Why Losing Your Sense of Smell Could Be a Coronavirus Symptom

It was four days into her suspected COVID-19 infection that Olivia Haynes realized she couldn’t smell or taste anything.

Her dry cough and fever had briefly subsided and her appetite had returned, so she cooked herself a spaghetti bologna. A self-described foodie, she initially thought she had just done a bad job because the food was so bland. “Honestly, it took me like three meals to realize I have no taste and no smell,” she told TIME on Tuesday over the phone from her home in London, where she is self-isolating. “People hadn’t been talking about it [as a symptom], so I wasn’t looking out for it.”

As more and more people around the world are becoming infected by the new coronavirus, there has been a spike in people reporting a loss of smell, and by extension taste, according to doctors. “In the last 48 hours, or perhaps 72, we have heard from about 500 patients who have lost their sense of smell,” says Dr. Nirmal Kumar, the president of ENTUK, a group of British ear, nose and throat specialists. Normally, Kumar says, a busy surgery like his would receive perhaps one report of lost smell or taste per month. Now, he is seeing far more. “It was never as frequent as it is now,” he says. “And this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Kumar is not alone. In South Korea, where testing for COVID-19 is widespread, some 30% of patients with mild symptoms have reported anosmia, the technical term for a loss of sense of smell. Doctors from China, the U.S., Iran, Italy and Germany—all places with significant outbreaks of COVID-19—have also noted a rise in reports of anosmia connected to confirmed coronavirus cases, according to a letter issued on Friday by ENTUK and the British Rhinological Society. The letter, signed by Kumar and sent to public health authorities, urged doctors treating people with anosmia to don personal protective equipment while treating them.

The symptom, Kumar says, is also appearing in otherwise healthy people, indicating that a loss of sense of smell could be a vital indicator of whether somebody is carrying the virus unknowingly—especially in the U.K., where tests for the virus are only available in hospitals for the most serious of cases, leaving many people with mild symptoms unsure of whether they are infected by the coronavirus or the common flu. “Many patients reporting this have mild [COVID-19] symptoms, sometimes a little bit of cough and sometimes a fever, but there are patients who are not reporting any other symptoms,” he says. “It is a dramatic indicator. In my practice, patients all around me are reporting this. Therefore, there are lots of carriers around.”

“I Was Winded Putting Dishes in the Dishwasher”: NYC Man Speaks About His COVID-19 Diagnosis

TIME spoke with Rich Bahrenburg about his COVID-19 symptoms, testing experience and time spent in isolation.

Kumar and other doctors are urging authorities globally to add a loss of sense of smell to the list of symptoms that would trigger stay-at-home requirements. “I feel that we need to add this to the self isolation rules, because these young fit people are spreading it around,” he says.

While there are no scientific studies yet on the link between COVID-19 and anosmia, Kumar speculates that the dulling effect is caused by the virus interfering with the mucous membrane in the roof of each nasal cavity in the nose, where the smell receptors are. “It is obviously speculation at the moment,” Kumar says. “But these viruses, which are obviously very, very small particles, go into the roof of the nose. And that’s where they affect the sense of smell receptors, which are very delicate organs.”

Many people who have lost their sense of smell initially turned to Twitter for answers, especially ones who had no other symptoms of COVID-19. One of them was a school teacher named Robert, from the north of England, who was eating candy over the weekend when he realized he couldn’t taste or smell anything.

Robert, who asked to be referred to by a pseudonym, went to work on Monday, not knowing his loss of smell could indicate COVID-19. (He had no other symptoms.) Although schools in the U.K. are now closed for most children, he still had to supervise a small class of children of essential workers, like doctors and nurses. “I didn’t even think it could be related,” he says.

Unable to get a coronavirus test due to the U.K.’s testing limitations, Robert turned to Twitter on Monday night. In an ideal situation, no one should have to rely on social media for medical advice, but given how fast this pandemic is moving and how much is still unknown about the coronavirus, many feel they have no other recourse. On Twitter, where many people—including celebrities and U.K. health minister Nadine Dorries (who tested positive for the virus)—have posted about losing their sense of smell, Robert read that there could be a link between his symptoms and COVID-19. He immediately decided to self-isolate and tell his employer.

In London, still struggling with bad symptoms after 10 days of infection, Haynes is trying to motivate herself to eat without a sense of taste. “If you’re not hungry anyway and you’re trying to force something down, it’s really grim,” she says. “Especially when you just want some comfort.”

By Billy Perrigo March 24, 2020

Source: Why Losing Your Sense of Smell Could Be a Coronavirus Symptom

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What Coronavirus Means for the Possibility of a Carbon-Free Economy

In the days following Barack Obama’s election as president, incoming chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel made a bold declaration about how the administration would respond to the urgent financial crisis. “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” he said, citing a range of challenges, from climate to health care, that might be addressed as part of a response to the Great Recession.

Politicians and policymakers are just beginning to understand how much pain the coronavirus pandemic will inflict, and it goes without saying that policy experts of all stripes universally agree that protecting human life should be the first priority. Even still, leaders are already jockeying about how to keep the crisis from “going to waste.” One area that many are targeting is climate change.

The key climate question raised by this response to coronavirus is whether the trillions of dollars countries will spend to stimulate their economies will help reduce emissions or drive them up. Policy experts say governments may prefer to invest in fossil-fuel-intensive industries because it feels like a safe option in the middle of a pandemic, but doubling down on fossil fuels risks worsening one crisis to deal with another.

“Everybody’s going to be putting safety first right now,” says Matthew McKinnon, an advisor to a group of countries especially vulnerable to climate change. “And whether or not safety first aligns with climate first is going to vary from place to place.”

“Historic opportunity”

The transition away from fossil fuels is happening, with or without coronavirus, but there are a lot of reasons why governments might want to use this moment to double down on measures to address climate change.

Analysis from the International Energy Agency (IEA) describes the moment as a “historic opportunity” for officials to advance clean energy. As governments flood the economy with cash, deep investment in renewable projects would put people to work in the short term and, in the longer term, create decarbonized energy systems better able to compete in the 21st century. “We should not allow today’s crisis to compromise our efforts to tackle the world’s inescapable challenge,” wrote IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol in a web post.

Still, getting government officials to prioritize climate may prove difficult in the face of several headwinds. For one, oil prices have declined precipitously in recent weeks as coronavirus has driven demand for crude lower and Saudi Arabia and Russia ramped up production as part of a fierce price war. Cheap fossil fuels leave governments less likely to look to renewables.

On the other hand, low oil prices offer a great opportunity to eliminate the billions of dollars in government subsidies that support oil and gas, the IEA says, as consumers are less likely to feel the effects.

The big players

The economic response to the coronavirus will play out over months and perhaps years, but we nonetheless see the topic of a “green stimulus” already popping up in capitals across the globe.

