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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.

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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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J60f…

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Will the Coronavirus Ever Go Away? Here’s What a Top WHO Expert Thinks

Dr. Bruce Aylward has almost 30 years experience in fighting polio, Ebola and other diseases, and now, he’s turned his attention to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Aylward, the senior adviser to the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), is one of the world’s top officials in charge of fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

The doctor, who led a joint WHO mission to China in February to study the effectiveness of the coronavirus response in the country, has seen firsthand the measures Beijing took to fight the virus. Now he’s sharing what he learned with governments and communicating with the WHO response teams working to fight COVID-19 in virus epicenters around the globe.

In an extensive teleconference interview with TIME from his office in Geneva, Aylward shared what he thinks needs to be done to stop the pandemic, and what the future might hold.

The following excerpts from the conversation have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Do you expect COVID-19 to continue to spread?

We can get little glimpses into the future from places that are recently getting infected, places that aren’t infected, but also the places where it all started. And if you go back and look at China right now, they [identified the virus] in early January, they had a full on response, sort of threw everything at it, and it’s middle of March now and they estimate maybe end of March they’ll be coming out of it, so a full three months.

When you look around the world in Europe, North America, the Middle East, you can see that we’re really at the period of exponential growth, we’re still seeing the virus going up very, very rapidly, even in hard hit places like Italy, for example. These countries still have months of this challenge in front of them.

When you look to other parts of the world, like Africa, for example, and parts of the Indian subcontinent you can see that it’s just beginning. Even though they have very, very few cases, if you look carefully at that curve, it’s also in a phase of exponential growth.

What do you think the coronavirus pandemic will look like six months from now?

I expect we will be emerging—still with disease in various parts of the world—but we should be emerging from a bad wave of this disease across a large swathe of the planet. The challenge is we’re going to be back into the flu season. And one of the big questions is, are we going to see a surge of it again at that period?

Looking further into the future, what do you anticipate? Will COVID-19 ever disappear?

What it looks like is that we’re going to have a substantial wave of this disease right through basically the globe unless something very different happens in the southern hemisphere. And the question then is: What’s going to happen? Is this going to disappear completely? Are we going to get into a period of cyclical waves? Or are we going to end up with low level endemic disease that we have to deal with? Most people believe that that first scenario where this might disappear completely is very, very unlikely, it just transmits too easily in the human population, so more likely waves or low level disease.

A lot of that is going to depend on what we as countries, as societies, do. If we do the testing of every single case, rapid isolation of the cases, you should be able to keep cases down low. If you simply rely on the big shut down measures without finding every case, then every time you take the brakes off, it could come back in waves. So that future frankly, may be determined by us and our response as much as the virus.

The U.S. and Europe had quite a head start to get ready for this. Was a major outbreak inevitable, or could it have been stopped?

I don’t like to use the word “squandered,” that’s a big word. But we probably haven’t optimized how we used that time. Now what we’ve done is, we’ve gained time again by putting in place these big shutdowns. All they do is they buy time, they don’t actually stop the virus, they suppress it, they slow it. What you want to do now is use that time well to get the testing in place, to get the systems in place, so that you can actually manage the individual level cases that are going to be fundamental to stopping this.

And the big question right now is “Are countries going to use this time during these shutdown periods optimally?” Because if you just shut it down your societies, your economies and hope for the best… This is guerrilla warfare against a virus, the virus is just going to sit you out, it’ll just circulate quietly among households and then you’re going to let them all go again and phoom there’s no reason it shouldn’t take off again, unless you’re ready for it.

How long do you think this outbreak will impact daily life in the U.S. and western Europe? How long do you think it’ll take for life to return to normal?

You have to compare it to the few examples you have that have been through this, hence you have to go back to China, look at [South] Korea, look at Singapore. These countries in the very early stages, if they were to throw everything at it, probably a solid two months in front of them, if not a bit longer, maybe three months.

What we’re seeing is that they’re throwing bits and pieces at it. Most countries in the west frankly are really struggling with, “Can we really test all these cases? Can we really isolate all the confirmed cases?” They’re struggling with that. So they’re approaching it a bit differently than China did and the big question is going to be: Is that approach going to work and limit it to just a few months, that hard hit China took? Or is it going to drag it out so long that the bigger societal, economic impacts linger longer than anyone want?

Do you think the U.S. lost critical time with its testing rollout issues?

I think every country may not have optimized the use of the time it had available, and for different reasons. Some people just continued to think this might be flu and some cases they may not have had the testing capacity.

Is there reason to be concerned about a second wave of infections in China?

Absolutely, and China is concerned. As we traveled around China, one of the most striking things that I found, especially in contrast to the West, as I spoke to governors, mayors, and their cases were plummeting—in some of the places they were down to single digit cases already—as I spoke to them and I said, “So what are you doing now?” They said, “We’re building beds, we’re buying ventilators, we’re preparing.” They said, “We do not expect this virus to disappear, but we do expect to be able to run our society, run our economy, run our health system. We cannot end up in this situation again.”

Have you seen examples of politics overruling public health or slowing down responses?

No. I know a lot of people will challenge my assessment. The reasons that there have been problems in some countries is they haven’t had a consensus on the severity of the disease, or they haven’t had a consensus around the transmissibility. You have to have that consensus that you’re dealing with something serious and severe and dangerous for your society and individuals. Otherwise you just cannot generate the public support which is fundamental to accepting the measures, but also the implementing.

Why does the fatality rate in Italy looks to be so high?

It’s a combination of factors. If you look at Italy, and the age distribution, it’s the second-oldest country in the world after Japan, people forget that. You have an older population number one, they get the more severe disease and they’re more likely to die.

What countries are in the most vulnerable situation?

