Recent Developments & Information
May 26, 2020
“ I am 73 and feel very young. I don’t care about the risk at all. As you get old, the risk of dying from disease is so high that this is the time to buy a motorcycle, go skiing!”Michael Levitt, Stanford University Professor and Nobel Prize Winner
“We’re not going to have something akin to full normalization unless we (a) have a vaccine and (b) — and this is a big if — that vaccine is accessible to the global population at large.”Carmen Reinhart, Harvard University Professor and incoming chief economist of the World Bank.
“Any reasonable expert will tell you that lockdown cannot change the final number of infected people. It can only change the rate of infection.”Yoram Lass, former Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Health
Index Of Featured Stories & Links
Note: All of stories listed below are included in this Update, but we have included links to the stories upfront so that you can quickly jump to a story if you want
- Cliff’s Notes
- What we know about the transmission of the coronavirus
- Potential Treatments
- Blood Plasma Transfusions Improve Survival Rates
- Vaccine Development May Falter Due to Virus Disappearing (!)
- Novavax starts clinical trial of its vaccine candidate
- New Scientific Findings & Research
- C19 Patients Not Infectious After 11 Days
- Children may be less contagious than adults
- More young people testing positive
- New Face Mask Could Electrocute Coronavirus
- Miscalculating Risk: Confusing Scary with Dangerous [Recommended]
- Projections & Our (Possible) Future
- Virus has reached a point of saturation across Europe and parts of the US, which makes lockdowns much less effective
- Fate of Global Economy Rests on Finding Vaccine
- The Road Back?
- Major League Baseball Bets Big On Saliva Tests
- Warning from China
- Coronavirus Is ‘Just Tip Of The Iceberg’
- Practical Tips & Other Useful Information
- Assessing and Reducing Your Personal Risk as the U.S. Reopens
- Beware Contact-Tracing Scams
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A. Our World As Seen Through Headlines
- US nears 100,000 coronavirus deaths
- HHS’s Azar: ‘Very Credible Objective’ to Have Coronavirus Vaccine by End of 2020
- For Economy, Worst of Coronavirus Shutdowns May Be Over
- President Trump Suspends Travel from Brazil over Coronavirus Concerns
- Ohio Judge Deems State’s Coronavirus Lockdown Illegal
- Birx: ‘It’s Difficult to Tell’ if Country Will Close Again
- Virginia reports record jump in cases
- Italy reports fewer than 100 cases
- Spain on track to see 9th day with fewer than 100 deaths
- Germany sees active cases drop below 10,000
- Russia says ‘mass vaccinations’ could begin as soon as the fall
- Japan lifts state of emergency
- Spain to end quarantine restrictions for travelers on July 1
- Videos of US partiers in the Ozarks spark outrage
- Dominic Cummings faces the music
- White House imposes travel restrictions on Brazil
- U.N: Yemen’s Healthcare System Effectively ‘Collapsed’ Under Coronavirus
- Record-Low Number of Americans Traveling Memorial Day Weekend — but Gas Is Cheap
- Multiple Los Angeles Area Casinos Reopen for Memorial Day Weekend
- Mexicans Are ‘Building A Wall’ To Keep American-COVID-Carriers Out
- Only 40% Of Americans Plan To Grill This Memorial Day; Will Host Smaller Crowds, Less Food
- Interior Secretary Opens National Parks for Memorial Day Weekend
- Italian Government Recruits 60,000 Informants to Spy on Neighbors During Lockdown
- Italy: One in Three Businesses Will Not Reopen After Lockdown
- Georgia Issues Coronavirus Filming Guidelines to Re-Start Production
- AR Gov. Hutchinson: ‘Projections and Modeling’ Have ‘Lost a Lot of Credibility’
- Scientific Data Undermine North Carolina Democrat Governor’s Slow Rolled Reopening
- California Issues Guidelines for Church Reopenings
- Young People Are Rushing To Leave Big Cities In Favor Of “Less Infected” Suburbia
- Summer Vacation Spending Is Expected To Plunge 66% This Year
- Global Anger Builds As Elites Worldwide Break Quarantine Rules
- Why Didn’t The 1958 & 1918 Pandemics Destroy The Economy? Hint: It’s The Lockdowns
- Get Ready For Disinfected Dice As Vegas Plans Reopening
- Dreaming Of Visiting Japan? The Government Might Pay Half Your Expenses To Jumpstart Tourism
- Global Tourism To Suffer Crushing Blow In 2020
- Spaniards Return To Bars With Face Masks
- Italian Government Urges Unemployed To Become Social-Distancing Snitches
- National Lockdown in Italy Drives 30% Increase in Divorces
- France Announces ‘Reciprocal’ Quarantines For British Airport Arrivals
- Xi Jinping Tells Coronavirus Origin Province to Fix ‘Weak Links’ in Public Health
- Students Sue Harvard over Campus Shutdown
- Michigan President Says No Football Until On-Campus Classes Restart
- Greece Restarts Ferries to Islands, Reopens Cafes, Restaurants
- Chinese Coronavirus Outbreak in Czech Mines
- Couple with matching wedding date tattoos forced to delay nuptials
- Embattled Michigan governor in hot water over hubby’s violation of lockdown rules
- ‘Get the f–k out!’: Mob chases woman not wearing mask from NYC supermarket
- Long lines outside NYC bike stores as people avoid public transportation
- More Americans turning to anxiety medication amid coronavirus pandemic
- Dancing with disinfectant: China’s nightclubs reopen as lockdowns ease
- Old-fashioned milkman makes rounds as shoppers stay home
- WHO suspends hydroxychloroquine trials amid safety concerns
- Dutch government finds second mink-to-human coronavirus transmission
- No way to control crowding at parties in Lake of Ozarks
- South Korean clubs will use QR codes to log visitors amid coronavirus
- Universal Orlando warns visitors of ‘inherent risk’ of coronavirus exposure
- When coronavirus pandemic passes, we’ll still face the opioid epidemic
- National security adviser compares China’s coronavirus response to Chernobyl
- Americans mob beaches for Memorial Day Weekend amid lockdown fatigue
- LIRR trains to add capacity as Long Island eyes coronavirus reopening
- France urges citizens to vacation near home this summer
- Maskless crowds pack the Ozarks for Memorial Day Weekend parties
- Wuhan lab admits to having three live strains of bat coronavirus on site
- Over 40 churchgoers get coronavirus after attending service
- Swim party leads to ‘second peak’ in Arkansas coronavirus cases
- Memorial Day weekend draws throngs despite pandemic; Dr. Birx of White House coronavirus task force is ‘very concerned’ over crowd scenes
- Missouri officials slam ‘irresponsible and dangerous’ behavior seen in images of Memorial Day crowds
- STATES COVERING-UP DEATH COUNTS?
- Ohio governor urges people to wear face masks: ‘This is not about politics’
- More People Are Taking Drugs for Anxiety and Insomnia, and Doctors Are Worried
- Pandemic Dining: Temperature Checks, Time Limits, and Dividers
- The Pandemic Is Exposing the Limits of Science
- Italian Leaders Threaten to Reimpose Restrictions After Sunshine Draws Out Crowds
- Stanford coronavirus research: Did politically-motivated scientists hype their speed vaccine study?
