Friday CoronaBuzz, September 18, 2020: 50 pointers to new resources, useful stuff, research news, and more.

Please wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay at home if you can. Please be careful. I love you.


University of Hawaii: New UHERO tool tracks pulse of Hawaiʻi’s economy. “The University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization (UHERO) in UH Mānoa’s College of Social Sciences has launched a new tool that captures the state’s evolving economic landscape during COVID-19. The UHERO Economic Pulse index considers 18 factors, such as the number of deplaning passengers in Hawaiʻi, percentage of businesses open relative to January 2020, continuing claims of unemployment insurance benefits and average level of job postings relative to January 4–31, 2020.”

CBS 3 Philly: New Jersey Transit Unveils Tool To Let Passengers Track Crowding On Trains, Buses. “New Jersey Transit has a new tool for passengers concerned about overcrowding because of COVID-19. The agency unveiled a new feature on its app that tracks how full trains and buses are in real-time.”


New York Times: Trump’s Payroll Tax ‘Cut’ Fizzles. “More than a month after Mr. Trump signed an executive memorandum to defer the collection of the payroll taxes that workers pay to help fund Social Security, few companies or people are taking part. Trade groups and tax experts say they know of no large corporations that plan to stop withholding employees’ payroll taxes this fall. As a result, economic policy experts now say they expect the deferral to have little to no effect on economic growth this year.”

BBC: Covid-19: New fear grips Europe as cases top 30m worldwide. “The number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the globe has surpassed 30 million, according to figures by America’s Johns Hopkins University. More than 940,000 have died with Covid-19 since the outbreak began in China late last year. The US, India and Brazil have the most confirmed cases, but there is a renewed spike in infections across Europe.”

AP: COVID-19 danger continues to drive joblessness in US. “The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to 860,000, a historically high number of people that illustrates the broad economic damage still taking place nine months after the first case of COVID-19 was detected in the U.S.”

NBC News: At risk of losing their home, health, and internet: 12 million Americans still waiting for unemployment benefits. “Six months into the pandemic, some laid-off workers find themselves waiting weeks or even months to receive their unemployment benefits. States blame antiquated technology and say their staffers can’t keep up with the continued surge of claims, while worker advocates say these are just excuses for mismanagement and a failure to prioritize funding for upgrades. As this plays out, an untold number of families are hanging on by a financial thread.”


Washington Post: Trump blames blue states for the coronavirus death toll — but most recent deaths have been in red states. “It is true that the early surge in deaths was heavily weighted toward states that had voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. New York and New Jersey in particular recorded hundreds of deaths a day in April, quickly contributing to the country’s total number of fatalities. Over time, though, the percentage of total deaths that have occurred in blue states has dropped. The most recent data, through Tuesday, indicates that about 53 percent of deaths have occurred in blue states — meaning that 47 percent have occurred in red ones.”

Scientific American: A Grassroots Effort to Fight Misinformation During the Pandemic. “During the height of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, with misinformation permeating every form of media, members of the public were growing increasingly concerned for their health and seeking answers about the virus, its mode of transmission and how to protect themselves and their loved ones. Five organizations came together, recruited hundreds of volunteer scientists and built a new tool to get the best scientific information in plain language to millions of people around the world. This is the story of that project.”


BuzzMachine: The end of applause. “The end of applause occurred to me as I watched recent events: Apple’s latest product announcement sans clapping geeks and sycophants (revealing its true aesthetic as just another infomercial); the US Open with tepid, sitcom-like clap-tracks where cheers would have been; the Democrats’ intimate and audience-free YouTube convention — which I wrote about here; and Sarah Cooper’s opener for Jimmy Kimmel’s show. I’m in awe of Cooper anyway, but watching her monologue, I marveled at the courage of a comedian telling jokes without the immediate feedback of laughter, applause, and cheers: without an audience, or at least one that could be heard. YouTubers find this normal; old farts, strange.”


Spokesman-Review: After balking at masks, pastor and church staff in North Idaho contract COVID-19. “A Coeur d’Alene pastor who opened his large church in early May for in-person services that allowed and even encouraged unmasked congregants to gather has been recovering from COVID-19 at the Kootenai Health intensive care unit. Paul Van Noy, the senior pastor at Candlelight Christian Fellowship, has spent the past two weeks in the ICU while his wife, Brenda Van Noy, recovered from her own bout with COVID-19 at home. Five other church staff have been infected, said Eric Reade, body ministry coordinator the church.”