Everyone is vulnerable, but the big question of course is what’s going to happen when this really starts to take off in those low-income countries where they don’t have as much medical capacity such as in Africa.

It’s one of those things that you don’t want to imagine because the numbers could be so grave. The population distribution could help. Is the humidity and the temperature going to help make a difference? I would hope so, but look at the situation in Singapore, that’s a hot, humid country. So the situation in these countries could be very difficult.

The WHO is urging countries to “test, test, test.” Are there any countries in particular that you think are not doing enough testing?

That’s much easier answered the other way around. Is anyone doing enough testing? There it’s limited. It’s China, [South] Korea, Singapore.

There are reports of people dying of coronavirus who are otherwise healthy. What have your teams seen in terms of who the virus is killing?

One of the things that terrifies me now is, as this is spread in the west is, there’s this sense of invulnerability among millennials. And absolutely not. Ten percent of the people who are in [intensive care units] in Italy are in their 20s, 30s or 40s. These are young, healthy people with no co-morbidities, no other diseases.

We don’t understand why some young healthy people progress to severe disease and even die and others don’t. We don’t have clear predictors.

What would your message be for young people around the world?

This is one of the most serious diseases you will face in your lifetime, and recognize that and respect it. It is dangerous to you as an individual. It is dangerous to your parents, to your grandparents and the elderly in particular and it is dangerous to your society in general. You are not an island in this, you are part of a broader community, you are part of transmission chains. If you get infected you are making this much more complicated and you are putting people in danger, not just yourself.

Never, never underestimate a new disease, there’s just too much unknown. What we do know is it will kill young people, it will make young people sick in large numbers. You’ve gotta respect this.

What should a country’s first priority after locking down be?

Test, test, test, test, test. Not test, test, test, test, test everyone, but test the suspects, test the suspects, test the suspects.

Then, effectively isolate the confirmed cases. The third piece is the quarantine piece.

How do you think this will end?

This will end with humanity victorious over yet another virus, there’s no question about that. The question is how much and how fast we will take the measures necessary to minimize the damage that this thing can do. In time, we will have therapeutics, we will have vaccines, we’re in a race against that.

And it’s going to take great cooperation and patience from the general population to play their part because at the end of the day it’s going to be the general population that stops this thing and slows it down enough to get it under control.

By Amy Gunia March 23, 2020

Source: Will the Coronavirus Ever Go Away? Here’s What a Top WHO Expert Thinks

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Dr. Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organization talks about how the world has passed the tipping point with the COVID-19 outbreak and while countries tried to curb the spread, none of them were prepared for the scope of the disease. Aylward says small, incremental measures are not going to curb the spread and steps need to be taken with the same speed that the disease itself is spreading. For more info, please go to https://globalnews.ca/tag/coronavirus/ Subscribe to Global News Channel HERE: http://bit.ly/20fcXDc Like Global News on Facebook HERE: http://bit.ly/255GMJQ Follow Global News on Twitter HERE: http://bit.ly/1Toz8mt Follow Global News on Instagram HERE: https://bit.ly/2QZaZIB #GlobalNews

Bill Gates On COVID-19: ‘Best-Case Scenario Is Six To Ten Weeks Of Total Isolation In U.S.’

Topline: Bill Gates said that total isolation for six to ten weeks is the only viable option to minimize lives lost and economic damage for the United States to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

  • The billionaire philanthropist predicted, during a virtual TED interview, that if the United States enacts such stringent isolation, there could be positive results within 20 days.
  • Gates argued that the United States missed the critical period to develop comprehensive testing—which would’ve needed to occur in February—that could’ve been used as an alternative to total, sustained nationwide isolation.
  • “There really is no middle ground; It’s very tough to say, ‘Keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies in the corner.’ It’s very irresponsible to suggest to people they can have the best of both worlds,” said Gates.
  • He reiterated that the United States needs to maintain isolation at this moment to avoid devastating outcomes like those of Wuhan and northern Italy.
  • Gates maintained his optimism about the crisis, saying that the world’s experience with COVID-19 will enable us to prepare for the next pandemic.
  • Gates is confident the innovation occurring in the rich countries in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment will fortify developing Southern Hemisphere countries, who may expect to meet up with the virus as seasons shift.

Background: Microsoft founder Bill Gates is the second-richest person in the world, with a $97.4 billion net worth. He has donated 25% of his wealth to charitable causes through his philanthropic organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has given $50 million to COVID-19 therapies so far.

Even as the coronavirus outbreak takes the world by storm, a number of other diseases are also rearing their ugly heads. Cases of swine flu and bird flu have already been reported in India and other countries. Now, a man from China has tested positive for hantavirus.

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: Bill Gates On COVID-19: ‘Best-Case Scenario Is Six To Ten Weeks Of Total Isolation In U.S.’

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‘We’re not ready for the next epidemic’ — Watch Bill Gates remind us many, many times about the potential impact of a pandemic like coronavirus COVID-19. » Subscribe to NowThis: http://go.nowth.is/News_Subscribe » Sign up for our newsletter KnowThis to get the biggest stories of the day delivered straight to your inbox: https://go.nowth.is/KnowThis In US news and current events today, we are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. American business magnate, software developer, investor, and philanthropist Bill Gates has been warning us about our under-preparedness for future pandemics for years. Bill Gates is best known as the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation. In 2015 he gave a TED Talk on the issue of viruses, vaccines, epidemics, and pandemics, and how they affect the world greatly. #BillGates #TEDTalk #Coronavirus #COVID19 #News #NowThis #NowThisNews Connect with NowThis » Like us on Facebook: http://go.nowth.is/News_Facebook » Tweet us on Twitter: http://go.nowth.is/News_Twitter » Follow us on Instagram: http://go.nowth.is/News_Instagram » Find us on Snapchat Discover: http://go.nowth.is/News_Snapchat

Total Cost of Her COVID-19 Treatment: $34,927.43

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When Danni Askini started feeling chest pain, shortness of breath and a migraine all at once on a Saturday in late February, she called the oncologist who had been treating her lymphoma. Her doctor thought she might be reacting poorly to a new medication, so she sent Askini to a Boston-area emergency room. There, doctors told her it was likely pneumonia and sent her home.