- Humans ‘not meant to be alone’: Many Americans haven’t seen or touched another person in 3 months because of COVID-19
- WHO warns of “second peak” in areas where COVID-19 declining
- China’s Plan to Make Permanent Health Tracking on Smartphones Stirs Concern
- CORONAVIRUS MONITORING BRACELETS FLOOD THE MARKET, READY TO SNITCH ON PEOPLE WHO DON’T DISTANCE
- NYSE’s Floor to Reopen With Masks, Coronavirus Waivers and Handshake Ban
- Ibiza invaded by plague of lethal Asian Tiger mosquitoes because of coronavirus
- Rats are getting aggressive hunting for food amid restaurant closures, CDC warns
- Will the coronavirus pandemic open the door to a four-day workweek?
- Reopening too soon: Lessons from the deadly second wave of the 1918 flu pandemic
- For The First Time, No Deaths Registered In The Most Hit Region By Coronavirus In Italy
- Trump asks schools not to wait for coronavirus vaccine before reopening
- Meat processing companies are reluctant to disclose detailed case counts
- California is in ‘economic free fall’ after its early shutdown
- The pandemic upends Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month.
- The beach house share, a summer ritual, is canceled
B. Key Numbers & Trends
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all changes noted in this Update are the prior day. Unless otherwise specified, all cases are confirmed cases that have been reported.
1. Cases & Tests
- Total Cases = 5,584,267 (+1.6%)
- New Cases = 89,812 (-6.9%) (-6,693)
- New Cases (7 day avg) = 98,991 (-0.3%) (-322)
- Total Cases = 1,706,226 (+1.1%)
- New Cases = 19,790 (+0.9%) (+182)
- New Cases (7 day avg) = 22,276 (-1.8%) (-406)
- Total Number of Tests = 15,187,647
- Worldwide Deaths = 347,613 (+0.3%)
- New Deaths = 1,179 (-58.3%) (-1,647)
- New Deaths (7 day avg) = 3,926 (-8.1%) (-348)
- US Deaths = 99,805 (+0.5%)
- New Deaths = 505 (-18.2%) (-112)
- New Deaths (7 day avg) = 1,118 (-6.0%) (-71)
- 5 Countries with Largest Number of Confirmed Deaths:
|Country||Total Deaths||New Deaths||Deaths Per 1M Population|
- US has lowest number of deaths per 1 million of population
- 5 States with Largest Number of Confirmed Deaths:
|State||Total Deaths||New Deaths||Deaths 7 Day Average||Deaths Per 1M Population|
|New York||29,310||79 (-40)||119 (-11)||1,507|
|New Jersey||11,155||16 (-40)||101 (-9)||1,256|
|Massachusetts||6,416||44 (-28)||79 (-3)||931|
|Michigan||5,240||17 (+12)||46 (-3)||525|
|Pennsylvania||5,178||13 (-9)||73 (-22)||404|
|US||99,805||505 (-112)||1,248 (-27)||302|
- All 5 States are led by Democratic Governors and are reopening slowly
- Declining 7 day averages together with a relatively low number of new deaths (less than 1% of total) indicates that all 5 States are well past their peak and moving in positive direction
- All 5 States have higher deaths per 1 million of population than the national average
3. Countries/States To Watch
- Sweden is one of the few countries that did not impose a lockdown and has been cited by the WHO as a model for emerging from lockdowns
|Country||Total Deaths||New Deaths||Deaths 7 Day Avg||Deaths Per 1M Pop|
|Sweden||4,029||31 (+25)||47 (+1)||384 (+4)|
- 5 States that are Reopening:
|State||Total Deaths||New Deaths||Deaths 7 Day Avg||Deaths Per 1M Pop|
|Georgia||1,848||21 (+15)||28 (-3)||174|
|Florida||2,252||15 (+11)||36 (-2)||105|
|Texas||1,542||7 (-1)||25 (+0)||53|
|Ohio||1,994||18 (+2)||48 (-2)||171|
|Oklahoma||313||2 (+2)||4 (+1)||79|
|US||99,805||505 (-112)||1,248 (-27)||302|
- All 5 States are led by Republican Governors and are reopening rapidly
- Declining or stable 7 day averages together with a relatively low number of new deaths (1.1% or less of total) indicate that all 5 States are making good progress with no indication of a second wave
- All 5 States have lower deaths per 1 million of population than the national average
C. Cliff Notes
1. What we know about the transmission of the coronavirus
- The coronavirus is mainly spread from person to person.
- The Coronavirus is more infectious than the flu and spreads easily and sustainably between people.
- The coronavirus is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into their lungs.
- Coronavirus particles can be transmitted by viral particles floating in the air
- Viral particles can be shed into the air by breathing and talking, with more particles being expelled by heavier breathing (exercising) and louder talking (or singing)
- Aerosolized viral particles can remain in the air for a period of time – although estimates of the amount of time the virus can float in the air vary, up to 3 hours seems to be a good rule of thumb
- Airborne particles can be moved by air conditioning (or wind)
- Risk of infection is a function of exposure and time
- The more viral particles you are exposed to, the greater your risk
- The more time you spend with an infected person, the greater your risk
- This explains why more than 80% of infections occur among family members at home
- Higher risk of infection in small rooms and rooms with little ventilation
- Up to 35% of infected people are currently estimated by the CDC to be asymptomatic, which means that neither they nor you have any way to know they are infected
- Consequently, you should assume that everyone is infected (depending on your risk threshold, exceptions may be made for those you know have already been infected as it appears, but is not certain, that those that have been infected may have limited immunity)
- Although additional research is needed, some studies indicate children may not be a major source of transmission
- It may be possible that a person can get C19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. But, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
- Low risk of becoming infected while outside
- Low risk of being infected by an animal. Some risk of animals becoming infected from a person (although there have been only a few reported cases).
- No research establishing that the virus is transmitted through food
- No research establishing that the virus is transmitted through water (pools, lakes, oceans, etc)
- No research establishing that the virus is transmitted through feces (although research has found viral particles in feces)
- No research establishing that the virus is transmitted through sex (although research has found viral particles in sperm)
- Recent research indicates that C19 patients are only infectious for 11 days after becoming sick (see story below)
D. Potential Treatments
1. Blood Plasma Transfusions Improve Survival Rates
- A study of hospitalized patients with C19 infections provided a sign that blood-plasma transfusions from recovered patients improve survival rates, the largest research effort to date to shed light on the therapy’s efficacy.
- The study, posted on the Medrxiv public server on Friday, compared 39 C19 patients who received convalescent plasma transfusions with similar, matched patients who didn’t receive the therapy, all at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York during the same 16-day period.
- Researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found the patients who received convalescent plasma had better outcomes compared with similar patients who didn’t get the transfusions. In the study, the plasma recipients were more likely to remain stable or show improvement in their requirements for supplemental oxygen. They also had improved survival when compared to the control patients.
