COVID-19 cases dropped about 5 percent this week, while testing rose 12 percent as backlogs in reported tests—always a little slower to recover than reported cases—rolled in following disruptive mid-February storms. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped almost 16 percent week over week, making this the seventh straight week of sharp declines in hospitalizations. States and territories reported 12,927 deaths this week, including a substantial backlog from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The decline in cases has been a point of confusion in the past week, as daily reports briefly jogged up after a large drop following the long Presidents’ Day weekend and disruptive winter storms in mid-February. A look at percentage change in reported cases since November 1 helps illustrate the dips and rises in reported cases seen around Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and—more recently—the winter storms in mid-February. (On November 8, California did not report data in time to be included in our daily compilation.) Cases may plateau or rise at any point, and a close watch of the numbers is essential as vaccinations roll out alongside the spread of SARS-CoV-2 variants. But we would urge data watchers to be wary of conflating reporting artifacts with real changes in the state of the pandemic.
Although it seems unlikely, based on current figures, that a new surge is showing up in the case numbers, it is quite possible that case declines are beginning to slow. With reported tests up 12 percent this week—likely also because of a storm-related dip and rise—it’s impossible to be certain whether the case decline is slowing because of an increase in testing, or because disease prevalence itself is declining, albeit more slowly. We can look to other metrics, however, to help us interpret the past two weeks of case numbers.
One way to confirm that a change in reported cases—especially one preceded by a disruptive event like a holiday or a major storm—reflects reality is to look at new hospital admissions. This metric, which is available in the federal hospitalization data set, has tracked very closely with cases since the hospitalization data set stabilized last fall, but has not shown the same vulnerability to reporting disruptions produced by holidays or severe weather. Charting federal case data against new-admissions data shows that the decline in new admissions continues, though slightly more slowly than the decline in cases.
This signal helps confirm that the brief rise in daily reported cases in the past week was very unlikely to signal a new surge in cases—though, again, cases may not be dropping as quickly as they were in late January and early February. It’s nevertheless important to note that cases remain extremely high, and have only this week dipped below the peak of the summer’s case surge. (Though we’re almost certainly detecting a larger percentage of cases now than we were in the summer, as our testing capacity in the U.S. has increased.) The sustained decline in cases and hospitalizations is very encouraging, but with multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 gaining footholds in U.S. cities, it remains vitally important to further reduce the virus’s spread via masking, social distancing, and avoiding indoor gatherings.
Although it may seem that the decline in hospitalizations is slowing down in recent weeks, the percentage decrease remains robust.
Reported COVID-19 deaths, too, continue to decline. The particularly sharp drop in the week beginning February 11, which included Presidents’ Day and the beginning of the winter storms that affected data reporting in many states, was balanced by a smaller drop in the week of February 18. This week, deaths dropped by an encouraging 11 percent.
It’s important to note that many states have recently added large numbers of COVID-19 deaths from previous months to their totals. In Virginia, cases and hospitalizations have been dropping for weeks, but after reporting fewer than 100 deaths a day for the entirety of the pandemic up to this week, the Commonwealth is now reporting hundreds of deaths every day—most of which occurred in December and January.
The addition of these backlogged deaths—like the 4,000 deaths from previous months recently reported by Ohio—obscures the reality of rapidly declining recent deaths. It also underlines the fact that deaths at the peak of the winter surge were actually much higher than the already-devastating numbers reported in December and January.
For the week ending February 25, COVID-19 deaths in long-term-care facilities have continued to decline as a share of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. (As we did in last week’s analysis, we have excluded from this chart all data for four states—Indiana, Missouri, New York, and Ohio—that recently added large numbers of undated deaths from previous months to their totals. The addition of these historical death figures to recent weeks made it impossible to follow recent trends at the national level without this exclusion.)
It’s our final week of compiling and interpreting data here at the COVID Tracking Project, and we’ve spent much of the past few weeks explaining how to use data from the federal government in place of our patchwork data set. We’ve packaged up everything we’ve learned about federal case numbers, death numbers, hospitalization data, and testing data, as well as long-term-care-facility data. For more casual data users, we’ve also written a short primer on how to find easy-to-use charts and metrics from the CDC. It’s even possible to replicate three-quarters of our daily four-up top-line chart using data from the CDC, although the data are one day behind the state-reported data we compile.