Over the next several days, Askini saw her temperature spike and drop dangerously, and she developed a cough that gurgled because of all the liquid in her lungs. After two more trips to the ER that week, Askini was given a final test on the seventh day of her illness, and once doctors helped manage her flu and pneumonia symptoms, they again sent her home to recover. She waited another three days for a lab to process her test, and at last she had a diagnosis: COVID-19.

A few days later, Askini got the bills for her testing and treatment: $34,927.43. “I was pretty sticker-shocked,” she says. “I personally don’t know anybody who has that kind of money.”

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Like 27 million other Americans, Askini was uninsured when she first entered the hospital. She and her husband had been planning to move to Washington, D.C. this month so she could take a new job, but she hadn’t started yet. Now that those plans are on hold, Askini applied for Medicaid and is hoping the program will retroactively cover her bills. If not, she’ll be on the hook.

She’ll be in good company. Public health experts predict that tens of thousands and possibly millions of people across the United States will likely need to be hospitalized for COVID-19 in the foreseeable future. And Congress has yet to address the problem. On March 18, it passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which covers testing costs going forward, but it doesn’t do anything to address the cost of treatment.

While most people infected with COVID-19 will not need to be hospitalized and can recover at home, according to the World Health Organization, those who do need to go to the ICU can likely expect big bills, regardless of what insurance they have. As the U.S. government works on another stimulus package, future relief is likely to help ease some economic problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but gaps remain.

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U.S. researchers gave the first shot to the first person in a test of an experimental coronavirus vaccine Monday — leading off a worldwide hunt for protection even as the pandemic surges.

Here is everything you need to know about what getting treated for COVID-19 could cost you.

How much does it cost to be hospitalized for COVID-19?

Because of our fragmented health care system, it depends on what kind of insurance you have, what your plan’s benefits are, and how much of your deductible you’ve already paid down.

A new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that the average cost of COVID-19 treatment for someone with employer insurance—and without complications—would be about $9,763. Someone whose treatment has complications may see bills about double that: $20,292. (The researchers came up with those numbers by examining average costs of hospital admissions for people with pneumonia.)

How much of that do I have to pay?

Most private health insurance plans are likely to cover most services needed to treat coronavirus complications, but that doesn’t include your deductible—the cost you pay out-of-pocket before your insurance kicks in. More than 80% of people with employer health insurance have deductibles, and last year, the average annual deductible for a single person in that category was $1,655. For individual plans, the costs are often higher. The average deductible for an individual bronze plan in 2019 was $5,861, according to Health Pocket.

Spotlight Story
Will COVID-19 Ever Really Go Away?
Here’s what one of the WHO’s top experts thinks

In both complicated and uncomplicated cases, patients with employer-based insurance can expect out-of-pocket costs of more than $1,300, the Kaiser researchers found. The costs were similar regardless of complications because many people who are hospitalized reach their deductible and out-of-pocket maximum.

Many health insurance plans also require co-pays or co-insurance, too. Those costs are often 15-20% for an in-network doctor, meaning you would pay that portion of the cost, and can be much more for out-of-network doctors.

Medicare and Medicaid will also likely cover the services needed for coronavirus treatment, but the details on deductibles (for Medicare) and potential co-pays will again depend on your plan, and which state you’re in for Medicaid.

What if I’m uninsured?

It’s not pretty. Some hospitals offer charity care programs and some states are making moves to help residents pay for COVID-19 costs beyond testing. Several states, including Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island and Washington, have created “special enrollment periods” to allow more people to sign up for insurance mid-year.

Other states are requiring coverage of future vaccines or changing rules about prescription medication refills to help people stock up on essential medicines. So far, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, New York and Oregon have required insurers to waive costs for a COVID-19 vaccine once one is ready, and the states that have loosened rules to help people fill prescriptions include Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Washington.

The Commonwealth Fund, a healthcare think tank, has a coronavirus tracker that’s keeping a list of the moves each state has made so far.

There’s no way I could afford to pay out-of-pocket for care. What can I do?

The U.S. health care system doesn’t have a good answer for you, and it’s a problem. But there are a few things to keep in mind that could help minimize costs.

If you think you may have the virus, the first step is to call your doctor or emergency department before showing up, the CDC says. This will let them prepare the office and give you instructions ahead of time, but it could also save you money. Getting treated in a hospital will generally start off more expensive than a visit to a doctor’s office. Another cost comes from the “facilities fee,” which many hospitals charge anytime a patient comes through their doors. For Danni Askini’s first trip to the hospital in Boston on Feb. 29, for example, she was charged $1,804 for her emergency room visit and another $3,841.07 for “hospital services.”

Other costs to watch out for include lab tests, which can be “out-of-network” even if the doctor treating you is in your insurance network. It’s always best to ask for information in writing so that you can appeal the bills if necessary, says Caitlin Donovan of the National Patient Advocate Foundation. And appealing is worth it. Often, providers and insurers have reversed or lowered bills when patients go public or are covered by the media.

These problems aren’t coming out of the blue. Even when we’re not weathering a global pandemic, Americans face uniquely high health care costs, compared to the rest of the world, and millions of us already put off medical care because of concerns about how much it’ll cost. But with COVID-19 sweeping across the country, an old problem becomes increasingly urgent: many Americans could still face massive treatment bills, or seek to prevent those by avoiding testing and treatment—worsening the outbreak further.

