WHO Finally Admits Coronavirus Is Airborne. It’s Too Late

Medical mask with world map.

 

Over a year since declaring Covid-19 a pandemic, the World Health Organization has finally admitted that Coronavirus is airborne. Aerosol researchers started warning that “the world should face the reality” of airborne transmission in April 2020. Then in June, some claimed that it was “the dominant route for the spread of COVID-19”.

In July, 239 scientists signed an open letter appealing to the medical community and governing bodies to recognize the potential risk of airborne transmission. That same month (by coincidence, not as a result of the letter), WHO released a new scientific brief on transmission of SARS-CoV-2 that stated:

“Short-range aerosol transmission, particularly in specific indoor locations, such as crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces over a prolonged period of time with infected persons cannot be ruled out.”

Epidemiologist Bill Hanage interpreted WHO’s statement to mean: “While it is reasonable to think it can happen, there’s not consistent evidence that it is happening often.” In other words, WHO believed that spread via aerosols was rare.

Research

As Hanage told The New York Times, WHO staff were looking for proof that would falsify their existing beliefs: “They are still challenged by the absence of evidence, and the difficulty of proving a negative.”

Virologist Julian Tang added that “WHO is being overly cautious and shortsighted unnecessarily” and criticized its approach to avoiding hazards: “By recognizing aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and recommending improved ventilation facilities to be upgraded or installed, you can improve the health of people.”

According to primary healthcare expert Trish Greenhalgh, there was another problem — members of WHO’s scientific committee didn’t agree on how to interpret the data: “The push-pull of that committee is palpable. As everyone knows, if you ask a committee to design a horse, you get a camel.”

WHO’s scientific briefs aren’t official guidance, and so its reluctance to recognize that Coronavirus is airborne created a bigger issue: a lack of health advice.

The importance of providing information for the public is highlighted by a search for ‘Coronavirus transmission’ because the top result is a Q&A section on WHO’s website — which until recently didn’t acknowledge the contribution of aerosols.

On 30 April 2021, almost 10 months after WHO said it would review the research on airborne transmission, it updated its Q&A page with the following statement:

“Current evidence suggests that the virus spreads mainly between people who are in close contact with each other, typically within 1 metre (short-range). A person can be infected when aerosols or droplets containing the virus are inhaled or come directly into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth. The virus can also spread in poorly ventilated and/or crowded indoor settings, where people tend to spend longer periods of time. This is because aerosols remain suspended in the air or travel farther than 1 metre (long-range).” WHO’s statement is too little, too late.

Reasons

Why has the World Health Organization been so slow to publish public health guidance?

As I explained in my article ‘4 Reasons Why WHO Won’t Admit Coronavirus Is Airborne’, there are four (not mutually exclusive) explanations for its reluctant response.

For historical reasons, WHO’s staff assume that virus-laden droplets must spread over short distances, for instance, which (as Hanage pointed out) then leads to a need for scientific evidence to disprove that assumption.

WHO is also hampered by sociopolitical factors and how its decisions might be perceived by the public or its various stakeholders — including the countries that fund its activities.

But the most likely explanation for WHO’s slow progress is simply bureaucracy. The organization decided that its own staff should review all the evidence for airborne transmission. According to Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s chief scientist, they were carefully reviewing 500 studies every day.

WHO made a rod for its own back. A cynic would say that its scientists created busy-work to justify their jobs, as they could have instead consulted some of the 239 researchers who had signed the letter on airborne transmission. Why did WHO’s scientists believe they understood more about aerosols than aerosol experts?

Regardless of the reason, WHO positioned itself as the sole authority that could judge the research. In doing so, it put its personal beliefs on what constitutes scientific rigor over the need for health guidance when speed was of the essence.

Since mid-2020, about 2.7 million people have died of Covid. While it’s unfair to pin that figure on WHO, we should consider how many deaths could have been prevented if it had listened to researchers who are specialists in their field.

WHO failed to consider that practical advice — to recommend the public use caution and wear face masks to block airborne droplets — has no major downsides compared to the alternative, which is to potentially allow people to spread Covid. To quote an English idiom: It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Reform

On 14 April 2020,  Donald Trump announced his intent to withdraw US membership — and funding — from the World Health Organization. Many people think Trump was trying to shift blame for his poor handling of the pandemic to a scapegoat, criticizing WHO for “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread of Covid-19 and mistakes that “pushed China’s misinformation.”

