• The World Agreed to a Coronavirus Inquiry. Just When and How, Though, Are Still in Dispute

    Only once before has the World Health Organization held its annual World Health Assembly during a pandemic. The last time it happened, in 2009, the influenza pandemic was only in its first weeks – with far fewer deaths than the world has seen this year. Adam Kamradt-Scott writes in The Conversation that never before has the meeting of world leaders, health diplomats and public health experts been held entirely virtually over a condensed two days instead of the normal eight-to-nine-day affair. As expected, the assembly proved to be a high stakes game of bare-knuckled diplomacy – with a victory (of sorts) for the western countries that had been advocating for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. China had pushed back hard against such an inquiry, first proposed by Australia last month, but eventually agreed after other countries signed on. Even though the resolution was adopted, there are still many unanswered questions about what happens next, specifically, when and how an investigation will actually occur.

  • Economics Project to Explore Impact of Biases on Social Distancing

    With neither a vaccine nor a proven treatment available, many communities are relying on social distancing to battle the coronavirus pandemic, from closing non-essential businesses to wearing masks in public. The problem: Not everyone agrees to follow these measures, seen by recent protests across the country — including in Binghamton. Binghamton University says that a team of Binghamton University economists is studying the phenomenon for a new research project on “The Role of Intertemporal Biases in Influencing Individual’s Demand for Social Distancing.” The project recently received funding through the SUNY Research Seed Grant Program.

  • In Pandemic, Many Seeing Upsides to Telemedicine

    The COVID-19 pandemic shifted telemedicine from an outlier to a necessity almost overnight, and doctors say they can’t see ever going back to their old model of care. Mary Van Beusekom writes in CIDRAP thatAccording to the Commonwealth Fund, telemedicine comprised nearly 30% of outpatient visits in April, while the number of clinic visits dropped almost 60% in mid-March and has stayed low. The number of visits to ambulatory practices has rebounded a bit since then but is still one-third lower than before the pandemic.

  • How Market Manipulation in the Age of Pandemic Is Destroying Traditional Safe Havens

    The Coronavirus pandemic has created enormous volatility in global financial markets but prices of safe haven assets such as gold and bitcoin are not surging, as one might expect, thanks to intense and large-scale manipulation, according to analysis by the University of Sussex Business School. The contrast with the last major global financial catastrophe is telling. Following the Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008, the correlations between the S&P 500 index and gold, or the Swiss Franc, or U.S. Treasuries were all around minus 40%. During March and April 2020 the correlation between the S&P 500 index and gold was plus 20%. The University of Sussex says that even more surprising is the behavior of the bitcoin/US dollar rate – since this cryptocurrency emerged in January 2009 its behavior was completely uncorrelated with any traditional asset, but as the S&P 500 index plummeted in early March 2020, so did bitcoin. Their correlation was plus 63% then, and it remains unsettlingly high at 40%. The biggest beneficiaries of these market attacks, beyond those placing the trades, are holders of US dollars and US assets. These become the main sources of positive returns for global investors in attempts to curtail the recent trend of some central banks to diversify their reserves away from the US dollar.

  • “Coronavirus Murders”: Media Narrative about Domestic Abuse During Lockdown Misses the Point

    In more “normal” times, two women a week are murdered by their partners in the UK, but these crimes rarely make the news. Now, following lockdown around the world, there has been a flurry of reports of a surge in domestic violence and abuse (DVA) cases. Domestic abuse has been deemed newsworthy. Has it taken a global health crisis to shine a light on violence against women in the home? Emma Williamson, Nancy Lombard, and Oona Brooks-Hay write in The Conversation that many believe spikes in the number of cases point to a rise in one-off incidents, but our research into perceived links between football and domestic abuse demonstrates that it’s more likely that existing patterns of abuse are increasing in terms of frequency and type because people are permanently at close quarters. So it is critical to put this in context: more men are not becoming abusive or violent – women who are already suffering abuse are being attacked by their partners more often. As experts in this area we urge the media to make this important distinction.

  • Israeli experts propose radical post-corona exit strategy

    The biggest worry as we start emerging from isolation in the COVID-19 pandemic: How do we return to schools and businesses without triggering a fresh outbreak? Israeli mathematicians suggest a staggered approach to reenter public places and workplaces without causing a new outbreak.

  • “The Lesson Is to Never Forget”

    Olga Jonas, senior fellow at the Harvard Global Health Institute, is an expert in managing the risks of pandemics. “A lesson [from previous pandemics] we should remember is that governments have the responsibility to prepare for a pandemic; they have the obligation to invest in public-health systems to protect their citizens from both the threat and the reality of the next pandemic,” she says. “The U.S. government didn’t react either quickly or adequately back in January, when the first confirmed case of coronavirus was found.”