“If you’re sick, you need fewer barriers,” Donovan says. “But also, it doesn’t help society to have people still crawling around going to their job and getting other people sick.”

By Abigail Abrams March 19, 2020

Source: Total Cost of Her COVID-19 Treatment: $34,927.43

I shot this video to share my experiences living with the Coronavirus (COVID-19). I discuss the symptoms I’ve experienced, the treatments that have helped with recovery and the process I’ve been enduring to keep my family safe. Thank you for all of your kind words and support during this event. Positive energy, and prayers will get us all through this and let’s hope for the best outcome in the near future. For more information, including my COVID-19 survival guide, read: https://www.audioholics.com/editorial…  Audioholics Recommendations Amazon Shop: https://www.amazon.com/shop/audioholics Audioholics Recommended Cables: 250ft CL2 12AWG Speaker Cable: https://amzn.to/2vwS9QH Locking Banana Plugs: https://amzn.to/2ZQt15x 9ft 4K HDR HDMI Cables: https://amzn.to/2WiIXeD Audioholics Recommended Electronics: Denon AVR-X4600H 9.2CH AV Receiver: https://amzn.to/2ZTbsCe Yamaha RX-A3080 9.2CH AV Receiver: https://amzn.to/2VzA03v Denon AVR-X6400H 11.2CH AV Receiver: https://amzn.to/2LelABB Audioholics Recommended Speakers: SVS Prime 5.1 Speaker / Sub System: https://amzn.to/2GWoFCn Klipsch RP-8000F Tower Speakers: https://amzn.to/2Vd8QQn Pioneer SP-FS52 Speakers: https://amzn.to/2n7SyIJ Sony SSCS5 Speakers: https://amzn.to/2ndEn56 SVS SB-3000 13″ Subwoofer: https://amzn.to/2XYxqBr Follow us on: Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/audioholics FACEBOOK https://www.facebook.com/Audioholics GOOGLE PLUS https://plus.google.com/+Audioholics TWITTER https://twitter.com/AudioholicsLive #coronavirus #covid-19

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.

What Is Coronavirus & What Happens Now It Is a Pandemic

The disease appears to have originated from a Wuhan seafood market where wild animals, including marmots, birds, rabbits, bats and snakes, are traded illegally. Coronaviruses are known to jump from animals to humans, so it’s thought that the first people infected with the disease – a group primarily made up of stallholders from the seafood market – contracted it from contact with animals.

Although an initial analysis of the virus that causes Covid-19 suggested it was similar to viruses seen in snakes, the hunt for the animal source of Covid-19 is still on. A team of virologists at the Wuhan Institute for Virology released a detailed paper showing that the new coronaviruses’ genetic makeup is 96 per cent identical to that of a coronavirus found in bats, while an as-yet unpublished study argues that genetic sequences of coronavirus in pangolins are 99 per cent similar to the human virus. Some early cases of Covid-19, however, appear to have inflicted people with no link to the Wuhan market at all, suggesting that the initial route of human infection may pre-date the market cases.

The Wuhan market was shut down for inspection and cleaning on January 1, but by then it appears that Covid-19 was already starting to spread beyond the market itself. On January 21, the WHO Western Pacific office said the disease was also being transmitted between humans – evidence of which is apparent after medical staff became infected with the virus. Since then, evidence of widespread human-to-human transmission outside of China has been well established, making chances of containing the virus much harder.

What exactly is Covid-19?

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are known to infect both humans and animals, and in humans cause respiratory illness that range from common colds to much more serious infections. The most well-known case of a coronavirus epidemic was Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars), which, after first being detected in southern China in 2002, went on to affect 26 countries and resulted in more than 8,000 cases and 774 deaths. The number of people infected with Covid-19 has now well surpassed those hit with Sars.

While the cause of the current outbreak was initially unknown, on January 7 Chinese health authorities identified that it was caused by to a strain of coronavirus that hadn’t been encountered in humans before. Five days later the Chinese government shared the genetic sequence of the virus so that other countries could develop their own diagnostic kits. That virus is now called Sars-CoV-2.

Although symptoms of coronaviruses are often mild – the most common symptoms are a fever and dry cough – in some cases they lead to more serious respiratory tract illness including pneumonia and bronchitis. These can be particularly dangerous in older patients, or people who have existing health conditions, and this appears to be the case with Covid-19. A study of 44,415 early Chinese Covid-19 patients found that 81 per cent of people with confirmed infections experienced only mild symptoms. Of the remaining cases, 14 per cent were in a severe condition while five per cent of people were critical cases, suffering from respiratory failure, septic shock or multiple organ failure. In the Chinese study, 2.3 per cent of all confirmed cases died, although the actual death rate is probably much lower as many more people will have been infected with the virus than tested positive.

How far has it spread?

China has borne the brunt of Covid-19 infections (so far). As of March 11, Chinese health authorities had acknowledged over 81,250 cases and 3,253 deaths – most of them within the province of Hubei. On March 17, China recorded just 39 new cases of the virus – a remarkable slowdown for a country which, at the peak of its outbreak in mid-February, saw more than 5,000 cases in a single day.

But while things were slowing down in China, the outbreak started picking up in the rest of the world. There are now confirmed cases in at least 150 countries and territories. Outside of China, Italy has seen the highest number of cases, with 47,035 confirmed infections, mostly in the north of the country, and 4,032 deaths – more than in China. The entire country is now on lockdown after the quarantine covering the north of the country was extended on March 9.

