• Controlling an Influenza Outbreak without a Specific Vaccine

    A group of pandemic modelling experts have published new research that simulated viral influenza outbreaks to examine the efficacy of pandemic interventions in the absence of a tailored vaccine. The general use of low-efficacy vaccines, coupled with a targeted application of antiviral medications, may be effective at countering the spread of influenza pandemics, new research has found.

  • Irrigation Expansion Could Feed 800 Million More People

    Agriculture, which accounts for 90 percent of global water use, is the largest driver of water scarcity worldwide, and it is often the most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations that suffer the severest consequences. A new study suggests that there is enough locally available water to expand irrigation over 140 million hectares of agricultural lands.

  • Millions of U.S. Workers at Risk of Infections on the Job, Researchers Calculate, Emphasizing Need to Protect Against COVID-19

    A University of Washington researcher calculates that 14.4 million workers face exposure to infection once a week and 26.7 million at least once a month in the workplace, pointing to an important population needing protection as the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, continues to break out across the U.S. Jake Ellison writes for UW News that Marissa Baker, an assistant professor in the UW School of Public Health, based her calculations on research she published in 2018 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. In that paper, Baker and co-authors calculated that about 8 percent of workers in Federal Region X — comprised of Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Idaho — work in jobs where exposure to infection or disease occurs at least once a week at work. Those risks include flu-like illnesses, MRSA and other respiratory illnesses, like COVID-19, as well as wound infections.

  • U.S. Hits 1 Million COVID-19 Cases as States Take on Testing

    The U.S. case count for COVID-19 topped 1 million cases yesterday, meaning the country has accounts for a third of all reported cases of the novel coronavirus in the world. In total, the United States now has 1,002,498 cases, including 57,533 fatalities. The milestone comes a day after the world surpassed 3 million cases in the 4 months since the virus was first detected in Wuhan, China. Less than 1 month ago—on 2 April—the global total hit 1 million cases.

  • Virologists Show that Sample Pooling Can Massively Increase Coronavirus Testing Capacity

    A new procedure will help to meet the high demand for testing in mass coronavirus screening programs needed in the early identification and isolation of asymptomatic individuals. The pooling of samples before testing is a safe and well-established procedure in blood banking. The team from the Institute of Virology has adapted and tested this method for use in coronavirus diagnostics. Saarland University says that samples from several individuals are pooled and tested together in a single tube using sensitive molecular biological detection methods. Only if the pool result is positive do the samples need to be tested individually. When the infection rate is low and only a few people are infected, pool testing can significantly expand the testing capacity of the existing laboratory infrastructure. The team has been using the new procedure at Saarland University Hospital in Homburg since mid-March to protect vulnerable patients from infection by asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 carriers. The success of the pool testing procedure has now led to its use in screening residents and staff at nursing and residential care homes in Saarland.

  • Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine Begins Human Trial Stage

    University of Oxford researchers have begun testing a COVID-19 vaccine in human volunteers in Oxford. Around 1,110 people will take part in the trial, half receiving the vaccine and the other half (the control group) receiving a widely available meningitis vaccine. Of the first two volunteers to take part today, one will likewise receive the vaccine and the other the control. Oxford says that the researchers started screening healthy volunteers (aged 18-55) in March for their upcoming ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine trial in the Thames Valley Region. The vaccine is based on an adenovirus vaccine vector and the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, and has been produced in Oxford.

  • Researchers Reveal Substantial Disparities in COVID-19 Hospitalization and Death Rates among New York City Boroughs

    A new study suggests that substantial differences in COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths have emerged along racial and socioeconomic lines in New York City. Jacqueline Mitchell writes for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center that the research team found that COVID-19 hospitalization and death rates varied considerably across New York City boroughs. The Bronx—the borough with the highest proportion of racial and ethnic minorities, the most persons living in poverty and lowest levels of educational attainment—had higher rates of hospitalization and death related to COVID-19 than all other boroughs. In contrast, hospitalization and death rates were lowest in Manhattan, the most affluent borough, which is comprised of a predominately white population. The number of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 persons was nearly two times greater in the Bronx than in Manhattan.

