Bank ATMs And Teller Counters Need Covid-19 Scrubbing: Survey

Money laundering is a legal no-no for banks, but secret inspections at U.S. locations suggest their ATMs and teller counters could use a good scrubbing with Purell.

Despite most retailers’ near-obsessive attention to details that send a Covid-19 wellness message, America’s financial institutions are communicating relative indifference. Secret shoppers sent to bank branches saw just 7% of ATMs being cleaned. Greeters at branch doors wore masks 44% of the time, and only 19% of teller areas were cleaned between customers.

Dalbar, which audits and rates practices by financial firms, released the results of its nationwide study Friday. The company sent mystery shoppers to 500 branches in the U.S. and 200 branches in Canada, auditing 14 major bank brands during the three-week period that ended August 10.

ATMs were the biggest points of weakness in the U.S. Although 91% of Canadian banks deployed additional safety measures at ATMs to protect customers—separators between machines, signs to indicate where to wait, or hand sanitizer at the ATMs—fully half of U.S. branch ATMs had no such additional safety measures at all.

Bank of America, Chase and Citibank had the only branches where tellers wore masks 100% of the time. The other U.S. brands in the survey were Capital One, Fifth Third, PNC, SunTrust, TD Bank, US Bank and Wells Fargo. Canadian banks in the survey were BMO, CIBC, RBC and Scotiabank.

U.S. bank branch tellers were seen wearing masks on average 94% of the time. The average in Canada was 80%. In both countries, about 1 out of 5 branches lacked markings or signage to reinforce social distancing at or near teller windows.

“I was a little surprised and wasn’t surprised,” Michelle Slute, vice president of research for Dalbar, told Zenger News. “It wasn’t a surprise because you’re hitting the human factor and bumping up against different cultures across the country.” Since it was running a mystery shopper study, Dalbar did not contact any of the banks in advance about the study, so it had no access to what corporate directives might have been in place.

Zenger contacted all the U.S.-based banks mentioned in the study. Of the four that responded—Bank of America, SunTrust (merged with BB&T to form Truist), US Bank and Wells Fargo—none had previously received copies of Dalbar’s data.

A statement from Truist, formed by a merger of SunTrust and BB&T, noted: “We have not seen or read the study you referenced, so we are unable to provide comments on its findings. However, … client and teammate safety are our top priorities and are at the forefront of all our decisions.”

The data that Dalbar released showed SunTrust performing about average among banks in the United States.

US-HEALTH-VIRUS-BANK
A security guard wearing mask and gloves looks into a branch of the Wells Fargo bank, amid the novel … [+] AFP via Getty Images

“While we haven’t had the opportunity to review the data and study, the well-being of our customers, colleagues and communities continues to be our top priority. We have processes and protocols in place around the use of PPE, and we encourage customers to reach out if they have concerns about their use at their local branch,” a statement from US Bank read, referring to personal protective equipment.

Dalbar’s data showed US Bank performing below average on measures at ATMs and lowest overall rankings at the teller.

Wells Fargo provided Zenger with a list of steps it has taken, including temporarily closing one-fifth of its branches, offering some services by appointment only, requiring employees to use face coverings, and employing enhanced cleaning. The bank also pointed to a study from the market research firm Ipsos, which rated it as the top financial services brand in signage and cleanliness measures.

The Ipsos rankings, also compiled from mystery-shopper reports, showed 96% of the Wells Fargo locations had signs telling customer to wear masks, versus a nationwide average of 87%. Shoppers observed surfaces being wiped down after a customer visit 32% of the time.

Dalbar noted roughly the same level of post-visit cleaning at Wells Fargo branches, compared to an overall average of 19%, but had the company tied for third place on the average of teller safety measures.

“Health and safety of our employees and clients is our top priority,” said Bank of America, responding to Zenger, and also noted that and listed steps it has taken, like requiring all its employees to wear masks, and disinfecting its branch ATMs daily.

TD Bank street decal, Stand Together by Standing Apart, Manhattan, NY
TD Bank street decal, Stand Together by Standing Apart, Manhattan, NY. (Photo by: Joan … [+] Education Images

While Dalbar found all Bank of America tellers wore masks, just under 80% of employees managing traffic flow and making first customer contact could say the same. Hand sanitizer was available at slightly more than 20% of Bank of America ATMs, and fewer than one-fifth had dividers installed between machines.

Bank of America’s rating for teller safety measures in the Dalbar survey came out on top, but was well under 80%. Other domestic banks, in order of ranking, were Citibank, Capital One, Wells Fargo, SunTrust, PNC, Fifth Third, TD, Chase, and US Bank, ranging from just over 75% to under 65%.

The survey’s results “surprised us,” said Dalbar’s Slute. “Especially at the ATMs, like with Citibank and Bank of America not having hand sanitizer [at every machine].”

“There was no clear winner overall. We were expecting a Bank of America or Citibank to have it locked and loaded all the way across,” she said of the big banks’ strategies. “If there are holes in it, you’re only as strong as your weakest link.”

(Edited by David Martosko and Allison Elyse Gualtieri.) Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

Zenger News

 Zenger News

Zenger is the world’s first digitally native newswire. We are restoring the public’s trust in news media by strictly prohibiting the use of anonymous sources and by verifying everything that’s verifiable in the stories we distribute. America’s newsrooms are shrinking, but Zenger is putting jobless journalists back to work, providing wire stories to news outlets with no up-front cost and sharing advertising revenue with both. Our reporters, editors, photojournalists and videographers work in more than 110 countries—and we’re always searching for new talent.

COVID-19 is also forcing new methods to be use at the ATM. Randy Mac reported on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. http://4.nbcla.com/KcMEiSX ——— Don’t miss an NBCLA video, subscribe here: https://bit.ly/2NnofFF For more, visit NBCLA.COM here: https://bit.ly/2uB6niE On Facebook: https://bit.ly/2uFU1px On Twitter: https://bit.ly/2JsBm5Y About NBCLA The West Coast flagship station of the NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations, serving the vast region since 1949.