Spain is also in the grip of a significant outbreak. The country has 20,410 confirmed infections and 1,043 deaths – the second-highest number within Europe. There, citizens are under lockdown, with the government shutting all schools, bars, restaurants and non-essential supermarkets down. People are only allowed to leave their homes to buy food or to go to work. Germany has 19,711 cases and 53 deaths, with the state of Bavaria implementing a full lockdown.

Iran, too, is seeing a surge in cases. The country has confirmed at least 1,433 deaths and 19,664 cases. In the US, there have been more than 14,631 cases and 210 deaths – 74 of them in Washington State, which has become the epicentre of the US outbreak.

While the number of new cases continues to rise sharply, people are also recovering from the infection. Globally, 84,960 people have recovered from Covid-19 – about 32 per cent of all of the people who had confirmed infections, although the true number of coronavirus cases will be much higher.

What’s the latest in the UK?

As of March 18, the UK has reported 3,983 confirmed Covid-19 infections and 177 deaths. On March 16, prime minister Boris Johnson led the first daily coronavirus press conference, saying that the government now advised all UK residents to avoid non-essential social contact and travel where possible. On Friday March 20 this was extended to include a shutdown of all bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants in the UK. From the same day all schools in England, Scotland and Wales were shut until further notice. Only vulnerable children, or those who are the sons and daughters of employees in the NHS or other key industries, will be permitted to remain at school.

People who currently live alone are recommended to self-isolate for seven days if they develop a fever or persistent dry cough – the two most common symptoms of coronavirus. For families and other people who live together, the advice is that the entire household should self-isolate if any member develops either of those symptoms. This strategy is part of the government’s ‘delay phase‘ plan to flatten the peak of the virus and reduce the burden on the NHS.

A key part of this plan is shielding those who are most vulnerable to Covid-19: people older than 70, or those who have underlying health conditions. The prime minister said that this shielding may last as long as 12 weeks in order to ensure that the peak of the outbreak has passed, although modelling from Imperial College London suggests that these measures may have to be in place for as long as 18 months. Despite these measures, some have been critical that the government’s stance doesn’t go far enough. Italy and Spain have both in place widespread lockdowns, while South Korea has rolled-out extremely comprehensive testing for many of its population.

The outbreak has also had a serious impact on the UK’s stock market. On March 9 the FTSE 100 fell by more than eight per cent, knocking billions off the value of major UK companies. Cinema changes Odeon, Cineworld and Vue closed their doors while Euro 2020 was also delayed until 2021, which is an added blow to broadcasters, particularly ITV.

What are the symptoms of Covid-19?

Covid-19 shares many of its symptoms with the flu or common cold, although there are certain symptoms common to flu and colds that are not usually seen in Covid-19. People with confirmed cases of Covid-19 rarely suffer from a runny nose, for instance.

The most common Covid-19 symptoms are a fever and a dry cough. Of 55,924 early Chinese cases of the disease, nearly 90 per cent of patients experienced a fever and just over two-thirds suffered with a dry cough. That’s why the UK government is advising anyone with a high temperature or a new, continuous cough to stay at home for seven days or, if they live with other people, for the entire household to isolate for 14 days from the first onset of symptoms.

Other Covid-19 symptoms are less common. Just under 40 per cent of people with the disease experience fatigue, while a third of people cough up sputum – a thick mucus from within the lungs. Other rarer symptoms include shortness of breath, muscle pain, sore throats, headaches or chills. According to the WHO, symptoms tend to appear between five and six days after infection.

What’s happening with a vaccine?

A vaccine for Covid-19 isn’t around the corner. Bringing vaccines to the market is a notoriously slow process and any potential vaccine will have to pass multiple stages of testing for safety and effectiveness. And once we know a vaccine is safe, we will also need to manufacture it at a scale high enough to use across the world. It’s likely that any vaccine is around 18 months away.

That said, there is lots of work being done to develop a vaccine for Covid-19. The pharmaceutical firm Sanofi is trying to build on its already-approved flu vaccine and turn it into something suitable to treat Covid-19. Other approaches – such as one being trialled by the University of Oxford – are focusing on the external spike proteins on the Covid-19 virus as a way to target vaccines.

But accelerating these efforts will require funding. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has called for $2 billion in funding to support the development of new coronavirus vaccines.

What’s going to happen next?

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that the window of opportunity to contain Covid-19 is “narrowing”. Recent outbreaks in Italy and Iran, which so far have no clear link to China, pose a significant challenge to health authorities trying to stop the spread of the virus.

After initially delaying the decision, on March 11, the WHO declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic. The agency cited the rapid growth of cases outside of China and the global spread of the disease as reasons behind the designation. In January, it also declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” – the highest category of warning for an infectious disease outbreak.

Since 2009 there have only been five declarations of international public health emergencies: the swine flu pandemic in 2009, a polio outbreak in 2014, the Western Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014, the Zika virus outbreak in 2015 and another Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2019.

Matt Reynolds is WIRED’s science editor. He tweets from @mattsreynolds1

Source: What is coronavirus and what happens now it is a pandemic?

