"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 18th Mar 2020

COVID19 News Highlights

  • The head of the Australian Medical Students' Assocation suggested integrating the country's medical students into the fight against coronavirus
  • T-Mobile says it plans to ramp up bandwidth and speeds for customers as the coronavirus forces them to work remotely from home
  • In Argentina, teaching educational software company GOSchool is offering its virtual classroom services to schools across the country for free
  • Nature Medicine says researchers have found the novel SARS-CoV2 virus, commonly referred to as CVID19, is a product of natural evolutionary selection and is not a laboratory construct or purposefully manipulated
  • In Italy, an experiment in aggressive testing for coronavirus of all 3,300 inhabitants of the town of Vo, near Venice, regardless of symptoms, has helped completely stop the spread of the illness
  • CBS News reported that the Executive Director of the U.S. National Nurses United, Bonnie Castillo, said that 'nurses are being asked to reuse masks due to shortages'
  • Israeli scientists at the IIBR believe they've completed the initial phase of a vaccine for COVID-19, though, a number of trials still have to be conducted before it could be deemed as safe
  • A combination of two anti-HIV drugs have proved successful in coronavirus positive cases in Rajasthan
  • An academic study indicates that over the counter anti-malaria med Chloroquine may be highly effective at treating the coronavirus
  • Dutch scientists say they have found an antibody against COVID19 at Erasmus MC and Utrecht University
  • UK doctors are criticising the government for not letting the NHS test staff
  • U.S. Treasury Secretary said that the U.S. could see a global unemployment rate of 20% as coronavirus plunges the economy into a recession
  • In Italy, there are the first signs of a slowing down in the rate of spread in the coronavirus
Community Action
'A potential solution': Training doctors ready to join fight
Australia’s 17,000 medical students are ready to join the coronavirus fight, the head of the Medical Students’ Association says, but must be integrated carefully to avoid long-term damage to patients and the health system.As Australia prepares for a worst-case scenario of 15 million coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday announced 20,000 student nurses would enter the workforce immediately.
To Track Virus, Governments Weigh Surveillance Tools That Push Privacy Limits
As the country scrambles to control the rapidly spreading coronavirus, government agencies are putting in place or considering a range of tracking and surveillance technologies that test the limits of personal privacy. The technologies include everything from geolocation tracking that can monitor the locations of people through their phones to facial-recognition systems that can analyze photos to determine who might have come into contact with individuals who later tested positive for the virus, according to people familiar with the matter. Data-mining firm Palantir Inc., which was credited with helping to find Osama bin Laden, is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to model the virus outbreak. Other companies that scrape public social-media data have contracts in place with the agency and the National Institutes of Health, documents show.
Giant Stores In Maryland Modify Hours, Add Time For Older Adults
The grocery store chain with 91 stores in Maryland is changing some of its operations due to the new coronavirus - with time set aside to allow the elderly and most vulnerable the chance to shop first thing
What’s the Risk of Coronavirus to Pregnant Women? Gynaecs Explain
Dr Priya Jayachandran, who works in Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital in Chennai, however, tells The Quint that while studies are yet to be conducted on this, expectant mothers are generally at a higher risk of contracting respiratory diseases. “Pregnant women sometimes have low immunity and need more oxygen than women who are not pregnant. This makes them susceptible to respiratory infections like flu. While there is no need to panic, expecting mothers should take precautions.”
Working Remotely
Chinese students flock home as coronavirus shuts Western campuses
Packed onto a plane full of fellow Chinese students heading home from the United States, 20-year-old Harvard University undergraduate Roger Zhang wore goggles to ward off the coronavirus for hours until they became just too uncomfortable. Zhang is among tens of thousands of overseas Chinese students making the journey back to China, where the coronavirus emerged late last year, as fears of it grip Western countries and schools and campuses shut their gates. "I can't predict the future, but it has seemed relatively more under control in China," the Shenzhen native told Reuters.
T-Mobile has a plan to temporarily hike the speed of its 4G LTE and 5G networks during the crisis
With the coronavirus forcing adults to work from home and students to stream virtual lessons, T-Mobile expects demand for its network capacity to rise sharply causing traffic bottlenecks and slower data speeds. To prevent excess traffic from slowing its 4G LTE data speeds, T-Mobile is borrowing 600MHz spectrum to increase capacity. By renting the additional 600MHz spectrum, T-Mobile will increase its 4G LTE capacity allowing those working or studying from home to experience faster data speeds than they might have otherwise had to deal with. And with T-Mobile possibly using the borrowed 600MHz holdings for both 4G LTE and 5G, the additional airwaves are very much welcome especially in markets where it can be quickly put to use. The companies loaning the spectrum to T-Mobile include Bluewater; Channel 51; Comcast; Dish; Grain Management affiliate NewLevel, LLC; LB Holdings and Omega Wireless, LLC. This list includes half of the 10 largest holders of 600MHz spectrum in the U.S. The spectrum will be borrowed by T-Mobile for a period of 60 days.