NBC4 produces 43 hours each week of local news and weather, and the station features the largest award-winning investigative unit in Southern California. NBC4’s news operation has received nearly every industry award bestowed on local news, including numerous Los Angeles Emmy and Golden Mike Awards, two national and two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards, and a Peabody Award. NBC4 news is delivered across the main broadcast on channel4, at http://www.nbcla.com, and through multiple interactive social media platforms 24/7. The NBC Owned Television Stations, a division of NBCUniversal, also operates COZI TV (www.cozitv.com), a national network that brings viewers some of America’s most beloved and iconic television shows and movies. #NBC#NBCLA

At Least 6 U.S. Teachers Have Died From Covid-19 Since Schools Reopened

At least six educators in five states have died after contracting the coronavirus since schools began reopening in early August. Here’s a list, which Forbes will regularly update, of all the teacher Covid-19 fatalities to date.Demetria “Demi” Bannister, 28, a third-grade teacher in Columbia, South Carolina, died this week from Covid-19 complications after returning to school on August 28 for a week of teacher workdays (she only interacted with students remotely).

AshLee DeMarinis, 34, who taught special education at a middle school in Potosi, Missouri, died Sunday after three weeks on a ventilator; she had expressed fear about in-person teaching amid the pandemic, according to her sister, and contracted Covid-19 after returning to John Evans Middle School to begin preparing for the fall semester (she had not begun teaching students in-person).

Tom Slade, 53, a history teacher at a high school in Vancleave, Mississippi, also died on Sunday due to complications from the virus, which he tested positive for on August 24 after attending a gathering outside of class hours, according to the Biloxi Sun Herald; teachers at Vancleave High School had returned to the classroom August 3, with students following closely after.

An unnamed long-time special education teacher with Des Moines Public Schools died last week from coronavirus complications after an out-of-state trip, the school district announced September 2. 

Teresa Horn, 62, a special education teacher in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, died on August 28 from a heart attack after testing positive for the virus, prompting Tahlequah Public Schools to send their students home for virtual classes (the district has since reported at least eight infections). 

Nacoma James, 42, a football coach in Oxford, Mississippi, died during the first week of August as students and teachers returned to Lafayette Middle School; James, who had been coaching students “all summer,” did not join the first week back at school, instead self-quarantining with Covid-19 symptoms before passing away.  

Americans have been divided on sending students and teachers back to school as the virus continues to spread and the death toll nears 200,000 nationwide. Many school districts have opted for a “hybrid” mix of online and in-person learning, with heightened precautions in the classroom (plexiglass barriers, mandated mask usage, strict capacity limits). Each of New York City’s 1,606 public schools are offering a “blended learning” mix of online and offline teaching, with students returning from September 21. The majority of the nation’s other largest school districts have opted to begin the academic year online only. 

Further Reading

“‘Reckless’ And ‘Reprehensible’ Frat Party Linked To Coronavirus Outbreak At UNH: Here Are The Latest College Coronavirus Updates” (Forbes)

“U.S. Needs 193 Million Tests Per Month In Schools And Nursing Homes To Contain Covid-19, Report Finds” (Forbes)

“New York State Launches Covid-19 Report Card For Schools” (Forbes)

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Jemima McEvoy

Jemima McEvoy

I’m a British-born reporter covering breaking news for Forbes.

Can You Socialize Safely During the Pandemic

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Of the many ways COVID-19 has changed American life, social distancing is among the toughest for many people to bear. Humans are social animals, hard-wired to crave touch and interaction. So it’s only natural that, as caution fatigue sets in and social-distancing guidelines in many places are extended into the indeterminate future, even well-intentioned people are looking for loopholes that allow them to reunite with loved ones.

But is there any safe way to see family or friends while following social-distancing guidelines? “There’s no magic answer to that question,” says Jason Farley, a professor and nurse epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Schools of Nursing and Medicine.

There’s always risk

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially recommends that people “avoid gatherings of any size outside your household, such as [in] a friend’s house, parks, restaurants, shops, or any other place.” That’s especially important for people who are sick; know or suspect they’ve been exposed to COVID-19; are in a high-risk group, like the elderly or immune-compromised; or live with someone who fits into any of these categories.

But you could get and spread coronavirus even if you don’t fall under one of those labels.

Many people who get COVID-19 develop either mild symptoms or none at all. That means you and your loved ones could be spreading the virus even if you feel fine, Farley says.

Even a negative test result only takes you so far, since diagnostic accuracy isn’t perfect and you could be exposed to the virus at any time. “There’s really no way of predicting, if you’ve been exposed and tested negative today, that you won’t test positive tomorrow,” Farley says. Testing positive for antibodies also doesn’t necessarily mean you’re immune to future infections, health officials say.

Wearing a mask, washing your hands regularly and limiting trips outside all reduce your risk of catching and passing on COVID-19, but “we can’t quantify [how much lower] that lower risk is,” Farley says. There’s also no demographic that’s truly safe from COVID-19—people of all ages have gotten seriously ill and died from the virus.

Given all those risks and unknowns, “the most responsible option is to have [a social] visit virtually,” says Brandon Brown, an epidemiologist and associate professor in the Center for Healthy Communities at the University of California, Riverside. That will be the case until there’s a vaccine to confer widespread immunity, as well as better testing capacity and steady declines in deaths and cases to decrease the burden on the health care system, Brown says.

But there’s gray area

In a perfect infectious-disease-fighting model, everybody would stay home and socialize only with their cohabitants. But the realities of human existence are messier.

Flagrant social-distancing violations, like packed house parties, are unequivocally a bad idea. But there’s plenty of gray area. Is there any harm in a socially distant walk? If you live alone, can you see one friend? Is there a responsible way to move in with family?

There are also mental-health ramifications to consider. Isolation can take a serious toll on mental health, particularly for those already suffering from conditions like depression and anxiety. Unemployment, isolation and distress related to the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to about 75,000 additional “deaths of despair”—those related to suicide or substance misuse—in the U.S., according to a recent report. How do you weigh that against the risk of spreading a deadly infectious disease?

To help, some experts are advocating for a harm-reduction approach to social distancing, an idea that hinges on minimizing the negative consequences of potentially risky behaviors. That would mean teaching people how to see their loved ones as safely as possible, rather than telling them not to socialize at all and hoping—against proof and human nature—that they listen.

“We have been thinking about social distancing in this all-or-nothing way,” says Julia Marcus, an assistant professor of population medicine at Harvard Medical School. That was appropriate when lockdowns were first announced, Marcus says, but as containment measures drag on and on, it’s impractical not to address the gray area.

“People are already making choices every day around how to navigate risk,” Marcus says. “A harm-reduction approach would…give them the tools they need to reduce risk as much as possible.”

While there’s a diversity of opinion among health professionals about how much risk is acceptable, most agree that some forms of socializing are safer than others.