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And why the disease first appeared in China. NOTE: As our expert Peter Li points out in the video, “The majority of the people in China do not eat wildlife animals. Those people who consume these wildlife animals are the rich and the powerful –a small minority.” This video explains how the people of China are themselves victims of the conditions that led to coronavirus. The virus is affecting many different countries and cultures, and there is never justification for xenophobia or racism. You can find further reading on this on Vox: https://www.vox.com/2020/2/7/21126758… https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politi… https://www.vox.com/identities/2020/3…

Life in China Has Not Returned to Normal, Despite What the Government Says

Over seven years as a media executive living in Asia, Brian Lee has made the two-hour hop from Seoul to Shanghai more times than he can remember. But his last flight, on March 9, will be difficult to forget. On arrival at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport, Lee was told that regulations had tightened while he was in the air and all passengers arriving from South Korea now had to submit to 14 days’ government quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The New Yorker was driven to a specially requisitioned three-star hotel, where nurses in hazmat suits handed him a mercury thermometer, to self-check his temperature twice daily, and a single plastic trash bag. Meals are left outside his door at 8:30 a.m., 12 noon and 6 p.m. each day. Other than opening his door to pick up his food, he has not seen beyond the drab confines of his room since. “I’m trying to stay active and positive,” says Lee, 27, a business manager for Shanghai-based media platform Radii. “I’ve been doing pushups and trying to do all the reading and writing that I haven’t had time for.”

As cases of COVID-19 stabilize in China and soar across the U.S., Middle East and Europe, the Beijing government has been busy recasting China as a sanctuary from the deadly virus, which has so far sickened 169,000 and killed at least 7,000 across the world. China’s strongman President Xi Jinping even visited the central city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, on March 10. China’s strongest leader since Mao Zedong declared that the virus was “basically curbed” across Hubei province, where Wuhan is the capital.

Virus Expert on the Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak: ‘Don’t Be Complacent. We Must Treat It Extremely Seriously’

Hong Kong infectious disease expert Yuen Kwok-yung discussed the situation of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak with TIME in an exclusive interview. He warns that the disease is very infectious and control measures must be followed.

When TIME visited Wuhan in the early days of the outbreak on Jan. 22, students were still gossiping in cafes, while shoppers browsed for meat and fish for Lunar New Year festivities. But the city that Xi toured was a ghostly relic after seven weeks of bruising quarantine that has decimated the local economy. Still, China’s official press agency Xinhua has already announced a forthcoming book on how Xi’s “outstanding leadership as a great power leader” defeated the virus. The Great Power War will be available in six languages. State media has engaged in unabashed triumphalism while describing the U.S. response as “floundering.”

But even as Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda ramps up, the experiences of people like Lee show that life across the Asian superpower remains far from normal. Offices are slowly reopening but central heating banned for fear of spreading germs. Taxi drivers hang sheets of plastic behind the front seats of their cabs to cocoon themselves from passengers. One friend in Beijing returned to work to find “the receptionist in a full white hazmat suit.” Another complained that the incessant spraying of germ-killing bleach had murdered all the office plants. The guy who installed my cable TV has also begun hawking medical masks, which are de rigueur for entering any supermarket. Grabbing noodles with my wife means sitting diagonally across a four-person table to comply with social distancing rules. When I tried to book an appointment with a lawyer, it had to be in Starbucks—her office had banned visitors—and even then the barista chastised her for standing closer than four feet while witnessing me signing documents.

More than anything, suspicion has shifted outward. Whereas ethnic Asians have faced prejudice around the globe due to the virus, inside China the tables have turned, with foreigners now the target of suspicion as cases rise overseas. This has been catalyzed by state propaganda leaping on China’s apparent success in stemming the virus as evidence that its political system is superior to Western-style democracy.

It would be “impossible for European countries to adopt the extreme measures that China has implemented” to fight the virus, the CCP mouthpiece Global Times argued in a recent editorial. Sure enough, Robert Redfield, director the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told American lawmakers March 10 that [in terms of infections] “the new China is Europe.”

Security guards bark inquisitions when they see a foreign face—“what’s your nationality? where have you been for the last two weeks?”—so that many outsiders limit their social interactions to where they feel best known. My local barber says he not longer serves foreign customers.

Suspicion is especially pronounced for Italians, given their homeland’s rise to second in COVID-19 cases after China, with 25,000 infected. Ambra Schiliro, president of the Sicily Association in China, says that one Italian under self-quarantine in her Shanghai apartment had angry neighbors call the police to demand she move to a hotel. Andrea Fenn, a member of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China, says that after some clients came to his office his Chinese partner discretely asked him, “Were they Italian? Where had they come from? Could I vouch for them?” Still, “It was an understandable reaction,” he says, “and nothing compared to the discrimination Asian people experienced in Italy at the beginning of the crisis.”

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Suspicion may be quite natural given Chinese state media’s self-serving tactic of highlighting the number of new COVID-19 cases that have arrived from overseas. On March 16, state media reported that 12 of the day’s 16 new COVID-19 infections were imported. On March 17, it was 20 out of 21. As such, in glaring doublespeak, Beijing’s own travel restrictions are deemed “essential measures,” even as countries that have closed borders with China are denounced.

Stefen Chow was lucky that he was permitted to self-quarantine in his own home upon arriving in Beijing after visiting his family home in Singapore. Only he was allowed to venture outside to collect deliveries, however, while his wife and two young children—aged four and six—couldn’t leave their front door for 14 days.

But much like what’s currently unfolding in the U.S., regulations for each Chinese city differ, and the lack of clarity regarding containment protocols has a chilling effect on business. Currently, even those traveling from Shanghai to the neighboring city of Suzhou for a meeting are technically required to submit to 14 days quarantine, perhaps even at a government facility, meaning few take the risk of venturing beyond the city limits. Those who have stayed at home must also self-quarantine if a roommate or family member returns from overseas or another province.

But in practice, implementation is largely at the discretion of CCP neighborhood committees, known as ju wei hui, or individual security guards — some of whom use their new power to shamelessly flirt with passers-by. “It has been frustratingly confusing,” says Ker Gibbs, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. “People don’t know if they can access their own apartment building, let alone their office.”

