5 Myths About Flexible Work

Flexibility might be great in theory, but it just doesn’t work for us. We have literally heard this statement hundreds of times over the years. It doesn’t matter what industry we’re talking about — whether it’s tech, government, finance, healthcare, or small business, we’ve heard it. There’s always someone who works from the premise that “there’s no way flexible work policies can work in our organization.”

In reality, flexible work policies can work in any industry. The last twelve months of the pandemic have proven this. In fact, a recent Harvard Business School Online study showed that most professionals have excelled in their jobs while working from home, and 81% either don’t want to go back to the office or would choose a hybrid schedule post-pandemic. It’s important to recognize, however, that flexibility doesn’t always look the same — one size definitely does not fit all.

The Myth of the Five C’s

You may be wondering, “If you can recruit the best candidates, increase your retention rates, improve your profits, and advance innovation by incorporating a relatively simple and inexpensive initiative, then why haven’t more organizations developed flex policies?” This question will be even harder for organizations to ignore after we’ve experienced such a critical test case during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Insight Center Collection

Building Tomorrow’s Workforce

How the best companies identify and manage talent. We believe fear has created stumbling blocks for many organizations when it comes to flexibility. Companies either become frozen by fear or they become focused by fear. It is focus that can help companies pivot during challenging times. In the years that we’ve been working with companies on flexibility, we’ve heard countless excuses and myths for why they have not implemented a flex policy. In fact, the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance has boiled these myths down to the fear of losing the 5 C’s:
  1. Loss of control
  2. Loss of culture
  3. Loss of collaboration
  4. Loss of contribution
  5. Loss of connection

Addressing the Fears

Myth #1: Loss of Control

Executives are often worried that they’ll open Pandora’s box and set a dangerous precedent if they allow some employees to work flexibly. They worry that if they let a few employees work from home, then the office will always be empty and no one will be working. The answer to this is structure and clarity. We can virtually guarantee that any organization that correctly designs and implements their flexibility policy will not lose anything.

To maintain control and smooth operation of your organization, it’s imperative that you set standards and clearly communicate them. Organizations should provide clear guidelines on the types of flexibility offered (for example, remote work, reduced hours, asynchronous schedules, job sharing and/or compressed work weeks) and create a centralized approval process for flexibility to ensure that the system is equitable. It is also helpful to have a calendar system for tracking when and where each team member is working.

You must also commit to training everyone on these standards — from those working a flexible schedule, to those supervising them, to all other coworkers. Education and training will help your team avoid “flex stigma,” where employees are disadvantaged or viewed as less committed due to their flexibility. Training can also help organizations to ensure that successful systems and structures that support flexibility are maintained.

Myth #2: Loss of Culture

While you may not see every employee every day, and you may not be able to have lunch with people every day, culture does not have to suffer with a flexible work initiative. However, it is essential that teams meet either in person or via video conference on a regular basis. At the Alliance, we recommend that companies and firms first define what culture means to their individual organization and then determine how they might maintain this culture in a hybrid or virtual environment.

Many organizations with whom we’ve worked reported that they found creative ways to maintain culture during months of remote working during the pandemic. Many Alliance members organized social functions like virtual exercise classes, cooking classes, happy hours, and team-building exercises to maintain community. Additionally, it’s important to take advantage of the days when everyone is physically present to develop relationships, participate in events, and spend one-to-one time with colleagues.

Myth # 3: Loss of Collaboration

As long as teams that are working a flexible schedule commit to regular meetings and consistent communication, then collaboration will not be compromised. It’s important for all team members to maintain contact (even if it’s online), keep tabs on all projects, and be responsive to emails and phone calls. We always recommend that remote teams also meet in person occasionally to maintain personal contact and relationships.

For collaboration to be successful, remote employees must not be held to a higher standard that those working in the office. Additionally, technology should be used to enhance collaboration. For example, when companies are bringing teams together for brainstorming sessions, virtual breakout rooms can facilitate small group collaboration and help to ensure that all voices are heard. Some organizational leaders have also incorporated regular virtual office hours for unscheduled feedback and informal collaboration.

Myth #4: Loss of Contribution

We have often heard leaders say: “If employees are not physically at their desks in the office, then how will we know that they’re actually working?” But with endless distractions available on computers these days (from online shopping, to Instagram, to Facebook, etc.) you really don’t know what your employees are doing at their desks, even if they are in the office.

In fact, they could be searching for a new job (that offers flexibility!) right before your eyes. It’s important to clearly communicate what is expected of each individual and trust that they will complete the job within the expected timeframe. All employees should be evaluated on the quality of their work and their ability to meet clearly defined performance objectives, rather than on time spent in the office.

Myth #5: Loss of Connection

Technology now enables people to connect at any time of the day in almost any locationMeetings can be held through a myriad of video conferencing applications. Additionally, calendar-sharing apps can help to coordinate team schedules and assist with knowing the availability of team members. Even networking events can now be done virtually. For example, one of our team members created a system for scheduling informal virtual coffee chats between partners and associates to maintain opportunities for networking and mentoring during the pandemic.

It’s important to know what your employees and stakeholders prefer in terms of in-person, hybrid, or virtual-only connection. In a recent survey conducted by BNI of over 2,300 people from around the world, the networking organization asked the participants if they would like their meetings to be: 1) in-person only, 2) online only, or 3) a blend of online and in-person meetings.

One third of the participants surveyed said that they wanted to go back completely to in-person meetings. However, 16% wanted to stick with online meetings only, and almost 51% of the survey respondents were in favor of a blend of meeting both in-person and online. This is a substantial transition from the organizational practice prior to the pandemic, with a full two-thirds of the organization saying that they would prefer some aspect of online meetings to be the norm in the future.

A recent 2021 KPMG CEO Outlook Pulse Survey found that almost half of the CEOs of major corporations around the world do not expect to see a return to “normal” this year. Perhaps a silver lining of the pandemic will be that corporate leaders have overcome their fears of the 5C’s and will now understand how flexibility can benefit their recruitment and retention efforts — not to mention productivity and profitability.

By:Manar Morales & Ivan Misner

Source: 5 Myths About Flexible Work

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Critics:

A flexible work arrangement (FWA) empowers an employee to choose what time they begin to work, where to work, and when they will stop work. The idea is to help manage work-life balance and benefits of FWA can include reduced employee stress and increased overall job satisfaction. On the contrary, some refrain from using their FWA as they fear the lack of visibility can negatively affect their career.

Overall, this type of arrangement has a positive effect on incompatible work/family responsibilities, which can be seen as work affecting family responsibilities or family affecting work responsibilities. FWA is also helpful to those who have a medical condition or an intensive care-giving responsibility, where without FWA, part-time work would be the only option.

Types of flexible work arrangements

References

4 Trends In Fundraising That Will Impact the Future of Philanthropy

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While the needs of fundraising organizations have grown and diversified, the techniques of fundraisers have grown stale instead of evolving. Many organizations continue to use the same strategies to secure gifts as they have for years, despite growing evidence of the need for change.

Unfortunately, because of rare but highly public unethical practices in political and -adjacent industries, nonprofit fundraisers today deal with a lot of issues with stigma, skepticism and mistrust. Recently, the Department of Justice began cracking down on certain matching contributions claims, as an example of the way certain ‘gimmicks’ leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

Because of ongoing challenges, with donor trust, organizations looking to fundraise in 2021 and beyond will not be able to meet new challenges with old habits. Leaders and fundraisers need to be aware of the latest trends in the space to maximize their funding and, by extension, their impact.

