and non-COVID-19 cases.”

New York Times: Scientists Question Medical Data Used in Second Coronavirus Study. “A group of scientists who raised questions last week about a study in The Lancet about the use of antimalarial drugs in coronavirus patients have now objected to another paper about blood pressure medicines in the New England Journal of Medicine, which was published by some of the same authors and relied on the same data registry.”

News-Medical: New tool predicts COVID-19 peaks around the world. “This week in the journal Frontiers, researchers describe a single function that accurately describes all existing available data on active cases and deaths–and predicts forthcoming peaks. The tool uses q-statistics, a set of functions and probability distributions developed by Constantino Tsallis, a physicist and member of the Santa Fe Institute’s external faculty. Tsallis worked on the new model together with Ugur Tirnakli, a physicist at Ege University, in Turkey.”

Phys .org: Scientists tap the world’s most powerful computers in the race to understand and stop the coronavirus. “The largest number of COVID-19 supercomputing projects involves designing drugs. It’s likely to take several effective drugs to treat the disease. Supercomputers allow researchers to take a rational approach and aim to selectively muzzle proteins that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, needs for its life cycle.”


Alton Telegraph: This 7-year-old goes online to ‘spread my hope’ to children with medical issues during pandemic. “Sarah Rose has spent most of her 13 years fighting back from terrible things. First, it was a brain tumor when she was 5, with persistent complications she continues to battle. Then, a few months ago, Sarah Rose fell off a horse and fractured her right hip. She walked around for six weeks with that broken bone before doctors took X-rays. She still feels flashes of pain. It crashes in like thunder. She closes her eyes, tosses her head back, and her sweet smile twists into a pained grimace. Just in time, 7-year-old Molly Marks, sitting on her full-size bed with a canopy decorated with yellow and purple daisies, pops up on the screen and smiles.”


Daily Beast: Medical Workers Fighting COVID Say Cops Are Attacking Them. “Twenty minutes after leaving his job at a Brooklyn hospital on Saturday night, 32-year-old Rayne Valentine was lying in the fetal position on the sidewalk. He’d been beaten and kicked by New York police officers, his hospital ID smeared with his own blood, he told The Daily Beast. Valentine, a Marine veteran who worked as a chef before the pandemic hit the restaurant industry, got a job in March at Kings County Hospital Center. He has spent the past several months moving medicine and patients around the facility, as well as piling hundreds of dead bodies—many of them COVID-19 victims—into refrigerated morgue trucks.” Please note this story includes graphic images of blood.


CNN: Several cadets brought back for graduation at West Point test positive for Covid-19. “About 15 cadets from the US Military Academy Class of 2020 who were brought back for graduation where President Donald Trump is scheduled to give the commencement address have tested positive for coronavirus, according to a US Army spokesperson.”

ProPublica: Contractors for Trump’s Controversial $3 Billion Food Aid Program Have Hired a Longtime Lobbyist to Tout Their Work. “Companies receiving taxpayer dollars as part of President Donald Trump’s signature food aid program hired a longtime lobbyist to push back on criticism that the government is relying on unqualified contractors, such as an event planner.”

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