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9 Future Predictions For A Post-Coronavirus World

As the ripple of COVID-19 careens around the globe, it’s forcing humankind to innovate and change the way we work and live. The upside of where we find ourselves right now is that individuals and corporations will be more resilient in a post-COVID-19 world. Here are nine predictions of what our world may look like once we have left the pandemic behind.

1.  More Contactless Interfaces and Interactions

There was a time not too long ago when we were impressed by touch screens and all they enabled us to do. COVID-19 has made most of us hyper-aware of every touchable surface that could transmit the disease, so in a post-COVID-19 world, it’s expected that we’ll have fewer touch screens and more voice interfaces and machine vision interfaces. Prior to the pandemic, we saw the rollout of contactless payment options through mobile devices. However, with the increase in people wanting to limit what they touch, an option to pay for goods and services that does not require any physical contact is likely to gain traction. Machine vision interfaces are already used today to apply social media filters and to offer autonomous checkout at some stores. Expect there to be an expansion of voice and machine vision interfaces that recognize faces and gestures throughout several industries to limit the amount of physical contact.

2. Strengthened Digital Infrastructure

COVID-19 caused people to adapt to working from home and in isolation. By forcing our collective hand to find digital solutions to keep meetings, lessons, workouts, and more going when sheltering in our homes, it allowed many of us to see the possibilities for continuing some of these practices in a post-COVID-19 world. For me, I realized that traveling to other countries just for a meeting isn’t always essential, and I have learned that video calls for all kinds of meetings (yes, even board meetings) can be equally effective. My daughter had her first piano lesson over a video call thanks to our social distancing requirements, and it went surprisingly well.

3. Better Monitoring Using IoT and Big Data

We see the power of data in a pandemic in real-time. The lessons we are receiving from this experience will inform how we monitor future pandemics by using internet of things technology and big data. National or global apps could result in better early warning systems because they could report and track who is showing symptoms of an outbreak. GPS data could then be used to track where exposed people have been and who they have interacted with to show contagion. Any of these efforts require careful implementation to safeguard an individual’s privacy and to prevent the abuse of the data but offer huge benefits to more effectively monitor and tackle future pandemics.

4. AI-Enabled Drug Development

The faster we can create and deploy an effective and safe drug to treat and a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 and future viruses, the faster it will be contained. Artificial intelligence is an ideal partner in drug development because it can accelerate and complement human endeavors. Our current reality will inform future efforts to deploy AI in drug development.

 

5. Telemedicine

Have you received the emails from your healthcare professionals that they are open for telemedicine or virtual consultations? To curb traffic at hospitals and other healthcare practitioners’ offices, many are implementing or reminding their patients that consultations can be done through video. Rather than rush to the doctor or healthcare center, remote care enables clinical services without an in-person visit. Some healthcare providers had dabbled in this before COVID-19, but the interest has increased now that social distancing is mandated in many areas.

6. More Online Shopping

Although there were many businesses that felt they had already cracked the online shopping code, COVID-19 taxed the systems like never before as the majority of shopping moved online. Businesses who didn’t have an online option faced financial ruin, and those who had some capabilities tried to ramp up offerings. After COVID-19, businesses that want to remain competitive will figure out ways to have online services even if they maintain a brick-and-mortar location, and there will be enhancements to the logistics and delivery systems to accommodate surges in demand whether that’s from shopper preference or a future pandemic.

7. Increased Reliance on Robots

Robots aren’t susceptible to viruses. Whether they are used to deliver groceries or to take vitals in a healthcare system or to keep a factory running, companies realize how robots could support us today and play an important role in a post-COVID-19 world or during a future pandemic.

8. More Digital Events

Organizers and participants of in-person events that were forced to switch to digital realize there are pros and cons of both. For example, I regularly take part in technology debates in the Houses of Parliament in London. This week’s debate about ‘AI in education’ was done as a virtual event and went very well and actually had more people attend. We didn’t experience a capacity issue as we do with an in-person event, plus there were attendees logged on from all around the world. While I don’t predict that in-person events will be replaced entirely after COVID-19, I do believe event organizers will figure out ways the digital aspects can complement in-person events. I predict a steep rise in hybrid events where parts of the event take place in person, and others are delivered digitally.