In this version, new hospital admissions are included instead of tests—test data are available from the federal government, but are not in a date-of-report arrangement that matches the other top-line metrics. (We’ll be publishing a separate post showing how to produce this visual within the next few days.)
Long-term-care data wrap-up: Tonight marks our final compilation of data at the Long-Term-Care COVID Tracker, and we’ve just published a look at the subset of long-term-care-facility data available in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Nursing Home data set. This federal data set includes only nursing homes and accounts for about 27 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. to date. The long-term-care data set we stitched together from state reports, by contrast, includes assisted-living facilities where states report them, and accounts for at least 35 percent of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths.
Race and ethnicity data wrap-up: For 11 months, we have shown that the COVID-19 race and ethnicity data published by U.S. states are patchy and incomplete—and that they nevertheless have indicated major inequities in the pandemic’s effects. Both of these things are true of the demographic data available from the CDC: Many data are missing, and what data are reported show ongoing disparities. Our introduction to the federal data will be posted later this week, and we’ll be publishing deeper analyses in the coming weeks.
As we wind down our compilation efforts, the United States is at a crucial moment in the pandemic: Decisive action now is our best chance at preventing a fourth surge in cases and outpacing the variants, which may be more transmissible than the original virus according to preliminary (preprint) data. Over the weekend, the FDA issued a third Emergency Use Authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine, this time for Janssen/Johnson & Johnson’s adenovirus vector vaccine, which showed impressive safety and efficacy results in its global clinical trials. The Biden administration announced Tuesday that the U.S. should have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for every adult by the end of May—a dramatic acceleration from previous timelines.
Today’s weekly update is our 39th and last. We began writing them back in June 2020 as a way of offering a deeper interpretation of data points that was less jittery than those in the daily tweets. As we puzzled through the data and watched for indications of changing trends, we’ve tried to help people understand what has happened to us as the pandemic has ebbed and surged.
Although our data compilation will come to an end on Sunday, March 7, our work at the COVID Tracking Project will continue in other forms for another few months, as our teams complete their long-term analyses and wrap up documentation and archiving efforts. We’ll continue to post our work on the CTP site and link to it on Twitter until we finally close up shop in late spring.
Throughout the year that we’ve compiled this data, we’ve tried to explain not only what we think the data mean, but how we came to our conclusions—and how we tested and challenged our own analyses. We hope that one result of our doing this work in public is that our readers feel better prepared to do the same for themselves and their communities.
The federal government is now publishing more and better COVID-19 data than ever before. Some gaps remain, but far fewer than at any previous moment in the pandemic. To those of you who have relied on our work this year, thank you for your trust. We’ve tried very hard to deserve it, and we believe that we’re leaving you in good hands.
Mandy Brown, Artis Curiskis, Alice Goldfarb, Erin Kissane, Alexis C. Madrigal, Kara Oehler, Jessica Malaty Rivera, and Peter Walker contributed to this report.
The COVID Tracking Project is a volunteer organization launched from The Atlantic and dedicated to collecting and publishing the data required to understand the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.
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For the first 34 years of my life, I always ate three meals a day. I never thought much about it—the routine was satisfying, it fit easily into my life, and eating three meals a day is just what Americans generally do. By the end of last summer, though, those decades of habit had begun to erode. The time-blindness of working from home and having no social plans left me with no real reason to plod over to my refrigerator at any specific hour of the day. To cope, I did what many Americans have done over the past year: I quasi-purposefully fumbled around for a new routine, and eventually I came up with some weird but workable results—and with Big Meal.
Big Meal is exactly what it sounds like: a meal that is large. It’s also untethered from linear time. Big Meal is not breakfast, lunch, or dinner—social constructs that no longer exist as such in my home—although it could theoretically occur at the traditional time for any of them. Big Meal comes when you’re ready to have it, which is a moment that only you can identify. For me, this is typically in the late afternoon, but sometimes it’s at breakfast. Generally, Big Meal happens once a day.
In the dieting (excuse me, biohacking) trend known as intermittent fasting, people compress their calories into a limited window of hours. But that’s not what Big Meal is at all. It’s not a diet. I snack whenever I feel like it—Triscuits with slices of pepper jack, leftover hummus from the Turkish takeout place that sometimes provides Big Meal, a glob of smooth peanut butter on a spoon. The phrase started as a joke about my inability to explain to a friend why I was making risotto in the middle of the afternoon, or why I didn’t have an answer to “What’s for dinner?” at 6 p.m. beyond “Uh, well, I ate a giant burrito at 11 a.m. and grazed all afternoon, so I think I’m done for the day.” Now I simply say, “It’s time for Big Meal,” or “I already had Big Meal.”