Others believe that blaming WHO is not scapegoating because there’s some merit to Trump’s criticism. I hold that opinion. No organization is perfect, and large ones especially have room for improvement — I’m not suggesting that we should defund WHO, but the organization could do with a little restructuring.

WHO has a relatively small annual budget of $2.5 billion. It needs to shift its financial resources toward areas that need money the most, such as protecting people from global health emergencies, and away from communicating for health — an area where a bureaucratic body will be slow to react to rapidly-changing scientific evidence.

The world needs somebody (like Trump, but not Trump) who has the power to put pressure on WHO to reform its approach to communication.

WHO’s scientists should also stop giving press conferences that prioritize technically-correct but confusing jargon (like ‘presymptomatic’) over media-friendly language that the public can understand. That might, for instance, involve using professional science communicators to provide clear messages.

While indispensable in its role supervising the international fight against disease, WHO is ineffectual at giving guidance.

I’m a science communicator specialising in public engagement and outreach through entertainment, focusing on popular culture. I have a PhD in evolutionary biology and spent several years at BBC Science Focus magazine, running the features section and writing about everything from gay genes and internet memes to the science of death and origin of life. I’ve also contributed to Scientific American and Men’s Health. My latest book is ’50 Biology Ideas You Really Need to Know’.

Source: WHO Finally Admits Coronavirus Is Airborne. It’s Too Late

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Related Contents:

World Health Organization. Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) 16-24 February 2020 [Internet]. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2020 Available from: https://www.who.int/docs/default- source/coronaviruse/who-china-joint-mission-on-covid-19-final-report.pdf

Surviving Sepsis Campaign: Guidelines on the Management of Critically Ill Adults with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Intensive Care Medicine DOI: 10.1007/s00134-020-06022-5 https://www.sccm.org/SurvivingSepsisCampaign/Guidelines/COVID-19 

Interim guidelines for the clinical management of COVID-19 in adults Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases Limited (ASID)  https://www.asid.net.au/documents/item/1873

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): For health professionals. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/health-professionals.html

Guidance on infection prevention and control for COVID-19 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-infection-prevention-and-control

Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Patients with Suspected or Confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Healthcare Settings. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/infection-control/control-recommendations.html 

Infection prevention and control for COVID-19 in healthcare settings https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications-data/infection-prevention-and-control-covid-19-healthcare-settings 

Videos:

Why Does India Have So Many COVID Cases?

Something has gone horribly wrong in India. Today, the country has reported 346,786 new cases of COVID-19 for the previous 24 hours, with 2,624 deaths – the world’s highest daily toll since the pandemic began last year. Overall, nearly 190,000 people have died from COVID in the country, while more than 16.6 million have been infected.

The new outbreak in India is so severe that hospitals are running out of oxygen and beds, and many people who have been taken ill are being turned away. New Zealand, Hong Kong, the UK and the US have either banned direct flights to and from India, or have advised citizens against travelling altogether; and the list may well get longer.

The UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, who is keen to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with the country, has been forced to cancel a planned trip to India this coming week and, instead, plans to meet with President Narendra Modi virtually. For a country where COVID numbers appeared to be dropping dramatically just a few weeks ago, what has gone so wrong in India?

The Indian variant, known as B.1.617, appears to be wreaking havoc in the country. Since April 15, India has been reporting more than 200,000 cases of coronavirus every day and its capital, Delhi, recently announced a week-long lockdown after a rise in cases there overwhelmed the healthcare system.

“If we don’t impose a lockdown now, we might face a bigger calamity,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said as he addressed the city on Indian television on April 19. Worryingly, bed spaces and oxygen supplies in hospitals appear to be stretched, with reports of sick patients being turned away from hospitals and social media feeds filled with distraught family members whose loved ones cannot access the healthcare they need.

On Wednesday this week, as the COVID toll was rising, Delhi’s highest court took the unusual step of publicly criticising the central government and its approach to managing the country’s oxygen crisis. The court was hearing a petition filed by Max Hospitals seeking urgent help to tide over the oxygen shortage it was facing in six of its hospitals in the capital.