Outside seems better than in

There’s still a lot experts don’t know about how COVID-19 spreads. But Dr. Kelly Michelson, director of the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says most research suggests you are less likely to catch or transmit the virus if you’re outside, wearing a mask and keeping your distance from others.

Certain types of outdoor interaction are also better than others, Farley says. A cookout where people are touching the same utensils or eating from the same containers is higher risk than a socially distant walk, for example.

Patricia Rieker, a medical sociologist at Boston University, adds that one-on-one meetings are safer than group gatherings. She invited one friend to her condo building’s outdoor area over the weekend, but only after wiping down their chairs and placing them 10 feet apart and finding a way for her friend to get into the common area without entering her home. They also wore masks. “It took me 45 minutes to prepare for that to happen safely,” Rieker says. “You can’t do anything in a way that I would call spontaneous.”

Trust is important

Rieker says she felt comfortable seeing her friend because she knew they both took social distancing seriously. That trust is paramount, Rieker says, because seeing somebody right now means you’re potentially exposing yourself to all of their prior brushes with the virus.

If you really trust somebody, Rieker says it’s not out of the question to explore moving in with them, as long as it’s done safely. Even though testing isn’t 100% accurate, Rieker says both parties should get tested before moving in.

Brown says both parties should shelter in place for at least two weeks before combining households. Michelson agrees, and adds that it’s important to ensure that “this surrogate family member or friend is protecting themselves in a way that’s going to be safe for you.” In other words: moving in together is not a license to let other disease-prevention practices lapse.

Sharing a bed or having close physical contact requires even more trust, and exposes you both to more risk. Writing in the Annals of Internal Medicine on May 8, a group of Boston-based physicians noted that all in-person sexual contact likely comes with some risk of spreading COVID-19, leaving health care providers with “little to offer beyond guidance not to engage in any in-person sexual activity.” Still, they acknowledged that total abstinence is not always a viable option, and noted that virtual sexual activity, or physical contact with a live-in quarantine partner, is safest.

Context matters

COVID-19 is not spreading identically in all parts of the U.S. If you have your heart set on socializing, the onus is on you to understand the specific public-health guidelines and situation in your area, Rieker says. If you live in a densely populated area where coronavirus is spreading rapidly, it may be hard or even impossible to find a way to socialize safely. It’s important to stay mindful of that—especially since social distancing is really about the common good, and making sure that as few people as possible get sick.

“Staying safe is a multi-layered issue of what you do for yourself, what you are going to hope that other people will do for themselves, and what, collectively, everybody does in the community,” Rieker says. “You are required to think about the larger good.”

Limiting social contact, as hard as it is, really is an altruistic move. Even if you, personally, accept the risk of seeing another person, you need to consider how your actions could affect public health and burdens on the health care system. That sort of thinking should be extra motivation for taking as few risks as possible, and minimizing the risks that you do take. Doing so will help bring the coronavirus pandemic to its end.

“In the short term, everyone is going to hurt,” Brown says. “But in the long term, the problems of the pandemic will get better.”

By Jamie Ducharme

Source: https://time.com

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Mission Health psychiatrists, Dr. Micah Krempasky and Dr. Richard Zenn, offer expert advice on dealing with the stress of social distancing during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Why Drinking Water All Day Long Is Not the Best Way to Stay Hydrated

Dehydration is a drag on human performance. It can cause fatigue and sap endurance among athletes, according to a 2018 study in the journal Frontiers in Physiology. Even mild dehydration can interfere with a person’s mood or ability to concentrate.

Water is cheap and healthy. And drinking H2O is an effective way for most people to stay hydrated. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adult women and men drink at least 91 and 125 ounces of water a day, respectively. (For context, one gallon is 128 fluid ounces.) But pounding large quantities of water morning, noon and night may not be the best or most efficient way to meet the body’s hydration requirements.

“If you’re drinking water and then, within two hours, your urine output is really high and [your urine] is clear, that means the water is not staying in well,” says David Nieman, a professor of public health at Appalachian State University and director of the Human Performance Lab at the North Carolina Research Campus. Nieman says plain water has a tendency to slip right through the human digestive system when not accompanied by food or nutrients. This is especially true when people drink large volumes of water on an empty stomach. “There’s no virtue to that kind of consumption,” he says.

In fact, clear urine is a sign of “overhydration,” according to the Cleveland Clinic. And some of the latest research supports Nieman’s claim that guzzling lots of water is not the best way to stay hydrated.

For a 2015 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers compared the short-term hydration effects of more than a dozen different beverages—everything from plain water and sports drinks to milk, tea, and beer, to a specially formulated “rehydration solution.” Based on urine analyses collected from the study volunteers, the researchers concluded that several drinks—including milk, tea, and orange juice, but not sports drinks—were more hydrating than plain water. (Lager was a little less hydrating than water, but a little better than coffee.)

Of course, no one’s suggesting that people dump water in favor of milk and OJ. Water is still hydrating. So are sports drinks, beer, and even coffee, to some extent. But the authors of the 2015 study wrote that there are several “elements of a beverage” that affect how much H2O the body retains. These include a drink’s nutrient content, as well as the presence of “diuretic agents,” which increase the amount of urine a person produces. Ingesting water along with amino acids, fats and minerals seems to help the body take up and retain more H2O—and therefore maintain better levels of hydration—which is especially important following exercise and periods of heavy perspiration.

“People who are drinking bottles and bottles of water in between meals and with no food, they’re probably just peeing most of that out,” Nieman says. Also, the popular idea that constant and heavy water consumption “flushes” the body of toxins or unwanted material is a half-truth. While urine does transport chemical byproducts and waste out of the body, drinking lots of water on an empty stomach doesn’t improve this cleansing process, he says.

In some rare cases, excessive water consumption can even be harmful. “In athletes or people who are exercising for hours, if they’re only drinking water, they can throw out too much sodium in their urine, which leads to an imbalance in the body’s sodium levels,” explains Nieman, who has spent a chunk of his career investigating exercise-related hydration. Doctors call this imbalance “hyponatremia,” and in some cases it can be deadly. In this scenario, sports drinks and other beverages that contain nutrients and sodium are safer than plain water.

While hyponatremia and excessive water consumption aren’t big concerns for non-athletes, there are better ways to keep the body and brain hydrated than to pound water all day long. Sipping water (or any other beverage) a little bit at a time prevents the kidneys from being “overloaded,” and so helps the body retain more H2O, Nieman says.