Related: How Digital is Bridging the Gap For Nonprofits

Here are a few of the most important trends happening in fundraising right now and what you should do about them.

1. Retain your donors

So many fundraising initiatives focus on acquiring new donors, while not enough attention goes toward the people who have already proven their interest. Retaining your donors is one of the most effective ways to increase funding without overspending on acquisition costs of new donors.

Leaders in fundraising including Dan Pallotta, Mallory Erickson and Kivi Leroux Miller agree on the importance of retaining existing donors. Erickson makes the point that donors stick around when organizations focus on finding “Power Partners” and identifying win-win opportunities for them.

If aligned correctly from the beginning, your existing pool of donors indicate that there is something they like about your organization: your mission, your , your messaging, etc. Find out what makes your donors tick by asking directly. Call, send surveys or post on community messaging boards. Find out why your best donors connect to your organization, then lean into that alignment to keep them engaged.

2. Demonstrate transparency and grace

Fundraising is rarely straightforward. Not only will you struggle to complete many of your goals, but you will likely make mistakes along the way. Be transparent about issues when they arise, but don’t fall flat over every small misstep. Instead, be graceful, accept the lesson and communicate what you will do differently next time.

The pandemic provided plenty of examples of what to do and what not to do on this subject. Take the CDC, for example. At the end of last year, the organization printed, then retracted, then removed a statement about how Covid-19 spreads through airborne transmission. The organization did not change its stance, but it was a bad look in an already tense conversation.

Stay focused on the mission throughout any communication on a faux pas. Clearly illustrate what went wrong and why, reiterate your commitment to the cause and explain what will happen next. The best part of transparency is accountability, and for fundraising purposes, remaining accountable is a must.

Related: Why Radical Transparency (With Staff and Customers) Is Good for Business

3. Step back to see what works

You cannot build a smart fundraising strategy if you never step back to evaluate the effectiveness of your actions. Schedule time each quarter, and preferably each month, to review specific messaging campaigns, events and other initiatives to see what landed and what did not.

Donor Search recommends tracking all the basics, like donation volume, size and retention rates, but also focuses smartly on digital engagement. In a world where fundraising can happen any time online, leaders of fundraising organizations must be digitally savvy.

Lead-tracking can be a great way to identify the best sources of new donors. Ask simple questions of event attendees in follow-up email campaigns and surveys. Invite them to download content about your organization or register for your next event. Try different ways to funnel different donor leads toward single large gifts, smaller recurring gifts or whichever arrangement you find has the highest conversion rate.

Related: 3 Nonprofit Funding Avenues All Founders Should Know About

4. Ditch the perfectionism

No one gets everything right the first time. This isn’t about transparency, though. While it is important to own your mistakes, it’s also important to act decisively when you have enough information instead of waiting until it’s too late.

Have a potential lead on a big donor but your contact fell through? Do your own research and reach out directly. Want to try a new messaging strategy but not sure if the budget is worth it? Try a small test audience and see how it goes. Some of your moves will fail, but you can’t let that stop you from trying. Perfectionism will only slow you down.

Fundraising in 2021 happens in bursts of opportunity. The right moment is only a moment away, and fortune favors those who take action before stopping to work out all the details.

These trends in fundraising have arisen because new tools, new strategies and new social pressures demanded change. The older, more passive ways of fundraising will not be as effective in the months and years to come. Embrace these changes and use these tips to secure the funding your mission needs to move forward.

Peter Daisyme

By: Peter Daisyme / Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Source: 4 Trends In Fundraising That Will Impact the Future of Philanthropy

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Critics:

Philanthropy consists of “private initiatives, for the public good, focusing on quality of life“. Philanthropy contrasts with business initiatives, which are private initiatives for private good, focusing on material gain, and with government endeavors, which are public initiatives for public good, e.g., focusing on provision of public services. A person who practices philanthropy is a philanthropist.

Philanthropy is different from charity, though there is some overlap. Charity aims to relieve the pain of a particular social problem, whereas philanthropy attempts to address the root cause of the problem.

Traditional philanthropy and impact investment can be distinguished by how they serve society. Traditional philanthropy is usually short-term, where organizations obtain resources for causes through fund-raising and one-off donations. The Carnegie Corporation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation are examples of such; they focus more on the financial contributions to social causes and less on the actual actions and processes of benevolence.

Impact investment, on the other hand, focuses on the interaction between individual wellbeing and broader society through the promotion of sustainability. Stressing the importance of impact and change, they invest in different sectors of society, including housing, infrastructure, healthcare and energy.

A suggested explanation for the preference for impact investment philanthropy to traditional philanthropy is the gaining prominence of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) since 2015. Almost every SDG is linked to environmental protection and sustainability because of raising concerns about how globalisation, liberal consumerism and population growth may affect the environment. As a result, development agencies have seen increased accountability on their part, as they face greater pressure to fit with current developmental agendas.

Philanthrocapitalism differs from traditional philanthropy in how it operates. Traditional philanthropy is about charity, mercy, and selfless devotion improving recipients’ wellbeing. Philanthrocapitalism, is philanthropy transformed by business and the market, where profit-oriented business models are designed that work for the good of humanity. Share value companies are an example. They help develop and deliver curricula in education, strengthen their own businesses and improve the job prospects of people. Firms improve social outcomes, but while they do so, they also benefit themselves.

The rise of philanthrocapitalism can be attributed to global capitalism. There is an understanding that philanthropy is not worthwhile if no economic benefit can be derived by philanthropy organisations, both from a social and private perspective. Therefore, philanthropy has been seen as a tool to sustain economic growth and the firm’s own growth, based on human capital theory. Through education, specific skills are taught which enhance people’s capacity to learn and their productivity at work.

See also

Sage Modelling Warns of Risk of ‘Substantial’ Covid Third Wave

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New modelling for the government’s Sage committee of experts has highlighted the risk of a “substantial third wave” of infections and hospitalizations, casting doubt on whether the next stage of Boris Johnson’s Covid roadmap can go ahead as planned on 21 June.

Government sources suggested the outlook was now more pessimistic but stressed that a decision would be taken after assessing a few more days’ worth of data on the effect that rising infections are having on hospitalizations.

The prime minister is due to announce on Monday whether the lifting of the remaining restrictions – nicknamed “freedom day” by anti-lockdown Tory MPs – will have to be delayed.

Johnson is understood to be personally frustrated at the prospect of delaying the reopening, but a No 10 source said there were now clearly signs for concern in the data.

Key ministers and officials are expected to discuss a range of options on Sunday, when Johnson will still be hosting the G7, including a two- to four-week delay, as well as the possibility of a watered-down reopening that keeps some rules in place.

A Whitehall source said it was “broadly correct” that the outlook was now more pessimistic. “Cases are obviously higher and they are growing quickly,” the source said.

Prof Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, said modelling updated this week suggested there was a risk of a surge in infections and hospitalizations that could rival the second wave in January.

Johnson sounded markedly less confident than in recent days when he was asked about the case for a delay as he visited a wind farm in Cornwall on Wednesday as part of the buildup to the G7 summit.

“What everyone can see very clearly is that cases are going up and in some cases hospitalizations are going up,” he said. “I think what we need to assess is the extent to which the vaccine rollout, which has been phenomenal, has built up enough protection in the population in order for us to go ahead to the next stage.