“Human lives are not that important for the State it means. We are shocked and dismayed that government doesn’t seem to be mindful to the extremely urgent need of medical oxygen,” the Bench stated. “We direct Centre to provide safe passage…so that such supplies are not obstructed for any reason whatsoever,” it said. “Hell will break loose [if oxygen is not supplied].” Damning words for the government in a time of crisis.

It is not entirely clear why this surge has happened in India, but it is likely to be because of crowded events organised in the run-up to elections – President Modi himself hit the campaign trail addressing election rallies in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on March 30 as the upturn of cases began. Large groups and social gatherings during religious festivals have also played a part, as well as the re-opening of public spaces and easing of lockdown measures which took place gradually throughout 2020 with the final “unlocking” of restrictions happening in December 2020.

There is also much concern about the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus in India. It is thought the dominant strain in the country now is the variant which was first identified in the UK, and which has shown to be up to 60 percent more transmissible between humans. On March 25, it was further announced that a new “double mutant” variant had been detected in India, now known as the “Indian variant”. This development is what has other countries spooked.

The Indian authorities do not think this new variant has yet become the dominant COVID strain in the country, but it is likely to be contributing to the increasing numbers. Genome sequencing of the new variant has shown that it has two important mutations:

1. The E484Q mutation: This is similar to the E484K mutation identified in the Brazil and South African variants, which have also been reported in recent months. The concern is that this mutation can change parts of the coronavirus spike protein. The spike protein forms part of the coronavirus outer layer and is what the virus uses to make contact with human cells.

Once contact has been made, the coronavirus then uses the spike protein to bind to the human cells, enter them and infect them. The immune response that the vaccines stimulate creates antibodies that target the spike protein of the virus specifically. Therefore, the worry is that if a mutation changes the shape of the spike protein significantly, then the antibodies may not be able to recognise and neutralise the virus effectively, even in those who have been vaccinated. Scientists are examining whether this may also be the case for the E484Q mutation.

2. The L452R mutation: This has also been found in a variant thought to be responsible for outbreaks in California. This variant is thought to increase the spike protein’s ability to bind to human host cells, thereby increasing its infectivity. A study of the mutation also suggests it may help the virus to evade the neutralising antibodies that both the vaccine and previous infection can produce, though this is still being examined.

This new wave in India has been devastating for the country. A coordinated response is needed between Indian states and central government to manage the supply of oxygen and essential drugs if the number of COVID-related deaths is to be brought under control. There is also a concern that we do not know the true number of deaths from COVID, as some people have died at home before they could get to hospital and many others in India, particularly in rural areas, have had difficulty accessing testing facilities.

Pressure urgently needs to be lifted off the healthcare system and the only way to do that is to ramp up the vaccination programme, strengthen social distancing procedures and re-introduce lockdown measures.

One of my passions as a doctor is being able to pass on my knowledge to the doctors of tomorrow. I have done it for years and am a senior lecturer at two UK universities.

A large part of the teaching I do involves getting my students to speak to and examine patients. This has been a challenge in the last 12 months as bringing patients into the surgery for them to see students has been too risky, and the patients that tended to have the illnesses the students needed to see were generally shielding to reduce the chances of them catching COVID-19.

Medical students have been lending a helping hand to COVID-ravaged hospitals all over the world, and their assistance has been welcomed by many. But we also need to prepare them for a world beyond COVID and, in the limited time we have with them, to ensure they are prepared for a wide range of medical conditions from the physical to the mental. But how can we do that if they were unable to see patients as normal?

Technology has been the answer. Our surgery, where I work as a family doctor in Bradford, northern England, is lucky enough to have a clinical skills lab that students can learn in. This is a room that has “model” body parts that the students can use for examination purposes.

Students can come into the surgery and, initially, hold telephone consultations with patients, speaking to real patients who ring in about their ailments. The students record a medical history by speaking to the patients and attempt to come up with a management plan which they then run past me or another doctor for approval.

Because the students cannot examine the patients physically, we then make a list of the examinations the students would have done and, once their clinic list is complete, move over to the clinical skills lab. I then ask them to practice the examination they would have done on the models. This might include a chest exam, a rectal or vaginal exam. The models can be adjusted so that each time the student uses them they will make a different examination finding, such as a new lump or abnormal breathing sounds. It really is quite clever.