Coronavirus, what are the necessary protocols to follow for work? What are the best recommendations for businesses, what rules must employees follow
Il Fatto Quotidiano lists and explains the 13-point worker protocol backed by the government, unions and business - which details safety best practices for employees during the current coronacrisis
Virtual Classrooms
Faced with the suspension of teaching educational software company GoSchool offers its virtual classroom services for free to schools across the country
With the measures being implemented by the national government in the face of the advance of the Covid-19 coronavirus, leading to the suspension of classes at different educational levels throughout Argentina, many now realise they need to turn to virtual classrooms and teaching. Although there are free resources, the platforms have a certain complexity for those who are not accustomed to their use, which generates a predisposition on paid services. In this framework, a Mendoza-based company, GoSchool, dedicated to improving and streamlining academic management, has decided to offer its virtual classroom software at no cost to schools and teachers across the country to face quarantine.
Coronavirus in Argentina: virtual classrooms, apps and social networks so that the children are up to date while there are no classes
Coronavirus in Argentina: virtual classrooms, apps and social networks so that the children are up to date while there are no classes. Some schools are already sending content and activities online, but in many others the implementation of virtual classrooms has been delayed. As another prevention measure against the advance of the coronavirus , which in Argentina has already caused two deaths and more than 50 infections, the national government announced several prevention measures on Sunday night, including the suspension of classes until 31 of March.
In Uruguay, ANEP and Ceibal have created a virtual classroom to cover classes for two weeks
The National Administration of Public Education ( ANEP ) reported that during the two-week suspension of classes, by government decision to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, the educational centers will remain open with four-hour shifts in administrative, management, service or teacher support. Meanwhile, the 1,026 rural schools across the country will remain closed. For this reason, ANEP together with Ceibal have created a virtual classroom so that the children can take advantage of the time on these days and talking to a teacher is encouraged. It will be switched on from this Tuesday; and although there is no obligation to enter the website, families are encouraged to get their children to use it during the suspension of classes.
Healthcare Innovations
Researchers say COVID-19 product of ‘natural evolution’ not a ‘laboratory construct’
According to the journal Nature Medicine, researchers have found that the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus, also commonly referred to as COVID-19, is a product of natural evolutionary selection and is not a “laboratory construct or purposefully manipulated” coronavirus. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. The new research into the origins of the virus comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has infected more than 190,000 people globally, killing more than 7,500 around the world. Cases of the virus have been confirmed in all 50 states in the U.S.
Lessons From Italy’s Hospital Meltdown. ‘Every Day You Lose, the Contagion Gets Worse.’
The coronavirus is pushing a wealthy region with high-tech health care toward a humanitarian disaster. The coronavirus is devastating Bergamo and pushing a wealthy region with high-tech health care toward a humanitarian disaster, a warning for the U.S. and other developed countries. The city’s experience shows how even advanced economies and state-of-the-art hospitals must change social behaviors and prepare defenses ahead of a pandemic that is upending the rules.
Medical company threatens to sue volunteers that 3D-printed valves for life-saving coronavirus treatments
A medical device manufacturer has threatened to sue a group of volunteers in Italy that 3D printed a valve used for life-saving coronavirus treatments. The valve typically costs about $11,000 from the medical device manufacturer, but the volunteers were able to print replicas for about $1. A hospital in Italy was in need of the valves after running out while treating patients for COVID-19. The hospital’s usual supplier said they could not make the valves in time to treat the patients, according to Metro. That launched a search for a way to 3D print a replica part, and Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Ramaioli, who work at Italian startup Isinnova, offered their company’s printer for the job
Aggressive testing helps Italian town cut new coronavirus cases to zero
An infection control experiment that was rolled out in a small Italian community at the start of Europe’s coronavirus crisis has stopped all new infections in the town that was at the centre of the country’s outbreak. Through testing and retesting of all 3,300 inhabitants of the town of Vò, near Venice, regardless of whether they were exhibiting symptoms, and rigorous quarantining of their contacts once infection was confirmed, health authorities have been able to completely stop the spread of the illness there.
MetroHealth Medical Center can now test COVID-19 samples, results available in 2 hours
MetroHealth Medical Center becomes the first hospital in the state that can now test COVID-19 samples at its laboratory with results available after just two hours. MetroHealth President Akram Boutros said supplies are limited and the hospital is working with its vendors to obtain the supplies needed to expand testing.