Returning to some semblance of normalcy is imperative for the Chinese and global economies. According to official data, China’s manufacturing and services sectors sank to record lows in February, car sales plunged by 80%, and China’s exports dropped 17.2% overall in January and February. As of March 18, China’s economy was operating at 71.% of typical output, according to policy research firm Trivium. Factories are being inspected one-by-one before getting the green light to reopen, but the pace of revival will depend on the nature of business; services can recover much faster than manufacturing, for example, given the latter’s reliance on knotty supply chains. High-tech and highly automated manufacturing also has a greater capacity to bounce back, being less labor-focused.

But with demand expected to crater across every sector, especially as the virus goes global, all anticipate lean times ahead. More than 100 real estate firms across the country filed for bankruptcy in January and February. Officials have been encouraging both state and private landlords to waive rents to prevent more firms going under. “I would still give [the government] reasonably high marks for communication and being proactive with business community,” says Gibbs.

Still, the state is keeping a very close eye on those attempting to re-energize the world’s number two economy. Across China, officials outside office buildings and residential compounds note visitors’ names, contact information, ID numbers and travel history in order to feed to a police database. People in some cities must register phone numbers with an app in order to take public transport. Online retail giant Alibaba has rolled out its Health Code App across 200 Chinese cities that rates users green, yellow or red dependent on travel history and possible contact with infected people. Anyone who has left the city in the past two weeks is liable to get a yellow code, and with green mandatory for access to most malls and office buildings in big cities, few book frivolous travel lest they jeopardize their score. A red code requires 14 day quarantine.

Apart from privacy concerns across what is already the world’s most surveilled state, the app has sparked consternation among those suddenly ordered to quarantine themselves with no explanation why.

There is growing weariness about measures that are little more than box-ticking. Masks are mandatory outside the home despite huge doubts over their efficacy. A temperature test is required to enter any shop, restaurant building, or even pass certain street corners. But these are so casually administered that people with readings so low as to indicate clinical hypothermia are routinely waved by. On countless occasions I’ve been rudely accosted by a supercilious doorman only for him to point the temperature gun at my coat sleeve. It’s especially frustrating since COVID-19 can spread while asymptomatic, rendering these tests ultimately pointless.

Bosses unused to employees working from home are putting them under extreme pressure, believing only increasing workload can ensure productivity at home. Miss Li, who works for Beijing start-up Bytedance and asked that TIME only uses one name as she was not permitted to speak with the media, says that she used to work 9 am to 9 pm, 6 days a week, commonly known by the shorthand “996” in China. “But now we joke that has become 007—midnight to midnight, 7 days a week,” she says.

And despite official efforts to spin the disaster, initial bungling and attempts to coverup the crisis mean the Party’s legitimacy will take a hit. A campaign to ensure the people of Hubei express “gratitude” to the CCP for containment efforts received short shrift. “The government should end its arrogance and humbly express gratitude to its masters—the millions of people in Wuhan,” wrote noted blogger Fang Fang in a post of remarkable bravery given China’s strict censorship.

Another comment appended to the profile of a whistleblower doctor quickly went viral: “The doctor risks her job to take interview, the reporter risks being charged with fabricating rumors to write the article, the media risks being shut down to publish the article, and people on WeChat risk having their accounts blocked to share the article. Today we need this ridiculous level of tacit cooperation just for a word of truth.”

Of course, truth in China is whatever the Party deems it to be. One recent afternoon, I noticed four medical personnel in hazmat suits loitering outside my apartment building. After a few minutes a neighbor pulls up with airport tags on her luggage. The medical staff check her temperature, make her sign various papers and escort her home. She won’t reappear for 14 days. Suddenly alarmed, I opened my Health Code App to check my rating is still green. China may spy victory over the virus, but normal lies a long way off, if it ever returns at all.

By Charlie Campbell / Shanghai March 18, 2020

Source: Life in China Has Not Returned to Normal, Despite What the Government Says

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Mar.12 — The faltering return of China’s oil refineries, power plants and gas importers shows it’s too soon to count on the world’s biggest energy user to revive beleaguered global prices. Meanwhile, while corporate-debt markets shut down for issuers in the U.S. and Europe for a stretch in February, with investors spooked by the economic hit from the coronavirus, China had its busiest month on record. Bloomberg’s Selina Wang reports on “Bloomberg Markets: Asia.”

Meet The Italian Engineers 3D-Printing Respirator Parts For Free To Help Keep Coronavirus Patients Alive

Christian Fracassi, founder and CEO of Isinnova, an Italian engineering startup, heard the call for help last Friday. The hospital in Chiari, in the Brescia area of northern Italy where the coronavirus pandemic has hit hard, urgently needed valves for its respirators in order to keep patients who required oxygen alive. The manufacturer couldn’t provide them quickly enough and the hospital was desperate.

Fracassi immediately started tinkering with his engineers to reverse-engineer a 3D-printed version of the official part. Called a venturi valve, it connects to a patient’s face mask to deliver oxygen at a fixed concentration. The valves need to be replaced for each patient.

By Saturday evening, Fracassi had a prototype, and, the next day, he brought it to the Chiari hospital for testing. “They told us, ‘It’s good. It works. We need 100,’” says Fracassi, who is 36 and holds a Ph.d. in materials science with a focus on polymers. “We printed 100 of them on Sunday, and we gave all the pieces to the hospital. They are working very well.”

As the coronavirus spreads globally, shortages of medical supplies have become a major problem. Manufacturers simply can’t crank up their production of life-saving medical devices fast enough. The biggest supply crunch is with ventilators, but respirator parts like the ones in Italy and even simple nasopharyngeal swabs for testing are all in short supply. Meanwhile, the technology of 3D printing, which allows digital design of parts and the “printing” of them off a machine that creates them layer by layer, is ideally suited to emergency manufacturing because it is fast, cheap and can be done without a big factory.