Officials in China have promised a massive stimulus to restart the country’s economy, and observers expect that they will largely focus on infrastructure. Some of those projects may be carbon-intensive, but others could ultimately reduce emissions. Expanding electric vehicle infrastructure and transitioning from coal-powered heating to gas-powered heating are among the areas where the country could spend billions, says David Sandalow, an expert on China’s energy and climate policy who serves as a fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.

Top officials at the European Commission, the European Union’s executive body, have remained steadfast about the European Green Deal, the program intended to eliminate the bloc’s carbon footprint by 2050, even as some member states have complained about its cost in the face of coronavirus. But that program, which has a price tag that tops $1 trillion, actually creates a “green stimulus” of its own, providing billions to places in Europe that are struggling economically. Many key climate advocates have argued that a Green Deal will serve as the framework for an economic recovery.

Across the Atlantic, Washington D.C. may seem like the least likely place to look for stimulus measures focused on addressing climate change, but the conversation is simmering beneath the headlines. Renewable energy groups with support on both sides of the aisle are asking for relief, given the hit they’ve taken from falling power demand. A group of Senators is pushing to pair any bailout of the airline industry with policies to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint. And progressive lawmakers are pointing to the economic downturn, which has far-reaching implications across society, as an ideal opportunity to implement a Green New Deal.

Of course, any legislation called a Green New Deal will be difficult to pass in this Congress, or realistically any future Congress. But many of the components could easily fit as part of a bigger stimulus package. “If you agree on the size and Democrats and Republicans give each other something,” says Reed Hundt, president of the Coalition for Green Capital, who served on the Obama transition team, “you’ll get it done.”

That’s a lesson from the 2009 stimulus bill that passed under Obama. That measure contained some $90 billion to fund clean energy, supporting some 100,000 projects, while catalyzing the private sector, to spend over $100 billion in addition, according to the Obama White House.

Those figures fall short of what the U.S. will likely need to spend to transition its economy away from fossil fuels, and indeed both Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have called called for trillions in their climate plans. Still, the framework of using economic stimulus to address climate change may be even more relevant now that it was ten years ago.

By Justin Worland March 24, 2020

Source: What Coronavirus Means for the Possibility of a Carbon-Free Economy

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More Than 160 New Jersey Police Officers Tested Positive for Coronavirus

More than 160 New Jersey Police officers have tested positive for the coronavirus, New Jersey State Police said Sunday in a press release. (New Jersey State Police issued a correction after the head of the agency “overstated” how many personnel tested positive for the COVID-19 at a press conference held by state officials on Saturday.)

Acting State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan had said on Saturday that about 700 police were reported as having the disease. “During a recent COVID-19 press conference, Col. Patrick Callahan overstated the Law Enforcement Statewide Positive cases,” the agency said in the statement on Sunday, noting that so far, across the state, 163 personnel had tested positive for the coronavirus and 1,272 had been quarantined.

“There’s more than 700 police officers quarantined at home and there’s about the same amount (…) that have tested positive from all 21 counties,” Callahan had said.

Callahan said authorities “track every single police officer” who test positive for COVID-19 but did not elaborate on what departments were most affected or provide an exact number of how many police personnel tested positive.

Callahan also indicated that two police officers who were reported as being in serious condition are improving.

U.S. Government Working on Guidelines to Assess Local Coronavirus Risk

Federal officials are developing guidelines to rate counties by risk of virus spread, as he aims to begin to ease nationwide guidelines meant to stem the coronavirus outbreak.

The U.S. has more than 124,000 COVID-19 cases and New Jersey is second only to New York in the number of cases it has so far reported, according to a tracker from researchers at Johns Hopkins University. As of Sunday morning, New York has reported about 53,500 cases and New Jersey has reported about 11,000 cases.

On Saturday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a domestic travel advisory, urging “residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately.”

By Sanya Mansoor Updated: March 30, 2020 1:46 PM EDT | Originally published: March 29, 2020 10:53 AM EDT

Source: More Than 160 New Jersey Police Officers Tested Positive for Coronavirus

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Hay Fever or Coronavirus? For Allergy Sufferers, a Pollen Season of Extra Worries Is Starting Up


(HAMBURG, Pa.) — The spring breezes of 2020 are carrying more than just tree pollen. There’s a whiff of paranoia in the air.

For millions of seasonal allergy sufferers, the annual onset of watery eyes and scratchy throats is bumping up against the global spread of a new virus that produces its own constellation of respiratory symptoms. Forecasters are predicting a brutal spring allergy season for swaths of the U.S. at the same time that COVID-19 cases are rising dramatically.

That’s causing angst for people who never have had to particularly worry about their hay fever, other than to stock up on antihistamines, decongestants and tissues. Now they’re asking: Are these my allergies? Or something more sinister?

Read more: Mapping the Spread of the Coronavirus Outbreak Around the U.S. and the World

“Everyone is sort of analyzing every sneeze and cough right now,” said Kathy Przywara, who manages an online community of allergy sufferers for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Never mind the differing symptoms — that sneezing and runny nose, hallmarks of hay fever, are not typically associated with COVID-19, which commonly produces coughing, fever and in more serious cases shortness of breath. Never mind that allergies don’t cause fevers. Allergy sufferers fret that there’s just enough overlap to make them nervous.

Keep up to date with our daily coronavirus newsletter by clicking here.

Allergy season is already underway in Oceanside, California, where Ampie Convocar is dealing with a runny nose, sinus pain and headache, and an urge to sneeze. Last year, she would’ve considered her symptoms mere annoyance. Now they cause tremendous anxiety. People with asthma, like Convocar, are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

“I consider it as something that could kill me because of COVID-19 floating around,” Convocar said via email. With a family member still traveling to work every day, she said, “I don’t know what he got out there.”

Many garden-variety hay fever sufferers, of whom there are about 19 million adults in the U.S., are also on heightened alert. They’re taking their temperatures each day, just in case. They’re hiding their sneezes and sniffles from suspicious colleagues and grossed-out grocery shoppers. They’re commiserating with each other and sharing memes on social media.

Pamela Smelser is reminded of allergy season every time she looks out the window of her home office, where her cherry tree is blooming. Spring came early to Maryland, she said, and lots of people are coughing and sneezing from the pollen.

“You do what you have to do: You take your meds for allergies and stay away from people,” Smelser said. “People get really hinky about coughing right now.”

Though she’s had allergies for years, Smelser, a semi-retired social worker and community college teacher outside Baltimore, admits to being a touch paranoid. She takes her temperature every day because she’s 66 and, well, you can never be too careful. “I can’t rule out that I have anything,” she said. “That’s the paranoia: You can’t even get a test to say, ‘This is all seasonal allergies.’”

In Pennsylvania, pear trees are budding, red maple are beginning to flower and Leslie Haerer’s allergies are already in full bloom. The 64-year-old retired nurse, who lives about an hour north of Philadelphia, is coping with a scratchy throat, an urge to sneeze and a headache behind the eyes.