“And so that’s what we’ll be looking at. And there are arguments being made one way or the other, but that will be driven by the data. We’ll be looking at that and we’ll be setting it out on Monday.”

The prime minister had previously repeatedly said he had seen nothing in the data to justify a delay.

Ferguson said the cases of the Delta variant were now doubling in less than a week, close to what was seen before Christmas when the Alpha variant took hold and sent infections soaring in January to a daily peak of 68,000. What is unclear is how long the doubling will continue with so many adults vaccinated, and what proportion of new cases will turn into hospitalizations and deaths.

“There is a risk of a substantial third wave,” Ferguson said. “It could be substantially lower than the second wave or it could be of the same order of magnitude, and that critically depends on how effective the vaccines are at protecting people against hospitalization and death.”

He suggested there may be a case for postponing the reopening to get more shots into arms and reduce the size of any summer surge. “Clearly you have to be more cautious if you want measures to be irreversibly changed and relaxed,” he said. “Having a delay does make a difference. It allows more people to get second doses.”

Ministers have been encouraged by the enthusiasm with which younger people are taking up the opportunity to get their jab. The NHS announced that 1 million people had booked appointments through its website on Tuesday as eligibility was extended to 25- to 29-year-olds.

The next two to three weeks will be crucial for scientists on Sage to work out what the rise in hospitalizations – and potentially deaths – might look like in the months ahead.

Ferguson said: “One of the key things we want to resolve in the next few weeks is do we see an uptick in hospitalizations – we are seeing it in some areas – matching the cases, and what is the ratio between the two, because vaccination has substantially changed that.”

Evidence is firming up around the Delta variant being 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, with estimates ranging from 40% and 80%. The variant is somewhat resistant to vaccines, particularly after one dose.

While Ferguson believes we may see fewer deaths in the third wave compared with in January, the latest modelling does not rule out what he called a “disastrous” third wave if transmission and vaccine resistance are at the higher end of the best estimates.

The latest official data showed 7,540 new confirmed cases of the virus in England. Hospitalizations are not yet rising sharply nationwide, though they are surging in hotspot areas including Greater Manchester.

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said trusts in hard-hit areas were confirming that the vaccines provide good protection against the virus.

“There is a growing sense that thanks to the vaccine, the chain seen in previous waves between rising infections and high rates of hospital admissions and deaths has been broken. That feels very significant,” he wrote in a blogpost for the British Medical Journal.

But Hopson warned that the NHS was already “running hot” in many areas, and an increase in Covid admissions would set back efforts to tackle the long backlog of treatment for other health problems that has been caused by the crisis.

By:, and

Source: Sage modelling warns of risk of ‘substantial’ Covid third wave | Health policy | The Guardian

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Critics:

Recommended preventive measures include social distancing, wearing face masks in public, ventilation and air-filtering, hand washing, covering one’s mouth when sneezing or coughing, disinfecting surfaces, and monitoring and self-isolation for people exposed or symptomatic. Several vaccines have been developed and widely distributed since December 2020.

Current treatments focus on addressing symptoms, but work is underway to develop medications that inhibit the virus. Authorities worldwide have responded by implementing travel restrictions, lockdowns and quarantines, workplace hazard controls, and business closures. Numerous jurisdictions have also worked to increase testing capacity and trace contacts of the infected.

The pandemic has resulted in significant global social and economic disruption, including the largest global recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It has led to widespread supply shortages exacerbated by panic buying, agricultural disruption, and food shortages. However, there have also been decreased emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases.

Numerous educational institutions and public areas have been partially or fully closed, and many events have been cancelled or postponed. Misinformation has circulated through social media and mass media, and political tensions have been exacerbated. The pandemic has raised issues of racial and geographic discrimination, health equity, and the balance between public health imperatives and individual rights.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in misinformation and conspiracy theories about the scale of the pandemic and the origin, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease. False information, including intentional disinformation, has been spread through social media, text messaging, and mass media. Journalists have been arrested for allegedly spreading fake news about the pandemic. False information has also been propagated by celebrities, politicians, and other prominent public figures. The spread of COVID-19 misinformation by governments has also been significant.

Commercial scams have claimed to offer at-home tests, supposed preventives, and “miracle” cures. Several religious groups have claimed their faith will protect them from the virus. Without evidence, some people have claimed the virus is a bioweapon accidentally or deliberately leaked from a laboratory, a population control scheme, the result of a spy operation, or the side effect of 5G upgrades to cellular networks.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared an “infodemic” of incorrect information about the virus that poses risks to global health. While belief in conspiracy theories is not a new phenomenon, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this can lead to adverse health effects. Cognitive biases, such as jumping to conclusions and confirmation bias, may be linked to the occurrence of conspiracy beliefs.

See also

References

COVID-19 Vaccines Don’t Contain Magnetic Ingredients; Dose Volume is Too Small To Contain Any Device Able To Hold a Magnet Through The Skin

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Around mid-May 2021, multiple videos (examples here, here, and here) claimed that COVID-19 vaccines caused magnetic reactions in vaccinated people. The videos purportedly showed that magnets attached to the arm where people received a COVID-19 vaccine, but not to the unvaccinated arm. The so-called “magnet challenge” went viral across social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, receiving hundreds of thousands of interactions.
While some posts didn’t try to explain the phenomenon, others claimed that COVID-19 vaccines contained metals or microchips that attracted the magnets. None of the videos provided verification that the people appearing in them were actually vaccinated against COVID-19. Regardless of whether they received the COVID-19 vaccine or not, the claim that COVID-19 vaccines “magnetize” people is inaccurate and unsupported by scientific evidence, as we explain below.

None of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines contain magnetic ingredients

All materials react to magnetic fields in some way. However, these magnetic forces are, in general, so weak that most of these materials are effectively non-magnetic. Only a few metals, including iron, cobalt, nickel, and some steels, are considered truly magnetic and are attracted to magnets.

Lists of the ingredients in all the COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are publicly available. The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna contain mRNA, lipids, salts, sugar, and substances that keep the pH stable. The COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson contains an adenovirus expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, amino acids, antioxidants, ethanol, an emulsifier, sugar, and salts. None of these ingredients are metals, and therefore, none of them are magnetic.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine contains similar ingredients to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but includes magnesium chloride as a preservative. Although magnesium is a metal, it is also non-magnetic, both in its elemental form and as magnesium chloride salt. In fact, higher amounts of magnesium are naturally present in the body, in many foods, and in dietary supplements, and they don’t cause magnetic reactions in people.

Finally, the volume of a COVID-19 vaccine dose is very small, ranging from 0.3 ml in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to 0.5 ml in the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines. According to experts, even if the vaccines contained a magnetic ingredient, the total amount would be insufficient to hold a magnet through a person’s skin. Michael Coey, a physics professor at Trinity College Dublin, explained to Reuters:

“You would need about one gram of iron metal to attract and support a permanent magnet at the injection site, something you would ‘easily feel’ if it was there […] By the way, my wife was injected with her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine today, and I had mine over two weeks ago. I have checked that magnets are not attracted to our arms!”

This Instagram video illustrates how a magnet (or any other small object) can stick to people’s skin without the need for any magnetic force.

