Friday CoronaBuzz, September 25, 2020: 26 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.


Government Technology: Google Maps is getting a new layer that shows what?. “Want to know how many confirmed COVID-19 cases there are in your area? How about whether infection rates are trending up or down? If you use Google Maps, you’re in luck. The platform’s newest feature will be able to tell you that.”

The Points Guy: This new tool shows you real-time COVID-19 requirements for international and domestic travel. “Primarily designed for travel agents, DragonSlayer’s database uses a proprietary algorithm called SAFE-T (Smart Analytics For Educating Travelers) to rank all 50 states as well as 124 countries to help travelers decide how safe they feel about visiting a potential destination.” As you might imagine, this is not a free service.

Fast Company: This website lets you look for patterns in COVID-19 data. “Months into the pandemic, there are still so many unknowns about COVID-19. Does age or ethnicity affect how likely a COVID patient is to be admitted to the ICU? Are patients who don’t enter the ICU more likely to end up back in the hospital later? And do comorbidities—other health conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, that may worsen someone’s COVID-19 case—have any affect on how long a coronavirus patient is hospitalized for?”


WRAL: NC unveils coronavirus exposure tracking app. “The state Department of Health and Human Services launched a free app Tuesday that alerts people when they may have been exposed to coronavirus. The app, called SlowCOVIDNC, uses Google and Apple’s Exposure Notification System (ENS) to alert users if they have been in close contact with someone who later tested positive for the virus.”


BBC: Australia coronavirus cases ‘set to be lowest in months’. “Australia looks set to record its lowest daily coronavirus increase for three months, with just 18 new cases reported so far. The state of Victoria – the epicentre of the country’s Covid-19 outbreak – recorded 14 new infections to Sunday morning, down from 21 the day before.”


Poynter: 6 closer looks into the pandemic’s impact on minorities and the poor. “It’s well-established that Black residents and Hispanic residents are roughly 2.5 times more likely to get the virus than white residents, more likely to die from it — and that the disparities vary significantly from state to state and county to county. Some of the more detailed coronavirus reporting now focuses on subsets of Black and Hispanic residents, other minority groups and particular populations of the poor. Here are six stories that caught our eye over the last several weeks, and nearly all of them can be reported in virtually any community.”

Phys .org: Lockdown air pollution: Nitrogen dioxide halved, but sulphur dioxide doubled. “A University of Liverpool study of air pollution in the UK during the first 100 days of lockdown has revealed that whilst nitrogen oxide levels were cut by half, levels of sulfur dioxide increased by over 100%.”

Route Fifty: Six Months Into the Pandemic, Out-of-Work Texans Are Still Struggling to Navigate Unemployment System. “Six months into a pandemic that has killed more than 14,000 Texans, [Christine] Brill is one of 1.8 million unemployed workers statewide facing confusion—and financial calamity. As President Donald Trump’s additional $300 in weekly unemployment aid has dried up for Texans, a second federal pandemic stimulus bill has stalled in Congress, a temporary ban on utility cut-offs soon expires and TWC still struggles to meet the increased demand brought on by an unemployment rate that was 8% in July.”

BuzzFeed News: We Aren’t Nationally Mourning The 200,000 COVID-19 Victims Because If We Did It Would Be A Reckoning. “Over six months into the coronavirus pandemic, 200,000 Americans have now died from the virus — a grim toll the country hit Tuesday. Despite the enormous number of deaths — and the impact felt deeply by survivors of the virus, loved ones of the dead, and those suffering the enormous economic fallout — there has been no official national mourning. No minute of silence, no plans for a memorial to be erected in their honor, no collective grieving.” Understand this, posterity: every single American who lives through this will come out the other side warped. Not all in the same way, and not in a way that makes us lesser beings, but unquestionably and forever changed. When you’re doing academic studies of this even ten years from now, we will try are hardest to explain it to you, what it was like and how it felt. And we will fail, because it’s not something that can be communicated.


BBC: Dutch celebs get caught up in Covid rebellion. “Influencers, rappers and a world-renowned DJ have been heavily criticised in the Netherlands after publicly announcing they were abandoning efforts to combat Covid-19. Their campaign came as the numbers in Dutch intensive care units hit 100 for the first time since June and infection rates rose 60% on last week.”

USA Today: Memorial project honors COVID-19 deaths as US passes grim milestone of 200,000 lives lost. “Chris Duncan, whose 75-year-old mother Constance died from COVID-19 on her birthday, photographs a COVID Memorial Project installation of 20,000 American flags on the National Mall as the United States crosses the 200,000 lives lost in the COVID-19 pandemic Sept. 22, 2020 in Washington, DC. The flags are displayed on the grounds of the Washington Monument facing the White House.”


CNN: These 63 Bed Bath & Beyond stores are set to close by the end of 2020. “The news comes after the retailer announced in July that it would close roughly 200 stores, mainly Bed Bath & Beyond stores, over the next two years. The store chain also said last month that it would eliminate 2,800 jobs as it tries to streamline its operations and shore up its finances. The store chain, which also operates Buybuy Baby, Christmas Tree Shops and Harmon Face Values, had a total of 1,478 stores as of May 30. Some 955 of those are Bed Bath & Beyond stores.”