As a medical professional, Haerer knows her symptoms are attributable to her allergies. She also knows that other people are “really flipped out about this,” including the scowling family of three who saw her sneeze into her elbow outside a Chinese restaurant and, instead of continuing on to their destination — the pizza shop next door — got in their car and sped away.

“I was like, ‘I’m sorry you missed your pizza,’” Haerer said. “People’s reactions are just over the top.”

Read more: Will the Coronavirus Ever Go Away? Here’s What One of the WHO’s Top Experts Thinks

In Austin, Texas, where pollen counts are high, Marty Watson initially dismissed his itchy eyes, mild headache, coughing and sneezing as the product of a tree allergy, even after his temperature became slightly elevated. Then, in mid-March, he realized he could no longer smell a pungent sourdough starter, and friends began sending him news stories that said a loss of smell sometimes accompanied a coronavirus infection.

“Austin is notorious for all sorts of allergies, and it became really hard to tell: Is it this? Is it that?” said Watson, 52.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

As allergy season ramps up in Pennsylvania, Dr. Laura Fisher, an allergist in Lancaster, expects an influx of worried patients. She is advising them to keep up with their medications, stay at home as much as possible and monitor for symptoms that seem unrelated to their allergies.

“I think people are more afraid of catching it, more afraid of going out and getting it from the grocery store or drive-thru, than they are of their usual symptoms being COVID,” said Fisher, president of the Pennsylvania Allergy and Asthma Association.

Jessica Tanniehill initially blew off her symptoms as allergy-related. Tanniehill, 39, of Adamsville, Alabama, started with a runny nose and sneezing. Body aches and a cough came next, following by shortness of breath. She thought her seasonal allergies had led to a bout of anxiety, nothing more, especially since she’d been outside all day doing yard work and washing her truck. “I didn’t take it seriously,” she said.

Turns out she’d contracted COVID-19 — which doesn’t preclude the possibility that she’d had allergies as well.

Tanniehill, who’s now on the mend, acknowledged that she “was one of the people that was saying they’re overreacting to all this. But now I wish I was more careful.”

 By Associated Press March 30, 2020 2:24 PM EDT

Source: Hay Fever or Coronavirus?

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Crippled By Coronavirus, Waffle House Faces A Harsh Reality: ‘We’ve Never Seen Anything Like This’

The past two weeks have been sobering for Waffle House Chairman Joe Rogers, Jr. The chain of no-frills, 24-hour breakfast spots has remained defiantly open in the face of so many disasters that the Federal Emergency Management Agency uses a Waffle House Index to measure their severity.

Hurricane Hugo couldn’t shut the doors for long in Charleston in 1989. The same in Georgia when Irma crashed through two years ago. The index was solid green in Joplin, Mo. after a tornado killed 158 people there in 2011.

Then came the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Rogers, 73, a co-founder’s son who has been running the 65-year-old chain since the 1970s. “Any disaster, momentarily, cripples some pieces of the business and we rush in to rescue it. But we have the rest of the system healthy to go do that. There is no healthy portion of this system today. We are burning cash every week.”

The FEMA index uses the time it takes for Waffle House locations to re-open after calamity strikes. Normally it doesn’t take long, if they even shut down. His system of 2,000 diners in 25 states is “almost comically” well positioned to mobilize in a crisis, Rogers said: It’s family owned, tightly controlled and able to shift resources and supplies from unaffected restaurants to those in need with alacrity.

This week he’s had to close 20% of locations, about 420 in all. Waffle House typically has annual revenue of more than $1.3 billion but with the country on lockdown — and only one drive-thru location and a marginal take-out business — sales are about 30% of what they should be, Rogers said. Thousands of his 40,000 workers are now furloughed.

FEMA’s appreciation for the chain took route a half century ago when Rogers took over and began chasing every hurricane, snow storm and tornado that affected a location. He found that when he showed up to help keep the bacon sizzling and the coffee pouring, so did lots of other employees.

He was 26 in 1973 when he took the helm of the company that had four family ownership groups, mounting debt and control of only 30% of the locations. He changed all of it five years later when a financial crisis hit and gas shortages were looming, first consolidating ownership within his family, which now has a controlling share. He created an employee ownership plan that now provides 3,500 workers with a piece of the business. And ended the company’s reliance on debt.

It fits the slow-growth strategy he has pursued from the start. Rogers had planned to open around 80 new locations this year, while Burger King, which franchises 99% of all locations, added 1,000 last year.

“Most of why we are here today is learning what not to do,” said Rogers. “We don’t have the most creative restaurant concept you’ve ever seen. We’re just a throwback to a diner.”

“We tried to show them the love over the years in those disasters,” said Waffle House’s Rogers. “We might need a little of that in reverse now.”

A throwback diner with a devoted cult following that returns over and over, at all hours of the night. During a crisis it is a source of comfort food and community for regulars, drivers trucking supplies and first responders, even if they don’t quite get it at first.

When Hugo hit Charleston, Rogers duked it out with a National Guardsman who wanted them to shut down, until he realized it was the only restaurant open in the area that was able to feed 3,000 emergency workers. A fire department in Georgia tried shutting one location down after Irma struck the state in 2018. The manager refused and the firefighters ordered 15 meals instead.

“As we tried to show them the love over the years in those disasters, it hasn’t always been easy,” said Rogers. “We might need a little of that in reverse now.”

So far, he’s getting the opposite, he said, and the staunchly right-wing businessman is not the least bit happy about it. He’s in the camp of business leaders who are questioning whether “the cure is worse than the ailment” when it comes to dealing with the spread of COVID-19, putting him at odds with scientists leading the effort to stop it.

“When you lose the Waffle House, you’re losing the local economy,” he said, noting that quarantine and shelter-in-place measures will leave the restaurant industry, along with the broader economy, in a state of disrepair.

“If we let this economy keep going the way it’s going, we are leading people to ruin. How many people are you sacrificing to the poor house?”

Rogers said he won’t pay hourly workers if locations are closed, a contrast to the decisions made at other chains, including Starbucks. “We’re deciding about benefits to the hourly associates that aren’t working, but we have to look at the week-to-week cash reality,” he said, explaining how Waffle House’s cash reservers were already used to cover furloughed employees on the corporate side. He and other family employees have also given up their salaries until the crisis is over.

“We’re going to do our best to protect their incomes,” he said. “But if our business is 30% of what it used to be, how long can we protect them? You have to save the business. Otherwise, you’ll be no good for anybody.”

What’s the worst-case scenario? Rogers controls more than 90% of the system now and says he can always shut down more locations, ride out the downturn and re-open when the economy turns around. He estimates if the recession turns into a full-blown depression, “then in a lasting way, we can only operate probably half the restaurants.”