- While the findings haven’t undergone peer review or publication in a scientific journal, they provide more evidence that convalescent plasma could be a possible stopgap treatment until vaccines and more targeted therapies are developed. Researchers hope transfusions of plasma from recovered C19 patients can help neutralize the coronavirus in patients who are sick.
- Earlier this month, a national study involving thousands of C19 patients who received the transfusions appeared to indicate the therapy was safe. Investigators in that study said they couldn’t determine whether plasma caused the improved outcomes because every patient in the study had received it.
- The Mount Sinai researchers addressed that problem by creating their own control group, made up of C19 patients who didn’t get the plasma but had similar characteristics and variables, including age, gender, length of hospital stay, oxygen requirement on the day of transfusion and whether they were administered drugs such as hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin.
- The researchers were able to scour electronic health records and apply what they called an “aggressive matching algorithm” to find close patient matches. Because New York City was one of the early locations in the outbreak in the U.S., Mount Sinai Health System offered a large pool to draw from, with more than 4,100 confirmed C19 patients admitted during the study’s 16-day enrollment period.
- Even so, the investigators acknowledged that despite their best efforts, their conclusions aren’t as strong as those derived from a traditional clinical trial. The study, the largest to date to look at efficacy of convalescent plasma in Covid patients, is still relatively small.
- “Any bias, including a bias we didn’t even think about, could be playing a role,” said Nicole M. Bouvier, associate professor in the division of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai and co-senior author of the study.
- Nonetheless, the investigators believed that creating a matched control arm from the patient records was the best opportunity to glean immediate information while more controlled trials are under way, including at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and NYU Langone Health, Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
- “What matters is people need the data now,” Dr. Bouvier said. “We are trying to produce high-quality data as fast as we possibly can so people in the pandemic right now can get some information about whether this treatment is beneficial or harmful.”
- According to the study, on the day of the transfusion, most of the patients who received plasma required supplemental oxygen and four required mechanical ventilation. By day 14 after transfusion, the condition of 18% of the patients who received the plasma had worsened compared with 24.3% in the matched control group.
- As of May 1, the authors wrote, 12.8% of the plasma recipients had died compared with 24.4% of the control patients. “Overall, we observed improved survival for the plasma group,” they wrote.
- Another finding was there didn’t appear to be significant benefit for patients who were intubated; but because the number of patients on ventilators in the study was small, researchers couldn’t draw definitive conclusions. Previous work on convalescent plasma has indicated that patients do better when they receive the transfusions early in the course of the disease.
- Dr. Bouvier said differences in outcomes between the two patient groups weren’t clear until more than a week after the transfusion. Four patients in the group that received plasma remain in the hospital now, she said.
- “This is a long disease,” Dr. Bouvier said. “Convalescent plasma appears to have some benefits but it is not the magic bullet. It is not that you get convalescent plasma and you dance a jig out of the hospital. You are still sick.”
- Terry Gernsheimer, medical director of transfusion services at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, who is studying convalescent plasma but wasn’t involved in the paper published Friday, said it still isn’t clear why some patients appear to benefit. She said it could be from the recovered patients’ antibodies or from the transfusion itself. Nonetheless, she said the study is an early signal that plasma may be working. “You have to take the first step,” she said, “but this is only a first step.”
- “We still don’t know what is actually helping these patients,” Dr. Gernsheimer said. “We still need to know, if you are getting better, what did that?”
1. Vaccine Development May Falter Due to Virus Disappearing
- The Oxford University team in charge of developing a coronavirus vaccine said a decline in the infection rate will make it increasingly difficult to prove whether it’s been successful, the Telegraph reported.
- “It’s a race against the virus disappearing, and against time,” Professor Adrian Hill, director of the university’s Jenner Institute, told the newspaper. “We said earlier in the year that there was an 80% chance of developing an effective vaccine by September. But at the moment, there’s a 50% chance that we get no result at all.”
- Hill said he expects fewer than 50 of the 10,000 people who have volunteered to test the vaccine trial in the coming week to catch the virus. If fewer than 20 test positive, the results may be useless, the newspaper cited him as saying.
- Although developers globally are working on as many as 100 experimental vaccines for C19, the process is likely to take time. Finding a vaccine and distributing it globally will be a “massive moonshot,” Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Emergency Program, said earlier this month. There’s a chance the disease may be here to stay, he said.
- The British government has agreed to pay for as many as 100 million doses, adding that 30 million may be ready by September. The daily rate of new infections has fallen by almost two thirds since hitting a peak of almost 9,000 on April 10.
- Separately, Reuters reported that Oxford University may join Moderna in a large-scale testing program in July.
2. Novavax starts clinical trial of its vaccine candidate
- Novavax said on Monday it has started the Phase 1 clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine candidate and has enrolled the trial’s first participants, with preliminary results slated for July.
- The Maryland-based late-stage biotechnology company in April said it identified the candidate, NVX-CoV2373, with which it planned to use its Matrix-M adjuvant to enhance immune responses.
- Adjuvants are mainly used to make vaccines induce a strong immune response, including through the greater production of antibodies, and provide longer-lasting protection against viral and bacterial infection.
- Novavax said it expects preliminary immunogenicity and safety results from the trial in July.
- Novavax said, upon successful completion of Phase 1, the Phase 2 portion of the trial will be conducted in several countries, including the United States.
- The Phase 2 trial will assess immunity, safety and C19 disease reduction in a broader age range, Novavax said.
E. New Scientific Findings & Research
1. C19 Patients Not Infectious After 11 Days
- C19 patients are no longer infectious after 11 days of getting sick even though some may still test positive, according to a new study by infectious disease experts in Singapore.
- A positive test “does not equate to infectiousness or viable virus,” a joint research paper by Singapore’s National Centre for Infectious Diseases and the Academy of Medicine, Singapore said. The virus “could not be isolated or cultured after day 11 of illness.”
- The paper was based on a study of 73 patents in the city-state.
- The latest findings may have implications on the country’s patient discharge policy. The discharge criteria is currently based on negative test results rather than infectiousness.
- Singapore’s strategy on managing C19 patients is guided by the latest local and international clinical scientific evidence, and the Ministry of Health will evaluate if the latest evidence can be incorporated into its patient clinical management plan, according to a report by the Straits Times.
- So far, 13,882, or about 45% of the total 31,068 C19 patients in Singapore have been discharged from hospitals and community facilities. Singapore reported 642 new C19 cases as of noon on Saturday.
2. Children may be less contagious than adults
- There are tentative signs that children may not spread the novel coronavirus as much as adults, two top epidemiologists said on Tuesday, though they cautioned that the bad news was that human immunity may not last that long.
- As Europe and the United States start to return to work after lockdowns imposed to slow the spread of C19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, world leaders are trying to work out when it is safe for children and students to get back to their studies.
- Dr. Rosalind Eggo, an infectious disease modeler at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said she had seen some indications from research that children may not spread the novel coronavirus as much as adults.