  • Game-Changing Technologies to Transform Food Systems

    In the next three decades, the world will need a 30–70 percent increase in food availability to meet the demand from an increasing population. In addition, the global food system will need to change profoundly if it is going to provide humanity with healthy food that is grown sustainably in ways that are not only resilient in the face of climate change but also do not surpass planetary boundaries. According to new research, a pipeline of disruptive technologies could transform our food systems, ecosystems, and human health, but attention to the enabling environment is needed to realize their potential.

  • Researchers Urge Clinical Trial of Blood Pressure Drug to Prevent Complication of COVID-19

    Researchers in the Ludwig Center at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center report they have identified a drug treatment that could—if given early enough—potentially reduce the risk of death from the most serious complication of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), also known as SARS-CoV-2 infection. Phys.org reports that prazosin, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved alpha blocker that relaxes blood vessels, may specifically target an extreme inflammatory process often referred to as cytokine storm syndrome (CSS) that disproportionately affects older adults with underlying health conditions, and is associated with disease severity and increased risk of death in COVID-19 infection. Using it pre-emptively to address COVID-19-associated hyperinflammation of the lungs and other organs has the potential to reduce deaths in the most vulnerable populations, they say.

  • Team Finds Effective SARS-CoV-2 Neutralizing Antibodies

    Researchers at Peking University (PKU) has successfully identified multiple highly potent neutralizing antibodies against the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the causative virus of the respiratory disease COVID-19, from convalescent plasma by high-throughput single-cell sequencing. Phys.org notes that neutralizing antibodies, generated by human immune system, can effectively prevent viruses from infecting cells. New results from animal studies showed that their neutralizing antibody provides a potential cure for COVID-19 as well as means for short-term prevention. This marks a major milestone in the fight against the pandemic.

  • Further Evidence Does Not Support Hydroxychloroquine for Patients with COVID-19

    More randomized, double-blind clinical trials of the use of hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19-infected patients find what earlier studies have found: hydroxychloroquine offers no benefits to trial subjects relative to the placebos given to the control group – but hydroxychloroquine significantly increase the risks of serious side-effects. Promoters of hydroxychloroquine argue that the drug is more effective in the early stages of infections, but in these two recent trials the drug was given to people in the early infection stage and showing only mild symptoms, with the same disappointing results. BMJ says that while further work is needed to confirm these results, the authors say that their findings do not support the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat patients with persistent mild to moderate COVID-19.

  • No “Miracle Cure” for Coronavirus Until Clinical Trials Prove Madagascar’s Herbal Medicine

    Scientists are putting an herbal remedy from Madagascar, purported to cure COVID-19, to the test. Salem Solomon writes in VOA News that researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, in Potsdam, are collaborating with a U.S. company, ArtemiLife, to test an extract from the plant Artemisia annua to determine its effectiveness in speeding recovery from the virus.

  • “A lot of hope”: Experimental Seattle Coronavirus Vaccine Study Shows Promise

    An experimental vaccine against the coronavirus being tested in Seattle showed encouraging results in very early testing, triggering hoped-for immune responses in eight healthy, middle-aged volunteers, its maker announced Monday. King5 reports that study volunteers given either a low or medium dose of the vaccine by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc. had antibodies similar to those seen in people who have recovered from COVID-19. The study was run out of the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute In the next phase of the study, led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, researchers will try to determine which dose is best for a definitive experiment that they aim to start in July.

  • Coronavirus Vaccine: First Evidence Jab Can Train Immune System

    The first hints that a vaccine can train people’s immune system to fight coronavirus have been reported by a company in the U.S. James Gallagher writes for the BBC that Moderna said neutralizing antibodies were found in the first eight people who took part in their safety trials. It also said the immune response was similar to that in people infected with the actual virus. Larger trials to see whether the jab protects against infection are expected to start in July. Work on a coronavirus vaccine has been taking place at unprecedented speed, with around 80 groups around the world working on them. Moderna was the first to test an experimental vaccine, called mRNA-1273, in people. The vaccine is a small snippet of the coronavirus’s genetic code, which is injected into the patient. It is not capable of causing an infection or the symptoms of COVID-19, but is enough to provoke a response from the immune system.

  • A.C.L.U. Warns Against Fever-Screening Tools for Coronavirus

    Airports, office buildings, warehouses and restaurant chains are rushing to install new safety measures like fever-scanning cameras and infrared temperature-sensing guns. But the American Civil Liberties Union warned on Tuesday against using the tools to screen people for possible coronavirus symptoms, saying the devices were often inaccurate, ineffective and intrusive. Natasha Singer writes in the New York Times that in a new report, “Temperature Screening and Civil Liberties During an Epidemic,” the A.C.L.U. said that such technologies could give people a false sense of security, potentially leading them to be less vigilant about health measures like wearing masks or social distancing. The group also cautioned that the push for widespread temperature scans during the pandemic could usher in permanent new forms of surveillance and social control.