Claims that COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips are unfounded

The claim that COVID-19 vaccines are magnetic because they contain microchips or tracking devices traces its roots to a conspiracy theory that has persisted throughout the pandemic. Despite being debunked many times, the baseless theory that COVID-19 vaccines include secret devices for tracking the population emerges from time to time in different forms.

Such claims led the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to explain on its website that COVID-19 vaccines don’t contain microchips or tracking devices:

“No, the government is not using the vaccine to track you. There may be trackers on the vaccine shipment boxes to protect them from theft, but there are no trackers in the vaccines themselves. State governments track where you got the vaccine and which kind you received using a computerized database to make sure you get all recommended doses at the right time. You will also get a card showing that you have received a COVID-19 vaccine.”

The claims that the COVID-19 vaccines contain magnetic microchips are incorrect for multiple reasons. First, any microchip contained in a COVID-19 vaccine would need to be small enough to fit through the syringe needle. Vaccination generally uses 22 to 25-gauge needles. “Gauge” indicates the size of the hole that runs down the middle of the needle.

The higher the gauge, the smaller the hole. These needles have a maximum inner diameter of 0.5 mm. Current microchips aren’t small enough to fit through the syringe needle. Second, even if a microchip of that size exists, it would be too small to hold a magnet through the skin, for the same reasons explained by Coey above.

Finally, all COVID-19 vaccines are supplied in multidose vials containing five to 15 doses, depending on the manufacturer (see dosing information from Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson). This would make it impossible to guarantee that all individuals receive a chip. Some people could receive several chips, while others receive none. Furthermore, many of the devices would likely remain in the vial or get stuck in the syringe.

Conclusion

Claims that COVID-19 vaccines cause magnetic reactions are unsubstantiated and implausible. COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use by the FDA don’t contain metals or other magnetic ingredients that could cause a magnetic reaction in vaccinated individuals. Furthermore, no component or microchip that fits in the volume of a COVID-19 vaccine dose would be strong enough to hold a magnet through the skin.

By:

Source: COVID-19 vaccines don’t contain magnetic ingredients; dose volume is too small to contain any device able to hold a magnet through the skin – Health Feedback

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Taming The World’s Leading Killer: High Blood Pressure

An article published recent in in the New England Journal of Medicine reports some astounding research findings which could save millions of lives. Why did you miss it? Because there was zero media coverage (apart from a few specialty medical blogs). Zero. That tells you something. Tells you a lot, actually. So, here are the details.

High blood pressure is the world’s leading killer — and will kill more people, including more young people, than Covid-19 (and, in usual years, more than all other infectious diseases combined). High blood pressure can be prevented, mostly by reducing dietary sodium, and is effectively treated with safe, low-cost medications.

But globally, we’re doing terribly on blood pressure control. Less than 1 in 7 people with high blood pressure, an abysmal 14%, have it controlled. This is, frankly, pathetic — and is killing millions of people a year. It’s the most important health care intervention for adults to save lives, and we get it right less than 1 in 7 times (and, in the United States, with a $4 trillion dollar health care system, we get this right less than half the time, despite it being the intervention that can save more lives than any other health care intervention in the US!)

Elegant studies by University of Oxford scientists prove that, for every 20-point increase in systolic blood pressure (the larger “top” number), the death rate from cardiovascular disease doubles. What’s more, this starts at a blood pressure of 115/75 — way below the usual level at which we treat, or toward which we aim treatment. Adapted from “Age-specific relevance of usual blood pressure to vascular mortality: a meta-analysis of individual data for one million adults in 61 prospective studies” in The Lancet. But showing that lower is better didn’t prove that lowering more is better. That’s where the incredibly important Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) study, begun in 2010, comes in.

It’s one thing to prove (as Oxford’s Dr. Sarah Lewington did) that lower blood pressure correlates with lower risk of death, but quite another to prove that lowering blood pressure more saves more lives. Lower blood pressure reduces the risk of death, but how low do we need to go? That’s what’s big news about the results from the SPRINT study that were just released. They prove that lower IS better — and that setting a blood pressure goal lower than the standard treatment goal prevented many more deaths.

The SPRINT study also showed that, despite more side effects (far less dangerous than heart attack or stroke), intensive blood pressure treatment to reach the lower blood pressure goal is safe — even for older people. More intensive treatment prevented more heart attacks, strokes and deaths.Based on the SPRINT study, many guidelines now recommend that certain high-risk patients with high blood pressure aim for a systolic blood pressure below 130 rather than the standard target of 140. (SPRINT aimed for an even lower target of 120/80.)

But the bigger implication: We need to do much better at getting people to under 140/90. For years, doctors were afraid to lower their patients’ blood pressures to levels they thought would be too low, and potentially dangerous. Now, it’s proven that “overshooting” the goal of 140/90 isn’t just something that won’t hurt the patient — it could well save their life.

The death rate among people treated with a blood pressure goal of under 120/80 was 27% lower than the death rate of people treated to the usual target of 140/90. And for every death prevented, about two heart attacks are prevented in addition to strokes, kidney failure, dementia, and more. Now, it’s also true that interventions other than medication can be important. Reducing sodium, in particular, can reduce blood pressure and other health harms from our overly salty diet. Getting regular physical activity, eating a healthier diet overall, reducing air pollution, and more can make a big difference. But these interventions are best done on a societal, community-wide basis.

That’s why, although we should empower and inform patients, we shouldn’t expect them to be able to withstand the obesogenic, salty, sedentary, polluted environment we live in. And even if we could magically improve our food and overall environment, there would still be a billion people in the world in need of medications to treat their hypertension. Why are we failing to control high blood pressure? One reason is that we’ve made treatment too complicated — far more complicated than it needs to be for optimal results. For the past four years, Resolve to Save Lives has worked with our global partners to identify characteristics of high-performing hypertension control programs throughout the world.

The WHO HEARTS technical package for improving cardiovascular health simplifies hypertension treatment: standard treatment protocols that any health worker can implement, reliable supply of quality-assured medicines, team-based health care, patient-centered services and a strong health information system. This makes it more likely that patients will achieve and maintain blood pressure control. Think about it. A study came out last week that could save millions of lives. There was not a single news article about it. Though this was “just” the final report from a study whose key results had previously been released in advance (because the findings are so important), we have been slow to implement these recommendations. It shows that we still have a lot to learn about what we need to focus on to save the most lives.

Resolve To Save Lives partners with countries which implement WHO’s HEARTS package to lower blood pressure. Sodium reduction and hypertension treatment can prevent 3 million early deaths — every year. Lowering blood pressure can save millions of lives. We know what we need to do, now let’s make it happen.

By: Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the Obama administration, when he oversaw responses to the H1N1 influenza, Ebola and Zika epidemics, is President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies and Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations. Twitter: @DrTomFrieden.

Source: Taming the world’s leading killer: high blood pressure – CNN

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Hypertension or high blood pressure is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is higher than it should be. This involves the heart working harder than normal to circulate blood through the blood vessels.

The pressure in the arteries changes depending on what the heart is doing. When the heart squeezes, pumping blood into the arteries, the pressure increases. When the heart relaxes, the pressure decreases. When blood pressure is measured, the highest pressure (when the heart is squeezing) is called the systolic blood pressure. The lowest pressure (when the heart is relaxing) is called the diastolic blood pressure.

Blood pressure is written as two numbers. For example, in the picture at the right, the person’s systolic blood pressure was 158. Their diastolic blood pressure was 99. This blood pressure is written as 158/99. It is said “158 over 99.”