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I cover all things food and drink as a staff writer at Forbes, from billionaires and ag tech startups to CPG entrepreneurs and wine. I head up the 30 Under 30 Food and Drink list, as well as Forbes’ 25 Most Innovative Ag Tech Startups list. My reporting has brought me to In-N-Out Burger’s secret test kitchen, had me trekking through drought-ridden farms in California’s Central Valley and even sent me to a chocolate factory designed like a castle in Northern France. I gravitate towards the intersection of food and mass manufacturing. I also cover beauty and personal care. Send tips to

Source: Crippled By Coronavirus, Waffle House Faces A Harsh Reality: ‘We’ve Never Seen Anything Like This’

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Zoom’s A Lifeline During COVID-19: This Is Why It’s Also A Privacy Risk

I admit it, I’ve been using Zoom during the COVID-19 crisis to carry on with my yoga classes without having to leave my home. It’s been a lifeline using the video conferencing app to take an exercise class, and Zoom’s so functional it allows multiple people to be in the same “virtual” room at once.

Other friends are using it for virtual parties, and of course, business meetings and conferences. Even UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was seen using Zoom for his recent cabinet meeting.

As someone who works in the security industry, I hear a lot about the privacy risks associated with the big tech firms Facebook and Google.

But now the COVID-19 crisis is increasing the frequency people use the video chat service Zoom, it’s important we are aware of the implications for our privacy. And Zoom might not be the best choice for privacy-conscious users, it seems.

Facebook COVID-19 Fallout: Why Is The Social Network Taking Down Legitimate Posts?


How private and secure are your Zoom calls? So, what’s the problem? For a start, Zoom’s privacy policy outlines some rather concerning data collection practices, according to research by consumer advocacy organization Consumer Reports.

On the surface of it, Zoom’s privacy policy is similar to the likes of Facebook and Google–it collects and stores personal data and shares it with third parties such as advertisers.

But Zoom’s policy also covers what it labels “customer content,” or “the content contained in cloud recordings, and instant messages, files, whiteboards … shared while using the service.”

This includes videos, transcripts that can be generated automatically, documents shared on screen, and the names of everyone on a call.

Consumer Reports points out that your instant messages and videos can be used to target advertising campaigns or develop a facial recognition algorithm, like videos collected by other tech companies. “That’s probably not what people are expecting when they contact a therapist, hold a business meeting, or have a job interview using Zoom.”

Consumer Reports reached out to the company for comment on its privacy practices. A Zoom spokesperson told me via email that the firm “does not sell user data of any kind to anyone.”

Zoom isn’t necessarily doing anything users would object to with the data, says Bill Fitzgerald, a Consumer Reports privacy researcher who analyzed the company’s policies. However, the firm’s terms of use provide “a whole lot of leeway to collect information and share it, both now and in the future.”

Data that can be collected and shared by your meeting host

The information that Zoom itself can share and collect is a worry, but what about the data handled by your host? Another big concern about Zoom, which you might not be aware of, is that the video app offers hosts “rights that might not be immediately apparent to other participants—or, in some cases, to the hosts themselves,” Consumer Reports states.

You might be using Zoom for work, so your boss could be the host, or you might be buying a service such as a class. Perhaps even more concerningly during this COVID-19 crisis, you may be using Zoom to talk to a health professional about your symptoms.

“Zoom puts a lot of power in the hands of the meeting hosts,” says Justin Brookman, director of privacy and technology policy at Consumer Reports. “The host has more power to record and monitor the call than you might realize if you’re just a participant, especially if he or she has a corporate account.”

Another particularly intrusive Zoom feature offers hosts the ability to turn on “attention tracking” to check whether you are paying attention during the call. This allows the hosts–who could be your boss or client–to monitor whether you click away from the Zoom window for more than 30 seconds while a screen is being shared.

Meet Lockdown, The App That Reveals Who’s Tracking You On Your iPhone


Zoom privacy: “A bucket of red flags” 

I asked Rowenna Fielding, a privacy expert and head of individual rights and ethics at Protecture, what she thought. She says Zoom’s privacy policy “is a bucket of red flags.”

“They collect a potentially huge amount of personal data from accounts, calls made through the service and from scraping social profiles, but there’s no way to opt out of specific use purposes while continuing to use the service.”

In addition, she says, although the policy is careful to state that no data is “sold”, it is still used for targeting and marketing purposes. “This in many cases is the harmful use that individuals most object to, especially if programmatic advertising, such as real-time-bidding, is involved.”

Fielding warns: “For an employee or contractor whose boss or clients require them to use Zoom, this is bad news because they are required to expose, or accept the passive collection of, personal data which is not strictly necessary for the operation of the call, and which is then used for a variety of vaguely-described purposes by Zoom.”

She says that while the policy might meet U.S. privacy standards, she’d give it a C- for transparency and accountability according to the more stringent EU data protection regulation’s (GDPR) standards.

Can you use Zoom while protecting your privacy?

Given these concerning privacy flaws, it almost seems impossible to see Zoom as a privacy conscious option. However, sometimes it’s your only choice, especially when the decision is made by a boss or provider of a service.

Consumer Reports experts advise you to keep your camera and mic turned off unless you’re actually speaking. If you feel that you need to have the camera turned on, the experts advise you use a background image so the host can’t see inside your home.

If you care about your privacy, Fielding advises using a unique email address specifically for Zoom, clearing cookies and blocking trackers after every call, opting out of all secondary data uses where possible, and leaving feedback that explains the problems with the service’s privacy.

And if you don’t have to use Zoom, why not choose something else? Many of us are stuck inside for a while during COVID-19, and Houseparty might be a good idea for social chats, while Signal provides a much more secure video service. Jitsi, an open source app that supports multiple chats, is also a good option.

Whatever you choose, check the privacy policy: When you’re on video, it matters even more.


Zoom has now sent me a longer statement in response to this story. “Zoom takes its users’ privacy extremely seriously,” a spokesperson told me via email. “Zoom only collects data from individuals using the Zoom platform as needed to provide the service and ensure it is delivered as effectively as possible. Zoom must collect basic technical information like users’ IP address, OS details and device details in order for the service to function properly. 

“Zoom has layered safeguards in place to protect our users’ privacy, which includes preventing anyone, including Zoom employees, from directly accessing any data that users share during meetings, including – but not limited to – the video, audio and chat content of those meetings. Importantly, Zoom does not mine user data or sell user data of any kind to anyone.”

Meanwhile, Zoom says its attention tracking feature is “built for training purposes.”

This is “so hosts can tell if participants have the app open and active when the screen-sharing feature is in use,” the spokesperson says, adding that the feature is off by default and only the account admin can enable it. 

“It is important to note the attention tracking feature only tracks if a participant’s Zoom video window is open and in focus when the host is sharing their screen. It does not track any aspects of the audio or video content of a call, and it also does not track any other applications or activity on your device.”

