• FDA OKs Use of Convalescent Plasma for COVID-19

    On Sunday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it has approved plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients to be used as a hospital-based treatment for the novel coronavirus under an emergency use authorization (EUA). In a White House press conference, President Trump and FDA director Stephen Hahn both claimed that treatment with convalescent plasma “reduced mortality in hospitalized patients by 35%,” but the FDA’s own press release was much more circumspect. Many scientists pointed out that the Mayo Clinic study cited by both Trump and Hahn clearly stated that 3.2 people out of 100—not 35—would be saved by the administration of convalescent plasma, and that even to achieve this result, the plasma must be administered within three days of infection. Still, even without the hype, and subject to additional controlled, randomized clinical trials, scientists say, this is welcome news.

  • COVID-19 Outcomes in Female-Led Countries “Systematically and Significantly Better”

    Female national leaders locked down earlier and suffered half as many COVID deaths on average as male leaders, according to analysis across 194 countries. The researchers say that the analysis holds even if outliers – the effective responses by Angela Merkel-led Germany and Jacinda Arden-led New Zealand, and the botched, inompetent response by the Trump administration – are removed from the statistics. The researchers note that “While this [early lockdown] may have longer-term economic implications, it has certainly helped these countries to save lives, as evidenced by the significantly lower number of deaths in these countries.”

  • In COVID’s Shadow, Global Terrorism Goes Quiet. But We Have Seen This Before, and Should Be Wary

    Have we flattened the curve of global terrorism? In our COVID-19-obsessed news cycle, stories about terrorism and terrorist attacks have largely disappeared. But as is the case with epidemics, terrorism works as a phenomenon that depends on social contact and exchange, and expands rapidly in an opportunistic fashion when defenses are lowered. In fact, we have contributed, through military campaigns, to weakening the body politic of host countries in which groups like al-Qaeda, IS and other violent extremist groups have a parasitic presence. We now need to face the inconvenient truth that toxic identity politics and the tribal dynamics of hate have infected Western democracies. Limiting the scope for terrorist attacks is difficult. Eliminating the viral spread of hateful extremism is much harder, but ultimately even more important.

  • COVID-19–Related Infodemic Has Consequences for Public Health

    Infodemic is “an overabundance of information—some accurate and some not—that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.” A new study of COVID-19-related infodemic on social media analyzed thousands of COVID-19-related postings, finding that 82 percent of them were false.  

  • Cost of Excluding Undocumented Immigrants from Stimulus Funds: $10 billion in Economic Activity

    A new study found that the exclusion of undocumented residents and their families from the COVID-19 pandemic-related $1,200 stimulus payments given to taxpayers resulted in a loss of $10 billion in potential economic output. It also cost 82,000 jobs nationally and 17,000 jobs in California, the research found.

  • The Impact of COVID-19 on Terrorism

    While government leaders are focused on fighting COVID-19, the threat of terrorism has not gone away. In fact, homeland security experts have warned that violent extremists may seek to take advantage of the fear and disruption around the pandemic to further their agenda and recruit new members.

  • Let’s Not Forget the Important Lessons the Coronavirus Taught Us about Supply Chains

    Resilience is priceless when you really need it. It turns out our economic systems are more fragile than we thought. As locations across the world implemented “shelter-in-place” orders in an effort to flatten the coronavirus contagion curve last spring, we got a real-time lesson in how intertwined our transportation and distribution systems are. It was staggering to see how efforts to curb the human toll of a pandemic rippled across every sector and created incalculable emotional and social impacts.

  • Election Flexibility Needed to Address Pandemic Safety Concerns

    The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a severe threat to state election plans in 2020. To conduct an election during the COVID-19 pandemic, states need registration and voting options that minimize direct personal contact and that reduce crowds and common access to high-touch surfaces.

  • Google Searches During Pandemic: Hints of Future Increase in Suicide

    U.S. Google searches for information about financial difficulties and disaster relief increased sharply in March and April compared with pre-pandemic times, while Googling related to suicide decreased. Because previous research has shown that financial distress is strongly linked to suicide mortality, the researchers fear that the increase may predict a future increase in deaths from suicide.

  • COVID-19: Millions Face Severe Food Insecurity in Latin America, Caribbean

    The socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbean could potentially leave around 14 million vulnerable people in severe food insecurity this year, warranting urgent attention to save lives, according to projections by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). The estimate suggests that an additional 10 million people could be pushed into poverty and hunger in 11 countries in the region, including the small island developing states in the Caribbean.

  • Face Masks’ Effect on Face Recognition Software

    Now that so many of us are covering our faces to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, how well do face recognition algorithms identify people wearing masks? The answer, according to a preliminary NIST study), is with great difficulty. Algorithms created before the pandemic generally perform less accurately with digitally masked faces.

  • Social Media Users More Likely to Believe False COVID-19 Information

    People who get their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19. Those that consume more traditional news media have fewer misperceptions and are more likely to follow public health recommendations like social distancing.

  • The (Low) Cost of Preventing the next pandemic

    Thus far, COVID has cost at least $2.6 trillion and may cost ten times this amount. It is the largest global pandemic in 100 years. Six months after emerging, it has killed over 600,000 people and is having a major impact on the global economy. “How much would it cost to prevent this happening again? And what are the principal actions that need to be put in place to achieve this?” asks one expert. His research team offers an answer: $30 billion a year.

  • Combating a Pandemic Is 500 Times More Expensive Than Preventing One

    Experts say that the failure to protect tropical rain forests has cost trillions of dollars stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, which has wreaked economic havoc and caused historic levels of unemployment in the United States and around the world. These experts say that significantly reducing transmission of new diseases from tropical forests would cost, globally, between $22.2 and $30.7 billion each year. In stark contrast, they found that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely end up costing between $8.1 and $15.8 trillion globally—roughly 500 times as costly as what it would take to invest in proposed preventive measures.

  • The Science Behind the Alternatives to Lockdowns

    Four leading Israeli researcher argue that a correct reading of the Swedish experiment of a more relaxed approach shows that, despite early localized setbacks, it has been a success – and its success helps explode the three myths which have led governments around the world to impose unnecessary lockdowns. Sarah Knapton writes that an official U.K. government report says that more than 200,000 people could die from the impact of lockdown. Robert Peston writes that the cost of COVID-19 in the U.K. was unnecessarily high, and Yoon K. Loke and Carl Heneghan write that in the U.K., the number of COVID-19-related deaths is so high because “no one can ever recover from COVID-19”: A patient discharged from the hospital after being treated for COVID-19 will still be counted as a COVID death — even if they had a heart attack or were run over by a bus three months later.

    It is difficult to think of another country that has botched the response to the coronavirus more spectacularly than the United States. Joel Achenbach, William Wan, Karin Brulliard, and Chelsea Janes write that the death rate from COVID-19-19 in the United States looks like that of countries with vastly lower wealth, health-care resources, and technological infrastructure, adding: “If there was a mistake to be made in this pandemic, America has made it.” Michael D. Shear, Noah Weiland, Eric Lipton, Maggie Haberman, and David E. Sanger write that the roots of the U.S. current inability to control the pandemic can be traced to mid-April, when the White House began to focus on shifting responsibility for leading the fight against the pandemic – which was becoming a public health, economic, and political disaster — from the White House to the states.

    Wearing a face mask has become a political issue. J. Alexander Navarro writes that this was also the case during the 1918 pandemic. Beginning Monday, wearing face masks in public will be mandatory in France, and Valentin Hamon-Beugin writes [in French] that several French start-ups have developed technologies which would allow the authorities to monitor citizens’ compliance with the new rule.