- “There are hints that children are less infectious but it is not certain,” Eggo, who sits on a panel that advises the British government about transmission of C19 among children and within schools, told the science committee of the House of Lords, the second chamber of Britain’s parliament.
- Eggo said that for children who show no sign of being infected it was very difficult to tell how contagious they were, though she said there was a little bit of evidence starting to appear that there may be a lower possibility of infection from them.
- “We need more studies to really pin this down as it is so important,” Eggo said.
- She said that her research had shown that there was a much lower level of symptomatic infection in those under 20 years-old – perhaps as little as 20% of infections showing clinical symptoms.
- “We think that children are less likely to get it so far but it is not certain,” she said. “We are very certain that children are less likely to have severe outcomes.”
Immunity May Not Last
- John Edmunds, a member of Britain’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), told the same science committee hearing that it was striking how children did not seem to play much of a role in spreading the novel coronavirus.
- “It is unusual that children don’t seem to play much of a role in transmission because for most respiratory viruses and bacteria they play a central role, but in this they don’t seem to,” said Edmunds, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
- “There is only one documented outbreak associated with a school – which is amazing; you would normally expect most of the outbreaks to be associated with schools but yet in global literature there is only one documented study,” Edmunds said, citing a study of a French secondary school. “It is pretty remarkable.”
- He said that, more broadly, the evidence of transmission from asymptomatic individuals – which may be about 30 or 40% of adults – was not clear.
- But he added there was potentially bad news – that human immunity to the novel coronavirus may not last long.
- “Antibody responses decline over time from survivors of SARS so after a couple of years their antibodies have declined quite significantly,” Edmunds said, referring to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which is also caused by a type of coronavirus.
- “We can also see from other coronaviruses – the ones that cause coughs and colds – that individuals again do seem to not have particularly long-term immunity to many of those viruses and so allowing them to be infected later.
- “So that’s potentially bad news for us: that immunity may not last that long against this virus,” he said.
3. More young people testing positive
- Young adults and children appear to be increasingly contracting the new coronavirus in the United States, according to a new study.
- Scientists found that half of those who had tested positive for C19 in Washington state by early May were aged under 40, significantly more than at the initial stage of the outbreak.
- Health authorities have been focused on elderly people and those with underlying conditions who are considered more likely to become severely ill or die from the disease.
- In the study, epidemiologist Judith Malmgren and her team at the University of Washington analysed data from all 22 testing laboratories across the state. They found that young people had become more susceptible to the virus – especially in counties with a high proportion of the population aged between 20 and 39 – since early March.
- The findings could point to progression of the pandemic in other areas, since “Washington state is the first in the United States with C19 experience and [has] the longest outbreak timeline”, Malmgren said in a non-peer reviewed paper posted on preprint website medRxiv.org on Saturday.
- It comes as the US – the worst-hit country by far – has started reopening after a months-long lockdown, with people flocking back to beaches, restaurants and bars. The scientists warned that given the increasing prevalence of C19 among young people, the reopening could put them and their families at greater risk.
- Washington state in January reported the first coronavirus case in the US – a traveler from Wuhan in China, where the outbreak was first reported late last year. Washington was also where the first confirmed cases of community transmission were detected in America. As a result, authorities in the state imposed one of the country’s earliest and toughest shutdowns, and by Saturday its tally of daily cases – 298 – was a fraction of the national total of more than 22,000.
- While new cases have been declining in Washington state, the researchers found that the proportion of children and young adults confirmed with C19 rose from 20% on March 1 to 50% early this month.
- And there was “no decline in cases” in the 0 to 19 age group, Malmgren said in the paper. In contrast, the incidence of the disease among people aged 60 and older fell by 55% from the peak of cases.
- This fundamental shift in disease demography could bring new challenges in controlling the outbreak, the researchers said.
- Younger people tended to have twice the number of close contacts with others than the elderly, according to a study last month from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They also often worked in sectors with high levels of public contact, and were more likely to flout infection control measures such as social distancing, according to the University of Washington researchers. They said young people – in better health and with stronger immune systems – were also more likely to become stealth carriers of the virus who did not show up at hospitals or testing facilities.
- “The shift from older to younger population C19 infection may mask a true decline in cases and the need for future health care capacity if the currently infected portion of the population is younger, less likely to report symptoms, and at less risk of a severe life-threatening disease requiring hospitalization,” the researchers said.
- But young people are also becoming critically ill or even dying from C19. In New York, there have been reports of young patients who had been in good health and died from a stroke after contracting the disease. Some children have also developed a rare but severe inflammatory condition.
- The trend of younger people contracting the virus has also been reported in other countries. In Brazil, doctors have said that half their patients were young, and many were dying – 15% of deaths in the country were people aged under 50, which was 10 times the proportion in Europe, The Washington Post reported.
- The situation was worse in Mexico, with nearly a quarter of deaths among people aged between 25 and 49, according to health authorities.
- The US researchers concluded that as the number of cases rose among young people, they should be “included in the priority for identifying, controlling and stopping the spread of C19”.
4. New Face Masks Could Electrocute Coronavirus
- In the fight against C19, protective personal equipment has played a central and critical role for the safety of healthcare workers. However, the virus can attach to the surface of PPE where it may continue to be infectious for an extended period of time. There’s a risk that a person removing their face mask could touch viral particles latched onto the outside and further spread the virus.
- A preprint paper published recently by scientists from Indiana University suggests a fabric which eradicates the infectivity of coronaviruses on contact by generating an electric field could be the answer to the problem.
- Last month, a team of researchers determined a hybrid combination of one layer of cotton and two layers of chiffon is the most effective fabric for a face mask. They noted the high-efficiency of the combination is likely due to the combined effect of mechanical and electrostatic filtration of infective particles.
- The new study from IU further explores the potential of electrostatic forces to act against C19.
- The research is a part of a still-growing field of medical devices known as “electroceuticals” — a fusion of the words “electrostatic” and “pharmaceuticals.” Electroceuticals use weak electric fields not harmful to humans to treat a variety of conditions. Pacemakers, which are used to treat arrhythmias, are one common example.
- Chandan Sen, the paper’s lead author and director of the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering, previously worked on developing the current-generating fabric for antimicrobial applications. Bioelectric technology company Vomaris Inc currently commercializes the electroceutical fabric for use as a pathogen-killing wound dressing.
- The fabric is polyester printed with little metal dots made of zinc and silver. The geometric, alternating pattern of zinc and silver make microcell batteries which generate an electric field upon exposure to moisture. When used in wound care, the electric field prevents biofilms from forming and reduces the risk of bacterial infection during the healing process.
- Knowing viruses rely on electrostatic forces to assemble and attach to cells, the researchers suspected the electroceutical fabric could be used to destabilize the coronavirus as well.
- As a control for their test, the team used a polyester fabric without the microcell batteries on the surface. They then exposed both fabrics to an aqueous solution containing cells with a respiratory coronavirus at room temperature and allowed it to absorb.