9. Rise in Esports

Sporting events, organizations, and fans have had to deal with the reality of their favorite past-times being put on hold or seasons entirely canceled due to COVID-19. But esports are thriving. There are even e-versions of F1 car racing on television, and although it might not be the same as traditional Formula 1 racing, it’s giving people a “sports” outlet. Unlike mainstream sporting events, esporting events can easily transition online. Similarly to events, I predict more hybrid sports coverage where physical events are complemented with digital offerings.

COVID-19 might be taxing our systems and patience, but it’s also building our resilience and allowing us to develop new and innovative solutions out of necessity. In a post-COVID-19 world, I predict we will take the lessons handed to us by our time dealing with the virus and make our world a better place. What do you see in the future?

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For more on AI and technology trends, see Bernard Marr’s book Artificial Intelligence in Practice: How 50 Companies Used AI and Machine Learning To Solve Problems and his forthcoming book Tech Trends in Practice: The 25 Technologies That Are Driving The 4Th Industrial Revolution, which is available to pre-order now.

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

Bernard Marr is an internationally best-selling author, popular keynote speaker, futurist, and a strategic business & technology advisor to governments and companies. He helps organisations improve their business performance, use data more intelligently, and understand the implications of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, blockchains, and the Internet of Things. Why don’t you connect with Bernard on Twitter (@bernardmarr), LinkedIn (https://uk.linkedin.com/in/bernardmarr) or instagram (bernard.marr)?

Source: 9 Future Predictions For A Post-Coronavirus World

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Two Doctors Who Treated SARS: Beware These Behavioral Changes That Could Make The Coronavirus Pandemic Worse

Coronavirus Frontlines is a special series where we are sharing the perspective of experts at the forefront of combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health and wealth of the human race is unprecedented for almost every person on the planet.  The last incidence of an event of this magnitude was the Spanish Flu in 1918. There have been other pandemics caused by infectious agents in the last century — polio in the 1950s, influenza in 1957 and 1968, and more recently H1N1 in 2009 — but none of these wreaked as much havoc as COVID-19.

Human beings have tremendous difficulty in responding to unprecedented bad news – however, research has shown that our behavioral responses to it are predictable.  There are three behaviors we are observing and will continue to observe in the next few months. You should watch for these in both yourself and your loved ones to avoid falling into some mental health traps. That goes double if you’re responsible for advising decision makers, or if you are one yourself.

The first of these predictable behaviors is denial.  When we physicians break bad news to our patients, such as telling them they have a terminal illness, they often will not even hear us at first.  They use words like ‘growth’ instead of ‘cancer.’ They appear cheery in the face of awful predictions. Denial is an extremely powerful defense mechanism that allows individuals to protect themselves from completely breaking down. But the downside of denial is that it can lead to avoiding taking the essential next steps needed to avoid disaster.

In the case of COVID-19, it is clear many individuals were in denial when the images from Wuhan first emerged.  The natural reaction was, “That is far away and really can’t happen where I live.” Even when it spread through Asia, people had this same reaction. When it got to Iran, it remained easy to ignore the news, as there is little open communication with Iran. Even when it hit a Seattle nursing home, people continued to dismiss it as being far away and impacting an isolated vulnerable population.

Countries like Taiwan, which experienced SARS in 2003, avoided denial, and so were much better able to defend themselves by recognizing the threat early and proactively setting up control measures.  While denial can be useful on an individual level, it was a dire behavior for countries that were then ill prepared for this pandemic despite the clear warning signs.

The second behavior people invoke in crisis is attempting to control their immediate environment. When we treat patients in the terminal phases of their lives, it is not uncommon for troubled family members to ask us “What is his potassium level today?” This despite the detail being irrelevant to the patient’s overall health state. They can’t control the really bad thing that is happening, but it gives them comfort to focus on something they think they can control.