This curious change in my own eating was just the beginning. The pandemic has disrupted nearly every part of daily life, but the effects on how people eat have been particularly acute. Dining closures and weekend boredom have pushed a country of reticent cooks to prepare more of its own meals. Delivery-app middlemen have tightened their grip on the takeout market. Supply shortages have made flour, beans, pasta, and yeast hot commodities. Viral recipes have proliferated—can I interest anyone in sourdough, banana bread, shallot pasta, baked feta, or a truly excellent cast-iron-pan pizza?
Even for people who have had a relatively stable existence over the past year, pandemic mealtime changes have been chaotic. Which isn’t to say that they’ve been uniformly negative. Big shifts in daily life have a way of forcing people into new habits—and forcing them to figure out what they actually want to eat.
If you pore over the food-business news from the past year, there’s little question that lots of people have changed their habits in one way or another. For instance, many people are buying more snacks—in January, Frito-Lay said that some of its marquee brands, such as Tostitos and Lay’s, had finished the year with sales increases of roughly 30 to 40 percent. The entire “fruit snack” category has more than doubled its sales, according to one market analysis. Frozen-food sales are up more than 20 percent, and online orders of packaged foods as varied as chewing gum and wine have also seen a marked increase.
But sales numbers and trend reports tell only part of the story. Underneath them are people trying to mold their individual circumstances to survivability, or maybe even pleasure, however they can, and the biggest unifying factor is that “normal” hardly exists anymore. For millions of people who have lost income during the pandemic, just getting groceries is often a hard-fought victory. Among the wealthy, constant Caviar deliveries and access to private, pandemic-safe dining bubbles at fine restaurants have kept things novel. Households in the middle have scrambled to form new, idiosyncratic routines all their own.
Wendy Robinson, a community-college administrator in St. Paul, Minnesota, told me that working from home most of the week has had the opposite effect on her than it did on me: It added more meals to her life. Before the pandemic, “a lot of my eating was really convenience-driven, and I didn’t have a dedicated lunchtime, because I just was so busy,” she said. Food came erratically—from a co-worker’s desk, from the campus cafeteria, from Starbucks, picked up on the way home after a late night at work. Now she eats a real lunch most days, and she cooks more—a hobby she has always enjoyed—because she can do it while she’s on conference calls and during what used to be her commute.
Kids have necessitated their own set of pandemic adaptations. Robinson and her husband, who also works from home most of the time, have two kids who attend school remotely. Despite a rough first few months and plenty of ongoing stresses, Robinson says the at-home life has also given her more opportunity to cook with her kids and teach them the basics. Lately, her 12-year-old son has begun to enthusiastically pitch in during the family’s meals. “He makes a legit great omelet and delicious scrambled eggs, and he makes himself grilled cheese,” Robinson said. “Sometimes, when I am really busy, he will make me lunch now.”
With younger kids, things can be a little trickier. Scott Hines’s sons, 4 and 5, aren’t yet old enough to manage many cooking tasks for themselves, but they are old enough to seek out munchies. “I swear there are days where they’ve eaten snacks and no meals,” Hines, an architect based in Louisville, Kentucky, told me. “The days that they’re doing online learning, it’s impossible to control that, just because they’re bored.” On the upside, Hines, an enthusiastic cook who runs a newsletter for sharing his favorite recipes, said that working from home for part of the week has allowed him to try more types of cooking projects this year. Before, he often relied on foods that could be microwaved or otherwise prepared quickly. Now, he said, “I can make a soup; I can make something that goes in the pressure cooker or sits in the Dutch oven for hours, because I can start it at lunchtime.”
For people without kids, and especially those who live alone, the pandemic’s impact works out a little differently in the kitchen. When it’s just you, there’s no bugging your partner to wash the dishes or trading off cooking duties with a roommate or letting a budding teen chef chop the vegetables. It’s all you, every time you’re hungry. “The amount of effort is immense,” Ashley Cornall, a 30-year-old project manager in San Francisco, told me. “It’s spending my entire life washing dishes, or in my kitchen, prepping something.”