Coronavirus cases have dropped sharply in South Korea. What’s the secret to its success?
South Korea has emerged as a sign of hope and a model to emulate. The country of 50 million appears to have greatly slowed its epidemic; it reported only 74 new cases today, down from 909 at its peak on 29 February. And it has done so without locking down entire cities or taking some of the other authoritarian measures that helped China bring its epidemic under control. Behind its success so far has been the most expansive and well-organized testing program in the world, combined with extensive efforts to isolate infected people and trace and quarantine their contacts. South Korea has tested more than 270,000 people, which amounts to more than 5200 tests per million inhabitants—more than any other country except tiny Bahrain, according to the Worldometer website. The United States has so far carried out 74 tests per 1 million inhabitants, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.
Coronavirus pandemic straining medical supplies, forcing nurses to reuse masks with "no protection"
As hospitals across the U.S. brace for a surge in patients, health care workers say the protective measures taken over the next few weeks will be critical, according to CBS News' Carter Evans. Some government leaders worry the coronavirus pandemic could stretch hospitals to their breaking point while medical equipment shortages threaten to put doctors, nurses and patients at risk. "Nurses are being asked to actually reuse masks, including surgical masks, which provide no protection," Executive Director of National Nurses United Bonnie Castillo said. She told CBS News that one of the group's main concerns is a shortage of N-95 masks, which filter out 95% of airborne particles. Last week, the CDC posted new guidelines saying health care workers could use looser-fitting surgical masks as "an acceptable alternative."
How U.S. coronavirus testing stalled: Flawed tests, red tape and resistance to using the millions of tests produced by the WHO
When Olfert Landt heard about the novel coronavirus, he got busy. Founder of a small Berlin-based company, the ponytailed 54-year-old first raced to help German researchers come up with a diagnostic test and then spurred his company to produce and ship more than 1.4 million tests by the end of February for the World Health Organization. “My wife and I have been working 16 hours a day, seven days a week, ever since,” Landt said by phone about 1 a.m. Friday, Berlin time. “Our days are full.” By contrast, over the same critical period, U.S. efforts to distribute tests ground nearly to a halt, and the country’s inability to produce them left public health officials with limited means to determine where and how fast the virus was spreading. From mid-January until Feb. 28, fewer than 4,000 tests from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were used out of more 160,000 produced.
Israeli Scientists to Announce Development of Coronavirus Vaccine
Over 50 experienced PhD scientists from the Israel Institute for Biological research (IIBR; Ness-Ziona, Israel) are working to produce a vaccine and antibody for the novel coronavirus. ccording to reports, scientists at IIBR have had a significant breakthrough in understanding the biological mechanism and qualities of the coronavirus and are expected to announce the completion of the development of a vaccine for COVID-19. However, a number of pre-clinical and clinical trials will have to be conducted for months before the vaccination can be deemed as effective or safe to use. Nevertheless, in view of the global emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, the trials could be accelerated to vaccinate a majority of the people who are at the highest risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Combination of two anti-HIV drugs proved crucial in Coronavirus treatment, Rajasthan official
A combination of two anti-HIV drugs has proved crucial in the treatment of coronavirus positive cases, a senior official of the Rajasthan government said. Additional Chief Secretary (Medical and Health) Rohit Kumar Singh said the patients' condition improved after they were administered the anti-HIV drugs. Three of the four patients in the state have now been declared coronavirus-free. Singh said the first two patients tested positive for the virus were an Italian couple "Their symptoms were flu-like so they were initially given anti-malaria and anti-swine flu drugs," he said. "All this while, our doctors were in touch with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Drug Controller General of India. Since the structure of coronavirus is similar to that of HIV to some extent, so they tried a combination of the two anti-HIV drugs," he added.
New academic study reveals over-the-counter anti-malaria med Chloroquine may be highly effective at treating coronavirus
There is good news today that an existing anti-viral medication may be effective at treating the COVID-19. According to a new academic study presented by Thomas R. Broker, (Stanford PhD), James M. Todaro (Columbia MD), and Gregory J. Rigano, Esq., in consultation with Stanford University School of Medicine, UAB School of Medicine, and National Academy of Sciences researchers, shows that over the counter anti-malaria pills Chloroquine may be highly effective at treating coronavirus COVID-19.