When COVID-19 approached, people responded by hoarding items they feared would be in short supply; both reasonable items like hand sanitizer and unreasonable items like toilet paper and over the counter cold remedies that don’t help with COVID-19. Trying to maintain control helps soothe the fear, but it is only temporary and false security. It becomes further detrimental when hoarding leads to panic.

The third behavior is the thirst for good news. Having one young patient with COVID-19 come off of a ventilator and recover can have a tremendous impact on the morale of the healthcare providers. The relief of hearing that infected friends have recovered can feel like a major victory. But the intense desire to find good news is also a trap.

During the SARS outbreak in Toronto, one of us chaired a daily conference call of clinicians in all hospitals in Ontario.  In early May 2003, it appeared the outbreak was finally contained. But on those calls one clinician voiced concern about a cluster of patients in her hospital that didn’t have clear SARS infections but warranted further investigation. The rest of us wanted it to be over so badly that our bias led us to dismiss this information and declare the outbreak controlled.  One week later, those patients created a new cluster of SARS, and we had to do it all over again.

We fully expect that in addition to the tremendous pressure to get the economy going again, that the ‘thirst for good news bias’ will rear its head with tremendous force. The same countries that used denial to cope with the start of this pandemic will fall into this trap — with dire consequences.  When we start to see reduction in the number of new cases of COVID-19, the job is far from over. This is when it gets challenging, because it is vital to continue physical distancing measures until there is a sustained reduction in cases. Despite the personal, economic and socio-political damage this causes, it is only then that public health authorities should start to lift these restrictions.

Recognizing these three behaviors, which are the natural result of normal human cognitive psychology, will be crucial in determining how this all ends (or at least how it plays out until we have an effective vaccine). And this is why we believe that while heads of governments should be accountable for what happens in their countries, they should leave the decision making to public health scientists.  Those scientists in turn would do well to consult with behavioral psychologists to weed out destructive biases, so they can devise the right strategies to save lives and get us back to normal again.

Dr. Allan S. Detsky is a Professor, Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, and Department of  Medicine at the University of Toronto; former

Dr. Isaac Bogoch is an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto in the Department of Medicine, and is an Infectious Diseases specialist and General Internist at the Toronto General Hospital with a focus on tropical diseases, HIV, and general infectious diseases. He completed medical school and Internal Medicine residency training at the University of Toronto, and then specialized in Infectious Diseases at Harvard University. He holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health, and has completed fellowships in both Tropical Infectious Diseases and HIV care. Dr. Bogoch divides his clinical and research time between Toronto and several countries in Africa and Asia and he collaborates with a team that models the spread of emerging infectious diseases

Source: Two Doctors Who Treated SARS: Beware These Behavioral Changes That Could Make The Coronavirus Pandemic Worse

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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.

By:

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

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As Europe Locks Down, Sweden Takes A Liberal Approach To Coronavirus

Topline: Sweden is taking a more liberal strategy to combat coronavirus than its European neighbors. As confirmed cases and deaths spike, some Swedes are calling for the government to rethink the country’s strategy.

  • Unlike the rest of the continent, people in Sweden as of Friday were still permitted to visit restaurants for sit-down meals, get a haircut and even send children under the age of 16 to school.
  • It’s all part of Sweden’s plan that focuses on self-responsibility as the government turns its attention to isolating and treating confirmed coronavirus patients, instead of widespread shelter-in-place orders.
  • Sweden’s Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has expressed skepticism about enforcing a sustained period of lockdown. While bans have been placed on gatherings of 50 or more people and Swedes have been told to avoid unnecessary travel, these are relatively laidback restrictions when compared to other European countries that are shutting down schools and restricting everyday movement.
  • The government instead has emphasized a set of guidelines, like encouraging increased hand washing, social distancing and limiting contact with vulnerable people, like those over age 70.
  • Recent numbers show Swedes appear to be following social distancing guidelines even when they’re not required by law. Passenger numbers on public transportation in the capital have fallen by half, and polls indicate that half of residents there are working from home.
  • However, some critics say people need more stringent guidelines to follow as both deaths and new cases have risen in the past week. Last month, more than 2,000 academics signed an open letter in March to demand tougher measures from the government

Crucial quote: “It is important to have a policy that can be sustained over a longer period, meaning staying home if you are sick, which is our message,” Tegnell said. “Locking people up at home won’t work in the longer term. Sooner or later people are going to go out anyway.”