Drinking water before or during a meal or snack is another good way to hydrate. “Drinking water with amino acids or fats or vitamins or minerals helps the body take up more of the water, which is why beverages like milk and fruit juice tend to look pretty good in these hydration studies,” he says. Some of his own research has found that eating a banana is better than drinking a sports beverage when it comes to post-exercise recovery. And he says eating almost any piece of fruit along with some water is going to aid the body’s ability to take up that H2O and rehydrate. (These hydration rules apply to athletes as well, he says.)

The take-home message isn’t that people should drink less water, nor that they should swap out water for other beverages. But for those hoping to stay optimally hydrated, a slow-and-steady approach to water consumption and coupling water with a little food is a more effective method than knocking back full glasses of H2O between meals. “Water is good for you, but you can drown in it too,” Nieman says.

By Markham Heid

Source: Why Drinking Water All Day Long Is Not the Best Way to Stay Hydrated

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Make an appointment with David Coun, MD: http://www.mountsinai.org/profiles/da… Find a doctor: http://www.mountsinai.org/fad David Coun, MD is a board-certified primary care doctor at Mount Sinai Doctors, seeing patients Monday through Friday in Brooklyn Heights. Trained in Newark and New York City, he is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. After majoring in Spanish Literature at Cornell, he was awarded his medical degree from Rutgers Medical School and completed his residency in Internal Medicine at NY Medical College-St. Vincent’s Medical Center. Prior to joining Mount Sinai Doctors, Dr. Coun worked for NYC Health and Hospitals for over 15 years. During that time, he served as an Assistant Professor of Medicine at NYU School of Medicine, where he was a regular lecturer, seminar leader, and clinical educator for both students and resident physicians. Dr. Coun has lectured regularly on various topics, including smoking cessation, prostatic conditions, EKG review, and physician communication skills. He has a particular interest in prevention, as well as, the intersection between mental health and chronic medical conditions. Dr. Coun is fluent in Spanish. He is also the Chief of Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Doctors, 300 Cadman Plaza West. Mount Sinai Doctors, located at 300 Cadman Plaza West, is a two-floor multispecialty practice with a walk-in urgent care center and more than 35 specialties, including Adolescent Medicine, Allergy, Cardiology, Dermatology, Diabetes Education, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, General Surgery, Infectious Disease, Maternal & Fetal Medicine, Nephrology, OBGYN, Ophthalmology, Optometry & Optical Shop, Orthopedics, Pediatrics, Pulmonology, Radiology, Rheumatology, Travel Medicine, Urology, and Vascular Surgery. The practice is located at 300 Cadman Plaza West, on the 17th and 18th floors, in Brooklyn Heights. You can make appointments online at http://www.mountsinai.org/bh or via ZocDoc at http://bit.ly/29LNAIG

Forget China’s ‘Excessive’ Coronavirus Surveillance—This Is America’s Surprising Alternative

Here’s an interesting twist. China has spent years building a vast surveillance state to digitally track its population, a system that has come to the fore in its attempts to monitor and control the spread of coronavirus. For years we have decried this “big brother” monitoring, and yet it turns out that we have a vast surveillance dataset of our own, just waiting for the government to tap into.

Last week, I reported on viral coronavirus maps that use marketing databases to show the movements of Americans as they congregate and disperse, illustrative of the potential spread of coronavirus infections. The granularity of the data shocked many—although the subject matter distracted most from the underlying issue. The data is unique to individuals but claims anonymity—however, last year the New York Times exposed just how easily that veil is broken.

It is therefore a surprise that the U.S. government—through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has elected to use this marketing dataset rather than mobile operator data to track coronavirus. “Officials across the U.S. are using location data from millions of cellphones,” the Wall Street Journal reported on March 28, “to better understand the movements of Americans during the pandemic.” The newspaper says the plan is “to create a portal for federal, state and local officials that contains geolocation data in what could be as many as 500 cities across the U.S.”

When coronavirus first hit China, the country repurposed its surveillance state into a contact tracing and quarantine enforcement machine. The infrastructure was in place. Facial and license plate recognition, contact tracing and phone tracking, proximity reports from public transportation, apps to determine quarantine status and freedom of movement, and social media to inform on rule-breakers. Described as “excessive coronavirus public monitoring,” it is expanding China’s already pervasive use of biometric people tracking technologies.

In the West we have no such biometric-powered surveillance state, whatever campaign groups might say. There is the rule of law, warranted tracking, even campaigns to remove facial recognition from law enforcement. Meanwhile, we all carry smartphones loaded with apps that we give permission to track us, wherever we go and whenever we go there, down to a frightening level of detail.

Smartphone tracking is becoming the front-end for coronavirus population tracking—be that individuals confined to their homes, curfews, contact tracing or aggregated analysis on the impact of social distancing. A smartphone is a proxy for a person. Track the phones and you track the people. Each device can be uniquely tied to its owner, whether in Beijing or Boston, Shanghai or Seattle.

In the U.K. and mainland Europe, governments and the European Union have pulled data from the mobile network operators themselves to track millions of citizens, aggregated and anonymized, monitoring adherence with social distancing and travel restrictions. There was even talk that the GSMA might develop a centralised data program across 700 operators to track users cross-border.

Mobile networks hold significant data on customers. Location pings, call and messaging metadata, obviously the identities behind the numbers and whatever their CRM systems store. This data has its limitations. It is also heavily regulated, protected from prying eyes except under legally warranted circumstances.

There is however an even larger dataset that has no such regulatory limitations. It contains information on all of us—we actually give it permission to collect our locations, our browsing activities, where we go, when, how often. The information can be mined to infer where we work and live, what we like to do and with who. It is the closest we have to a surveillance state—and it’s now everywhere.

The database is fuelled by the apps on our smartphones—apps we give permission to access data they do not need to execute their own functions. And that data can be sold to create a revenue stream for its operators. Last year, one project set out to show just how out of hand this has become. A security researcher tested 937 Android flashlight apps—the most innocuous apps imaginable, of which 180 requested permission to access our contacts and 131 our precise locations.

This marketing data source, which gathers information on all of us, all of the time, is quite the surveillance feat. If any western government set out its intention to build such a platform there would be an extraordinary public backlash. And yet the data is there and can be accessed commercially for just the payment of a fee.

Once the pandemic is behind us, the memory of those maps tracking us coast to coast will remain. And as we look to the east, to its vast government surveillance ecosystem, perhaps we will recall the equivalent we live with ourselves. The fact is that the necessity of the coronavirus pandemic has pushed government invention into new and surprising areas. And from a surveillance stance, one of the most powerful ways imaginable has been there all the time.

