Monday CoronaBuzz, June 22, 2020: 27 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.


Salesforce: Salesforce Research Develops New Search Engine to Support the Fight Against COVID-19. “Searching scientific publications requires different techniques from traditional keyword-matching search engines. It’s critical that a COVID-19 search engine interpret the proper meaning in a given search, going beyond finding results based on the frequency with which words appear in documents. And with long documents, it’s valuable to quickly surface relevant passages in search results. COVID-19 Search addresses this by combining text retrieval and NLP — including semantic search, state of the art question answering, and abstractive summarization — to better understand the question and surface the most relevant scientific results.”


The National: The rise of the ‘quaranteenager’: How to help young adults with their mental health during the pandemic. “The number of people living with mental health disorders amid the coronavirus crisis has undoubtedly soared, but teenagers are particularly at risk, says one UAE psychologist. Tanya Dharamshi, clinical director and counselling psychologist at Dubai’s Priory Wellbeing Centre, says the clinic has seen an upsurge in teenagers visiting, as they have been diagnosed with issues such as anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder since schooling went virtual.”


BBC: Saudi Arabia to lift coronavirus curfew. “Saudi Arabia has announced it will lift its nationwide curfew on Sunday, but says other restrictions will remain. Authorities say all economic and commercial activities will resume, but bans on international travel and religious pilgrimages will not change.”

CNET: Coronavirus in ‘new and dangerous phase’ as cases hit record daily high. “The World Health Organization recorded 183,020 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, the largest increase in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic. The increasing case numbers are driven largely by two countries in the Americas: the US and Brazil.”

Business Insider: Sweden’s ‘herd immunity’ hopes are fading as only a small fraction of the population has coronavirus antibodies. “Sweden’s soft approach to the coronavirus has resulted in only a small portion of the population developing antibodies to the virus. This means the country appears highly unlikely to tackle the virus by achieving herd immunity. A new study published this week showed that just 6.1% of Sweden’s population had developed coronavirus antibodies by late May, a lower measure than some of its health agency’s earlier models had predicted.”


PolitiFact: Widely shared Facebook posts mislead on COVID-19 mortality rate. “Determining the death rate of COVID-19 is a big challenge, especially at this still-early stage in the pandemic. Health officials and epidemiologists say there are many unknowns: How many people got infected but were never tested? How many died of the disease without being counted as coronavirus deaths? The answer is a moving target and at least one health expert believes it could be many months before a precise mortality rate is known.”

Poynter: Posts about COVID-19 vaccines bring an overdose of misinformation . “The world waits anxiously for a vaccine that will halt the deaths and devastation from the coronavirus. But until that happens, fear and uncertainty are generating a gigantic list of falsehoods about this topic. Extra caution is essential when reading about COVID-19 vaccines.”


Caltech: Even During Pandemic Lockdown, Air Quality Remained Poor in Parts of China. “The viral before-and-after images of improved air quality around the world resulting from the COVID-19 lockdown may not paint an entirely accurate picture, at least not in China. According to a new study published on June 17 in the journal Science, although there was a dramatic reduction in pollution emission during the lockdown that far outstripped the ‘Olympic Blue’ efforts the nation used to temporarily combat air pollution ahead of the Beijing Olympics, other factors involving complex atmospheric chemistry and meteorological variations have offset the influence of emission reduction. This has led to a counterintuitive deterioration in air quality in Beijing and other cities in northern China during the COVID-19 lockdown.”

Retail TouchPoints: Q1 2020 Results Highlight Gap Between Retail ‘Haves’ And ‘Have Nots’. “The COVID-19 pandemic has led to one of the worst financial quarters in retail’s modern history, and the near-universal rise in e-Commerce sales is of little comfort to retailers that are staring down double-digit declines in their brick-and-mortar businesses. But while this is an unprecedented time in many ways, the results tell a story that has been heard before: successful retailers are strengthening their positions, while struggling companies falter.”

Daily Journal: Reports show COVID-19 hits housing costs. “Historically hot housing markets may be feeling a little under the weather amid the pandemic which is seemingly pushing down real estate prices throughout the Bay Area, according to recent reports. Rent costs are down in San Mateo, Redwood City, San Bruno, South San Francisco and other Bay Area locales from the year prior, according to a June report from online database Zumper.”


CNET: Apple will close some stores again amid coronavirus spikes. “Apple plans to temporarily close some of its retail stores again because of spikes of coronavirus cases in some states across the US. The closures, earlier reported by Bloomberg, will impact 11 stores across Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina.”

New York Times: ‘They Just Dumped Him Like Trash’: Nursing Homes Evict Vulnerable Residents. “More than any other institution in America, nursing homes have come to symbolize the deadly destruction of the coronavirus crisis. More than 51,000 residents and employees of nursing homes and long-term care facilities have died, representing more than 40 percent of the total death toll in the United States. But even as they have been ravaged, nursing homes have also been enlisted in the response to the outbreak. They are taking on coronavirus-stricken patients to ease the burden on overwhelmed hospitals — and, at times, to bolster their bottom lines.”

NiemanLab: To keep readers around after COVID, publishers see hope in newsletters and podcasts. “Despite the simplicity and relative lack of sophistication, our data show that email news is striking a chord with many users, particularly those who are older and more interested in news. Across 40 markets, around one in six (16%) receive news via email each week, 21% in the United States. But we also find that around half of these say email is their main way of accessing news.”