Hypertension Types

There are two types of hypertension, called “primary” and “secondary.” Primary hypertension means that the hypertension is not caused by any other disease or condition and it gradually develops over time with age. Secondary hypertension means that the hypertension is caused by another disease or conditions. Secondary hypertension tend to result in higher blood pressure than primary hypertension. In most cases (90-95%), hypertension is primary. Only a small amount of hypertension (5-10%) is secondary.

There are various health conditions that leads to secondary hypertension which includes: Obstructive sleep apnea, Kidney problems, Adrenal gland tumors, Thyroid problems, Certain defects you’re born with (congenital) in blood vessels, Certain medications (birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs), Illegal drugs (cocaine and amphetamines)

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References

  • “High blood pressure (hypertension) – Symptoms and causes”. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 2019-10-28.
  • Arguedas, JA (Jul 8, 2009). Arguedas, Jose Agustin (ed.). “Treatment blood pressure targets for hypertension”. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3): CD004349. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004349.pub2. PMID 19588353. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  • Williams, B; Poulter, NR, Brown, MJ, Davis, M, McInnes, GT, Potter, JF, Sever, PS, McG society (March 2004). “Guidelines for management of hypertension: report of the fourth working party of the British Hypertension Society, 2004-BHS IV”. Journal of Human Hypertension 18 (3): 139–85. doi:10.1038/sj.jhh.1001683. PMID 14973512 Law M, Wald N, Morris J (2003). “Lowering blood pressure to prevent myocardial infarction and stroke: a new preventive strategy”. Health Technol Assess 7 (31): 1–94. PMID 14604498.

Vaccine Management Analytics: Will It Be The Next 2021 Data Story?

َAs the world enters the second year of the coronavirus pandemic, actionable insights are more critical than ever. They’re even being prioritized in the new National Strategy for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness alongside executive orders to evaluate progress, monitor outcomes, and support transparency and equity with Americans. As the world rolls out COVID-19 vaccines, the need for accurate and timely vaccination distribution and uptake data is top-of-mind for government leaders, public health organizations, and healthcare providers everywhere.

These metrics are foundational for managing vaccination programs, measuring their effectiveness, and determining our collective progress toward “a blanket of herd immunity,” as described by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor for the Biden Administration.

This is a “wartime effort,” as we’ve heard national leaders state recently, to protect population health—particularly the most vulnerable—as well as to contain the virus as we lower case counts toward zero and to restore Americans’ trust with different discourse. By creating public performance dashboards for more transparency and accountability, and prioritizing a data-driven approach in the efforts and decisions of federal, state and local governments, vaccine management analytics is already the data story of 2021.

Vaccine Management Analytics In The Spotlight

Effective management of any vaccine distribution program requires a holistic picture of the vaccine supply chain, the populations being prioritized, the success rate in reaching those populations, and the strengths and weaknesses of the metrics used to measure progress and performance.

On the path to recovery, government leaders, the public and private sector, and healthcare providers have realized that vaccine administration and management is a complex, evolving process. Expecting we could implement it overnight with a one-size-fits-all approach was unrealistic—some may say foolish—and we must ask some of these important questions as we press forward:

  • Where is the greatest vaccine reluctance based on rate of spread and case count?
  • How do we prioritize population groups for immunization and maintain equity?
  • What level of awareness and understanding exists around vaccine safety and efficacy?
  • How does vaccine supply match demand?
  • In which direction are immunizations tracking and impacting COVID spread?
  • Are vaccine sites known and sufficiently equipped and staffed?

As we create the path to normalcy, with increased access, use and communication with data and analytics, we can elevate our national and local pandemic response and make better vaccine management decisions that have a national and global impact.

For several months, I’ve conversed with government leaders and health officials, considering their concerns and questions and discussing how data analytics can assuage them. With those engagements top-of-mind, I’d like to highlight:

  • Some effective vaccine management dashboard examples that states are leveraging for their needs and situations
  • How some states are using data and analytics to achieve positive outcomes

Using Data To Guide COVID-19 Vaccine Management

The national vaccine effort is one of the greatest operational challenges America has faced. As we prioritize data and visual analytics in our response and resolution, our learnings can help frame how we approach future events and crises. The dashboard examples that I’ll share, containing sample data, demonstrate how data informs vaccine management, but the same analytics principles and approach could be applied to management of other national challenges.

Tracking Performance Against Vaccine Goals

Do you need to pivot local attention to track down more vaccines or other treatment supplies? Are mortality rates on the rise, unexpectedly? Is there a certain community that needs increased attention? Do we need additional marketing and public outreach to overcome vaccine reluctance and hesitancy? These questions and more are weighing on the minds and hearts of our leaders and public health officials and can be explored through solutions like a performance management dashboard, shown below.

By tracking performance in this way, it’s easier to take a snapshot of local progress to see if a state will meet, exceed or fall short of vaccine goals. It is also an effective communication tool for governors, mayors or county executives to be transparent with constituents and the public in their briefings and updates.

Furthermore, with increased plans to expand vaccine manufacturing and purchases, and improve national allocation, distribution, administration and tracking, there will be more data for government leaders to capture, monitor and share for a clearer sense of how localized efforts impact national goals, benchmarks and reporting.

Assessing The Readiness Of Facilities To Administer Vaccines 

This dashboard reflects the readiness of mass vaccine deployment across cities, counties and states because hospitals, medical clinics, pharmacies and other locations have fulfilled administration requirements.

Monitoring COVID-19 Spread In Communities 

With data and analytics, communities can assess resources, know when to order supplies, determine vaccine administration and help leaders understand where to focus their efforts. The sample dashboard below is one example of this, providing a high-level view and giving the option to drill down into certain areas to understand where numbers are higher or lower and determine the best course of action.

Vaccine Management Analytics In Action, Creating Benefit In Local Communities

Each week brings new problems that sometimes compound into more complex problems, so “we can’t take any chances and need to put data to the test,” explained Anthony Young, senior manager, solution engineering, U.S. Public Sector at Tableau Software. After nearly a year of capturing, analyzing and determining where we can gain insights from COVID data, using a data-driven approach with vaccine management will continue to create positive outcomes. For example:

  • Improved patient engagement and understanding of their vaccination responsibility so they successfully follow through with immunization
  • Clearer, more direct, and proactive communication with stakeholders
  • Increased public transparency so people are confident they’re receiving good, truthful data
  • Improved management of vaccination workflows and operations based on demand and need
  • More equitable vaccination through better population prioritization
  • Improved tracking and monitoring with populations of interest

Two government agencies are tracking, analyzing and putting data to work in their own pandemic responses as they focus on keeping citizens informed, engaged safe, and healthy.

  • The Ohio Department of Health published a dashboard, built by the Department of Administrative Services’ InnovateOhio Platform, to keep citizens informed about current trends, key metrics, and its forecast for how mitigation policies will reduce strain on the healthcare system.
  • The Lake County Health Department (LCHD) in Northern Illinois is tackling vaccine orchestration as it promotes resident health. Together with partners, LCHD launched Lake County AllVax Portal, an online vaccine registration and management system, as a single source of truth for the community to track inventory status, spot trends, pinpoint catalysts and inform vaccine resource planning.

“Transparency matters, and data and analytics will combat disinformation, providing the source of truth when citizens need it most,” explained Graham Stroman, my colleague and vice president of sales, U.S. State, and Local Government at Tableau Software. Let’s continue to make data analytics a central tool and effective mouthpiece in our COVID-19 efforts as Americans anxiously await a return to normalcy.