Before the pandemic, many of Cornall’s meals were social occasions, or something quick picked up from the zillions of restaurants built to feed the Bay Area’s office workers in their offices. She still orders takeout occasionally, but often feels bad about asking a delivery person to ferry food to her. Because constant Zoom meetings during the day make it hard to slip out to pick something up, she tends to find herself cobbling together a meal out of snacks.
Even so, Cornall told me she has grown to enjoy cooking when she does have the time for it. “There is something kind of nice about putting on music and cooking a meal in the evening and having half a glass of wine, taking a moment to enjoy it,” she said. Having more control over what’s in her food has also helped her get closer to a longtime goal of switching to vegetarianism; she’s not totally there yet, but she eats a lot less meat than she used to.
Splintering the three-meals-a-day norm might at first feel unnatural, but in the long arc of human history, that eating schedule is both extremely recent and born almost entirely of social convenience. According to Amy Bentley, a food historian at NYU, eating three meals a day is not something we do because of nutritional science or a natural human inclination. Instead, it’s largely a consequence of industrialization, which formalized the workday and drew much of the population away from home on a regular basis.
Preindustrial America was more rural and agrarian, and people worked during daylight hours, pausing midmorning and later in the afternoon. “It was more like a two-meal kind of schedule that was based on outdoor physical labor and farm labor, and those meals tended to be quite big,” Bentley told me.
Over time, more and more Americans were drawn into daily life outside the home—more kids were sent to school, and housewives and domestic workers, whose presence was once common in middle-class American homes, joined the formal labor market. Industrialized food processing began to provide an array of products marketed as quick-and-easy breakfast foods—products that had never previously existed but whose ubiquity accelerated after World War II. Industrialized breakfasts such as cornflakes and instant oatmeal make for meals that are generally small and nutritionally hollow, which meant that people then needed to eat again during the day before commuting home for a later dinner, which was—and often still is—important for its role in family social life.
You can probably see the fault lines already. Of course vanishing commutes, remote schooling, and the flexibility to make a sandwich during a conference call would change how people eat. The three-meal-a-day axiom was created to bend human life around the necessity of leaving the home to work elsewhere for the whole day, and now people are bending once again, around a whole new set of challenges. Our old eating schedules are no more natural than sitting in a cubicle for 10 hours a day.
But food is a fraught emotional topic, and people often worry that changes in their behavior—even those that feel natural—are somehow unhealthy. Rachel Larkey, a registered dietitian in Yonkers, New York, who specializes in treating eating disorders among her mostly low-income clients, has heard this worry frequently over the past year. “Folks are feeling like their routines are kind of nebulous now, and they don’t have a lot of structure in their day,” she told me. “If we have a routine, our body starts to say, Okay, it’s noon; it’s my lunchtime. I’m hungry now.” Without that expectation, people notice their hunger at hours of the day that aren’t necessarily mealtimes, or find themselves without much of an appetite when they think they’re supposed to eat.
These challenges hit everybody differently. Adapting to your own shifting needs is easier if you have money to buy kitchen equipment and food, or if eating isn’t a stressful, emotional minefield for you. But Larkey said that much of the scaremongering about the “quarantine 15” is silly. People naturally gain and lose weight as the conditions of their life change, and extreme reactions to gaining a few pounds right now can compound the harm of the pandemic’s other stresses on physical and mental health. What matters, Larkey told me, is whether the changes in your eating habits make you feel good and healthy—whether they fit your current life and your needs better than what you were doing before.
New or worsening food compulsions, such as eating far more or far less than you used to, are cause for alarm. But what’s not cause for alarm, Larkey said, is adjusted eating patterns or mealtimes that are more useful or satisfying in the weird, stressful conditions people are now living in. “We’re really not taught that we can trust our body’s cues,” she told me. “It can feel so destabilizing to have to think about them for maybe the first time ever.”