NPR: If You Have To Wear A Mask, It Might As Well Be A Masterpiece. “Many museums are still closed, but their shops are doing a lively business with face masks that are funny, or gorgeous, or daring, and can be ordered online. Usually the masks are based on art in their collections. They’re nonmedical (but at least one of them — The Detroit Institute of Arts — is selling liners you can tuck inside the mask, for extra protection.) DIA is selling some stunning masks, too. One, based on a Monet painting, gives you an Impressionist beard!”

Dallas News: Even Big Tex can’t avoid the mask debate, becoming biggest target in COVID-19 political divide. “With a height of 55 feet, Big Tex will always maintain the recommended six feet of social distance from the visitors at Dallas’ Fair Park. But the animatronic statue — erected on Wednesday to commemorate the canceled State Fair of Texas — is wearing a mask anyway, showing solidarity with Texans and becoming a flash point in the debate over mandated face coverings amid the coronavirus pandemic.”


NBC News: Almost 60 percent of business closures are now permanent, new Yelp data shows. “As of Aug. 31, 163,735 businesses have indicated on Yelp that they have closed, a 23 percent increase since mid-July. Yelp also measures businesses whose closures have become permanent. That number has steadily increased over the past six months, now reaching 97,966, representing 60 percent of closed businesses that won’t be reopening.”

New York Times: Unable to Pay Rent, Small Businesses Hope for a Deal With Their Landlord. “In March, when the Boston restaurateur Garrett Harker and his partners shut down their seven restaurants after Massachusetts issued lockdown orders, Mr. Harker assumed the closures would be painful but temporary. Six months later, three of Mr. Harker’s restaurants, including the flagship Eastern Standard — once described as the ‘perfect restaurant’ by The Boston Globe’s food critic — remain shuttered. Mr. Harker and his landlord for those three restaurants are in a standoff: He can’t afford to pay the six-figure arrears he has accrued while his restaurants remain shut, and the landlord, he said, has refused to grant a deferral or discount.”

Washington Post: Dozens of National Airport workers may have been exposed to coronavirus. “Dozens of workers at Reagan National Airport may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus after attending services at an Alexandria church last month. The possible exposures took place at the Kidane Mehret Church in Alexandria between Aug. 14 and Aug. 17, but it wasn’t until a week later, on Aug. 21, that city health officials were notified of a confirmed case of the virus linked to the church.”

The Scotsman: Care home linked with 13 Covid-19 deaths rated ‘unsatisfactory’ for infection control by Care Inspectorate. “A care home linked with 13 deaths caused by Covid-19 in April has been told it must improve urgently by the Care Inspectorate after being rated ‘unsatisfactory’ for infection control practices. Guthrie House in Liberton, Edinburgh, is run by Four Seasons Health Care and was linked to the deaths of 13 residents due to Covid-19 in April.”


Texas Tribune: Share of positive COVID-19 cases as Texas reopened was higher than originally reported, new state calculations show. “State health officials published new data this week that showed the state’s coronavirus positivity rate was higher in the spring than originally disclosed, even as public officials cited the data to justify business reopenings during the pandemic.”


New York Times: C.D.C. Testing Guidance Was Published Against Scientists’ Objections. “A heavily criticized recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month about who should be tested for the coronavirus was not written by C.D.C. scientists and was posted to the agency’s website despite their serious objections, according to several people familiar with the matter as well as internal documents obtained by The New York Times.”

USA Today: How the CDC failed public health officials fighting the coronavirus. “As the virus raced across America, state and local authorities sought help from the CDC, the $7 billion federal agency established to lead the nation through pandemics. Instead of answers, many received slow, confusing and conflicting information – or no response at all – a USA TODAY investigation found. Reporters reviewed 42,000 pages of emails and memos obtained from health departments and interviewed more than 100 community leaders and public health experts, including current and former CDC officials.”

ProPublica: Poorly Protected Postal Workers Are Catching COVID-19 by the Thousands. It’s One More Threat to Voting by Mail.. “More than 50,000 workers have taken time off for virus-related reasons, slowing mail delivery. The Postal Service doesn’t test employees or check their temperatures, and its contact tracing is erratic.”