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I’m a freelance cybersecurity journalist with over a decade’s experience writing news, reviews and features. I report and analyze breaking cybersecurity and privacy stories with a particular interest in cyber warfare, application security and data misuse. Contact me at

Source: Zoom’s A Lifeline During COVID-19: This Is Why It’s Also A Privacy Risk

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As Wealthy Depart For Second Homes, Class Tensions Come To Surface In Coronavirus Crisis

Topline: As New York City’s coronavirus cases exploded in recent weeks, residents fleeing to second homes have come under intense scrutiny and push-back, prompting officials in multiple states to create highway checkpoints screening for New Yorkers and a national travel advisory for the entire Tri-state area, highlighting the dramatic roles class and wealth will play in the pandemic.

  • With over 56,000 coronavirus cases in New York, privileged New Yorkers with secondary homes are fleeing the City with massive effect on vacation home communities: the population of Southampton has gone from 60,000 a few weeks ago to 100,000 and rental prices in Hudson Valley rocketed from $4,000 to $18,000 per month—posing a threat to small-town hospitals that are ill-equipped to handle caring for high numbers of coronavirus patients.
  • In wealthy New England island communities like Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island that are heavy with secondary homes and short on hospital infrastructure, officials are going so far as to cancel all hotel, Airbnb and VRBO reservations while stationing state troopers and the National Guard to maintain flow on islands and, in the case of Rhode Island, instating 14 day mandatory quarantine on all people traveling to stay in the state from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut.
  • As outrage has grown at the privileged fleeing the city while middle and working classes remain confined in New York City apartments, there’s been social media clapback at ostentatious displays of wealth in isolation: Geffen Records and Dreamworks Billionaire David Geffen ultimately deleted his Instagram of his $570 million megayacht captioned: “Sunset last night..isolated in the Grenadines avoiding the virus. I’m hoping everybody is staying safe” after it sparked outrage on social media.
  • New York City’s poorer boroughs are hit hardest by coronavirus: Brooklyn and Queens, where median income is  $56,015 and $64,987, respectively, remain the epicenter of COVID-19, compared to Manhattan with average income of $82,459, which has been less permeated by the virus and is home to many of Manhattan’s wealthiest enclaves—and those most likely to have residents with second homes elsewhere.
  • On Saturday, President Trump said he was considering quarantining parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, then, backed down and issued a domestic travel advisory for the tristate area that discourages residents of these states from non-essential domestic travel after “very intensive discussions” at the White House on Saturday night, said Dr. Anthony Fauci on CNN today: “The better way to do this would be an advisory as opposed to a very strict quarantine, and the President agreed.”
  • “Due to our very limited health care infrastructure, please do not visit us now,” reads a travel advisory from Lake Superior’s Cook County in Michigan, exemplifying vacation towns’ plea to travelers and second home owners across the country to stay away.

Background: Coronavirus cases in the United States have skyrocketed to 124,000, with deaths doubling from 1,000 to 2,046 in two days. Since those with COVID-19 can be asymptomatic for days, their presence in remote communities may be deadly, as they can spread the virus and wreak havoc on rural hospitals. The clash between wealthy and poor, also creates state-versus-state hostility, as federal support is limited and essential to states overcoming coronavirus.

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I’m the assistant editor for Under 30. Previously, I directed marketing at a mobile app startup. I’ve also worked at The New York Times and New York Observer. I attended the University of Pennsylvania where I studied English and creative writing

Source: As Wealthy Depart For Second Homes, Class Tensions Come To Surface In Coronavirus Crisis

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26 States Shut Down And Counting: State-By-State Travel Restrictions

This story was updated at 10:00 a.m. on March 29, 2020.

On March 16, the Trump administration issued COVID-19 travel guidelines asking Americans to cut all non-essential travel, avoid gatherings of 10 or more people and maintain social distancing.

So far, the federal government has showed no inclination to issue a nationwide travel ban. But as of today, more than half of the 50 U.S. governors have issued statewide stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders. In states where governors have not issued such mandates, counties and cities have often issued their own lockdown orders.

Today President Trump floated the idea of a mandatory enforced two-week quarantine and travel ban for New York, New Jersey, and parts of Connecticut, which have been hotspots for COVID-19.

In the meantime, many governors around the country have stepped up with their own restrictions to keep residents at home. At the other end of the spectrum, other governors have shown a reluctance to even shut down restaurants and bars. The result is a patchwork of policies, often with neighboring states having very different degrees of restriction.

Sometimes, state health officials are taking a leadership role when governors will not. The Tennessee Medical Association is pushing the state’s county leaders and mayors to issue stay-at-home orders despite Governor Bill Lee’s refusal to do so. Likewise, there is no mandate in Alabama but the East Alabama Medical Clinic is asking locals to stay at home after five patients died who tested positive for COVID-19.

Governors cannot stop travelers from crossing state lines, but several have taken steps to discourage it. Yesterday, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear went so far as to tell Kentuckians not to travel to Tennessee unless absolutely necessary. The governors of Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Massachusetts have mandated that travelers arriving from out of state must self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. Other states, including South Carolina, Texas, Florida and Rhode Island, are targeting their own self-quarantine mandates to visitors who arrive from highly affected areas.

Here’s a state-by-state rundown of the patchwork of current travel restrictions.

Alabama: No additional travel restrictions. No nonwork-related gatherings of 25 or more people; no nonwork gatherings of any size where people cannot maintain a six-foot distance from each other. Restaurants, bars and breweries are limited to takeout or delivery. All public and private beaches are closed. Birmingham is under a shelter-in-place order.

Alaska: All travelers arriving in Alaska must self-quarantine for 14 days, going directly from the airport to a self-quarantined location. All residents have been ordered to shelter in place. Restaurants and bars are closed for dine-in services.

Arizona: No additional travel restrictions. In counties with a confirmed case of COVID-19, restaurants can only provide takeout options and bars must close. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has issued a stay-at-home order for tribal members.

Arkansas: No additional travel restrictions. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery options.

California: All residents are under a stay-at-home order. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery options. Essential services — gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, banks, etc. — will remain open.

Colorado: All residents are under a stay-at-home mandate. Essential businesses (including cannabis and liquor stores) remain open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Connecticut: All residents are under a “stay safe, stay home” order. Essential businesses remain open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Delaware: All residents have been ordered to shelter in place. Essential business remain open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Florida: Travelers arriving from Connecticut, New Jersey, New York or Louisiana must self-isolate for 14 days. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery services. The Florida Keys are closed to visitors. Many cities are under stay-at-home orders, including Aventura, Boca Raton, Coral Gables, Coral Springs, Dania Beach, Delray Beach, Doral, Gainesville, Golden Beach, Hollywood, Miami, Miami Beach, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee and Tampa.