In some of the new routines created to make the past year a little less onerous, it’s not hard to see how life after the pandemic might be made a little more flexible—more humane—for tasks as essential as cooking and eating. For now, though, go ahead and do whatever feels right. There’s no reason to keep choking down your morning Greek yogurt if you’re not hungry until lunch, or to force yourself to cook when you’re bone tired and would be just as happy with cheese and crackers. You might not make it all the way to Big Meal, but you don’t have to be stuck at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
So with this Covid-19 AKA The Coronavirus has swept across the world and sent a lot of people into a panic, and the shops are empty of non perishable goods, which is Pasta, Rice and most tinned goods. But if you have these things then you can take part in the Pandemic Meals lol. So we have Pasta, Cream of Mushroom Soup(Heinze) Salt, Pepper and Mixed Herbs. #COVID19#coronavirus#pandemic#teamctb#christhebutcher#virus
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NEWS 2020 Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner shifts to meal delivery in lieu of sit-down dinner Published: September 29, 2020, 5:28 pm Tags: Tradition, News, Covid-19, Local News, Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner, Coronavirus Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meals will still be prepared, but volunteers will deliv
The coronavirus pandemic has a lot of dark sides. Around the world, people get ill and die, schools close, the healthcare system is overloaded, employees lose their jobs, companies face bankruptcy, stock markets collapse and countries have to spend billions on bailouts and medical aid. And for everyone, whether directly hurt or not, Covid-19 is a huge stressor shaking up our psyche, triggering our fears and uncertainties.
No matter how serious and sad all of this is, there are upsides as well. Therefore, along the Monty Python song “Always look on the bright side of life” let’s not forget those and make the best of what the crisis gives us. As the good old SWOT analysis tells us, there are not only threats, but also opportunities. With opportunities I don’t mean that the crisis provides extra business for companies like Zoom and Go to Webinar that enable virtual meetings, or for Amazon, which is planning to hire another 100,000 employees. The latter is probably more a threat than an opportunity for most, especially for the mom & pop stores that go through difficult times already.
With opportunities I mean general opportunities that are available for most people affected by the crisis. The current crisis offers at least seven of them:
Opportunity 1: More time
In today’s overheated economy time is often seen as the most valuable and sparse thing we have. Covid-19 shows why: because we have stacked our week with social gatherings and entertainment such as going to the theater, birthdays, cinema, restaurant, bar, sportclub, gym, music, festivals, concerts and what is more. Suddenly, all of that is cancelled or forbidden, giving us significant amounts of extra time. And still, live goes on. This shows us how easy it is to clear our calendars. Obviously this doesn’t apply to the health-care sector and other crucial sectors, but beyond those it applies to a large majority of sectors.
The opportunity is that we can spend this time on other things—or even better, on nothing and enjoy the free time. Looking at the crowded parks, waste collection points, garden centres and DIY stores in the last week, many people seem to have a hard time with the latter. Instead of enjoying the extra free time, they fill it immediately with other activities. To seize this first opportunity though, re-arranging how you spend your time and reserving time for nothingness is key. Not just during the crisis, but also after it. The advices in my previous article on the Covid-19 crisis could help in realizing this.
This offers a great opportunity to rethink our habits and routines and make changes. Now that you haven’t been able to go to the restaurant twice a week, commute 2 hours per day, hang out with your friends or go to a party every weekend, you can reflect on whether you really want to continue doing so after the crisis. The virus forces you to make changes to your daily life that you might actually want to keep also after the crisis.
Opportunity 3: Speed and innovation
Many organizations suffer from slow procedures, complex bureaucracies and rigid hierarchies making organizational life less than pleasant. The coronavirus has forced many of them to break through these rigid systems and act instantly. Suddenly procedures can be skipped or accelerated, rules can be side-tracked and decisions can be made more autonomously without formal approval. And suddenly employees are allowed to work from home without direct supervision.
Covid-19 shows that, as soon as there is a strong enough stimulus, things can change. This leads to remarkable innovations. Not being allowed to open their doors, restaurants, for example, are shifting to delivery mode. And schools suddenly do much of the teaching and even some of the testing online. This brings the opportunity to create innovations now that can be maintained after the crisis. And it also can help to keep the current speed and innovation mode afterwards.
Opportunity 4: Better meetings
As referred to in an earlier article, people spend up to 23 hours per week in meetings, half of which are considered a failure or waste of time. The current crisis has forced us to rethink how we deal with meetings. Because in many countries it is not allowed anymore to meet with a group of persons, many meetings are cancelled. And when they still take place they are mostly virtual and shorter.
As such, it provides an excellent opportunity for resolving one of the most disliked parts of organizational life. The technology for this is already present and mature for a couple of years, but the coronavirus triggers a sudden need for it. The real opportunity here is to make systematic changes so that meetings will be more effective, also after the crisis.