- Their subsequent analysis revealed that just one minute of contact to the electroceutical fabric led to significant reduction in the electrokinetic property of the viral particles. Additionally, researchers monitored the infected cells recovered from the electroceutical fabrics and noticed an absence of the cytopathic effects expected in the presence of viral invasions.
- The team reported the cells from the electroceutical fabric were as healthy as non-infected cells, indicating the virus had lost its infectivity, while cells from the control fabric didn’t receive the same protection.
- Though further studies are needed to characterize the structural change of coronaviruses in exposure to electroceutical fabric, the researchers hope their findings are the first step toward receiving FDA Emergency Use Authorization which will allow the technology to be distributed widely for use as face masks.
1. Miscalculating Risk: Confusing Scary with Dangerous
By Brian S. Wesbury & Strider Elass, RealClear Politics
- The coronavirus kills, everyone knows it. But this isn’t the first deadly virus the world has seen, so what happened? Why did we react the way we did? One answer is that this is the first social media pandemic. News and narratives travel in real-time right into our hands.
- This spreads fear in a way we have never experienced. Drastic and historically unprecedented lockdowns of the economy happened and seemed to be accepted with little question.
- We think the world is confusing “scary” with “dangerous.” They are not the same thing. It seems many have accepted as fact that coronavirus is one of the scariest things the human race has ever dealt with. But is it the most dangerous? Or even close?
- There are four ways to categorize any given reality. It can be scary but not dangerous, scary and dangerous, dangerous but not scary, or not dangerous and not scary.
- Clearly, C19 ranks high on the scary scale. A Google news search on the virus brings up over 1.5 billion news results. To date, the virus has tragically killed nearly 100,000 people in the United States, and more lives will be lost. But on a scale of harmless to extremely dangerous, it would still fall into the category of slightly to mildly dangerous for most people, excluding the elderly and those with preexisting medical conditions.
- In comparison, many have no idea that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing around 650,000 people every year, 54,000 per month, or approximately 200,000 people between February and mid-May of this year. This qualifies as extremely dangerous. But most people are not very frightened of it. A Google news search for heart disease brings up around 100 million results, under one-fifteenth the results of the C19 search.
- It’s critical to be able to distinguish between fear and danger. Fear is an emotion, it’s the risk that we perceive. As an emotion, it is often blind to the facts. For example, the chances of dying from a shark attack are minuscule, but the thought still crosses most people’s minds when they play in the ocean. Danger is measurable, and in the case of sharks, the danger is low, even if fear is sometimes high.
- Imagine if an insurance actuary was so scared of something that she graded it 1,000 times riskier than the data showed. This might be a career-ending mistake. This is exactly what people have done regarding C19: making decisions on fear and not data.
- According to CDC data, 81% of deaths from C19 in the United States are people over 65 years old, most with preexisting conditions. If you add in 55-64-year-olds that number jumps to 93%. For those below age 55, preexisting conditions play a significant role, but the death rate is currently around 0.0022%, or one death per 45,000 people in this age range. Below 25 years old the fatality rate of C19 is 0.00008%, or roughly one in 1.25 million, and yet we have shut down all schools and day-care centers, some never to open again! This makes it harder for mothers and fathers to remain employed.
- All life is precious. No death should be ignored, but we have allowed our fear to move resources away from areas that are more dangerous, but less scary, to areas that are scary, but less dangerous. And herein lies the biggest problem.
- Hospitals and doctors’ offices have had to be much more selective in the people they are seeing, leaving beds open for C19 patients and cutting out elective surgeries. According to Komodo, in the weeks following the first shelter-in-place orders, cervical cancer screenings were down 68%, cholesterol panels were down 67%, and the blood sugar tests to detect diabetes were off 65% nationally.
- It doesn’t stop there. The U.N. estimates that infant mortality rates could rise by hundreds of thousands in 2020 because of the global recession and diverted health care resources. Add in opioid addiction, alcoholism, domestic violence and other detrimental reactions from job loss and despair. It’s tragic.
- The benefits gained through this fear-based shutdown (if there really are any) have massively increased dangers in the both the short term and the long term.
- Every day that businesses are shuttered, and people remain unemployed or underemployed, the economic wounds grow more deadly. The loss of wealth is immense, and this will undermine the ability of nations around the world to deal with true dangers for decades to come, maybe forever. We have altered the course of economic growth.
- Shutting down the private sector (which is where all wealth is created) is truly dangerous even though many of our leaders suggest we shouldn’t be scared of it. Another round of stimulus is not what we need. Like a Band-Aid on a massive laceration, it may stop a tiny bit of the bleeding, but the wound continues to worsen, feeding greater and more elaborate intervention. Moreover, we are putting huge financial burdens on future generations because we are scared about something that the data reveal as far less dangerous than many other things in life.
- A shutdown may slow the spread of a virus, but it can’t stop it. A vaccine may cure us. But in the meantime, we have entered a new era, one in which fear trumps danger and near-term risk creates long-term problems. It appears many people have come to this realization as the data builds. Hopefully, this will go down in history as a mistake that we will never repeat.
G. Projections & Our (Possible) Future
1. Virus has reached a point of saturation across Europe and parts of the US, which makes lockdowns much less effective
- According to the Telegraph, Michael Levitt (professor at Stanford University and Nobel Prize Winner) correctly predicted the initial trajectory of the pandemic, but was ignored by now-disgraced Imperial College epidemiologist Niall Ferguson. Although the Imperial College (IC) projections proved to be extremely flawed and dramatically overestimated the virus’s potential for devastation, the IC projections were embraced by the UK government as justification for the lockdown.
- As early as March, Levitt warned that Ferguson’s projections had over-estimated the potential death toll by “10 or 12 times”.
- Instead of helping the situation, Fergusons’ projections created an unnecessary “panic virus” which spread among global political leaders, Prof Levitt told the Telegraph.
- Prof Levitt, a British-American-Israeli who shared the Nobel prize for chemistry in 2013 for the “development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems”, has said for two months that the planet will beat coronavirus faster than most other experts predict.
- “I think lockdown saved no lives,” said the scientist, who added that the UK government should have encouraged Britons to wear masks and adhere to other forms of social distancing.
- “I think the lockdowns may have cost lives. It will have saved a few road accident lives – things like that – but social damage – domestic abuse, divorces, alcoholism – has been extreme. And then you have those who were not treated for other conditions.”
- Data from various studies has offered a mixed picture about the effectiveness of the lockdowns. The number of cases and deaths has undoubtedly plunged in the US and across Europe since strict lockdowns were almost universally enacted, but many wonder whether governments are being overly cautious, perhaps to a dangerous degree.
- Though his models have been vindicated by the passage of time, Levitt said his initial concerns about Ferguson’s models were largely ignored due to what he calls the “panic virus”, despite the fact that there’s recent precedent for epidemiological models over-estimating the impact of other outbreaks, including H1N1 and Ebola.
- Having assessed the initial outbreak in China and from the infected Diamond Princess cruise ship, Levitt predicted by March 14 that the UK would lose around 50,000 lives. Prof Ferguson’s modelling that same week estimated up to 500,000 deaths without social distancing measures.