BBC: Coronavirus: Israel marks Jewish New Year with second lockdown. “Rosh Hashanah is traditionally a time for big, family get-togethers. But under the new three-week lockdown, Israelis must stay within 1km (0.6 miles) of their homes, with exceptions, and the number of people allowed in synagogues has been greatly reduced.”

Washington Post: Newly revealed USPS documents show an agency struggling to manage Trump, Amazon and the pandemic. “The wide-ranging headaches that so troubled the USPS in April ultimately foreshadowed a summer of upheaval, thrusting the once-venerated agency into a political maelstrom months before a presidential election. Newly disclosed details of these struggles are laid bare in nearly 10,000 pages of emails, legal memos, presentations and other documents obtained by The Washington Post from American Oversight, a watchdog group that requested them under the Freedom of Information Act.”


CNN: Pence’s former lead coronavirus task force aide slams Trump and endorses Biden in new video. “Olivia Troye, who was a homeland security adviser to Pence and his lead staffer on the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, charged in the two-minute video that Trump failed to protect the American public because he only cared about himself and getting reelected. Troye’s criticism is particularly striking because of her role working on the coronavirus task force, which Pence leads.”

Vanity Fair: “That’s Their Problem”: How Jared Kushner Let the Markets Decide America’s COVID-19 Fate. “First-person accounts of a tense meeting at the White House in late March suggest that President Trump’s son-in-law resisted taking federal action to alleviate shortages and help Democratic-led New York. Instead, he enlisted a former roommate to lead a Consultant State to take on the Deep State, with results ranging from the Eastman Kodak fiasco to a mysterious deal to send ventilators to Russia.”


CNN: Chiefs fan who attended game tests positive for Covid-19 and now everyone who sat near them is in quarantine. “A fan who attended the Kansas City Chiefs’ opening night game at Arrowhead Stadium on September 10 has tested positive for Covid-19. The Kansas City Health Department said the individual that tested positive watched the game from the group’s box in the lower level of the stadium and tested positive the following day. The positive test has prompted the Kansas City Health Department to direct 10 people there to quarantine after potential exposure to the coronavirus.”


CNN: Parents send student to school while knowingly infected with coronavirus, mayor says. “Almost 30 teenagers have to quarantine after parents sent their child to a Massachusetts school despite knowing they were positive with Covid-19, according to Attleboro Public Schools and the town’s mayor. A Covid-19 positive student attended class on Monday, but the school wasn’t notified of their diagnosis until the next day, Attleboro High School superintendent David Sawyer said in a letter sent out to families Tuesday night.”

Esquire: The Crushing Reality of Zoom School. “Every choice has been terrible since the start of the pandemic, when we were told we had to choose life or an economy, a false dichotomy from the start—mass death and sickness are also bad for the economy—but the awful choices we face as parents at the start of school feel especially difficult because we’re all burnt out. The idea of facing all of this for one more day, let alone the seemingly endless months ahead, feels basically impossible. The pandemic balancing act for parents—choose two: your kids, your job, or your health—has always been difficult, but six months in it’s in full collapse.”

New York Times: As School Returns, Kids With Special Needs Are Left Behind. “When the coronavirus pandemic first hit, the Education Department stressed that all public schools that would be providing virtual or online education during the pandemic must continue to serve their students with disabilities. But a survey released at the end of May by the advocacy group ParentsTogether, found that 40 percent of kids in special education hadn’t received any support at all, and only 20 percent received all the services they were entitled to. Over a third were doing little to no remote learning, compared with 17 percent of their general education peers.”

Politico: Florida schools defy DeSantis order to keep virus stats under wraps. “Florida school districts are defying Gov. Ron DeSantis and publicly reporting new Covid-19 cases among students and staff that the state government considers confidential. The state Department of Health has tried to directly quash reporting on the virus in some instances, after DeSantis said K-12 testing data ‘needs to be put in the right context.'”

Los Angeles Times: Why are so many schools closed when California cleared them to reopen?. “The recent decline of new coronavirus cases in California has freed 25 counties to reopen schools in the weeks ahead. On Sept. 1, San Diego County — home to the second-largest school district in the state — got the go-ahead. Orange County is on track to reopen schools on Sept. 22. San Francisco, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz are also cleared to soon open. But state and county clearance are only the first steps. In sprawling and diverse Orange and San Diego counties — and in the future Los Angeles County — school district leaders face disparate situations and complicated decisions that must take into account neighborhood COVID-19 rates, the size of the district, parent opinions and negotiations with employee unions.”