But it raises issues, ranging from the quality of the products in a medical situation to the patents held by the original device’s manufacturers. Typically, new 3D-printed parts have to be certified. In Italy, Fracassi says, emergency rules during the coronavirus pandemic allowed that requirement to be waived. “They said, ‘We know the product you will bring will never be the same,’” says Alessandro Romaioli, Isinnova’s engineer, who designed the 3D-printed valves. Isinnova offered the hospital in Chiari the valves for free; Fracassi says the cost to print them is two or three Euros (or $2-3) apiece. Isinnova now has the capacity to produce around 100 parts per day, and is talking with a second hospital in Italy about sending the valves there, too.

Yet potential legal and medical issues have stopped Fracassi from distributing the digital design file more widely, despite receiving hundreds of requests for the 3D-printed valves. There are complexities because hospitals use a wide variety of respirators, each of which has slightly different technical specs and would require slightly different valves. Then, too, there’s the threat of potential patent litigation, as first raised by Techdirt. “We don’t know if something is patented. We just hope the factory can close its eyes because they cannot produce it in time,” Fracassi says. “It’s only for emergencies.”

Still, in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, 3D printing offers a smart stop-gap solution at least. Davide Sher, the 3D printing analyst who wrote the original story about Isinnova for trade publication 3D Printing Media Network, subsequently created an online Emergency AM Forum to help hospitals, 3D printing companies and inventors share ideas in the fight against COVID-19. As he writes there: “While there are both copyright issues and medical issues that need to be taken into account when 3D printing any medical product, and a critical one such as a venturi valve, in particular, this case has shown that a life-and-death situation could warrant using a 3D-printable replica.”

Fracassi says that Isinnova is now working to design other medical products that hospitals need during the coronavirus pandemic. The first is a mask. The startup created a prototype earlier this week, and sent it to the hospital for testing, he says. “We are waiting for a response, and if it works, we are ready,” Fracassi says. “Then every hospital can make their own masks.”

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I’m a senior editor at Forbes, where I cover manufacturing, industrial innovation and consumer products. I previously spent two years on the Forbes’ Entrepreneurs team. It’s my second stint here: I learned the ropes of business journalism under Forbes legendary editor Jim Michaels in the 1990s. Before rejoining, I was a senior writer or staff writer at BusinessWeek, Money and the New York Daily News. My work has also appeared in Barron’s, Inc., the New York Times and numerous other publications. I’m based in New York, but my family is from Pittsburgh—and I love stories that get me out into the industrial heartland. Ping me with ideas, or follow me on Twitter @amyfeldman.

Source: Meet The Italian Engineers 3D-Printing Respirator Parts For Free To Help Keep Coronavirus Patients Alive

Cristian Fracassi and his 3D printers helped save dozens of coronavirus patients in Italy after an overwhelmed hospital ran out of crucial medical equipment in its intensive care unit. #Coronavirus #3DPrinting #Italy Subscribe: http://trt.world/subscribe Livestream: http://trt.world/ytlive Facebook: http://trt.world/facebook Twitter: http://trt.world/twitter Instagram: http://trt.world/instagram Visit our website: http://trt.world

Are People With Asthma at High Risk for Coronavirus?

Every year, people with asthma brace for seasonal colds and flu, which can aggravate wheezing and coughing. Asthma, a common long-term lung condition, can cause difficulty breathing and shortness of breath and accounts for 9.8 million doctor visits and 1.8 million hospital visits in the United States per year.

This year, people with asthma also have COVID-19 to worry about. Like other coronaviruses, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system, has infected over 135,00 people and killed nearly 5,000 as of March 13. According to health officials, those most at risk are older populations or people with pre-existing medical conditions. Now, many sufferers of asthma are asking themselves whether their condition puts them at a higher risk.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says yes. It lists asthma, along with diabetes and heart disease, as conditions that make someone “more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.” The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America also lists asthma as a chronic medical conditions which makes one more at risk, noting that asthmatics should “take precautions when any type of respiratory illness is spreading in their community.”

But experts told TIME there is little definitive evidence to say whether asthma increases the likelihood of catching the virus or of experiencing more severe illness. “The data that we have so far from China and South Korea does not identify people with asthma as being at risk of getting the virus or having more severe illness with the virus,” Sebastian Johnston, a professor of respiratory medicine & allergy at the U.K. National Heart and Lung Institute tells TIME.

David Jackson, a consultant respiratory physician and clinical lead for asthma care at Guy’s Hospital in London also says that “asthma currently doesn’t seem to be a significant risk factor for a more severe infection,” adding that the new coronavirus does not seem to be affecting asthmatics in the same way as other viruses generally.

Research on COVID-19 is at a very preliminary stage, but one study of 140 infected patients found that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the illness, has no effect on asthma. With that said, asthma has worsened with other strains of coronavirus.

However, while studies have not yet shown a link between asthma and more severe cases of COVID-19, asthmatics are at risk of more severe illness with respiratory viruses in general—and some experts say people with asthma should make additional provisions.

Johnston says people with asthma should follow all recommended precautions—such as social distancing, avoiding contact with people who have respiratory symptoms, and washing hands—but added that all asthmatics, even those with mild symptoms, should be taking their preventer inhalers “diligently” as a precautionary measure. They should also carry Ventolin—their blue reliever inhalers—with them in case of an asthma attack. Older viruses like the seasonal flu remain a threat, he notes, and people with asthma should get the seasonal flu vaccine.

Please send any tips, leads, and stories to virus@time.com.

Here’s what you need to know about coronavirus:

By Mélissa Godin March 16, 2020

Source: Are People With Asthma at High Risk for Coronavirus?

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Asthma patients are more at-risk of COVID-19

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