Cities Today: How cities are using data to plan for COVID-19. “Cities have long talked about making data-driven decisions and the coronavirus crisis has brought this to the fore for those responsible for data management. Chief Information Officers (CIOs) gathered at a recent Cities Today Institute digital roundtable noted the importance of data visualisation and analysis during the pandemic – both for residents and decision-makers within the city. Several also highlighted key obstacles to achieving data’s full potential in scenarios like this, and these issues will need to be addressed to boost future resilience.”


CNN: More young people across the South are testing positive for coronavirus, officials warn. “Officials in states across the South are warning that more young people are testing positive for coronavirus. The shifts in demographics have been recorded in parts of Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas and other states — many of which were some of the first to reopen. And while some officials have pointed to more widespread testing being done, others say the new cases stem from Americans failing to social distance.”

BBC: Coronavirus: French defy lockdown with Festival of Music. “Thousands of people gathered across France on Sunday to celebrate an annual music festival, defying coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Revellers ignored social distancing rules and danced in the streets for the Fête de la Musique, known as Music Day in English.”


BBC: Coronavirus: 75 staff at Anglesey chicken plant positive. “More workers have tested positive for coronavirus after an outbreak at a chicken factory on Anglesey. All staff at the 2 Sisters meat processing plant in Llangefni are self-isolating after a number of workers were confirmed to have the virus on Thursday. On Saturday the number had risen to 75, Public Health Wales confirmed.”

Kurdistan 24: KRG reports dramatic spike in daily COVID-19 cases, with 326 new cases. “Kurdistan Region health authorities on Sunday reported 326 new coronavirus cases in a single day, raising the total number of infections since the disease first entered the autonomous region to over 3,800.”

BBC: Coronavirus: South Korea confirms second wave of infections. “Health officials in South Korea believe the country is going through a second wave of coronavirus, despite recording relatively low numbers. The country had been a success story in dealing with Covid-19, but now expects the pandemic to continue for months.”


EurekAlert: Scientists produce first open source all-atom models of full-length COVID-19 ‘S’ protein. “The virus SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the known cause of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The ‘spike’ or S protein facilitates viral entry into host cells. Now a group of researchers from Seoul National University in South Korea, University of Cambridge in UK, and Lehigh University in USA, have worked together to produce the first open-source all-atom models of a full-length S protein. The researchers say this is of particular importance because the S protein plays a central role in viral entry into cells, making it a main target for vaccine and antiviral drug development.”


AsiaOne: Hacker allegedly breaches Indonesian govt database on Covid-19 test-takers. “The hacker, under the username Database Shopping, offered the personal data of Covid-19 test-takers in Indonesia on the data-exchange platform Raid Forums, where another member put up for sale the personal information of 15 million users from homegrown e-commerce unicorn Tokopedia’s internal database for US$5,000 (S$7,000).”

Syracuse: Can store owners require you to wear a face mask to enter?. “You might have seen the videos on social media: Shoppers who refuse to wear face masks confront the store manager, who patiently explains it’s store policy that all customers wear them. But can store owners legally enforce that policy?”


The Conversation: Cities must act to secure the future of urban cycling: our research shows how. “Cities worldwide are preparing for the long transition out of lockdown. Physical distancing measures will be in place for many months, with impacts on all walks of life, not least transport. With public transport options running at low capacity and emerging evidence of the role of air quality and exercise in mitigating the risks of COVID-19, solutions are needed more than ever.”

PLOS Blogs- Your Say: African countries set the tone in technological innovation to fight COVID-19. “Africa is not weak. Africa has been fighting terrible diseases for centuries and continues to battle infectious pathogens on a daily basis. Necessity is the mother of invention, and Africa has always had an abundance of young energy, materials, and optimism- COVID19 has just set this into overdrive. With Africa having over 25,000 confirmed cases, home-grown innovation has been the driving force behind the fight against COVID19 on many parts of the continent. To fully allow this raw potential to be definitive, now is the time for the world to recognize Africa in more egalitarian terms rooted in equity and freedom. This includes the revision of the global economic policies that currently deprive African nations of significant financial resources.”

Washington Post: The pandemic Trump cannot ignore. “The Republican Party, in its blind devotion to a man of such inhuman indifference to life (so much for the pro-life party), has succeeded in creating a culture war over unarguably effective health precautions. Protect yourself and your community or venerate Trump. Republicans choose the latter. A sea of white, unmasked faces showed up to flaunt their disdain for science and for human life. We already know the consequences of such conduct.”

CNN: Trump’s ‘kidding’ on testing exposes his negligence as virus spikes. “As the coronavirus pandemic surges in states that embraced his calls for aggressive early openings, President Donald Trump is mocking the very measures that might mitigate a crisis about which he is constantly in denial. Trump said at his weekend rally that he had told his staff to slow down testing for the disease, which has now killed nearly 120,000 Americans, to hide the discovery of more cases. Claims by his advisers that he was joking hardly lessen the questionable motives behind the remark.”


ABC News: Approval of Trump’s coronavirus response underwater, as he returns to campaign trail: POLL. “A solid majority of Americans disapprove of President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, even as he returned to the campaign trail with a rally Saturday night that marked his first major event since the pandemic began, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday finds.”

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