Let’s Rise To The Vaccine Management Challenge With Data And Analytics

March 2020 was more than a year ago, and so much has changed. Could we ever imagine that this is where we would be today? New terms are part of our everyday language: contact tracing, flatten the curve and social distancing. Just like putting on shoes and brushing our teeth, hand sanitizing and putting on masks are part of our daily routines.

Problems have grown and compounded, but innovative solutions, powered by data and analytics, have emerged to solve them and support better decision making and action. I urge the public and private sector, our government leaders and public health officials to continue looking for ways to lead with data.

To learn more about vaccine management analytics and how Tableau or other resources can help you visualize key insights to create a data-driven, effective vaccine response, visit the vaccine management resource page on Tableau.com.

From connection through collaboration, Tableau is the most powerful, secure, and flexible end-to-end analytics platform for your data. Elevate people with the power of data. Designed for the individual, but scaled for the enterprise, Tableau is the only business intelligence platform that turns your data into insights that drive action.

Source: Vaccine Management Analytics: Will It Be The Next 2021 Data Story?

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References

Silverman, Rachel (March 15, 2021). “Waiving vaccine patents won’t help inoculate poorer nations: Voluntary licenses are a more promising way to get vaccines to the developing world”. The Washington Post.

As Pandemic Upends Teaching, Fewer Students Want to Pursue It

Kianna Ameni-Melvin’s parents used to tell her that there wasn’t much money to be made in education. But it was easy enough for her to tune them out as she enrolled in an education studies program, with her mind set on teaching high school special education.

Then the coronavirus shut down her campus at Towson University in Maryland, and she sat home watching her twin brother, who has autism, as he struggled through online classes. She began to question how the profession’s low pay could impact the challenges of pandemic teaching.

She asked her classmates whether they, too, were considering other fields. Some of them were. Then she began researching roles with transferable skills, like human resources. “I didn’t want to start despising a career I had a passion for because of the salary,” Ms. Ameni-Melvin, 21, said.

Few professions have been more upended by the pandemic than teaching, as school districts have vacillated between in-person, remote and hybrid models of learning, leaving teachers concerned for their health and scrambling to do their jobs effectively.

For students considering a profession in turmoil, the disruptions have seeded doubts, which can be seen in declining enrollment numbers.

A survey by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education found that 19 percent of undergraduate-level and 11 percent of graduate-level teaching programs saw a significant drop in enrollment this year. And Teach for America, which recruits recent college graduates to teach in low-income schools across the country, said it had received fewer applications for its fall 2021 corps compared with this period last year.

Credit…Rosem Morton for The New York Times

Many program leaders believe enrollment fell because of the perceived hazards posed by in-person teaching and the difficulties of remote learning, combined with longstanding frustrations over low pay compared with professions that require similar levels of education. (The national average for a public-school teacher’s salary is roughly $61,000.) Some are hopeful that enrollment will return to its prepandemic level as vaccines roll out and schools resume in-person learning.

But the challenges in teacher recruitment and retention run deeper: The number of education degrees conferred by American colleges and universities dropped by 22 percent between 2006 and 2019, despite an overall increase in U.S. university graduates, stoking concerns about a future teacher shortage.

For some young people, doubts about entering the teaching work force amid the pandemic are straightforward: They fear that the job now entails increased risk.

Nicole Blagsvedt, an education major at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, felt a jolt of anxiety when she began her classroom training in a local public school that recently brought its students back for full in-person learning. After months of seeing only her roommates, moving around a classroom brimming with fourth and fifth graders was nerve-racking.

Ms. Blagsvedt’s role also encompassed new responsibilities: sanitizing fidget toys, enforcing mask use, coordinating the cleaning of the water bottles that students brought to school because they couldn’t use the water fountains. In her first week, she received a call from an office assistant informing her that one of her students had been exposed to Covid-19, and that she had to help shepherd the students out of the classroom so it could be disinfected.

“This panic crossed my mind,” she said. “I thought: This was what it’s going to be like now.”

Administrators running teacher preparation programs said the new anxieties were most likely scaring away some potential applicants. “People are weighing whether or not it makes sense to go to a classroom when there are alternatives that may seem safer,” said David J. Chard, dean of the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development at Boston University.

But for many students, the challenges posed by remote teaching can be just as steep. Those training in districts with virtual classes have had to adjust their expectations; while they might have pictured themselves holding students’ hands and forming deep relationships, they’re now finding themselves staring at faces on a Zoom grid instead.

“Being online is draining,” said Oscar Nollette-Patulski, who had started an education degree at the University of Michigan but is now considering swapping majors. “You have to like what you’re doing a lot more for it to translate on a computer. I’m wondering, if I don’t like doing this online that much, should I be getting a degree in it?”

In some instances, remote teaching has deprived education students of training opportunities altogether. At Portland State University in Oregon, some students were not able to get classroom placements while schools were operating remotely. Others were given only restricted access to student documents and academic histories because of privacy concerns.

Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

At the university’s College of Education there was a decline in applications this year, which the dean, Marvin Lynn, attributed to students in the community hearing about the difficulties in training during the pandemic.

Applications may tick back up as schools return to in-person learning, Dr. Lynn said, but the challenges are likely to outlast this year. Educators have struggled with recruitment to the profession since long before the pandemic. In recent years, about 8 percent of public schoolteachers were leaving the work force annually, through retirement or attrition. National surveys of teachers have pointed to low compensation and poor working conditions as the causes of turnover.

The pandemic is likely to exacerbate attrition and burnout. In a recent national study of teachers by the RAND Corporation, one quarter of respondents said that they were likely to leave the profession before the end of the school year. Nearly half of public schoolteachers who stopped teaching after March 2020 but before their scheduled retirements did so because of Covid-19.

This attrition comes even as many schools are trying to add staff to handle reduced class sizes and to ensure compliance with Covid-19 safety protocols. Miguel A. Cardona, the secretary of education, recently called for financial help to reopen schools safely, which will allow them to bring on more employees so they can make their classes smaller. The Covid-19 relief package approved by President Biden includes $129 billion in funding for K-12 schools, which can be used to increase staff.

Not all teacher preparation programs are experiencing a decrease in interest. California State University in Long Beach saw enrollment climb 15 percent this year, according to the system’s preliminary data. Marquita Grenot-Scheyer, the assistant vice chancellor for the university system, attributes this partly to an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom, which temporarily allowed candidates to enter preparation programs without meeting basic skill requirements because of the state’s teacher shortage.

Teachers College at Columbia University in New York City also saw an increase in applications this year, according to a spokesman, who noted that teaching has historically been a “recession-proof profession” that sometimes attracts more young people in times of crisis.

Even some of those with doubts have chosen to stick with their plans. Ms. Ameni-Melvin, the Towson student, said she would continue her education program for now because she felt invested after three years there.

Maria Ízunza Barba also decided to put aside her doubts and started an education studies program at the Wheelock College of Education at Boston University last fall. Earlier in the pandemic, as she watched her parents, both teachers, stumble through the difficulties of preparing for remote class, she wondered: Was it too late to choose law school instead?

Ms. Ízunza Barba, 19, had promised to help her mother with any technical difficulties that arose during her first class, so she crawled under the desk, out of the students’ sight, and showed her mother which buttons to press in order to share her screen.