Key background: The Swedish Health Agency reported 612 new cases on Friday alone, bringing the countrywide total to about 6,000. The same day, the death toll hit 333. Between 25 to 30 people have died each day. Stockholm has seen the most coronavirus cases, accounting for more than half of the whole country’s fatalities, according to Reuters CRI .

What to watch for: Whether coronavirus cases increase in Sweden in the coming weeks. According to The Daily Mail, one statistician in Sweden said half the population could become infected in April.

Interesting fact: According to YouGov data, Sweden is the country least afraid of the coronavirus pandemic, with only 31% of Swedes say they are “very” or “somewhat” scared that they will contract the virus.

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I am a Texas native covering breaking news out of New York City. Previously, I was a Forbes intern in London. I am an alum of City, University of London and Texas State University.

Source: As Europe Locks Down, Sweden Takes A Liberal Approach To Coronavirus

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What to Know About Coronavirus Immunity and Chances of Reinfection

Troubling headlines have been cropping up across Asia: Some patients in China, Japan and South Korea who were diagnosed with COVID-19 and seemingly recovered have been readmitted to the hospital after testing positive for the virus again.

Because SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, was only discovered a few months ago, scientists are still trying to answer many big questions related to the virus and the disease it causes. Among them is whether patients can be reinfected by the virus after they seem to recover from the symptoms.

With other coronavirus strains, experts say the antibodies that patients produce during infection give them immunity to the specific virus for months or even years, but researchers are still figuring out if and how that works with COVID-19.

The answer has huge implications for the spread of the disease, since researchers believe it will continue to crash across the world in waves, hitting the same country multiple times.

Can you get re-infected after recovering from COVID-19?

There remains a lot of uncertainty, but experts TIME spoke with say that it’s likely the reports of patients who seemed to have recovered but then tested positive again were not examples of re-infection, but were cases where lingering infection was not detected by tests for a period of time.

Experts say the body’s antibody response, triggered by the onset of a virus, means it is unlikely that patients who have recovered from COVID-19 can get re-infected so soon after contracting the virus. Antibodies are normally produced in a patient’s body around seven to 10 days after the initial onset of a virus, says Vineet Menachery, a virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Instead, testing positive after recovery could just mean the tests resulted in a false negative and that the patient is still infected. “It may be because of the quality of the specimen that they took and may be because the test was not so sensitive,” explains David Hui, a respiratory medicine expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who also studied the 2002-2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which is caused by a coronavirus in the same family as SARS-CoV-2.

A positive test after recovery could also be detecting the residual viral RNA that has remained in the body, but not in high enough amounts to cause disease, says Menachery. “Viral RNA can last a long time even after the actual virus has been stopped.”

Keep up to date on the growing threat to global health by signing up for our daily coronavirus newsletter.

Where have patients tested positive for COVID-19 after seeming to have recovered?

A study on recovered COVID-19 patients in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen found that 38 out of 262, or almost 15% of the patients, tested positive after they were discharged. They were confirmed via PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, currently the gold standard for coronavirus testing. The study has yet to be peer reviewed, but offers some early insight into the potential for re-infection. The 38 patients were mostly young (below the age of 14) and displayed mild symptoms during their period of infection. The patients generally were not symptomatic at the time of their second positive test.

In Wuhan, China, where the pandemic began, researchers looked at a case study of four medical workers who had three consecutive positive PCR tests after having seemingly recovered. Similar to the study in Shenzhen, the patients were asymptomatic and their family members were not infected.

Outside of China, at least two such cases have also been reported in Japan (including one Diamond Princess cruise passenger) and one case was reported in South Korea. All three of them reportedly showed symptoms of infection after an initial recovery, and then re-tested as positive.

Does recovering from COVID-19 make you immune?