Unique discovery in Erasmus MC: antibody against corona
A world premiere from Erasmus MC and Utrecht University: they found an antibody against COVID-19. The scientific publication of the group of ten scientists is ready for assessment by the leading journal Nature. In the summary, the scientists describe an antibody to SARS2, the coronavirus causing the current pandemic (COVID-19). The antibody can help detect and prevent this type of corona infection. It is a world’s first. Disclaimer: The antibody still has to be tested on humans (and this will take months) and the article is under peer review before Nature will publish it. But Grosveld is hopeful: “We expect an email any moment”, says the Spinoza Prize winner in his lab on the tenth floor.
People with Type A blood are significantly more likely to catch coronavirus according to Chinese outbreak study
People with Type A blood are significantly more likely to catch coronavirus than those with Type O, Chinese academics have found. The study in Wuhan - the epicentre of the disease - also found those with Type A blood are more likely to die from COVID-19. In the general population Type O blood (34%) is more common than A (32%). However, among COVID-19 patients, people with Type O accounted for just 25%, whereas Type A made up 41%. People with Type O blood made up a quarter (25 per cent) of deaths in the research. Normally, Type O people make up 32 per cent of people in Wuhan. The controversial correlation has yet to be scrutinised by other academics in peer review and the researchers are unable to explain why infection varies by blood type.
Dutch researchers find antibody which may lead to anti-corona medicine
Researchers from the University of Utrecht and the Erasmus medical centre have developed a human antibody which, they say ‘offers potential for prevention and treatment of COVID-19’. It is important not to give false hope but the discovery is promising, research leader Berend-Jan Bosch says on the UU website. ‘But it is still too soon to speculate about its eventual working on people.’ The research is currently awaiting peer review before it can be published in the prestigious science journal Nature. The researchers are now trying to get a pharmaceutical company on board that can produce the antibody on a large scale as a medicine.
Doctors push for treatment of coronavirus with blood from recovered patients
In the absence of vaccines or antiviral drugs, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore say the key to slowing and treating the coronavirus might be hidden in the blood of those who’ve already recovered from the disease. The method of using “convalescent serum” — essentially harvesting virus-fighting antibodies from the blood of previously infected patients — dates back more than a century, but has not been used widely in the United States in decades. During the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, scientists reported that transfusions of blood products obtained from survivors led to a 50 percent drop in deaths among severely ill patients. A similar strategy was used to treat and slow the spread of polio and measles outbreaks decades ago, but the technique fell out of favor in the 1950s with the innovation of modern vaccine science and antiviral drugs, said Dr. Arturo Casadevall, chair of the molecular microbiology and immunology department at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
China closes makeshift hospitals as virus cases plunge
China has closed most of the makeshift hospitals opened to receive coronavirus patients in the epidemic's epicentre as the number of new infections in the country hit a record low. There were 40 new cases nationwide, the National Health Commission said Monday, the lowest number of fresh cases since it started reporting the data in January. Most of the new cases, as well as 22 new deaths, were in Hubei, the central province at the epicentre of the outbreak. The deaths -- which were all in Hubei except one -- bring the country's toll to 3,119.
Isolation Tips
Household isolation, social distancing and shielding – who should do what and for how long?
Household isolation - If anyone is symptomatic – with a high temperature or a continuous cough – the whole household should stay at home for 14 days to avoid the spread of infection. Who needs to undertake “social distancing” measures? Everyone has been asked to undertake social distancing measures to delay the spread of the virus. People who live alone should isolate themselves for seven days.
Coronavirus emergency kit: Social distancing to flatten the curve
According to the WHO, the most common symptoms are fever, fatigue and a dry cough. Some patients may experience aches and pains, nasal congestion, a runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. Current estimates of the incubation period - the amount of time between infection and the onset of symptoms - range from one to 14 days. Most infected people show symptoms within five to six days. However, infected patients can also be asymptomatic, not displaying symptoms despite having the virus in their system. The elderly, and those with underlying medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.
Coronavirus empties out Berlin's public spaces
The coronavirus pandemic is throttling social and cultural life in Germany's public spaces. Chancellor Angela Merkel's message to the nation to reduce travel, stay at home and keep social distance is also being heeded in Berlin.
Coronavirus: "Social distancing" visualizations on the Internet
For some people, especially children, it is difficult to understand why we suddenly have to isolate ourselves socially in times of Corona. Animations in social networks explain why this is so important.
Hygiene Helpers
How do I know if I have coronavirus?
People who are showing particular symptoms are being told to self-isolate in order to stop the coronavirus from spreading further. If you have a fever or a persistant cough, you and the rest of your household have to remain at home for 14 days and have food and medicine delivered to you. But how do you know if you’re just ill, feeling a bit ropey or if you have the symptoms of coronavirus? What do the symptoms of coronavirus feel like? BBC News’ Health and Science Reporter, Laura Foster, takes a look.