Although it will never really replace the real thing, this method has allowed us to keep medical education going throughout the pandemic – something that has challenged medical schools the world over.

And now, some good news: Exercising can reduce the risks of COVID

A new study by Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland has shown that regular exercise can reduce the risk of getting infections like COVID-19 by up to 37 percent. The researchers conducted a full-scale systematic review of 16,698 worldwide epidemiological studies published between January 1980 and April 2020, with world-renowned immunologists and epidemiologists from University College London (UCL) in the UK and Ghent University (UGent) in Belgium, as well as exercise and sports scientists from Cádiz University in Spain and a public health consultant from NHS Lanarkshire (NHSL) in the UK.

They found that doing 30 minutes of exercise which gets you out of breath and a bit sweaty five times a week strengthens your immune response to infectious diseases. It is thought that regular exercise increases the number of immune cells in the body acting on the first line of defence – the mucosal layer of antibodies. These cells are responsible for identifying foreign agents or “germs” in the body without depressing the rest of the immune system, so it’s perfectly safe and protects you against infectious disease.

We have known for some time about the benefits exercise can have for a person’s overall physical and mental health. Now, in the time of COVID, it has been shown to help boost your immune system too. So the message is clear; get outdoors and exercise if you can or to the gym if it is in keeping with your local COVID guidelines. If neither is possible, your kitchen or living room is a perfectly good place to do 30 minutes of dancing, jumping or whatever floats your boat!

Reader’s question: Is it safe to go to my hospital appointment during a pandemic?

Over the past 12 months, people have repeatedly been told that the safest place for them is home and that hospitals are busy dealing with COVID-19 patients. While that is true, it is also important to remember that other illnesses have not gone away.

I have found that many of my patients are not attending their appointments for other conditions because they are worried about catching COVID or think their illness is not as important as coronavirus. Hospitals and GP surgeries all over the world have gone out of their way to make large parts of their buildings COVID-free. This means that they can be used for non-COVID-related services and staff working there will not be crossing over to cover COVID wards or clinics. So, if you receive an appointment to attend a clinic or hospital service, it is really important that you do go.

Source: Why does India have so many COVID cases? | Coronavirus pandemic News | Al Jazeera

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Related Links:

#COVIDSOS: Indian Twitter becomes a platform of hope amid despair

COVID vaccine at $5 for Indian states, $8 for private hospitals

World’s highest daily rise in COVID cases in India, record deaths

India COVID surge drives oil prices down for second straight day

As Pandemic Fatigue Sets In at Work, Employers Try to Help

People are tired. Between a global pandemic, economic crisis, social unrest, & political upheaval, the past year has been physically and emotionally draining for just about everyone, and perhaps most for essential workers.

Across industries, workers struggling with pandemic fatigue are facing burnout more than ever. For leaders, keeping these employees engaged and motivated is a challenge in itself. While some leaders are turning to incentives like gift cards and cash to help support employees, others are taking a softer approach, investing in relationships and focusing on workplace communication.

Money Talks

When the pandemic began, the hospitality industry fell off a cliff, says Liz Neumark, founder and CEO of Great Performances, a catering company in New York City. She knew keeping everyone employed would be difficult until her business could find another source of revenue apart from events, which eventually came in the form of preparing meals for essential workers and people unable to quarantine at home. While some of her employees, such as those in sales or event production, saw salary reductions, chefs, kitchen staff, and other employees making food for essential workers kept their full salaries and got help with transportation as well.  

The founders of P. Terry’s, an Austin, Texas-based fast-food restaurant chain, give employees gift cards and cash to help pay for groceries and offer them interest-free loans. They also incentivize employees to participate in community and civic causes, including paying hourly wages for volunteer work.

Justin Spannuth, chief operating officer of Unique Snacks, a sixth-generation, family-operated hard pretzel maker in Reading, Pennsylvania, increased hourly wages by $2 for all 85 of his employees. The company also hired additional temporary employees to provide a backup workforce. Spannuth says the move helped persuade employees with possible symptoms to stay at home by easing the guilt that employees can have about not coming in and potentially increasing the workload on their colleagues. 