- “I think that the real virus was the panic virus,” Prof Levitt told the Telegraph. “For reasons that were not clear to me, I think the leaders panicked and the people panicked and I think there was a huge lack of discussion.
- The 73-year-old has no background as an epidemiologist, but he assessed the outbreak in China and prepared a paper based on his own calculations. Most countries, he predicted, would suffer a C19 death rate worth around an extra month in excess deaths over the calendar year.
- “In Europe, I don’t think that anything actually stopped the virus other than some kind of burnout,” he added. “There’s a huge number of people who are asymptomatic so I would seriously imagine that by the time lockdown was finally introduced in the UK the virus was already widely spread. They could have just stayed open like Sweden by that stage and nothing would have happened.”
- Professor Levitt has analyzed the data from 78 nations with more than 50 reported cases of coronavirus. His investigations proved the virus was never going to achieve the type of exponential growth that the researchers at Imperial were predicting at the same time.
- At this point, Levitt believes the virus has reached a point of saturation across Europe and parts of the US making lockdowns much less effective. At this point, the lockdowns are probably causing far more harm than benefit.
- The virus “has saturated”, he believes, across Europe. “I think the lockdown will cause much more damage than the deaths saved,” he added.
- “When I saw the briefing (from Prof Ferguson) I was shocked. I had a run-in with him when I actually saw that Ferguson’s death rate was a year’s worth – doubling the normal death rate. I saw that and said immediately that’s completely wrong. I think Ferguson over-estimated 10 or 12 times. We should have seen from China that a virus never grows exponentially. From the very first case you see, exponential growth actually slows down very dramatically.
- “The problem with epidemiologists is that they feel their job is to frighten people into lockdown, social distancing. So you say ‘there’s going to be a million deaths’ and when there are only 25,000 you say ‘it’s good you listened to my advice’. This happened with Ebola and bird flu. It’s just part of the madness.”
- Prof Levitt says the global evidence shows the virus fades in dry heat and in much of the western world “there seems to be some kind of immunity”. “
- The main worry I would have would be in China,” he said when asked about the prospect of a second outbreak.
- “I am 73 and I feel very young,” he added. “I don’t care about the risk at all. As you get old the risk of dying from disease is so high that this is the time to buy a motorcycle, go skiing!”
2. Fate of Global Economy Rests on Finding Vaccine
- As sections of the global economy tip-toe toward reopening, it’s becoming clearer that a full recovery from the worst slump since the 1930s will be impossible until a vaccine or treatment is found for the deadly coronavirus.
- Consumers will stay on edge and companies will be held back as temperature checks and distancing rules are set to remain in workplaces, restaurants, schools, airports, sports stadiums and more.
- China — the first major economy consumed by the virus and the first to emerge on the other side — has been able to revive production but not demand. The lesson for other economies: it’ll be a stop-start path back toward normal.
- There’s also the risk of new flare ups. Some 108 million people in China’s northeast region have been put back under varying degrees of lockdown amid a new cluster of infections. Doctors there are also seeing the coronavirus manifest differently, suggesting that it may be changing in unknown ways.
- In South Korea – where the virus was controlled without a hard lockdown – consumer spending remains weak as infections continue to pop up.
- Sweden’s highly contested response left much of the economy open, yet the country is still headed for its worst recession since World War II.
- That means global policy makers — who have already announced trillions of dollars of fiscal and monetary support — will need to keep the stimulus flowing to avoid yet more company failures and job losses. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has warned that a full recovery will need to wait until the scientists deliver, a warning echoed by his Australian counterpart.
- “If we don’t get breakthroughs on the medical front, then I think it’s going to be quite a slow recovery,” Australia’s central bank chief, Philip Lowe, said this week. “We’ve got a lot resting on the shoulders of the scientists here.”
- Harvard University professor Carmen Reinhart, who is the incoming chief economist of the World Bank, had a similar message. “We’re not going to have something akin to full normalization unless we (a) have a vaccine and (b) — and this is a big if — that vaccine is accessible to the global population at large,” she told the Harvard Gazette.
- With global infections topping 5 million and a death toll of over 330,000, there’s an air of desperation for good news on either a vaccine or effective anti-viral.
- Shares in Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc. hit a record on Monday on early data from a small trial of the company’s coronavirus vaccine. It gave up some of those gains in later days as investors weighed the early nature of the vaccine data.
- A survey of money managers by Bank of America Corp. found the biggest tail risk is a second wave of the virus that means restrictions will have to be imposed again. Only 10% expect a rapid rebound, the bank said in a note titled “V is for Vaccine”.
- The race for a cure has a geopolitical edge too. U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed a Manhattan Project-style effort dubbed “Operation Warp Speed” to develop a cure, while China’s President Xi Jinping has pledged to make one universally available once it’s developed.
- The fusion of when successful drugs can be found and when economies can get back to normal is dominating sentiment in financial markets.
- “There is a global bounty on the virus,” said Stephen Jen, who runs hedge fund and advisory firm Eurizon SLJ Capital in London. “I don’t see how it is wiser for investors to bet on the virus than to bet on science, technology, and unlimited political and financial capital in the world to contain and defeat the virus.”
- Health experts caution that the process for developing an effective immunity will take time – possibly years. And even then it will need distribution on an unprecedented scale, according to Anita Zaidi, Director of Vaccine Development and Surveillance at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
- “I am optimistic we can develop a vaccine by the end of 2020,” she said during a discussion hosted by Bloomberg New Economy. “I am not very hopeful that we can deploy a vaccine for mass use by the end of 2020 because of the unprecedented scale needed to immunize the whole world.”
- Deutsche Bank AG economists are working on the basis that a vaccine or a cure won’t be widely available for the next year and a half.
- In the meantime, the cogs of global commerce are in limbo. The International Monetary Fund has warned the “Great Lockdown” recession would be the steepest in almost a century.
- More than 1 billion workers are at high risk of a pay cut or losing their job, the International Labour Organization warned in April. World merchandise trade volume is likely to fall “precipitously” in the first half of 2020, according to the World Trade Organization.
- Critically, consumer confidence is shattered. One example: U.K. retail sales dropped by almost a fifth in April.
- Bloomberg Economics estimates the lockdowns triggered a drop in activity of around 30% and their research found that the first steps to relax controls will have a more positive impact on activity than later ones.
- Central bank chiefs, who have had to resort to considering scenarios instead of hard forecasts, are staying in crisis mode.
- Powell has pledged to keep using the Fed’s tools. The Bank of Japan, in an emergency meeting on Friday, launched a new lending program worth 30 trillion yen ($279 billion) to support small businesses as a key inflation gauge slid below zero in April for the first time in more than three years. India’s central bank cut interest rates in an unscheduled announcement on Friday to their lowest since 2000.
- While the world waits for a vaccine, workers employed in areas like tourism will need to be reskilled and shifted to where there’s demand, a process that will take time, said Shaun Roache, Asia-Pacific chief economist at S&P Global Ratings.
- “Without a medical solution, either a vaccine or effective therapy, persistent behavior change would lead to large structural shifts in the economy,” he said.