Then she watched her mother, anxious about holding the students’ attention, perform a Spanish song about economics.

Ms. Ízunza Barba said she realized then that there was no other career path that could prove as meaningful. “Seeing her make her students laugh made me realize how much a teacher can impact someone’s day,” she said. “I was like, whoa, that’s something I want to do.”

Source: As Pandemic Upends Teaching, Fewer Students Want to Pursue It – The New York Times

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Former Astronaut Pleads Guilty in Crash That Killed 2 Young Girls

Fox News Intensifies Its Pro-Trump Politics as Dissenters Depart

Opinion: Covid’s Deadliest Phase May Be Here Soon

Opinion: Scenes From a Mogul’s Marriage or: The Troubling Fourth Act of Bill Gates

Man Rescued in Colorado Mountain Pass Is Accused in 1982 Murders

How a Cozy Neighborhood Restaurant Became a Celebrity Hide-Out

Paul Ryan Critiques Trump’s Grip on the Republican Party

A Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Splits the Gucci Family

Pride Said Gay Cops Aren’t Welcome. Then Came the Backlash.

Stephen Colbert Parodies Brian Kemp’s Version of the National Anthem

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References

Agrba L (27 March 2020). “How Canadian universities are evaluating students during the coronavirus pandemic”. Maclean’s.

Silicon Valley Tech Leaders Organize Relief For India’s Covid-19 Crisis

Virus Outbreak

As India faces a deadly second wave of Covid-19 that has killed more than 250,000 people and badly strained hospitals’ ability to house and care for the sick, a number of Silicon Valley venture capital and technology executives have rallied resources to help address the crisis.

“This is a huge crisis,” says Navin Chaddha, managing director at Mayfield venture capital, who says he has lost college friends to the virus. “As venture industry and entrepreneurs, we need to get more than money, we need to give our time.” Starting in May, Mayfield’s philanthropic offshoot raised around a million dollars and delivered 1000 oxygen concentrators to India, he says. The organization has partnered with local organizations such as Oxygen for India to ensure supplies reach places where the need is greatest.

To date, India’s health ministry has reported a total of 23 million cases with 262,317 deaths. About 4,000 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours. Hospitals are running short on basic life-saving medical devices such as oxygen cylinders and concentrators.

A new local strain, B 1.617, potentially more infectious than the original one and a lax public health response contributed to the surge, health experts say. “There were just so many political gatherings, religious gatherings, social gatherings,” Anant Bhan, a public health and bioethics researcher in Bhopal, told Forbes.

Social media is flooded with images of crematoriums overflowing with bodies of Covid-19 patients. “Many people didn’t even have money to go get the bodies, unfortunately, from the hospitals, or to get them to the cremation ground,” says Chaddha.Last month, billionaire and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla said on Twitter he would work to fund hospitals in India and solicit others in the tech industry to help.

“I will be coordinating grants and sourcing thru @GiveIndia @atulsatija. Please make your requests to them directly and please contribute to their efforts too. The needs are large,” Khosla said an April 24 tweet. In addition, the Khosla family made a combined donation of $10 million to the non-profit GiveIndia.

Salesforce, a cloud software company co-founded by Marc Benioff, sent a Boeing 787 to India earlier last month with over 2,000 oxygen concentrators and 10,000 pulse oximeters. The company plans to send another plane this month with more oxygen concentrators, says Ryan Aytay, its chief business officer. Meanwhile, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey announced a donation of $15 million to India-based non-governmental organizations.

Even with added supplies reaching India from these and other sources, there are concerns about whether they are reaching regions where the need is the highest and whether hospitals have adequate beds for patients in dire need of oxygen. At another venture capital firm, Foundation Capital, general partner Ashu Garg started an initiative called One More Breath to address what he calls a ‘the last mile’ problem. “Airports are overflowing with oxygen concentrators. Everyone is bringing stuff in, but there is still no clarity over which hospitals need the supply,” says Garg.

His team has partnered with local humanitarian groups that are examining how to make room for new beds in existing hospitals. Garg says they will have at least 500 new beds with oxygen supply ready by the end of May. One More Breath hopes to raise $2 million to set up 1,400 beds by mid-June. (Complicating matters, a recent law passed in India limits foreign donations.) 

Much more help will likely be needed, as several Indian states suspended vaccinations for people in the 18-44 age group due to shortages. So far, less than 2% of the country’s 1.3 billion population has been fully vaccinated. “It is just heartbreaking,” says Garg.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

I am a New York based health and science reporter and a graduate from Columbia’s School of Journalism with a master’s in science and health reporting. I write on infectious diseases, global health, gene editing tools, intersection of public health and global warming. Previously, I worked as a health reporter in Mumbai, India, with the Hindustan Times, a daily newspaper where I extensively reported on drug resistant infections such as tuberculosis, leprosy and HIV. I also reported stories on medical malpractice, latest medical innovations and public health policies.

I have a master’s in biochemistry and a bachelor’s  degree in zoology. My experience of working in a molecular and a cell biology laboratory helped me see science from researcher’s eye. In 2018 I won the EurekAlert! Fellowships for International Science Reporters. My Twitter account @aayushipratap

Source: Silicon Valley Tech Leaders Organize Relief For India’s Covid-19 Crisis

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More Critics:

India’s coronavirus crisis is the worst since the pandemic began, and it will probably worsen before it gets better.

Hospitals are full, oxygen supplies are dwindling, and sick people are dying as they wait to see doctors. As workers leave locked-down cities for their home villages, experts fear that the exodus could accelerate the spread of the virus in rural areas, as a similar one did last year.

Official estimates of the nationwide infection toll — well above 300,000 a day — are probably undercounted, epidemiologists say. The reported figure will mostly likely rise to 500,000 cases a day by August, they say, leaving as many as one million of India’s 1.4 billion people dead from Covid-19.

Charities, volunteers and businesses in India and beyond are trying to help the country’s Covid victims and frontline workers.

(Before giving money to an organization, make sure you feel comfortable with it. In the United States, sites like Guidestar and Charity Navigator grade nonprofits on their effectiveness and financial health.)

Here are a few ways to help.

  • United Nations agencies, including UNICEF and the World Health Organization, are delivering personal protective equipment kits, oxygen concentrators, diagnostic testing systems and other supplies to India’s frontline health care workers.

  • PATH, a global health nonprofit based in Seattle, says it has a team of more than 200 people working in India to procure oxygen supplies and accelerate Covid-19 testing and surveillance.

  • The International Medical Corps, which works in conflict areas around the world, is raising money for a campaign to help provide medical equipment, P.P.E., isolation facilities and other essential supplies in India.

  • Care India says it has supplied hospitals and frontline workers in India with more than 39,000 P.P.E. kits, along with masks and other supplies.

  • The Association for India’s Development, a Maryland-based charity that partners with nonprofits in India, says it has volunteers distributing food and protective equipment in most of India’s 29 states.

  • Project HOPE, also in Maryland, is a nonprofit providing medical training, health education and humanitarian assistance around the world. The group says it has given Covid-related assistance in 150 countries during the pandemic, including India.

  • GIVE.asia, a fund-raising platform in Singapore for causes across the Asia-Pacific region, says it is working with the Singapore Red Cross to send ventilators, oxygen concentrators and oxygen generators to India. The platform also hosts fund-raising campaigns by individuals.