“The last thing we wanted our employees to do was get worn out from working too many hours and then have their immune system compromised because of it,” says Spannuth.

Helping Employees Connect

Andrea Ahern, vice president of Mid Florida Material Handling, a material handling company in Orlando, Florida, says it was difficult to keep morale up when the business was clearly struggling; employees were uncertain about the company’s future, and their own. To help ease the stress, the company held a wide array of picnic-style meals in the company’s parking lot. It was a light distraction that still followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Now, she says, morale has started to rise.

“With the release of the vaccine and the so-called ‘light at the end of the tunnel,’ we’re starting to see the industry get a lift in activity, and associates feel good when they know their jobs aren’t at risk. However, it wasn’t always this way.”

These kinds of events can, of course, also take place virtually. Company leaders across industries are encouraging staff to treat Zoom as a virtual water cooler. But while casual online gatherings after work can help colleagues maintain friendly relationships, they can also contribute to “Zoom fatigue”–the drained feeling that comes after a long day of video calls, which often require more concentration than in-person meetings.

Matt McCambridge, co-founder and CEO of Eden Health, a primary/collaborative care practice based in New York, says while his teams hold regular virtual water coolers, they switch it up. For example, the company hosted an interactive “dueling pianos” virtual event over the holidays, as well as a magic show. 

Better Communication From the Top

Communicating support work-life balance at a time when many people are remote and facing trauma is critical. Neumark notes that when her catering company was pivoting and in the process of providing hundreds, if not thousands, of meals, the team was relying mostly on sheer adrenaline. Months later, now that the novelty is gone and fatigue has fully set in, the boundaries she set are crucial.

One rule, for example, is weekends off, unless there’s an urgent, unavoidable request. “The weeks are still so intense, and people need their private time right now,” says Neumark.

It’s essential that leaders understand the issues their employees may be facing and not try to gloss over them, says Dr. Benjamin F. Miller, a psychologist and chief strategy officer of Well Being Trust, a foundation aimed at advancing mental and social health. “When your boss is pretending that everything is OK, it doesn’t create a conducive work environment for someone to talk about having a bad day,” says Miller. That’s one reason virtual water coolers often fail, he notes. While they’re great at getting people together, there’s little benefit if people can’t speak openly and honestly.

It’s also OK to tell employees that you, as a leader, are not having an easy time. Showing vulnerability doesn’t show weakness, Miller adds. You’re setting an example that shows that it’s OK to be honest and acknowledge that not everyone is not having the best time. If you aren’t aware that someone is in a crisis, he says, you may lose the opportunity to reach out to that person and help.

By Brit Morse@britnmorse

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ZDoggMD

Cases rising, news orgs banging the drums of doom, yet Americans seem to be throwing up their hands. Here’s what’s up with #pandemicfatigue​, LIVE. Transcript, audio podcast, and more: https://zdoggmd.com/pandemic-fatigue-…​ Your support keeps this content independent and awesome, so join the Supporter Tribe to get exclusive videos, live discussions, and other crazy perks: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/zdoggmd/…​ Facebook: http://facebook.com/becomesupporter/z…​ Patreon: http://patreon.com/zdoggmd​ PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/zdoggmd​ Merch! https://supportertribe4lyfe.com/​ (Facebook and YouTube supporters get 25% off) Website: https://ZDoggMD.com​ Podcast: https://ZDoggMD.com/podcasts​ Facebook: http://facebook.com/zdoggmd​ Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gD8_D1​ Twitter: http://twitter.com/zdoggmd​ Instagram: http://instagram.com/zdoggmd

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U.K. Hit By Worst Economic Contraction On Record Amid Covid-19 Pandemic

Britain’s economy shrank by a record-breaking 9.9% in 2020, new figures by the Office of National Statistics show, highlighting the impact of Covid-19 restrictions, employment uncertainty and reduced demand, with limited growth in the final quarter narrowly avoiding a double-dip recession.  

The Office for National Statistics said Friday that the U.K.’s economic output fell by 9.9% in 2020, the largest annual fall on record.

Though the economy grew 1% in the last quarter when looser restrictions boosted the services industry, overall output was down 7.8% from the last quarter of 2019, the ONS said. 