  • Researchers Devise New Model to Track COVID-19’s Spread

    Yale University researchers and colleagues in Hong Kong and China have developed an approach for rapidly tracking population flows that could help policymakers worldwide more effectively assess risk of disease spread and allocate limited resources as they combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Mike Cummings writers for Yale News that the approach, described in a study published early online on April 29 in the journal Nature, differs from existing epidemiological models by exploiting real-time data about population flows, such as phone use data and other “big data” sources that can accurately quantify the movement of people.

  • Goodbye to the Crowded Office: How Coronavirus Will Change the Way We Work Together

    As lockdowns are relaxed around the world and people return to their workplaces, the next challenge will be adapting open office spaces to the new normal of strict personal hygiene and physical distancing. Rachel Morrison writes in The Conversation that while the merits and disadvantages of open plan and flexible workspaces have long been debated, the risk they posed of allowing dangerous, highly contagious viruses to spread was rarely (if ever) considered. But co-working spaces are characterized by shared areas and amenities with surfaces that need constant cleaning. Droplets from a single sneeze can travel over 7 meters, and surfaces within pods or booths, designed for privacy, could remain hazardous for days. Perhaps—if vigilant measures are in place—some countries can continue to embrace collaborative, flexible, activity-based workplace designs and the cost savings they represent. But this is unlikely to be the case in general in the coming years. Even if some organizations can operate with minimal risk there will be an expectation they provide virus-free workplaces should there be future outbreaks.

  • Pressured by China, EU Softens Report on Covid-19 Disinformation

    Bowing to heavy pressure from Beijing, European Union officials softened their criticism of China this week in a report documenting how governments push disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, according to documents, emails and interviews. European officials, worried about the repercussions, first delayed and then rewrote the document in ways that diluted the focus on China, a vital trading partner — taking a very different approach than the confrontational stance adopted by the Trump administration.

  • The Pandemic Is Liberating Firms to Experiment with Radical New Ideas

    The pandemic may be an unmitigated calamity, but in some quarters it is spurring innovation, as firms come up with new ways to keep making existing products despite disrupted supply chains, or, as demand collapses amid self-isolation, create new ones. Some are changing the very way they innovate.

  • Lawmakers Press Administration on Counterterrorism Efforts Amid COVID-19

    Senators Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire) and James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), both members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, called on the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and Intelligence Community to answer questions about what these agencies are doing to address ongoing and emerging terrorist threats amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The senators note that there is evidence of both foreign and domestic potential terrorists trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Coronavirus: Digital Contact Tracing Doesn’t Have to Sacrifice Privacy

    To make it safer to reduce the lockdown measures, proposals are being considered to use data from people’s smartphones to track their movements and contacts with potentially infected patients. Other systems involve monitoring the data trails of all citizens to generate useful information that helps to prevent the spread of the disease. All these approaches involve allowing the government, and in some cases private companies, to build a database of where we go, the people we associate with and when. Such intrusive tracking is more typically associated with totalitarian regimes and easily can be misused. Despite the good intentions, then, these measures raise serious concerns that collecting and sharing such data might pose a threat to citizens’ right to privacy.

  • Lockdown Only Made Corona Crisis Worse, Claim Experts

    Three Hebrew University professors claim that Israel and other countries could have controlled COVID-19 without resorting to lockdowns. Their data-based study argues that the “medieval” approach of quarantining the population for a prolonged period takes a catastrophic economic and social toll.

  • Extremists and Conspiracy Theorists Urge Resistance to “Medical Martial Law”

    In the past month, anti-government extremists, conspiracy theorists and others chafing under coronavirus restrictions have led a rising chorus of angry opposition to public health measures promulgated by federal and state governments. This growing movement promotes opposition to and noncompliance with these measures, which they believe are driven by ulterior motives.