It is clear that over the coming weeks we will be asked to further trade personal privacy for public safety. Those datasets can be mined for ever more powerful information—the same contact tracing and quarantine breaches China monitors. According to the WSJ, the mobile ad data “can reveal general levels of compliance with stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders—and help measure the pandemic’s economic impact by revealing the drop-off in retail customers at stores, decreases in automobile miles driven and other economic metrics.”

Not bad for a ready-made, off-the-shelf alternative.

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I am the Founder/CEO of Digital Barriers—developing advanced surveillance solutions for defence, national security and counter-terrorism. I write about the intersection of geopolitics and cybersecurity, as well as breaking security and surveillance stories. Contact me at zakd@me.com.

Source: Forget China’s ‘Excessive’ Coronavirus Surveillance—This Is America’s Surprising Alternative

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Coronavirus: Can Gloves Save You From COVID-19?

Can wearing gloves really save you from the novel coronavirus, COVID-19? It certainly can help you keep the germs at bay, say experts, but without precautions such as washing hands regularly and the disposal of gloves properly, it’s just unnecessary noise.

A video posted by a former emergency room nurse from Saginaw, Michigan, on Facebook explains the concept of cross contamination.

In her 3-minute-22-second video posted on Facebook on March 31, Molly Lixey uses paint to simulate the presence of germs. She demonstrates how once you’ve got paint – or germs – on your hands and begin to touch your phone, your face or anything else around you, the once sterile surfaces are no longer so. And by retouching these surfaces, even with clean hands, you are helping them migrate and spread.

Lixey’s clip has her pick a scenario; she chooses grocery shopping. She puts on a pair of gloves. Now, she says, she’s in the store and picking up things – and along with those things, germs. “But it’s (the germs) on my gloves, that’s fine right? It’s on my gloves,” she says in the clip. “But now I’m walking along and my phone rings, so I’ve now touched my hands together a couple times, I reach for my phone and oh I have a text message from my husband.”

Lixey continues to pretend shop and with each product she adds a little paint (germs) to her gloves. Now, she suggests that if she gets a phone call, she picks up. Finally, taking her gloves off, she takes stock of all the places the germs have travelled – her hands, face, phone.

“There’s no point in wearing gloves, if you’re not going to wash your hands every time you touch something,” she explains.

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Source: Coronavirus: Can gloves save you from COVID-19?

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Should Healthy People Wear Masks to Prevent Coronavirus? The Answer May Be Changing

If you have no symptoms of the coronavirus, should you wear a mask? It’s one of the most-asked questions during this pandemic, and until recently, one of the most easily answered—if you follow the guidance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC’s answer, up until April 3? No. According to its initial guidelines, outside of health care settings, face masks should only be worn by people who are sick or who are caring for someone who is sick (when the person who is sick can’t wear a mask). A mask helps capture some of an ill person’s cough particles that might otherwise spread to other people.

But federal guidance around masks has changed. On April 3, President Trump announced that the CDC now recommends that the general population wear non-medical masks—meaning fabric that covers one’s face and nose coverings, like bandanas or cut T-shirts—when they must leave their homes to go to places like the grocery store. The measure is voluntary. The mayors of Los Angeles and New York City have already made similar recommendations. In other parts of the country, it’s not voluntary: for example, officials in Laredo, Texas have said they can fine people up to $1,000 when residents do not wear a face covering in public.

In other parts of the world, governments have given different answers to this question from the start. During the current coronavirus outbreak, China’s national guidelines recommend different types of face masks for people in the general public based on their health risks and occupations. But the U.S. government’s initial anti-mask messaging was so strong that the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, tweeted on Feb. 29, “Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”

In the next few weeks, experts’ tones became more equivocal, suggesting that a supply shortage, not necessarily a complete lack of efficacy, may have partly driven the U.S. government agencies’ earlier guidance. In a March 26 interview with basketball star Stephen Curry, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, “When we say you don’t need to wear a mask, what we’re really saying is make sure you prioritize it first to the people who need the mask. In a perfect world, if you had all the masks you wanted, then somebody walking in the street with a mask doesn’t bother me—you can get some degree of protection.”

So, do masks really help protect the healthy public after all? Will a T-shirt actually prevent you from getting sick? The answers are controversial and not fully known. Here’s what physicians and face-mask researchers say.

What has changed recently?

Scientists now know that people who are infected with the new coronavirus can spread it even when they don’t have symptoms. (This was not known in the early days of the current pandemic.) Up to 25% of infected people may not show symptoms, said CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield in a recent NPR interview. They’ve also learned that people who are symptomatic shed the virus up to two days before showing symptoms. “This helps explain how rapidly this virus continues to spread across the country,” Redfield said.

This silent spread also bolsters the case for people in the general population to always wear masks when in public, since anyone could be sick. “Now with the realization that there are individuals who are asymptomatic, and those asymptomatic individuals can spread infection, it’s hard to make the recommendation that only ill individuals wear masks in the community setting for protection, because it’s not clear who is ill and who is not,” says Allison Aiello, a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, who has researched the efficacy of masks.

So should everyone wear a mask?

Both ideologies—that everyone in the general population should wear a mask, and that they should not be used widely—have fervent supporters. People in the first camp point to the scientific studies finding that masks can help protect healthy people from symptoms of influenza-like illnesses, at least a little bit, and note that masks can help protect against asymptomatic spread. If everyone wears a mask when they leave their house, then people who have the virus but who don’t have symptoms will be wearing a physical barrier that can catch infected droplets that escape their mouth or nose. That helps protect everyone.

People in the second camp believe that the available scientific evidence does not show that masks are effective enough in public settings to warrant a mass recommendation, and that wearing one may give people a false sense of protection and embolden them to ignore recommendations that are actually effective, like staying away from other people. They also believe that wearing a mask can inadvertently encourage people to touch their face more.

“There are some very strong opinions on both sides,” says Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a physician and scientist in infectious diseases in Canada. Bogoch says he lands somewhere in the middle. “If we look at the public health side—in western countries, not in Asia—lots of the messaging reflects that these masks aren’t going to help you,” he says. “I think we need to be a bit more honest and transparent that there is some data that would demonstrate some potential benefit of masks, but of course there are large caveats. The data supporting this is not strong, but I think it’s hard to be dogmatic and overly dismissive of the data.”