- Big employers are already adapting to the new, new normal. Facebook Inc. plans to hire more remote workers in areas where the company doesn’t have an office, and let some current employees work from home permanently. JPMorgan Chase & Co. expects to keep its offices half full at the most for the “foreseeable future.”
- The circuit breaker to all of this would be a scientific breakthrough, said Torsten Slok, Deutsche Bank Securities Chief Economist.
- “A vaccine would change everything,” he said.
H. The Road Back?
1. Major League Baseball Bets Big On Saliva Tests
- In the bizarro season Major League Baseball hopes to have this summer, players will be forced to do the unthinkable in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus: refrain from spitting, a tradition as much a part of the game as the ceremonial first pitch and seventh-inning stretch.
- Under MLB’s proposed health and safety protocol to play amid a global pandemic, sunflower seeds and smokeless tobacco are considered contraband. Communal water jugs are outlawed. Licking one’s fingers is against the rules. Players will be required to keep their saliva in their mouths at all times.
- Except, that is, in one key instance: when they’re being tested for the virus.
- MLB is betting big on saliva tests for coronavirus as the mechanism that will allow it to proceed this year. In doing so, it will become perhaps the highest-profile employer to embrace the approach on such a large scale. The league plans to test all personnel—including players, coaches, umpires and other employees deemed essential—several times a week as part of a plan to play a fanless, shortened schedule that does not subject employees to a quarantine.
- According to MLB’s proposed 2020 operations manual, a copy of which was obtained by The Wall Street Journal, “the vast majority (if not all) of these diagnostic/PCR tests will be run on saliva collections.”
- The most common way of testing for coronavirus so far has involved a nasopharyngeal swab, a method that has faced challenges. The collection is invasive and uncomfortable, with some people likening the experience to having their brain poked.
- The swabs themselves have been difficult to obtain, and the test needs to be administered by a medical provider, wearing protective gear. All of that has put testing in scarce supply at times and created a fraught environment for anyone seen to be taking health-care capacity away from others.
- Baseball is trying to do something that few other institutions have attempted so far: regularly test a large number of people in order to confirm that they’re healthy, as opposed to testing a few people only when there’s a particular reason to believe they could be sick.
- Effectively, it’s trying to screen for possible infection, and screen often, which is typically incompatible with planning to conduct more than 1,000 nasal probes, three times a week, for months—just for the sake of reassurance.
- Saliva is baseball’s solution. MLB is asking the lab in Utah that runs its performance-enhancing drug program to process coronavirus test results and its employees to agree to the least resource-intensive method available to generate samples: spitting into a cup.
- It’s extremely new on the scene. The Food and Drug Administration granted the first emergency use authorization for saliva collection on April 13 to a team at Rutgers University’s RUCDR Infinite Biologics, and another for at-home use on May 8. Researchers at Yale University have published a study, which has not been peer reviewed, that found that the simpler, painless saliva method was as successful at detecting coronavirus as swabs. Another study out of Italy last month also concluded that saliva was a reliable tool to test for coronavirus.
- The spit approach has been eyed enthusiastically by many infectious disease experts, in no small part because it could alleviate the nation’s testing woes more broadly.
- “Saliva is looking quite feasible for screening,” said Jeanne Marrazzo, director of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, of baseball’s plan. “Several large institutions are considering using this approach for back to school or college in the fall.”
- Some organizations have considered the Rutgers test but are reluctant to go all in on it, over fears that it is still unproven and may not succeed in immediately flagging an ill employee.
- But baseball is confident that this saliva test is ready for the big leagues, considering it the best available option for high-volume screening on a consistent group of people, a person familiar with the league’s testing plans said.
- There are several reasons for that, this person said. For starters, the ease of administering the test ensures compliance, a necessity for baseball to contain an outbreak. It also reduces the risk of error by the person administering the test, a common problem with the swab tests.
- Most important, the league believes the results are as accurate as the swab tests, making the saliva test ideal for a program of this magnitude. Ultimately, MLB will need to process tens of thousands of coronavirus tests over several months. It hopes to restart spring training in June, followed by opening day in early July.
- The MLB Players Association, which has to sign off on the plan before baseball can resume, is also comfortable with the accuracy of the saliva test, a person familiar with the union’s thinking said.
- After consulting with medical experts, the MLBPA shared MLB’s view that swabs are unpleasant for the donor, risky for the administrator and present the risk of siphoning protective equipment from health care professionals.
- (The league and the union must also reach an agreement on player compensation and other economic considerations during a season without fans, potentially a thornier issue to overcome than health and safety.)
- Dr. Marrazzo said that the saliva test checks all the boxes for high-volume screening: It doesn’t generate a lot of false positives and samples are easy to obtain. Samples of the samples can even be pooled for batch testing in a laboratory, which would speed up the turnaround time, to eliminate concerns about 10 or 20 people at a time, she said.
- “If the pool test is negative, you know all samples in the pool were negative and you’ve saved a lot of work,” she said, acknowledging that, yes, it sounds disgusting.
- The Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory, the facility in Salt Lake City that would run baseball’s program, is promising results of tests within 24 hours, the person familiar with the league’s thinking said.
- Even if the saliva approach doesn’t pick up 100% of cases, Dr. Marrazzo said it could be a reasonable trade-off because of the frequency with which it could be carried out and the number of people who could be tested.
- The operations manual calls for “frequent” testing, but the exact amount will be the subject of negotiation with the union. The league believes by testing multiple times per week, it can catch asymptomatic, infected people before their viral load gets high enough to infect others. There is some evidence that viral load plays a role in the transmissibility of the coronavirus, though scientists warn the disease is still too new to know much about it for certain.
- The limits on spitting—outside of a cup—while at the ballpark are part of a broader array of social distancing measures the league has contemplated. These involve discouraging showers at the stadium, rearranging the dugout and bullpen areas to keep people apart and instructing players to tip clubhouse staff using PayPal or Venmo rather than cash.
- What happens if a player spits during a game remains unclear.
- [Note: Saliva testing could become the standard method of employer-based testing, which could accelerate the reopening our economy.]
I. Warning From China
1. Coronavirus Is ‘Just Tip Of The Iceberg’
- Shi Zhengli, the deputy director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said in an interview Monday on China Global Television Network that new viruses being discovered, such as the novel coronavirus, are “just the tip of the iceberg,” and that international cooperation is needed to prevent future epidemics.
- The Wuhan Institute of Virology, which houses China’s only level-four biosafety lab, has been studying coronaviruses for years; the Trump administration has suggested that the lab and China played a role in the origin of the novel coronavirus.
- Shi, the institute’s deputy director, has long been referred to as China’s “bat woman” for tracking down dozens of SARS-like diseases in bats.
- In an interview that aired Monday on the China Global Television Network (CGTN), Shi denied that her lab was involved in the outbreak, claiming that the viruses she’s worked with didn’t match those of the coronavirus spreading in humans, according to Bloomberg.