Georgia: No additional travel restrictions. Bars are closed. Gatherings of 10 or more people are banned. Multiple cities, including Atlanta, Savannah, Dunwoody, Chamblee and Forest Park are all under stay-at-home orders.

Hawaii: Travelers entering the state must self-quarantine for 14 days. All residents are under a stay-at-home mandate. Essential business remain open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Idaho: All residents are under a stay-at-home order. Residents must work from home; essential businesses are exempt. Restaurants are limited to takeout and delivery options. Bars are closed.

Illinois: All residents are under a stay-at-home order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants are limited to takeout and delivery.

Indiana: All residents are under a stay-at-home order. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery service.

Iowa: No additional travel restrictions. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Kansas: All residents are under a stay-at-home order. No public gatherings of 10 or more people. Bars and restaurants can stay open if they preserve a 6-foot distance between customers.

Kentucky: No additional travel restrictions but Governor Andy Beshear has warned residents against unnecessary travel to neighboring Tennessee. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Louisiana: All residents are under a stay-at-home order. Essential businesses remain open. Restaurants are limited to takeout and delivery options.

Maine: No additional travel restrictions. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery services. Portland is under a stay-at-home order.

Maryland: No additional travel restrictions. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Massachusetts: Travelers entering the state must self-quarantine for 14 days. All residents are under a stay-at-home order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Michigan: All residents are under a “stay home, stay safe” executive order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Minnesota: All residents are under a stay-at-home order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Mississippi: No additional travel restrictions. Restaurants and bars must limit dine-in services to no more than 10 people at once. The cities of Tupelo and Oxford have implemented stay-at-home orders.

Missouri: No additional travel restrictions. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery. Many counties and multiple cities have mandated stay-at-home orders, including Kansas City and St. Louis.

Montana: All residents are under a stay-at-home order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Nebraska: No additional travel restrictions but Governor Pete Ricketts has asked residents who have traveled to the Kansas City area to self-quarantine for two weeks. No gathering in groups of more than 10, except in grocery stores. Restaurants and bars are open.

Nevada: No additional travel restrictions. Essential businesses are open. Casinos are closed. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

New Hampshire: Arriving out-of-state visitors are asked to self-quarantine for two weeks. All residents are under a stay-at-home order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

New Jersey: All residents are under a stay-at-home order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

New Mexico: All residents are under a shelter-in-place order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery. No gatherings of five or more people.

New York: All residents are under a stay-at-home order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

North Carolina: All residents are under a stay-at-home order beginning March 30. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

North Dakota: No additional travel restrictions. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Ohio: All residents are under a stay-at-home order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Oklahoma: No additional statewide travel restrictions. The cities of Tulsa, Norman and Oklahoma City have issued shelter-in-place orders.

Oregon: All residents are under a stay-at-home order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Pennsylvania: Residents in much of the state (19 counties) are under a stay-at-home order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Rhode Island: Travelers arriving from New York must self-isolate for 14 days. All residents are under a stay-at-home order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

South Carolina: Travelers arriving from “virus hotspots”, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New Orleans must self-isolate for 14 days. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery. The cities of Charleston and Columbia have issued stay-at-home orders for residents.

South Dakota: No additional travel restrictions. Most businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are open.

Tennessee: No additional travel restrictions. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery. The cities of Nashville and Memphis have told residents to stay at home.

Texas: Air travelers arriving from Connecticut, New Jersey, New York or the city of New Orleans must self-isolate for 14 days. More than half a dozen Texas cities, including Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Austin, Fort Worth, El Paso, McKinney and Hudson, are under shelter-in-place orders. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Utah: All residents are under a “stay home, stay safe” directive, which falls short of a shelter-in-place order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery. Summit County, which includes Park City, is under a stay-at-home order.

Vermont: All residents are under a “stay home, stay safe” executive order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Virginia: No additional travel restrictions but Governor Ralph Northam has asked Virginia residents to stay at home when possible. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Washington: All residents are under a “stay home, stay safe” executive order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

West Virginia: All residents are under a stay-at-home order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Wisconsin: All residents are under a “safer at home” executive order. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery.

Wyoming: No additional travel restrictions. Essential businesses are open. Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout and delivery. The cities of Jackson and Cheyenne have issued shelter-in-place orders for residents.


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I’m always looking for new ways to travel better, smarter, deeper and cheaper, so I spend a lot of time watching trends at the intersection of travel and technology. As a longtime freelance travel writer, I’ve contributed hundreds of articles to Conde Nast Traveler, CNN Travel, Travel Leisure, Afar, Reader’s Digest, TripSavvy, Parade,, Good Housekeeping, Parents, Parenting, Esquire, Newsweek, The Boston Globe and scores of other outlets. Over the years, I’ve run an authoritative family vacation-planning site; interviewed Michelin-starred chefs, ship captains, taxi drivers and dog mushers; reviewed hundreds of places to stay, from stately castles and windswept lighthouses to rustic cabins and kitschy motels; ridden the iconic Orient Express; basked in the glory of Machu Picchu; and much more. Follow me on Instagram (@suzannekelleher), Pinterest (@suzannerowankelleher) and Flipboard (@SRKelleher).

Source: Update: 26 States Shut Down And Counting: State-By-State Travel Restrictions

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In Singapore, Standing Too Close Can Now Get You 6 Months in Jail

In Singapore, one of the most densely populated places in with world, sitting or standing too close to another person is now a crime, punishable by up to six months in jail or a $7,000 fine.

The new laws came into effect on Friday as the city-state takes drastic measures to try to curb the spread of COVID-19 amid a surge in new cases linked to travelers who have come from other parts of the world.

Anyone who intentionally sits less than one meter (a little more than three feet) away from another person in a public place or who stands less than a meter away from another person in a line will be guilty of an offense, according to rules published by the country’s health ministry. The new restrictions also ban people from sitting on fixed seats that have been marked to indicate they should not be occupied. The measures, which are expected to be in place until April 30, apply to business and individuals.

The Singaporean government also closed bars and nightclubs and placed limitations on gatherings of more than 10 people and banned large events.

Singapore confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Jan. 23, but officials there were able to stave off a major outbreak from spreading from mainland China thanks to aggressive testing, contact tracing and strict quarantine measures. But now Singapore, like several other cities in Asia, is facing a second wave of infections.

Will Coronavirus Ever Go Away? Here’s What One of World Health Organization’s Top Experts Thinks

Dr. Bruce Aylward was part of the WHO’s team that went to China after the coronavirus outbreak there in January. He has urged all nations to use times bought during lockdowns to do more testing and respond aggressively.

On Thursday, officials in Singapore confirmed 52 new cases of the virus. Twenty-eight of those were imported cases, many with a travel history to Europe, North America, the Middle East, and other parts of Asia.