On the other hand, “it is very clear that many people wearing masks are negating any benefit from this by wearing the wrong mask, or touching their face to adjust the mask, and aren’t appreciating that if you’re practicing physical distancing and truly are separate from other people by six feet, mask wearing is unlikely to provide incremental benefit,” Bogoch says.

A severe mask shortage

What’s not up for dispute is that the U.S. is in the midst of a mask shortage. Health care workers can’t get the personal protective equipment (PPE) that they need to take care of coronavirus patients, including N95 respirators (tight-fitting facial devices that filter out small particles from the air) and surgical masks (loose-fitting, disposable masks designed to block splashes and large-particle droplets that contain viruses and bacteria, but which don’t filter or block very small particles in the air transmitted by coughs or sneezes).

“We know that there’s probably greater risk [of infection] in healthcare settings just because of the nature of the work that’s being done and the patients who are here,” says Dr. Erica Shenoy, associate chief of the infection control unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. Masks—when used with handwashing, eye protection, gloves and gowns—can help protect health care workers as they have sustained interactions with people infected with COVID-19.

In response to the growing knowledge that even people without symptoms can spread the virus, in late March, Shenoy’s hospital and others in Boston implemented a universal masking policy in which staffers wear surgical masks throughout their shifts in clinical or common areas. “You can’t really social distance when you’re taking care of patients or when you’re working side by side with your colleagues,” Shenoy says.

Because of the shortage, the new federal recommendations about masks for the general public aren’t about N95 respirators or surgical masks, but about homemade ones.

Still, if the shortage resolves and the general population can eventually get access to surgical masks, it’s worth knowing if they can help protect the healthy public.

What the science says about masks

There are several studies testing how well surgical masks help tamp down on the spread of respiratory viruses and protect healthy people from getting sick. “Across these studies, it’s quite consistent that there’s some small effect and there’s no risk associated with wearing masks,” says Aiello, who co-wrote a 2010 review article evaluating studies on the subject. In one of Aiello’s studies, in which healthy college students wore masks on campus during flu season, researchers didn’t see much of a reduction in flu-like illness, except when masked students also sanitized their hands regularly.

In another trial published in 2009, an Australian team of researchers looked at families of children who had influenza-like illnesses. Family members who diligently wore masks when they were caring for the sick child were more protected against getting sick, they concluded.

“If you look at [the research] together, you don’t see these really strong effects,” Aiello says, adding that while the effects may be greater in a real-life pandemic, there’s no way to know. However, “we are at a time now where it seems pretty clear that there are no major risks to wearing masks and they may provide a benefit. I think for those reasons, it seems like it would be prudent to recommend some kind of face covering at this point to protect individuals.”

What about homemade masks?

The CDC currently recommends that, when medical-grade face masks are unavailable, health care personnel use homemade masks—their examples include bandanas and scarves. “However, homemade masks are not considered PPE, since their capability to protect [health care personnel] is unknown,” the guidance reads. “Caution should be exercised when considering this option.”

The evidence supporting homemade masks for both health care workers and the general public is scant. “There’s not a large body of research on this topic,” says Aiello. One of the only studies testing whether or not homemade masks are effective was published in 2013. Researchers tested household materials—including cotton T-shirts, scarves, tea towels, pillowcases and vacuum cleaner bags—to see how good they were at blocking bacterial and viral aerosols, and how realistically the material could be used as a mask.

The researchers found that the most suitable materials were pillowcases and 100% cotton T-shirts, though the shirt’s stretchy composition made the mask fit better. Volunteers made their own T-shirt masks (here’s how) and then coughed wearing their homemade mask, a surgical mask and no mask. T-shirt masks were about a third as effective as surgical masks at filtering small infectious particles. “We basically found that it was okay at blocking,” says Anna Davies, a research coordinator at the University of Cambridge and one of the authors of the study. “It’s better than nothing.” To some extent, the homemade mask acted as a barrier to keep droplets in.

Now, about seven people a day email Davies to ask if their idea for a homemade mask would work. It’s impossible to know. “There’s so much inherent variability in a homemade mask,” Davies says. We’d have a much clearer idea, she adds, “if somebody could do some slightly better quality research that said this is a good pattern, this is the right sort of fabric to use, this is how long you should wear one for, how you should decontaminate it.” The list of unknowns is long.

In addition, there is some evidence that homemade masks can backfire. “We’ve tested the efficacy of cloth masks and found they can actually increase the risk of infection,” says Raina MacIntyre, a professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney (who also co-authored the Australian mask study). She speculates that people in the study didn’t clean their masks as often as they said. “We know they get very damp and moist,” she says. “Moisture will breed pathogens, and if people don’t wash it well enough or regularly, that could increase the risk of infection.” If people decide to make their own, MacIntyre suspects that a mask with more than one layer of fabric will be more effective, as will fabric that repels water.

“It’s still unclear,” Aiello says. “But to the extent that any material provides some protection against the droplet spread, then in theory, you should find having that barrier there could prevent some spread in some scenarios.”

The bottom line

Wearing a mask probably won’t hurt—as long as you wear it properly, clean it often, wash your hands, continue to not touch your face and physically distance yourself from other people. There’s just not a strong body of evidence that wearing one, especially one you make yourself, will protect you from getting sick. “If you want to wear a mask, go for it,” Bogoch says. “But just be mindful of what the possible benefits are and what the possible limitations are. And be realistic.”

Even with new federal guidance, the issue is far from settled. Much more research is needed. “Just because it’s a policy,” Bogoch says, “it doesn’t necessarily suggest that these scientific questions are truly answered.”

By Mandy Oaklander Updated: April 3, 2020 7:29 PM EDT | Originally published: April 3, 2020 3:45 PM EDT

Source: Should Healthy People Wear Masks to Prevent Coronavirus? The Answer May Be Changing

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Calling All People Who Sew And Make: You Can Help Make Masks For 2020 Healthcare Worker PPE Shortage

Rally is probably not the right word. A significant movement, perhaps even a revolution of epic noble intentions, is underway in hackerspaces, makerspaces, and sewing groups to come together and solve a problem to save lives at risk with the Coronavirus.

You can help. Today, right now. Are you sitting in your apartment or house in some sort of state-wide lockdown? You can do something to help others. People of all ages and walks of life are diving in to make a difference. Check out some of these amazing initiatives, both small and large:

Joost De Cock (Old Dutch for “The Cook”) started the FreeSewing Open Source Project from his home in the Netherlands to provide free sewing patterns. Recently, his wife who is a surgeon started seeing potential shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE). Joost knew what to do, so he posted it to FreeSewing in late February. People thought he was being silly as a handmade mask would never be used by professionals. (I love the brand for FreeSewing.org, by the way.)