- She stated that the lab would continue studying unidentified pathogens because “the viruses that we have discovered are just the tip of the iceberg,” and added that it is “very regrettable” when science is politicized, and called for international cooperation in the fight against epidemics.
- Per Bloomberg, Zhengli’s interview with CGTN coincided with the start of the National People’s Congress, an annual meeting of China’s top leadership in Beijing.
- “If we want to prevent human beings from suffering from the next infectious-disease outbreak, we must go in advance to learn of these unknown viruses carried by wild animals in nature and give early warnings,” Zhengli told CGTN in an interview that aired Monday. “If we don’t study them, there will possibly be another outbreak.”
J. Practical Tips & Other Useful Information
1. Assessing and Reducing Your Personal Risk as the U.S. Reopens
- By the end of this week, all 50 states will be reopening to some degree. What does that mean in terms of the choices that each of us makes — what’s safe to do and what’s not?
- Here are four risk concepts that can help to guide our decisions:
- Driving is an activity that carries risk, which can be reduced by following the speed limit and wearing a seat belt. For C19, we can think of risk through three key variables: proximity, activity and time.
- The highest-risk scenario is if you are in close proximity with someone who is infected, in an indoor space, for an extended period of time. That’s why when one person in the household becomes ill, others are likely to get infected, too.
- Also, certain activities, such as singing, expel more droplets; in one case, a single infected person in choir practice spread C19 to 52 people, two of whom died. The same goes for gatherings where people hug one another — funerals and birthdays can be such “superspreader” events.
- Conversely, there are no documented cases of someone acquiring C19 by passing a stranger while walking outdoors.
- You can decrease your risk by modifying one of these three variables. If you want to see friends, avoid crowded bars, and instead host in your backyard or a park, where everyone can keep their distance. Use your own utensils and, to be even safer, bring your own food and drinks. Skip the hugs, kisses and handshakes. If you go to the beach, find areas where you can stay at least six feet away from others who are not in your household. Takeout food is the safest. If you really want a meal out, eating outdoors with tables farther apart will be safer than dining in a crowded indoor restaurant.
- Businesses should also heed this principle as they are reopening, by keeping up telecommuting and staggered shifts, reducing capacity in conference rooms, and closing communal dining areas. Museums can limit not only the number of people allowed in at once, but also the amount of time people are allowed to spend in each exhibit.
- If you engage in high-risk activity and are around others who do the same, you increase everyone’s risk. Think of the analogy with safe-sex practices: Those with multiple partners have higher risk than people in monogamous relationships. As applied to C19, this means those who have very low exposure are probably safe to associate with one another.
- This principle is particularly relevant for separated families that want to see one another. I receive many questions from grandparents who miss their grandchildren and want to know when they can see them again. If two families have both been sheltering at home with virtually no outside interaction, there should be no concern with them being with one another. Families can come together for day care arrangements this way if all continue to abide by strict social distancing guidelines in other aspects of their lives. (The equation changes when any one individual resumes higher-risk activities — returning to work outside the home, for example.)
- Your risk of acquiring C19 is additive for every person you come into close contact with. Many people must return to work, but they can still reduce their risk overall by not having social gatherings outside of work. Choose the activities most important to you. If you must have your hair cut, don’t also go out to eat in restaurants.
- How much you do should also depend on your personal health. By now, we know that those most vulnerable to the severe effects of C19 are older people with chronic medical conditions. These individuals should aim for lower cumulative risk to best protect themselves, as we keep up the reminder that there is no demographic immune from C19. Even otherwise-healthy children and young adults have died from it.
- Individual actions are crucial, but they do not replace the need for sound public policy.
- The higher the rate of C19 in a community, the more likely any one individual you come into contact with has the virus and the riskier your interactions become. This is why mask-wearing is important: If most people wear a mask, it reduces the amount of virus that we will transmit. Local and state policymakers should continue to ban large gatherings and follow the CDC guidelines for gradual reopening. They must have surveillance systems in place to detect if and when infections rise and be willing to reimpose restrictions.
- With Memorial Day coming and many locales lifting their shelter-in-place orders, people will be faced with new decisions. We need to use common sense and our own risk calibration, as we keep in mind that just because we can resume activities doesn’t mean we should.
2. Beware Contact-Tracing Scams
- THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC has created prime conditions for scams. From phishing attacks to unemployment fraud, attackers have put new, more exploitative twists on their classic hustles. And now the Federal Trade Commission is warning that those fraudsters have designed scams around state contact-tracing initiatives.
- You’ve probably heard a lot about contact-tracing mobile apps, but state health departments have also been ramping up manual programs staffed by trained volunteers. The idea is to “trace” people who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for C19, and advise all those who may have been exposed to quarantine strictly at home and monitor for possible symptoms. For all of this to work, contact tracers need to get in touch with lots of potentially impacted people, and many states are sending text alerts to call contact-tracing hotlines. But given that scammers are already adept at blasting out misleading SMS text messages, contact-tracing communications have become a compelling communication to co-opt for fraud.
- “There’s no question, contact tracing plays a vital role in helping to stop the spread of C19,” Colleen Tressler, an FTC consumer education specialist wrote in an alert on Tuesday. “But scammers, pretending to be contact tracers and taking advantage of how the process works, are also sending text messages. Theirs are spam text messages that ask you to click a link. Don’t take the bait.”
- The malicious text messages can include links that either download malware onto your device with one click or take you to a phishing page that tricks you into inputting personal data or a password. One sample SMS scam provided by the FTC reads, “Someone who came in contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms for C19 & recommends you self-isolate/get tested.” It then prompts the target to learn more by tapping a URL. Such malicious texts could also direct you to call a fake hotline to continue the ruse and grab your information there.
- “Because there hasn’t been a lot of communication yet about what an ‘official’ contact-tracing notice would look like, users have few ways to ascertain whether what they received is a scam,” says Jake Williams, a security consultant and founder of the firm Rendition Infosec. “This is only complicated by the fact that messages might differ across regions, health departments, etc.”
- The flurry of new programs and services set up in response to the pandemic can certainly be hard to keep up with. The FTC points out, though, that there are still some basic touchstones you can use to spot a scam. For example, real health department contact tracers will never ask you for your Social Security number, credit card details, or other financial information. And they won’t ask you to send money anywhere or participate in any type of transaction.
- “In our experience, the most successful scam pretexts do two things. First, they put a user into a state of confusion by introducing a new challenge. Second, they compel the user to act,” Williams says. “C19 contact tracing is a great example of something that does both. The actions the victim must take, including clicking a link, downloading a document, or submitting information are plausible.”
- No one would fault you for a trap during a pandemic, but there are precautions you can take to minimize your risk. Make sure you have two-factor authentication set up on as many of your online accounts as possible. That way even if a hacker gets one of your passwords they’ll still have a tough time actually getting in. Make sure you’re keeping up with software and operating system updates to plug as many holes as possible against malware. And look into filters and blocking services if you’re really being inundated with junk calls and texts.
- The pandemic and corresponding world economic crisis are stressful enough, but as official contact-tracing programs ramp up, it’s unfortunately necessary to discern the real alerts from the scams.