There hasn’t been enough time to research COVID-19 in order to determine whether patients who recover from COVID-19 are immune to the disease—and if so, how long the immunity will last. However, preliminary studies provide some clues. For example, one study conducted by Chinese researchers (which has not yet been peer-reviewed) found that antibodies in rhesus monkeys kept primates that had recovered from COVID-19 from becoming infected again upon exposure to the virus.

In the absence of more information, researchers have been looking at what is known about other members of the coronavirus family. “We are only three and a half months into the pandemic,” Hsu Li Yang, an associate professor and infectious disease expert at the National University of Singapore, says. “The comments we’re making are based on previous knowledge of other human coronavirus and SARS. But whether they extrapolate across COVID-19, we’re not so sure at present.”

One study conducted by Taiwanese researchers found that survivors of the SARS outbreak in 2003 had antibodies that lasted for up to three years—suggesting immunity. Hui notes that survivors of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS, which is also caused by a virus related to the one that causes COVID-19) were found to last just around a year.

Menachery estimates that COVID-19 antibodies will remain in a patient’s system for “two to three years,” based on what’s known about other coronaviruses, but he says it’s too early to know for certain. The degree of immunity could also differ from person to person depending on the strength of the patient’s antibody response. Younger, healthier people will likely generate a more robust antibody response, giving them more protection against the virus in future.

“We would expect that if you have antibodies that neutralize the virus, you will have immunity,” Menachery says. “How long the antibodies last is still in question.”

By Hillary Leung April 3, 2020

Source: What to Know About Coronavirus Immunity and Chances of Reinfection

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More Than 160 New Jersey Police Officers Tested Positive for Coronavirus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Hay Fever or Coronavirus?

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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

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

1

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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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

Critics: USCIS Policies Make Immigration Difficult And Dangerous

In the age of coronavirus, policies imposed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are making it difficult for businesses, high-skilled professionals and others to file applications and meet deadlines. Attorneys say that although USCIS has made one positive accommodation their clients deserve policies that better take into account the new health and safety realities of doing business under social distancing, remote work and USCIS office closures.

In general, USCIS policies are years behind and have not adapted to the modern work environment, which has become more evident in the face of worldwide concerns about coronavirus. A glaring example, attorneys say, is USCIS still does not permit electronic filing for the most commonly used employment-based forms.

While USCIS service centers continue to operate, many businesses are following the recommendations of health experts and have moved to remote work. Paper-based applications and hard copy checks to pay filing fees are still required for most employment-based petitions. Vic Goel, managing partner of Goel & Anderson, said USCIS has not indicated it will relax or grant leniency on required filing dates and Requests for Evidence (RFE) response dates.

“Employers and law firms are straining to maintain paper-based processes while working remotely,” said Goel in an interview. “Particularly in areas where people have been told to temporarily close, as in California, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania, it has become difficult to comply with USCIS requirements and meet filing deadlines.”

On March 20, 2020, USCIS made an accommodation welcomed by attorneys and employers by relaxing the requirement to obtain “wet” signatures on forms. “For forms that require an original ‘wet’ signature, per form instructions, USCIS will accept electronically reproduced original signatures for the duration of the National Emergency,” USCIS said in a statement. “This temporary change only applies to signatures. All other form instructions should be followed when completing a form.”

“The relaxation of the signature requirement helps but USCIS has not addressed the fact that applications are still paper-based or that the agency requires hard copy checks,” said Goel.

A practical solution would be for USCIS to allow filing fees to be charged on a credit card for all form types using Form G-1450, which is now permitted only for applications processed at a USCIS lockbox and, therefore, excludes the major employment-based applications filed at USCIS service centers. Goel notes USCIS also could issue an interim final rule to allow ACH payments direct from a bank using Form G-1450. Applications (or petitions) filed at service centers include H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, H-3, L-1, O-1, TN and a few others.

While the annual H-1B lottery garners most of the media attention, USCIS adjudicates more than twice as many H-1B petitions each year for continuing employment. (These are extensions for existing H-1B visa holders.) In addition, employers often need to file amendments for H-1B employees, including when they must work in a new metropolitan statistical area (MSA). There are also many applications for L-1 visa holders and employment-based immigrants that need processing.