But he was onto something when he posted: Calling all makers: Here’s a 1-page PDF facemask pattern; Now go make some and help beat this thing. I took inspiration from Joost’s call for help in the writing of my headline. Shoutout also to Katelyn Bowden who shared Joost’s post. It is her workshop photo above and she has been cranking out the DIY masks. She calls herself a “reluctant hacker” and also runs a nonprofit to help image abuse victims. She pointed me to a bunch of different resources.

If you think that a handmade mask cannot be used, think again. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a place for them — in times of crisis, like the one we are in right now. On the CDC page: Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of Facemasks, they explain that as a last resort, a homemade mask is acceptable. Frankly, we are at that stage right now. Here’s how they explain it in the Crisis Strategy section, When No Facemasks Are Available, Options Include:

“Healthcare personnel (HCP) use of homemade masks:

In settings where facemasks are not available, HCP might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE, since their capability to protect HCP is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face.

It is possible that the government and manufacturers will ramp up in a wartime-like effort, but the reinforcement is more likely to come from the people. Millions of masks are needed. People are starting to make them and it is going to be a big deal.

Clearly, there is a shortage of the manufactured N95 respirator. You know this. Healthcare workers know this. If you have been hoarding them, let me cut to the chase — there are people and organizations who need your extras and you can do the right thing and donate them. Get in touch with Holly Figueroa O’Reilly on Twitter — she is organizing the distribution of masks. Karen Booth is another person listing out different projects as she starts making masks herself. Follow the hashtags #millionmaskchallenge and #millionmaskmayday and scroll through and you will find programs and projects around the USA and world.

People like Joost, Katelyn, Holly, and Karen are bringing enormous good into the world. When I asked Joost why he was doing this FreeSewing project, he pointed me to his Pledge page where he explains that all the funds that come into the project are donated to Doctors Without Borders. All of it. Why? He pointed me to that page again: “I don’t know if you’re familiar with the phrase ‘noblesse oblige’ but it essentially means that privilege entails responsibility.” Then said, “I mean every word of it.”

Makers, hackers, craftspeople are awesome. Coronavirus does not stand a chance. Tweet, tweet.


Additional Resources for Open Source or Volunteer COVID-19 Projects:

One of my favorite how-to sites is Instructables. The DIY Cloth Face Mask has almost 100,000 views. It is a step-by-step instruction for those who need it. Kudos to ashevillejm.

In 2006, CDC released a Simple Respiratory Mask design using heavyweight t-shirts in its Emerging Infectious Diseases journal. More of an academic post, but some ideas in it.

A Facebook group was formed last week: Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies. It is worth a visit — in just a few short days there are 20,000-plus members and volunteers.

If you are looking for some research and street-level testing of various materials for DIY mask-making, this post from Smart Air Filters is exceptional: What Are The Best Materials for Making DIY Masks? It also includes a few great links at the end of it.

Forbes’ editor Amy Feldman just expanded on the developing story of a team in Italy that is 3D printing respirator parts. Read it here: Meet The Italian Engineers 3D-Printing Respirator Parts For Free To Help Keep Coronavirus Patients Alive.

Bloomberg confirms that the workers and communities around them are rising up to meet this challenge: Hospital Workers Make Masks From Office Supplies Amid U.S. Shortage.

If you have a 3D Printer and have been trying out different N95-type designs, then you will want to read this one from 3D Printing Media Network by Davide Sher: Copper3D organizing global campaign to 3D print antimicrobial masks on a global scale. After you read it, you will probably want to order some PLA filament from the folks at Copper3D who are making their patent-pending idea and design open source to help fight COVID-19.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I’m a Tech and Productivity guy. Do you have #lifehacks, #DIYtips, #HowTO ideas? Click the little “House” icon below to get to my website where you can submit ideas (via a Google spreadsheet). I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading and connecting. Sign up for my Tech Tips email. You can find me at the LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter link buttons, too. I still also cover a bit of my old beat on 3D printing, hardware, software, and mobile apps, as well.

Source: Calling All People Who Sew And Make: You Can Help Make Masks For 2020 Healthcare Worker PPE Shortage

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This is a translation of the video I made for an initiative by Make in Belgium. Different rules and requirements may exist in your area, so please check with your local health providers before making and donating masks. Download the (Dutch) pattern on http://maakjemondmasker.be A big hurrah for Make in Belgium for organizing this wonderful initiative. And thank you to Henk Rijckaert for involving me in this. Check out his YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/henkrijc… INSTAGRAM: http://www.instagram.com/craftswithellen PATREON: http://www.patreon.com/craftswithellen ————————— DISCLAIMER Even though my videos are set up as tutorials, I’m not professionally trained in any of these crafts. The tools that I use can be dangerous. Don’t try a craft if you are unfamiliar with the tools and the necessary safety precautions. Be safe!

 

New York City 10 Days Away From ‘Widespread Shortages’ Of Medical Supplies, Mayor Says

Topline: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a Sunday CNN appearance that “if we don’t get more ventilators in the next 10 days, people will die who don’t have to die” as the city—now the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus epidemic—faces a possible shortage of medical supplies.

  • “We’re about 10 days from seeing widespread shortages,” de Blasio said, adding, “We have seen next to nothing from the federal government at this point.”
  • De Blasio also said that the military hasn’t been mobilized by the Trump administration, and that the Defense Production Act, which the president invoked by executive order Wednesday, has not been put into motion.
  • “It feels like we’re on our own at this point,” de Blasio said, adding that April would be worse for New York City than March has been, and he fears May could be even worse.
  • CNN also reported Sunday that Federal Emergency Management Agency head Peter Gaynor could not provide a number of how many medical masks were in the federal stockpile or how many have been shipped to state and local governments.
  • In a sign of demand on medical supplies, a Friday letter from a New York-Presbyterian Hospital department head said each employee would only be given one N95 mask (when it typically uses 4,000 per day).

Big number: 300 million. That’s how many masks could be needed for healthcare workers versus the current stockpile of 30 million, as testified to Congress by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at the end of February.