Opportunity 5: Reconnect and help
Challenging times offer a great opportunity for social bonding and other ways of connecting to and helping people. Of course, not being able to visit friends or family has increased isolation and feelings of loneliness in some cases. But the feeling of “we’re in this together” has also triggered interesting ways of connecting. Some of those have gone viral—such as Italians singing together from their windows and balconies—but there are many small, local initiatives too to connect and help people who need it.
In the individualized societies many of us live in, this provides opportunities to reconnect and create more social coherence. Not only during the crisis, but also afterwards. This opportunity comes with a big caveat though. Parallel to these nice initiatives we also witness how far people go to protect themselves and their families. People hoard food, medicine, toilet paper and guns without thinking a second of others. However, while it triggers self-serving egocentric behavior too, the Covid-19 crisis does provide us the opportunity to reconnect and show our social side.
Opportunity 6: Cleaner environment
The virus caused a shutdown or dramatical decrease of industrial activities. Factories are closed or operate far below their capacity, road traffic has reduced radically and air traffic collapsed, and the lack of tourism has emptied the streets in overcrowded cities like Venice, Amsterdam and New York. While this may be bad news for most people and especially those working in the affected industries, this is also good news for our planet. Covid-19 causes a significant reduction in green house gasses and other air, water and land polluting outputs. In Venice this has allegedly led to dolphins return after just a couple of weeks (although some argued this to be a hoax).
Whether the particular example is a hoax or not is not so relevant. The fact is that the shutdown and lockdown of large parts of our economy is good for nature—at least on the short term. The opportunity this provides, is to keep parts of this in place also after the crisis to make long-term improvements. Along the line of the previous opportunities, the current crisis provides us an opportunity to reconsider our lives and reorganize it in a way that has less impact on our planet.
Opportunity 7: Modesty and acceptance
The final opportunity that the Covid-19 crisis offers, is a chance to create awareness for the moderate role we play on this planet and accept that things cannot always go as we want them to go. The Covid-19 pandemic is a global crisis chat is unprecedented in modern peace time. We had other pandemics like SARS, but their impact was less substantial. And we had the 1973 oil crisis, but that was a man-made crisis. The coronavirus is not man-made and yet disrupts lives across the planet.
As such, the virus shows us that, no matter how well-planned and organized we are and no matter how much we live in the Anthropocene—the era characterized by significant human impact—we are not in control. One simple virus is disrupting everything. This offers a great opportunity. In almost every aspect of life we want to be in control. Whether it is health, airline safety or our calendars, we live in the illusion that full control is possible. The virus can help us create awareness that this is not the case. It provides an opportunity to take a more modest role and accept that many things are simply beyond our control.
Once again, the Covid-19 crisis has a large dark side. But as these seven opportunities show, it has positive sides as well. Since all seven opportunities require a quite fundamental change in how we approach the world, seizing them can take substantial time. In that sense, and if we keep on looking at the brighter sides of life, the longer the crisis lasts, the larger the opportunities are and the bigger the chances are of actually making changes to our deeply rooted habits and convictions. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.
I help companies do strategy through training, mentoring and consulting. My drive is to bring you and your organization to the next level with strategy approaches that work. I wrote “Strategy Consulting,” “Nor More Bananas,” and “The Strategy Handbook.” Reach out to me via jeroenkraaijenbrink.com, LinkedIn or email@example.com
Pat Flynn 282K subscribers 26 million Americans are without a job right now, and that’s just in the U.S. alone. It’s a terrible situation, one that I’m all too familiar with myself having gotten laid off during the recession in 2008. These are tough times, but there are opportunities within them, too. I was able to build a business back in 2008 as a result of getting laid off, and I imagine that those who focus on the future, and the ability to create something new now, are the ones who are going to come out of this dire situation best.
Every time you’re infected by bacteria or a virus, your immune system works to create treatments to defeat it. Molecularly unique to each person, these tiny cells, or antibodies, either destroy these invaders or mark them for other killer cells to track down.
Carl Hansen, 46, is geeking out as he describes the process over Zoom. “We can make 100 trillion different antibodies,” he exclaims. “The immune system is spectacular beyond description.”
If that sounds more like a college professor than the CEO of a $13 billion (market cap) biotech company, there’s a reason: Hansen was one—until 2019, when he left to focus on Vancouver-based AbCellera Biologics, cofounded with fellow researchers from the University of British Columbia in 2012. “Universities are very good at testing new ideas and looking for which road might be effective,” he says.