New York Times: N.Y.C. Will Again Delay Start of In-Person Classes for Most Students. “Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday once again delayed the start of most in-person classes in the New York City public schools, acknowledging that the system had still not fully surmounted the many obstacles that it faced in bringing children back during the pandemic.”


WSLS: More than 1,000 Liberty University students, employees either in or instructed to quarantine. “Liberty University released information on its COVID-19 dashboard Wednesday that shows a large amount of the campus population in quarantine. According to the dashboard, the university has 1,118 students and employees who are either in quarantine or have been instructed to quarantine.”

Reason: An Online Student Attended a Rooftop Party. He Was Reported to NYU and Suspended Indefinitely.. “It was a gorgeous August weekend in New York City, and Andy—a college senior at New York University (NYU)—decided to attend a rooftop social gathering with his roommates. The party was consistent with New York City’s Phase 4 COVID-19 guidelines, which allow events of up to 50 people. Many attendees went mask-less, but Andy says he didn’t stand in close proximity to anyone other than his roommates—who are also students—and they left after a short while. But unbeknownst to Andy—whose name has been changed for this article to protect his privacy—someone at the party posted a video of the event on social media.”

Washington Post: The latest crisis: Low-income students are dropping out of college this fall in alarming numbers. “In August, Paige McConnell became the first in her family to go to college — and the first to drop out. McConnell, 18, could not make online classes work. She doesn’t have WiFi at her rural home in Crossville, Tenn. The local library turned her away, not wanting anyone sitting around during the pandemic. She spent hours in a McDonald’s parking lot using the fast-food chain’s Internet, but she kept getting kicked off her college’s virtual classes because the network wasn’t ‘safe.’ Two weeks after starting at Roane State Community College, she gave up.”


New York Times: Covering Ebola Didn’t Prepare Me for This: I Volunteered for the Covid-19 Vaccine Trial. “I hadn’t thought of the placebo part of the vaccine trial when I signed up. I am a Type 1 diabetic — a chronic autoimmune disorder I have had since I was 15, with asthma to boot, so I am firmly in the high-risk category. That had been made clear to me by Dr. Fauci himself in early March when I ran into him in the green room for NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’ ‘What happens if I get Covid?’ I had asked him. ‘I’m not saying you’re a dead duck,’ he replied, ‘but I cannot stress enough that you really need to not get it.'”

Washington Post: Pandemic isolation has killed thousands of Alzheimer’s patients while families watch from afar. “Beyond the staggering U.S. deaths caused directly by the novel coronavirus, more than 134,200 people have died from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia since March. That is 13,200 more U.S. deaths caused by dementia than expected, compared with previous years, according to an analysis of federal data by The Washington Post.”

WXYZ: 2-month-old baby in Michigan dies from COVID-19. “A 2-month-old baby in Michigan has died from COVID-19, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said Wednesday. Dr. Khaldun spoke about the infant’s death while discussing how children are not immune to COVID-19. She said while children are less likely to get severely ill, they still can and are likely to pass it on to others.”

KHN: Hospitals, Nursing Homes Fail to Separate COVID Patients, Putting Others at Risk. “As recently as July, a National Nurses United survey of more than 21,000 nurses found that 32% work in a facility that does not have a dedicated COVID unit. At that time, the coronavirus had reached all but 17 U.S. counties, data collected by Johns Hopkins University shows.”

New York Times: Call Me the Joan of Arc of Coronavirus Vaccine Trials. “I am Patient 1133. I’ve never been in a medical trial before and I never wanted to be. As someone who suffers from pretty significant anxiety about my health, I am, in theory, the last person who should ever do any medical trial at all, and, on the way, up to the hospital, this thought occurred to me numerous times. But on Tuesday, Sept. 8, I did it anyway. I drove up to Yale New Haven Hospital to get my first of two doses of the experimental Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.”