Key background: The Defense Production Act is intended to be used by Trump to obtain “health and medical resources needed to respond to the spread of Covid-19, including personal protective equipment and ventilators.” Trump faced questions Thursday around his reticence to use the Defense Production Act to compel companies to produce healthcare items to combat the coronavirus, one day after he said he’d be invoking its powers. The New York Times reported Thursday that both the U.S. and countries abroad are facing a shortage of ventilators, with manufacturers saying that they can’t increase production to meet the demand.

Tangent: Tesla CEO Elon Musk volunteered his company’s factories to manufacture ventilators, but it’s unclear whether that will move forward.

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I’m a New York-based journalist covering breaking news at Forbes. I hold a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Previous bylines: Gotham Gazette, Bklyner, Thrillist, Task & Purpose and xoJane.

Source: New York City 10 Days Away From ‘Widespread Shortages’ Of Medical Supplies, Mayor Says

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Hospitals are sounding the alarm that they need more equipment as the coronavirus outbreak grows. Greg Cergol reports.

Coronavirus Live Updates: As Lockdowns Expand, Global Markets Plummet

Markets in Asia and the Middle East opened sharply lower on Monday as investors digested the relentless global spread of the coronavirus and turmoil in the oil markets. Shares in Saudi Aramco, the state oil giant, dropped 10 percent leading to a halt in trading on the Riyadh stock market.

Asian markets opened sharply lower on Monday as investors digested the relentless global spread of the coronavirus and turmoil in the oil markets.Tokyo was down 4.7 percent at midmorning on Monday, while Hong Kong was down 4.1 percent. Futures markets showed investors predicting sharp drops in Wall Street and Europe as well.

The coronavirus has unnerved investors as it spreads, clouding the prospects for global growth. Italy on Sunday put a broad swath of its industrial northern region under lockdown as the virus has spread, making it one of the biggest sources of confirmed infections outside China. France, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries also took further steps to stop the spread.

In the United States, the number of confirmed infections exceeded 500 cases. A top American expert said on Sunday that regional lockdowns could be necessary.A clash over oil between Russia and Saudi Arabia, two major producers, further unnerved investors. As the coronavirus hits demand for fuel, Saudi Arabia slashed its export oil prices over the weekend, starting an apparent price war aimed at Russia.

Lower oil prices could help consumers, but it could unsettle countries that depend on oil revenue to prop up their economies. In futures markets, the benchmark price for American and Europe oil supplies tumbled $10, or about one-quarter.Investors fled to the safety of the bond market, driving yields lower. In the market for U.S. Treasury bonds, yields broadly fell below the 1 percent level for both short term and long term holdings. The 10-year Treasury bond, which is closely watched, was yielding about 0.5 percent.

In other Asian markets, South Korea was down 3.6 percent. Shanghai was down 1.5 percent.

Italy reported a huge jump in deaths from the coronavirus on Sunday, a surge of more than 50 percent from the day before, as it ordered an unprecedented peacetime lockdown of its wealthiest region in a sweeping effort to fight the epidemic. The extraordinary measure restricted movement for a quarter of the country’s population.“We are facing an emergency, a national emergency,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in announcing the government decree in a news conference after 2 a.m.

The move is tantamount to sacrificing the Italian economy in the short term to save it from the ravages of the virus in the long term. The measures will turn stretches of Italy’s wealthy north — including the economic and cultural capital of Milan and landmark tourist destinations such as Venice — into quarantined red zones until at least April 3.

They will prevent the free movement of roughly 16 million people. Funerals and cultural events are banned. The decree requires that people keep a distance of at least one meter from one another at sporting events, bars, churches and supermarkets. The Italian outbreak — the worst outside Asia — has inflicted serious damage on one of Europe’s most fragile economies and prompted the closing of Italy’s schools. The country’s cases nearly tripled from about 2,500 infections on Wednesday to more than 7,375 on Sunday. Deaths rose to 366.

More and more countries have adopted or are considering stronger measures to try to keep infected people from entering and to contain outbreaks. More and more countries have adopted or are considering stronger measures to try to keep infected people from entering and to contain outbreaks.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia cut off access to Shiite Muslim towns and villages in the east of the kingdom, cordoning off an area in Qatif Governorate where all 11 of the country’s confirmed coronavirus cases have been identified. And local Saudi media reported that the country would temporarily close down all educational institutions and block travel to and from a number of countries in the region. The kingdom had already suspended pilgrimages to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

In Iran, which has been hit the hardest in the Middle East, state media reported that all flights to Europe would be suspended indefinitely. The health minister in France, one of Europe’s bigger trouble spots, announced a ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people. The U.S. has counted at least 539 cases across 34 states — Connecticut reported its first case and Washington announced another patient being treated for coronavirus had died on Sunday — and the District of Columbia, and logged 22 deaths. Washington State, New York, California, Maryland and Oregon have declared emergencies.

A growing number of schools are shutting down across the country, raising concerns about the closings will affect learning, burden families and upend communities. The U.S. Army suspended travel to and from Italy and South Korea, now the world’s third largest hot spot, until May 6, an order that affects 4,500 soldiers and family members. And the Finnish armed forces announced that troop exercises planned for March 9-19 with Norway would be scrapped.

On Sunday, the leading U.S. expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, said that it was possible that regional lockdowns could become necessary and recommended that those at greatest risk — the elderly and those with underlying health conditions — abstain from travel. Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the Trump administration was prepared to “take whatever action is appropriate” to contain the outbreak, including travel restrictions in areas with a high number of cases.

“I don’t think it would be as draconian as ‘nobody in and nobody out,’” Dr. Fauci said on “Fox News Sunday.” “But there’ll be, if we continue to get cases like this, particularly at the community level, there will be what we call mitigation.”

Even as the rate of new infections appeared to taper in China, the number of cases around the world continued to rise on Sunday, with some of the biggest clusters emerging in Europe. Besides the sharp rise in Italy, Germany reported more than 930 cases; Switzerland’s total reached 281; and Britain’s health department said that three people with the virus had died and that the number of cases in the country had jumped to 273 by Sunday. The smallest E.U. nation, Malta, reported its first confirmed case on Saturday: a 12-year-old girl recently returned from a vacation in northern Italy. Her condition was described as good.

The Spanish authorities announced on Sunday that three more people diagnosed with coronavirus had died in Madrid, raising the number of coronavirus fatalities in the country to 13. There are now over 500 cases, the authorities said. Salvador Illa, Spain’s health minister, said at a news conference in Madrid that several cases in Spain were linked to people who recently traveled to Italy.

Source: Coronavirus Live Updates: As Lockdowns Expand, Global Markets Plummet

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