Other governments in the region, which largely avoided large-scale lockdowns that are now taking place across the U.S. and Europe, are introducing increasingly strict measures in the fight against the coronavirus, in the hopes of stopping a resurgence of the illness. The Hong Kong government this week announced that it was considering a ban on serving alcohol at bars and restaurants. Chinese authorities said that they will ban the arrival of most foreigners into the mainland from March 28, in an attempt to stop the virus from coming in from overseas.

The number of people infected with the coronavirus in Singapore rose to 683 on Friday. More than 500,000 people in over 175 countries and territories are now infected by COVID-19.

By Amy Gunia March 27, 2020

Source: In Singapore, Standing Too Close Can Now Get You 6 Months in Jail

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Bergamo Italy : This Is The Bleak Heart of The World’s Deadliest Coronavirus Outbreak

The streets of Bergamo are empty. As in all of Italy, people can leave their homes only for food and medicines and work. The factories and shops and schools are closed. There is no more chatting on the corners or in the coffee bars.

But what won’t stop are the sirens.

While the world’s attention now shifts to its own centers of contagion, the sirens keep sounding. Like the air raid sirens of the Second World War, they are the ambulance sirens that many survivors of this war will remember. They blare louder as they get closer, coming to collect the parents and grandparents, the keepers of Italy’s memory.

The grandchildren wave from terraces, and spouses sit back on the corners of now empty beds. And then the sirens start again, becoming fainter as the ambulances drive away toward hospitals crammed with coronavirus patients.

“At this point, all you hear in Bergamo is sirens,” said Michela Travelli.

On March 7, her father, Claudio Travelli, 60, was driving a food delivery truck all around northern Italy. The next day, he developed a fever and flu-like symptoms. His wife had run a fever in recent days, and so he called his family doctor, who told him to take a common Italian fever reducer and rest up.

For much of the prior month, Italian officials had sent mixed messages about the virus.

On Feb. 19, some 40,000 people from Bergamo, a province of about a million people in the region of Lombardy, traveled 30 miles to Milan to watch a Champions League soccer game between Atalanta and the Spanish team Valencia. (The mayor of Bergamo, Giorgio Gori, this week called the match “a strong accelerator of contagion.”) Mr. Travelli and his wife didn’t take the threat of the virus seriously back then, their daughter said, “because it wasn’t sold as a grave thing.”

But Mr. Travelli could not shake his fever, and he got sicker.

On Friday, March 13, he felt unbearable pressure on his chest and suffered dry heaves. His temperature spiked and his family called an ambulance. An ambulance crew found her father with low levels of oxygen in his blood but, following the advice of Bergamo’s hospitals, recommended he stay home. “They said, ‘We have seen worse, and the hospitals are like the trenches of a war,’” Ms. Travelli said.

Another day at home led to a night of coughing fits and fever. On Sunday, Mr. Travelli woke up and wept, saying, “I’m sick. I can’t do it anymore,” his daughter said. He took more fever suppressant but his temperature climbed to nearly 103 degrees and his skin became yellow.

This time, as the ambulance arrived, his daughters, both wearing gloves and masks, packed a bag with two pairs of pajamas, a bottle of water, a cellphone and a charger. His oxygen levels had dipped.

Red Cross workers hovered over him on a bed, where he lay below a painting of the Virgin Mary. They brought him into the ambulance. His granddaughters, 3 and 6, waved goodbye from the terrace. He looked up at them, at the balconies draped with Italian flags. Then the ambulance left and there was nothing to hear. “Only the police and the sirens,” his daughter said.

The ambulance crew that took Mr. Travelli away had started early that morning.

At 7:30 a.m., a crew of three Red Cross volunteers met to make sure the ambulance was certified as cleaned and stocked with oxygen. Like masks and gloves, the tanks had become an increasingly rare resource. They blasted one another in sprays of alcohol disinfectants. They sanitized their cellphones.

“We can’t be the untori,” said Nadia Vallati, 41, a Red Cross volunteer, whose day job is working in the city’s tax office. She was referring to the infamous “anointers,” suspected in Italian lore of spreading contagion during the 17th century plague. After sanitizing, Ms. Vallati and her colleagues wait for an alarm to sound in their headquarters. It never takes long.

Indistinguishable from one another in the white medical scrubs pulled over their red uniforms, crew members entered Mr. Travelli’s home on March 15 with tanks of oxygen. “Always with oxygen,” Ms. Vallati said.

One of the biggest dangers for coronavirus patients is hypoxemia, or low blood oxygen. Normal readings are between 95 and 100, and doctors worry when the number dips below 90.

Ms. Vallati said she had found coronavirus patients with readings of 50. Their lips are blue. Their fingertips turn violet. They take rapid, shallow breaths and use their stomach muscles to pull in air. Their lungs are too weak.

In many of the apartments they visit, patients clutch small oxygen tanks, the size of SodaStreams, that are procured for them with a doctor’s prescription by family members. They lie in bed next to them. They eat with them at the kitchen table. They watch the nightly reports of Italy’s dead and infected with them on their couches.

On March 15, Ms. Vallati put her hand, wrapped in two layers of blue gloves, on the chest of Teresina Coria, 88, as they measured her oxygen level. The next day, Antonio Amato, an outlier at the age of 40, sat in his armchair, holding his oxygen tank as his children, whom he could not hold for fear of contagion, waved to him from across the room.

On a Saturday, Ms. Vallati found herself in the bedroom of a 90-year-old man. She asked his two granddaughters if he had had any contact with anyone who had the coronavirus. Yes, they said, the man’s son, their father, who had died on Wednesday. Their grandmother, they told her, had been taken away on Friday and was in critical condition.

They weren’t crying, she said, because “they didn’t have any tears left.”

On another recent tour in the highly infected Valle Seriana under the Alps, Ms. Vallati said, they picked up a woman of about 80. Her husband of many decades asked to kiss her goodbye. But Ms. Vallati told him he could not, because the risk of contagion was too high. As the man watched the crew take his wife away, Ms. Vallati saw him go into another room and close the door behind him, she said.

While those suspected of infection are taken to hospitals, the hospitals themselves are not safe. Bergamo officials first detected the coronavirus at the Pesenti Fenaroli di Alzano Lombardo hospital.

By then, officials say, it had already been present for some time, masked as ordinary pneumonia, infecting other patients, doctors, and nurses. People carried it out of the hospital and into the city, out of the city and into the province. Young people passed it to their parents and grandparents. It spread around bingo halls and over coffee cups.

The mayor, Mr. Gori, has talked about how infections have ravaged his town and nearly broken one of Europe’s wealthiest and most sophisticated health care systems. Doctors estimate that 70,000 people in the province have the virus. Bergamo has had to send 400 bodies to other provinces and regions and countries because there is no room for them there.

“If we have to identify a spark,” he said, “it was the hospital.”

When an ambulance arrives, its crew proceeds with extreme caution. Only one of the three, the team leader, accompanies the patient inside. If the patient is heavy, another helps.