The team’s academic bent has played out in an even more important way. Nearly all biotech startups develop a handful of treatment targets, then spend the next 8 to 12 years developing those drugs, hoping to bring at least one of them to market. It’s not a sure thing—fewer than 10% of new drugs make it all the way. But when they do, they tend to be blockbusters: Seven of the ten top-selling drugs in 2018 were antibody treatments, including AbbVie’s $19 billion (net revenue) immunosuppressive drug Humira and Merck’s cancer drug Keytruda, which generated $11.1 billion in 2019.
AbCellera takes a vastly different approach. Instead of trying to build a vertically integrated drug company, it is focused solely on the discovery process. That’s the portion of drug development that is earliest and most essential: It’s there that the most promising treatment prospects are selected, subjected to early laboratory tests and then moved through the pipeline.
But AbCellera, which raised $105 million from investors including Peter Thiel, the University of Minnesota and OrbiMed in May—at a valuation of $4.8 billion, according to PitchBook, just six months before going public—is not interested in seeing it through from beginning to end. Instead it offers what might be described as “drug discovery as a service.” It works with 90 outside businesses, including pharma giants Pfizer, Gilead and Novartis. Those companies ask the biotech to find antibodies that meet certain criteria. AbCellera then uses its proprietary technology to find prospects.
In its highest-profile success to date, AbCellera examined thousands of antibodies derived from the blood of people who had recovered from Covid-19 in order to identify the antibodies that did the best job fighting the virus. It then turned over the most promising antibodies to drug company Eli Lilly. Clinical trials of one of those antibodies, bamlanivimab, began in May—just 90 days after the partnership started. Tests found patients with mild or moderate cases had good results, and in November, the antibody received emergency-use authorization from the FDA.
The federal government has contracted to purchase 950,000 doses of the drug for $1.2 billion. Eli Lilly issued guidance in mid-December expecting up to $2 billion in revenue from Covid-19 therapeutics in 2021, the bulk of which will come from bamlanivimab; AbCellera, which booked $25 million through the end of September 2020, will earn estimated royalties of $270 million on those sales, according to Credit Suisse.
AbCellera is also looking to speed up the time it takes to develop its antibody therapies. The shorter time frame saves millions in development costs while enabling revenues to come in sooner than expected. “From a financial perspective, every year that you save is a huge opportunity cost for investors,” says Gal Munda, an analyst at Berenberg Capital Markets.
Hansen is now worth $3 billion, thanks to the company’s white-hot December IPO. Asked about his meteoric rise into the three-comma club, Hansen is low-key: “It feels just a little bit surreal.” He’s more articulate about the biotech’s success: “If this example of Covid shows one thing, to me, it’s the proof point of the business model and the technology.”Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website. Send me a secure tip.
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Even though masks have been a part of our culture since April, few things seem to have bewildered Americans more during the coronavirus pandemic than when and where it’s necessary to wear a mask. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — after initially discouraging widespread use of them — has recommended for months that Americans wear masks “in public settings,” especially “when around people who don’t live in your household.”
Now, the World Health Organization has issued updated guidance on the use of face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — and it’s very clear that masks should be worn often. “WHO advises that the general public should wear a non-medical mask in indoor (e.g. shops, shared workplaces, schools) or outdoor settings where physical distancing of at least [3.2 feet] cannot be maintained,” the guidance says.
The organization also says that people should wear a mask indoors “unless ventilation has been assessed to be adequate…regardless of whether physical distancing of at least [3.2 feet] can be maintained.”
The guidance stresses that masks are especially important for people with a higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19 — individuals over the age of 60, those with underlying conditions like heart disease or diabetes, chronic lung disease, cancer, cerebrovascular disease or immunosuppression. These people “should wear medical masks when physical distancing of at least [3.2 feet] cannot be maintained,” the guidance says.
This isn’t the first time public health experts have recommended continuous masking indoors. Back in August, Dr. Deborah Birx said in an interview with CNN that those who live in COVID-19 hotspots — or with high-risk individuals — should think about wearing masks in their living space. “If you’re in multi-generational households and there’s an outbreak in your rural area or in your city, you need to really consider wearing a mask at home,” said Birx.
Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Yahoo Life that the WHO’s recommendations make sense based on what scientists now know about COVID-19 and its spread. “If you’re in a place where you don’t have the benefits of an outdoor breeze to disperse particles, there’s going to be some level of risk present,” he says. “A lot of that can be dissipated if people are six feet apart, but there are situations in which the virus can be dispersed more than that distance.