Phys .org: Copper coating on 3-D-printed plastic filters proposed as a pandemic fighter. “In the ongoing fight against COVID-19, experts on microbiology and copper are recommending an expanded use of the metal to reduce the virus’s spread. So might copper be incorporated into the construction of masks, the universally accepted virus-fighting personal item? That’s what Jing Zhang of the School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI and a team of researchers are doing, using a copper coating on 3-D-printed plastic filters to create more-efficient masks and respirators.”


Phys .org: Taxing online sports betting, fantasy sports may help states cover pandemic losses. “Taxing online fantasy sports and sports betting may help states recoup some of the sales tax revenue lost during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a finance expert at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.” Sometimes when I’m reading these articles my face freezes like this: 😬


The Register: Fake Zoom alerts and dodgy medical freebies among COVID-cracks detected by Taiwan’s CERT. “Taiwan’s CERT detected cyber-crooks impersonating medical authorities to attack the country’s tech industry during the early stages of the COVID pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the organisation noted an uptick in the number of attacks using malicious domain names to confuse victims, it said at the APNIC 50 conference. Hackers also impersonated trusted bodies such as the World Health Organisation or America’s Centers for Disease Control and sent phishing emails offering free protective equipment such as face masks.”

CNN: House passes resolution condemning anti-Asian sentiment. “The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a resolution condemning anti-Asian sentiment amid the coronavirus pandemic. The final vote was 243-164, with 14 Republicans joining their Democratic colleagues.”

ABA Journal: This Louisiana judge continues to innovate during the COVID-19 crisis. “Judge Scott Schlegel’s history of utilizing technology in his Louisiana courtroom to make life easier for attorneys and members of the public has come in very handy during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the public health crisis forced the closure of Jefferson Parish courtrooms earlier this year, Schlegel contacted those he knows in the legal tech world for assistance in bringing to fruition a plan to remotely accept guilty pleas in criminal cases.”

BuzzFeed News: Trump Is Waging A Multistate, Multimillion-Dollar Legal Battle Against Mail-In Voting During The Pandemic. “President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party are devoting millions of dollars to wage a state-by-state legal battle against mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic, not only suing state officials but also intervening in cases where they aren’t a party to limit how Americans can vote from home.”

People: Police Break Up Gathering of Hundreds Outside House Featured in the Jersey Shore. “Police broke up a gathering of hundreds of people Monday night outside a house in New Jersey featured in The Jersey Shore. People crowded outside the residence at 1209 Boardwalk in Seaside Heights Monday night, where YouTubers the Nelk Boys were hosting a launch party for their new website.”


HuffPost: Trump Stayed Silent About What He Knew About COVID-19. Now My Dad Is Dead.. “I took Dad to the hospital on a Thursday afternoon and he died early on a Friday morning. Full of morphine and out of oxygen, Dad took his last breaths apart from his family, without the solace of my mother’s touch and without the presence of his loving sons and grandchildren. After his death, the pandemic prevented my family from holding a funeral and sharing our grief with other loved ones, friends and our community. Too many Americans know Dad’s COVID-19 story all too well: the families of more than 190,000 people who have died of the disease in the U.S. Some things, however, Americans did not know about the COVID story until Wednesday.”

The Editorial Board: Anti-maskers are not rugged individualists. “America does not have too much rugged individualism. It has too little. The more we think rugged individualism is the problem, the bigger the real problem will be. People who refuse to wear masks are not reflecting the American frontier mentality. They are not rejecting commonsense out of the nobility of self-reliance. They are not harming themselves, literally, due to outrage against government overreach. They are acting in the interest of the groups they identify with. More importantly, they are acting out of fear of being punished by their group. They’re not individualists. They’re collectivists.”


ABC News: Trump heads into flu season amid pandemic mocking masks, holding packed campaign rallies. “Fighting for reelection amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Trump enters the final stretch of the election increasingly ridiculing and ignoring coronavirus-related restrictions while holding packed campaign rallies across the country. Health experts, meanwhile, warn a bad flu season colliding with the coronavirus could be a devastating double threat to the country.”

The Hill: Exclusive: Internal documents show officials waved red flags before Trump’s Tulsa rally. “Oklahoma health officials raised red flags before President Trump’s indoor rally in June, warning there could be significant spikes of coronavirus cases and deaths from the event, according to internal state documents. Dozens of emails obtained by The Hill through a state freedom of information request reveal growing angst within the Oklahoma public health department in the days leading up to the June 20 rally.”

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