Goel and other attorneys note current USCIS practices go against Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for controlling coronavirus. The process of gathering documents, forms and checks means Goel’s law firm has been forced to circulate employees in and out of the firm’s offices rather than permit everyone to work from home.

USCIS is not the only government agency whose policies have been questioned. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been criticized for requiring attorneys to provide their own protective gear to visit clients in detention. “ICE/ERO [Enforcement and Removal Operations] now requires all legal visitors, CODELs, and STAFFDELs to provide and wear personal protective equipment (PPE) (disposable vinyl gloves, N-95 or surgical masks, and eye protection) while visiting any detention facility,” according to ICE guidelines. Attorneys point out there is currently a shortage of such equipment.

Many foreign nationals are facing crucial deadlines and, unlike in a number of other countries, USCIS has not relaxed immigration deadlines. France has extended all expiring residence permits for 90 days, according to the Fragomen law firm, while Ireland has provided a “blanket two-month automatic renewal of immigration status for all foreign nationals whose status is due to expire March 29 to May 20, 2020.”

USCIS offices are closed at least until April 1, 2020. However, a new government directive discourages people gathering in federal offices. Combined with other concerns, the directive could delay reopening USCIS offices to the public.

The problem, Jeffrey Gorsky, a senior counsel with Berry Appleman & Leiden, said in an interview is many applications require in-person interviews or access to a USCIS office. For example, USCIS requires interviews as part of the process to obtain family-based and employment-based adjustment of status (to obtain a green card inside the United States). The same is true for naturalization. For several other immigration applications, biometrics collection (photos and fingerprints) must be done at USCIS offices.

The spouses of H-1B visa holders and individuals with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), among others, are likely to miss deadlines to renew Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) if USCIS office closures continue, note attorneys. Without an EAD many individuals cannot work legally in the United States. “USCIS remote work agreements, office closures and staff reductions portend more and more interview cancellations, appointment reschedulings, adjudication delays and backlog buildups that will likely become worse over time,” according to  the Seyfarth law firm.

“If the effects of the virus severely disrupt USCIS’s operations, the agency will likely not be able to decide requests to extend or renew work visa status or temporary employment authorization (for persons in the employment-based green card queue filing for adjustment of status) within an acceptable turnaround time,” writes Seyfarth. “Current regulations allowing interim employment authorization while an extension or renewal request is pending – up to 240 days to extend status for most work-visa holders and 180 days for adjustment of status applicants under current regulations – could thus prove to be insufficient.”

Seyfarth concludes: “Unless USCIS takes action to prolong and expand interim grants of employment authorization for pending immigration benefits requests, or otherwise excuse status violations, the situation for employers and their noncitizen temporary workers (and families) will become dire.”

In a March 16, 2020, statement, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (ABIL) urged U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the State Department and other federal agencies to “announce the immediate suspension of all immigration compliance deadlines in order to help minimize harms to public safety and business continuity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In sum, critics say USCIS can adapt its policies to the new realities of coronavirus – or it can continue its old ways that have made life more difficult and dangerous for attorneys, employers and immigrants.

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I am the executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan public policy research organization focusing on trade, immigration and related issues based in Arlington, Virginia. From August 2001 to January 2003, I served as Executive Associate Commissioner for Policy and Planning and Counselor to the Commissioner at the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Before that I spent four and a half years on Capitol Hill on the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, first for Senator Spencer Abraham and then as Staff Director of the subcommittee for Senator Sam Brownback. I have published articles in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and other publications. I am the author of a non-fiction book called Immigration.

Source: Critics: USCIS Policies Make Immigration Difficult And Dangerous

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They leave their communities and loved ones behind for a better life in the United States. The journey is perilous and survival is not guaranteed. Illegal immigration. Which side of the fence are you on? Walk in the footsteps of these Migrants. Watch Borderland, Sundays only on Al Jazeera America. http://alj.am/borderland

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