Dr. Saskia Popescu, an infection prevention epidemiologist at George Mason University, said ventilation is a critical element of preventing the virus’s spread which is often hindered indoors. “The push for masks indoors has always centered around those environments that are close quarters and with other people,” Popescu told Yahoo Life in an earlier interview. “More recently, the emphasis for indoor masking has been reiterated in relation to ventilation and that even if you can socially distance, masks are important when you’re around others and ventilation may be inadequate.”
Popescu says that early recommendations about maintaining a safe distance between individuals may have convinced people that “as long as they stuck to six-feet distances, they could be unmasked,” which isn’t true. “I think we placed a lot of initial emphasis on masking and social distancing when you leave the house, and that gave the impression that if you could maintain social distancing, a mask somehow wasn’t necessary, which isn’t the case,” she says. “Really, the communication is that we use social distancing, hand hygiene and masking as a team approach to try and avoid transmission.”
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine agrees and endorses wearing a mask in the house. “The value obviously would be that you are providing additional protection to people of advanced age and people with serious underlying illnesses, extending the protection that you were being careful about outdoors into the actual home,” says Schaffner. “And doing it where there is much more frequent contact, and closer contact, for prolonged periods of time.”
Risk tolerance matters, though, Adalja says. “For those who are risk-averse, it may make sense to wear masks at home around vulnerable individuals,” he says. “Certain people also may feel more comfortable with masks worn around them.” This practice may also be a good fit for households that include people with different risk tolerance levels, especially if some members of the household are regularly going out and are not stringent about following CDC guidelines, while others are more cautious, he says.
The CDC has been clear that masks are effective at helping stop the spread of the virus by “prevent[ing] respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks or raises their voice.” It’s a claim that has been backed by multiple studies showing that universal mask-wearing has the potential to not only slow community transmission, but stop it entirely.
Wearing masks is particularly important around those who have a condition that may weaken their immune system, putting them at risk of more severe illness from COVID-19. According to the CDC, the list includes individuals who have cancer, those who have undergone a bone marrow or solid organ transplant, those taking immunosuppressing drugs or those with HIV. Birx added in her CNN interview that individuals living in a household where some members have comorbidities, such as high blood pressure and obesity, should consider wearing a mask too.
For those who fit these criteria, or are living in a community with rapid community spread, wearing a mask inside the home may make sense. But Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, is skeptical about whether it will actually happen. “I think it’s reasonable to ask people to wear a mask when they are at home with high-risk individuals, but there will be some times that this is just not possible: while eating or drinking, bathing, grooming, et cetera,” says Rasmussen. “I think it’s unlikely that a lot of people will adopt these precautions, however, particularly in states with leadership that has been very opposed to masks in general. The people who are adamantly opposed to wearing masks in grocery stores are probably not going to be persuaded to wear masks all the time in their own homes.”
Dr. Richard Watkins, an infectious disease physician in Akron, Ohio, and a professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Yahoo Life that people should take care to wear masks in other people’s homes. “Making people wear masks in their own home is probably a bridge too far,” he says.
Schaffner agrees but thinks there may be a “spectrum of adherence” to the recommendation — meaning those who have been more “conservative” about the protections may adopt the guidance and those who are resistant to mask mandates and other recommendations may not. “It’s a new idea of people are going to have to think about it,” says Schaffner. “It won’t be widespread very rapidly for sure.”
By: Abby Haglage and Korin Miller
This story was originally published on Aug. 8, 2020, at 6:31 p.m. E.T. and has been updated to include the World Health Organization’s latest guidance on masks.
There’s a lot of conflicting information when it comes to wearing masks in public during the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Seema Yasmin explains everything we need to know about wearing masks. Should we be wearing masks? What kinds of masks should we wear? Can we make our own? #stayhome#withme Still haven’t subscribed to WIRED on YouTube? ►► http://wrd.cm/15fP7B7 Get more incredible stories on science and tech with our daily newsletter: https://wrd.cm/DailyYT Also, check out the free WIRED channel on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV. Here you can find your favorite WIRED shows and new episodes of our latest hit series Tradecraft. ABOUT WIRED WIRED is where tomorrow is realized. Through thought-provoking stories and videos, WIRED explores the future of business, innovation, and culture. Doctor Explains What You Need to Know About Wearing Masks for Covid-19 | Cause + Control | WIRED