The Texas Record: COVID-19 Health Screening Records. “Since the start of the 2020 pandemic, many organizations have started collecting information on the people visiting their facilities: temperature checks, symptom reporting, test results, etc. If your local government or state agency has been screening people for COVID-19 symptoms, you’re probably wondering what to do with all those records. There is no one perfect record series for COVID-19 screening records, as the administrative and legal value will vary depending on who is conducting the screening, whether information is being collected on citizens or employees, and what specific questions are being asked.”

Route Fifty: Tennessee Using Federal Coronavirus Funds for Police Training. “Tennessee will use $300,000 in federal coronavirus funding to pay for training of new police recruits. The money will pay for 90 cadet scholarships for the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, covering the portion that local departments would normally have to fund, Gov. Bill Lee recently announced.”


Poynter: The first look at the U.S. government’s COVID-19 vaccine ‘playbook’. “Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said [September 16] that even when we get a vaccine, it will not likely be available to the general public until next summer. Redfield also rolled out a playbook for how a national vaccine program might look. The playbook is loaded with details you have not seen or heard before and it is really important for journalists to start to learn how a vaccination program might unfold. You will be vitally important to its success.”

BBC: Singapore rolls out Covid tracing tokens. “Singapore is distributing tens of thousands of devices that can track who a person has interacted with. The small bluetooth device is meant for those who do not own smartphones and cannot use a contact tracing app that was previously rolled out by the Singapore government.”


CNN: 28-year-old Houston doctor dies after battle with coronavirus, family says. “Adeline Fagan, a second year OBGYN resident living in Houston, died early Saturday after a couple months-long battle with Covid-19, her family announced in a post on a GoFundMe page established on her behalf. Fagan had just started her second year of residency in Houston when she got sick, the GoFundMe page said.”

NBC News: ‘He’s not actually looking out for you’: Ex-Pence aide Olivia Troye assails Trump’s coronavirus response. ” Olivia Troye, who played a key role in the Trump administration’s coronavirus response as an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, says that President Donald Trump is ‘not actually looking out for’ Americans in his handling of the pandemic. In an interview with Andrea Mitchell airing Tuesday on ‘NBC Nightly News,’ Troye spoke about Trump ‘undermining’ guidelines developed by the White House’s coronavirus task force.”


CNN: 5 NFL teams and coaches who didn’t wear masks during games face more than $1 million in fines. “Two more NFL teams, the New Orleans Saints and Las Vegas Raiders, are being fined $250,000 each because their head coaches were not wearing face coverings during a game Monday, a league source told CNN on Tuesday. The head coaches, Sean Payton of the Saints and Jon Gruden of the Raiders, are being fined $100,000 each, the source said.”


Route Fifty: How We Survive the Winter. “It is now widely accepted among experts that the United States is primed for a surge in cases at a uniquely perilous moment in our national history. ‘As we approach the fall and winter months, it is important that we get the baseline level of daily infections much lower than they are right now,’ Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told me by email. For the past few weeks, the country has been averaging about 40,000 new infections a day. Fauci said that ‘we must, over the next few weeks, get that baseline of infections down to 10,000 per day, or even much less if we want to maintain control of this outbreak.'”

Phys .org: When does a second COVID surge end? Look at the maths. “Mathematicians have developed a framework to determine when regions enter and exit COVID-19 infection surge periods, providing a useful tool for public health policymakers to help manage the coronavirus pandemic. The first published paper on second-surge COVID-19 infections from US states suggests that policymakers should look for demonstrable turning points in data rather than stable or insufficiently declining infection rates before lifting restrictions.”

STAT: Fast, low-cost testing is essential for averting a second wave of Covid-19. “While PCR [polymerase chain reaction] testing continues to be important, what the U.S. needs now is to deploy mass screening tests that provide real-time information about the spread of Covid-19, much as we deploy widespread sensors on ocean buoys and space satellites to enable weather forecasting that detects hurricanes days before they hit.”


Phys .org: Flood risks: More accurate data due to COVID-19. “A number of countries went into politically decreed late hibernation at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of those affected by the lockdown suffered negative economic and social consequences. Geodesy, a branch of Earth science to study Earth’s gravity field and its shape, on the other hand, has benefited from the drastic reduction in human activity. At least that is what the study now published in Geophysical Research Letters shows. The study, which was carried out by geodesists from the University of Bonn, investigated the location of a precise GNSS antenna in Boston (Massachusetts) as an example.”


BBC: Ischgl: Austria sued over Tyrol ski resort’s Covid-19 outbreak. “A consumer rights group is taking legal action against the Austrian government over Covid-19 outbreaks at ski resorts in the western Tyrol region this year. The group has filed four civil suits for now, but said it hoped to bring at least one class action lawsuit next year on behalf of thousands of people.”


Washington Post: Africa has defied the covid-19 nightmare scenarios. We shouldn’t be surprised.. “News reports and opinion articles have posited that corruption and a lack of health-care infrastructure meant that Africa was a ‘time bomb’ waiting to explode. Rampant poverty and a lack of effective governance would cause the dark continent to fall apart under the weight of a public health emergency. The world, the experts said, should prepare to offer aid, loans and debt forgiveness to African governments — in other words, they should prepare to save Africa. No need.”


Poynter: The pandemic has been disastrous for advertising but political spending will bail it out. “Ad Age reports that political spending is about to bail out the industry’s overall 2020 performance. Total ad sales were down 7.2% in the first and second quarters, with digital sales up 5.7%. Traditional ‘linear media’ fell 23.1%.” I live in North Carolina, also known as Swing State Hell. When I watch the news with Granny, 90% of the commercials are political ads. It’s awful.

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