This weekend, a group of doctors from one Bergamo hospital wrote in a medical journal associated with The New England Journal of Medicine that “we are learning that hospitals might be the main Covid-19 carriers” and “as they are rapidly populated by infected patients, facilitating transmission to uninfected patients.”

Ambulances and their personnel get infected, they said, but perhaps show no symptoms, and spread the virus further. As a result, the doctors urged home care and mobile clinics to avoid bringing people to the hospital unless absolutely necessary.

But Ms. Vallati said they had no choice with the gravest cases. The authors of the paper work at Bergamo’s Papa Giovanni XXIII, where Ms. Vallati’s crew have taken many of the sick.

Dr. Ivano Riva, an anesthesiologist there, said the hospital was still admitting up to 60 new coronavirus patients a day. They are tested for the virus he said, but at this point the clinical evidence — the coughs, the low oxygen levels, the fevers — is a better indicator, especially since 30 percent of the tests produced false negatives.

The hospital had 500 coronavirus patients, who occupied all 90 I.C.U. beds. About a month ago, the hospital had seven such beds.

Oxygen flows everywhere through Lombardy’s hospitals now, and workers are constantly pushing carts of tanks around the corridors. A tanker truck filled with oxygen is parked outside. Patients are jammed next to supply closets and in hallways.

Dr. Riva said 26 of his hospital’s 101 medical staff members were out of work with the virus. “It’s a situation that no one has ever seen, I don’t think in any other part of the world,” he said.

If people don’t stay at home, he said, “the system will fail.”

His colleagues wrote in the paper that intensive care unit beds were reserved for coronavirus patients with “a reasonable chance to survive.” Older patients, they said, “are not being resuscitated and die alone.”

Mr. Travelli ended up at the nearby Humanitas Gavazzeni hospital, where, after a false negative, he tested positive for the virus. He is still alive.

“Papi, you were lucky because you found a bed — now you have to fight, fight, fight,” his daughter Michela told him in a telephone call, their last before he was fitted with a helmet to ease his breathing. “He was scared,” she said. “He thought he was dying.”

In the meantime, Ms. Travelli said she had been quarantined and had lost her sense of taste for food, a frequent complaint among people without symptoms, but who have had close contact with the virus.

So many people are dying so quickly, the hospital mortuaries and funeral workers cannot keep up. “We take the dead from the morning till night, one after the other, constantly,” said Vanda Piccioli, who runs one of the last funeral homes to remain open. Others have closed as a result of sick funeral directors, some in intensive care. “Usually we honor the dead. Now it’s like a war and we collect the victims.”

Ms. Piccioli said one member of her staff had died of the virus on Sunday. She considered closing but decided they had a responsibility to keep going, despite what she said was constant terror of infection and emotional trauma. “You are a sponge and you take the pain of everybody,” she said.

She said her staff moved 60 infected bodies daily, from Papa Giovanni and Alzano hospitals, from clinics, from nursing homes and apartments. “It’s hard for us to get masks and gloves,” she said. “We are a category in the shadows.”

Ms. Piccioli said that in the beginning, they sought to get the personal effects of the dead, kept in red plastic bags, back to their loved ones. A tin of cookies. A mug. Pajamas. Slippers. But now they simply don’t have time.

Still, the calls to the Red Cross crew do not stop.

On March 19, Ms. Vallati and her crew entered the apartment of Maddalena Peracchi, 74, in Gazzaniga. She had run out of oxygen. Her daughter Cinzia Cagnoni, 43, who lives in the apartment downstairs, had placed an order for a new tank that would arrive on Monday, but the Red Cross volunteers told her she wouldn’t hold out that long.

“We were a little agitated because we knew that this could be the last time we saw each other,” Ms. Cagnoni said. “It’s like sending someone to die alone.”

She and her sister and her father put on a brave face under their masks, she said. “You can do it,’’ they told her mother, she said. “We will wait for you, there are still so many things we need to do with you. Fight back.”

The volunteers brought Ms. Peracchi down to the ambulance. One of her daughters urged her stunned grandchildren to bid farewell with louder voices. “I thought a thousand things,’’ Ms. Cagnoni said. “Don’t abandon me. God help us. God save my mother.” The ambulance doors closed. The sirens sounded, as they do “all the hours of the day,” Ms. Cagnoni said.

The crew drove to Pesenti Fenaroli di Alzano Lombardo, where Ms. Peracchi was found to have the coronavirus and pneumonia on both sides of her lungs. On Thursday night, her daughter said she was “holding on by a thread.”

Ms. Peracchi is a woman of deep Catholic faith, said her daughter, who spiked a temperature herself the night the ambulance took her mother away and has remained quarantined since.

It pained her mother, she said, that if it came to it, “we cannot have a funeral.”

To contain the virus, all religious and civil celebrations are banned in Italy. That includes funerals. Bergamo’s cemetery is locked shut. A chilling backlog of coffins waits in a traffic jam for the crematorium inside the cemetery’s church.

Officials have banned changing the clothes of the dead and require that people be buried or cremated in the pajamas or medical gowns they perish in. Corpses need to be wrapped in an extra bag or cloaked in a disinfecting cloth. The lids of coffins, which usually cannot be closed without a formal death certificate, now can be, though they still have to wait to be sealed. Bodies often linger in homes for days, as stairs and stuffy rooms become especially dangerous.

“We are trying to avoid it,” the funeral director, Ms. Piccioli, said of home visits. Nursing homes were much easier because you could arrive with five or six coffins to be filled and loaded directly into the vans. “I know it’s terrible to say,” she said.

Through a network of local priests, she helps arrange quick prayers, rather than proper funerals, for the dead and the families who are not quarantined.

That was the case for Teresina Gregis, who was interred at the Alzano Lombardo cemetery on March 21 after she died at home. Ambulance workers had told her family that there was no room in the hospitals.

“All the beds are full,” they told the family, according to her daughter-in-law, Romina Mologni, 34. Since she was 75, she said, “they gave priority to others who were younger.”

In her last weeks at home, her family struggled to find tanks of oxygen, driving all over the province as she sat facing her garden and the pinwheels she adored.

When she died, all the flower shops were closed because of the lockdown. Ms. Mologni instead brought to the cemetery one of the pinwheels her own daughter had given her grandmother. “She liked that one.”

Photo editing by David Furst and Gaia Tripoli. Design and development by Rebecca Lieberman and Matt Ruby.

Obituary from L’Eco di Bergamo, March 13, 2020.


Source: ‘We Take the Dead From Morning Till Night’

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Sky News’ Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsay is in Italy’s coronavirus epicentre – the town of Bergamo. Watch his report about life in the town residents are describing as ‘apocalyptic’ where the ambulance sirens never stop. MORE FROM SKY NEWS: Last week, Stuart and his team visited the town’s hospital, which is at the centre of the coronavirus crisis. You can watch that hard-hitting report here:…

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