‘There is a policy of surrender’: doctor on UK’s Covid-19 failures
Mark Gallagher, a consultant cardiologist, is at home with a temperature of 38 and is pretty certain he has Covid-19. But the NHS will not test him for it. Instead, he has paid for a test kit from a private UK clinic and a colleague in China is sending him another. Gallagher has been in and out of his London hospital every day for the last 28 in a row. In the past couple of weeks he saw maybe 70 people in outpatients, he said. He cannot understand why the NHS will not test him or other healthcare workers who are put at risk by their work and risk infecting other vulnerable patients in turn, as well as their families. “The policy is that I don’t need to be tested and even the people who have been in contact with me aren’t going to be tested,” he said.
Public Policies
Global recession begins: A FIFTH of US workers have already lost wages due to coronavirus
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has reportedly warned that the US could see an unemployment rate of 20 per cent as the coronavirus plunges the economy into a recession. On Tuesday, it was revealed that a global recession has already begun due to the spread of COVID-19 as major companies begin laying off employees worldwide and a fifth of US workers say that they have already lost wages due to the crisis.
Museums Association Urges UK to Launch Emergency Fund with $145M Earmarked for Brexit Festival
“We are calling for an emergency fund to be created to support museums through this difficult period,” Sharon Heal, director of MA, told the Art Newspaper. “The government had earmarked £120m for a ‘festival of Britain’ in 2022; we believe this should now be made available to support museums at risk of permanent closure as a result of the coronavirus epidemic.” The organization is also asking for clarity regarding the safety measures the government is implementing—specifically whether institutions are being asked to close or ordered to close—and demanding that the UK do more to protect culture workers whose livelihoods are at risk following the shuttering of arts museums and businesses for what could be weeks or months. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a speech on Monday, March 16, informing the public that stricter public health measures need to be taken including the limiting of social contact and mass gatherings. The speech presumably led major UK institutions—including the British Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Tate galleries—to begin closing their doors.
In Italy, first signs of a slowdown in the spread of the coronavirus
Italian civil protection data show a decrease in the increase, even more marked in the first regions placed in containment. This is the first - relatively - good news in the terrible health crisis that Italy has been facing for the past three weeks: according to statistics, the progression curve of Covid-19 finally seems to be slowing down, revealing the positive effects of the choice of containment of the population, gradually since March 8. The trend has been detected for two days by observers of the epidemic, but no one has yet dared to come forward to announce it publicly, preferring to wait until the figures were looking more solid.
Rutte can no longer laugh at the facts
I called Prof. Jaap Goudsmit, one of the top epidemiologists in the world, professor at Harvard, known for his work to combat Sars and HIV, among others. A swift testing of the population is what is needed he told me.Jaap Goudsmit is a cordial man who generously shares his knowledge. He explained that immediately a broad population test is needed; at least one hundred thousand people, preferably one million. They should be diagnosed as to whether they have been infected with coronavirus and see if they have recovered, so we know how many serious cases have occurred, and how the different age groups have responded to the infection. It takes huge numbers of test kits, and if not, they need to be made by industry with the utmost urgency, regardless of cost. Regional GGD laboratories can analyze the samples, and the data can then be interpreted by experts such as Jaap Goudsmit. As long as we do not know exactly how many have been infected, as I understood from Prof. Goudsmit, how far the infection has spread, especially in children and young adults, we cannot sensible remedial measures because we do not know the hard figures for each age group.
Chaos in Manila as Philippines launches coronavirus quarantine measures
A rise in patient numbers across the region – where nations had initially recorded relatively few cases – follows a ramping up of testing efforts. The increases have cast doubt on suggestions that warmer weather may stop the virus, and prompted a growing number of governments to introduce curbs on movement.
What Will It Take to Stop Coronavirus?
Efforts are underway to find a vaccine, but even the most optimistic timelines suggest several months of scientific development before human clinical trials can begin. With no vaccine or treatment, the most effective way to stop 2019-nCoV’s spread is to limit transmission by identifying infected individuals as quickly as possible and isolating them for treatment before they can infect others. This strategy worked against the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic in 2003. Global and national health authorities are implementing the approaches used during the SARS crisis, but, other measures also need to be taken because 2019-nCov is already widespread in China.
French lockdown comes into force in bid to curtail spread of deadly virus
France entered a 15-day lockdown at midday on Tuesday that will require people to remain at home except for essential outings in a bid to curtail the coronavirus outbreak. The French government has said tens of thousands of police will be patrolling streets and issuing fines of 38 to 135 euros for people without a written declaration justifying their reasons for being out.