  • Americares, a nongovernmental organization based in Connecticut that specializes in emergency medical response work, says it is working in several Indian states to deliver P.P.E., ventilators and other medical equipment, as well as to educate people on how to prevent the spread of the virus.

  • Vibha, an aid group in California, has partnered with the New York-based celebrity chef Vikas Khanna to raise money to buy oxygen concentrators, P.P.E. kits and other supplies. Last year, Mr. Khanna ran a relief effort for poor Indians who were suffering under coronavirus lockdowns.

  • The Indian Red Cross Society has staff and volunteers running blood drives, delivering aid and medical supplies, along with providing other essential services across the country.

  • Youth Feed India and Helping Hands Charitable Trust are delivering ration kits to vulnerable residents of Mumbai. Each kit includes staples like rice and dal, and feeds a family of four for 15 days. Donate here in a variety of ways, including through Google Pay.

  • Ketto, a fund-raising platform in Mumbai, a hot spot of the country’s latest Covid outbreak, is shepherding a campaign by hundreds of entrepreneurs to purchase 3,000 oxygen concentrators. (The organizers are tweeting live updates.)

  • OxygenForIndia delivers medical oxygen for free to patients in seven Indian cities. The group was founded by Ramanan Laxminarayan, an economist and epidemiologist who directs the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, a research outfit based in Washington and New Delhi.

In Washington, hundreds take part in pro-Palestinian protests

Flu Has Disappeared Worldwide during the COVID Pandemic

Since the novel coronavirus began its global spread, influenza cases reported to the World Health Organization have dropped to minuscule levels. The reason, epidemiologists think, is that the public health measures taken to keep the coronavirus from spreading also stop the flu. Influenza viruses are transmitted in much the same way as SARS-CoV-2, but they are less effective at jumping from host to host.

As Scientific American reported last fall, the drop-off in flu numbers was both swift and universal. Since then, cases have stayed remarkably low. “There’s just no flu circulating,” says Greg Poland, who has studied the disease at the Mayo Clinic for decades. The U.S. saw about 600 deaths from influenza during the 2020–2021 flu season. In comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were roughly 22,000 deaths in the prior season and 34,000 two seasons ago.

Because each year’s flu vaccine is based on strains that have been circulating during the past year, it is unclear how next year’s vaccine will fare, should the typical patterns of the disease return. The WHO made its flu strain recommendations for vaccines in late February as usual, but they were based on far fewer cases than in a common year. At the same time, with fewer virus particles circulating in the world, there is less chance of an upcoming mutation, so it is possible the 2021–2022 vaccine will prove extra effective.

Public health experts are grateful for the reprieve. Some are also worried about a lost immune response, however. If influenza subsides for several years, today’s toddlers could miss a chance to have an early-age response imprinted on their immune system. That could be good or bad, depending on what strains circulate during the rest of their life. For now, future flu transmission remains a roll of the dice.

Influenza Cases Worldwide, by Region

The World Health Organization tracks influenza transmission in 18 zones. Three of those regions appear here. Only people who get tested for influenzalike illnesses—typically about 5 percent of individuals who fall ill—are tallied.

 

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By Katie Peek on

 

Source: Flu Has Disappeared Worldwide during the COVID Pandemic – Scientific American

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Choosing the strains for the flu vaccine

Creating the influenza vaccine this year has been more difficult than in the past.

Every year, scientists evaluate the strains of influenza that are circulating around the world, and meet to decide which strains to protect against in that year’s vaccine. They look at the strains that are getting people sick, and use that information to predict which strains are most likely to infect people when flu season sets in.

“We met at the end of February to make those recommendations,” said Dr. Webby, referring to the World Health Organization panel that assesses the flu vaccine. “And it was tricky. The amount of data was orders of magnitude less than it typically is.”

Dr. Olsen, the C.D.C. epidemiologist, pointed out that the vaccine choices are based on more than just existing strains. Scientists also consider other data, including forecasts of “the likelihood of any emerging groups of influenza viruses becoming more prevalent in coming months.”

And, she said, the uncertainty around the return of influenza makes getting vaccinated against the flu more important, not less.

There’s another hard-to-predict factor that could play a significant role when the flu comes back: whether society will carry on behaviors learned in the pandemic that benefit public health. Will mask-wearing become the norm? Will employers give their employees more physical space?

The last time Americans had a chance to make those behaviors part of the culture, Dr. Baker pointed out, they did not.

“The 1918 influenza pandemic should have been something that gave us some sort of societal learning,” said Dr. Baker, but behavior did not change. “So what is the journey you are about to go on from the Covid-19 pandemic, along that axis?” she added. “Will you wear your mask, even if no one else is?”

Control of Genes Could Explain Why Females Suffer Worse Virus Infection

A university study could explain why females may suffer worse outcomes of virus infection such as Covid-19. Researchers from the University of Dundee’s School of Life Sciences found the control of genes on X chromosomes in females can cause much wider effects on cells than previously realised.

The X chromosome – of which females have two and men have only one – contains more than 1,000 genes that are vital for cell development. However, a double dose of such gene products can be lethal, meaning one of the two chromosomes in female cells shuts down in a process known as X chromosome inactivation (XCI).

The team found that issues with the XCI process in female cells can cause major changes in protein levels. Proteins are the main targets of almost every drug and differences in the levels of a cell are frequently responsible for many different types of disease, including cancer.

Alejandro Brenes, an analytics developer at the university school, said: “This study has revealed major consequences for the female cells if the XCI mechanism is defective. “By analyzing a collection of human stem cells from both healthy male and female donors, we found that a defective XCI increased the levels of thousands of proteins from all chromosomes, many of which are known markers of disease.

“The data can help to explain why some people may be more likely to develop specific types of disease, suffer worse outcomes of virus infection, such as Covid-19, or vary in how they respond to treatments and therapy. “The results could also be important for the safe development of stem cell therapies.

COVID-19, has been said to affect men and women differently, with men thought to be more likely to become severely ill and die from the disease.To find out more about sex differences in COVID-19, we spoke to Professor Sabra Klein, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

According to data from around the world, including preliminary data from the UK, an equal number of males and females contract the disease, but do we see the same symptoms?Where we are seeing real differences, in terms of larger magnitude of a male-female difference is in severity of disease.

When the virus enters our body, it needs to enter our cells in order to replicate. Successfully making it into the cell, the virus tries to replicate itself. Estrogen in women is thought to make this harder, meaning that the virus can’t make as many copies of itself in women.

Once the immune system realizes the virus has infiltrated its cells, it launches an attack to try and clear out the infection from its cells.

Generally speaking, women tend to mount more robust immune responses that can be beneficial for initially recognizing and initiating the clearance of a virus. So that can be beneficial. Where it can be detrimental is if long-term responses are not properly regulated, so you can get excessive immune responses that can contribute to long-term inflammation and that in and of itself can cause some tissue damage.

In addition to these sex differences in physiology, there are also important behavioral differences. Men are less likely to go to hospital until later in their disease. However, as healthcare workers are often women, we may still see a shift away from the male bias of the disease as the pandemic progresses.

“It also highlights the importance of sex-specific studies, as there are still many uncharacterized differences between females and males that need to be better understood in order to advance precision medicine.” The study, Erosion of human X chromosome inactivation causes major remodeling of the iPSC proteome, is published in Cell Reports and can be found online.

By: Douglas Barrie

Source: Control of genes could explain why females suffer worse virus infection – study

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