The slump is twice that of the 2009 financial crisis and is possibly the worst in 300 years, with models from the Bank of England suggesting a decline of 13% during the Great Frost of 1709.

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U.K. finance minister Rishi Sunak said the figures show that the U.K. has suffered a “serious shock” as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“While there are some positive signs of the economy’s resilience over the winter, we know that the current lockdown continues to have a significant impact on many people and businesses,” Sunak said, adding that his focus “remains fixed on doing everything we can to protect jobs, businesses and livelihoods.”

Key Background

The pandemic and associated public health restrictions made for an economically bumpy 2020, especially in economies like the U.K. which are heavily reliant on services. In the U.K., the first and second quarters of 2020 shrunk the economy by 2.9% and 19% respectively, but there was record growth of 16.1% in the third as restrictions were lifted. 

Tangent

In contrast, the U.S. economy shrank by a record 3.5% in 2020, the worst year since the aftermath of World War 2.    

What To Watch For

Strict public health measures and a resurgent wave of Covid-19 infections driven by a dangerous new variant of the virus have the U.K. economy likely falling again in 2021. While the U.K. has the worst coronavirus death rate in the world, it also has one of the best vaccination records, priming the country for an economic comeback. The BBC reported Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane describing the economy as a “coiled spring” ready to release large amounts of “pent-up financial energy”.

 Further Reading

GDP first quarterly estimate, UK: October to December 2020 (ONS)

UK economy suffered record annual slump in 2020 (BBC)

UK economy shrinks by most in 300 years (Financial Times) Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip

Robert Hart

Robert Hart

I am a London-based reporter for Forbes covering breaking news. Previously, I have worked as a reporter for a specialist legal publication covering big data and as a freelance journalist and policy analyst covering science, tech and health. I have a master’s degree in Biological Natural Sciences and a master’s degree in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge. Follow me on Twitter @theroberthart or email me at rhart@forbes.com 

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BBC News

The “economic emergency” caused by Covid-19 has only just begun, according to the UK’s Chancellor Rishi Sunak, as he warned the pandemic would deal lasting damage to growth and jobs. Please subscribe HERE http://bit.ly/1rbfUog​ Official forecasts now predict the biggest economic decline in 300 years. The UK economy is expected to shrink by 11.3% this year and not return to its pre-crisis size until the end of 2022. Government borrowing will rise to its highest outside of wartime to deal with the economic impact.

The government’s independent forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) expects the number of unemployed people to surge to 2.6 million by the middle of next year. It means the unemployment rate will hit 7.5%, its highest level since the financial crisis in 2009. Newsnight’s Political Editor Nick Watt and Policy Editor Lewis Goodall report. #BBCNews#Newsnight#Coronavirus​ Newsnight is the BBC’s flagship news and current affairs TV programme – with analysis, debate, exclusives, and robust interviews. Website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsnight​ Twitter: https://twitter.com/BBCNewsnight​ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bbcnewsnight

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‘We need more help’: three firms on surviving the UK’s Covid-19 economy | Small business http://www.ways2rock.com – TodayThe UK economy recorded the deepest economic contraction for 300 years in 2020 but it has avoided a double-di […]1

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Microsoft’s channel could boost UK economy – Channel EYE channeleye.co.uk – TodayA report has shown how Microsoft’s channel can play a key role in helping the UK economy recover from the pandemic and make a bob or two on the side […]0

Newspaper headlines: A ‘road map’ out of lockdown? http://www.bbc.co.uk – Today[…] The Daily Mirror describes as “dismal” yesterday’s figures showing the UK economy shrunk by almost 10% last year […]14

Brexit latest: Make them pay! Sunak urged to fight EU firms over plot to ‘steal UK industr | Politics | News http://www.express.co.uk – Today[…] ” Brexit latest: The key moments that led to the UK’s departure from the EU 8am update: UK economy hit by 9 […]11

What the papers say – February 13 – BelfastTelegraph.co.uk http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk – Today[…] com/2SSgpymyyb — The Guardian (@guardian) February 12, 2021 The FT Weekend says the UK economy recorded its worst economic performance since 1709 – the year of the Great Frost – due to th […]N/A

Church House ‘bullish’ on UK economy, highlighting £150bln UK household savings ready to be spent http://www.proactiveinvestors.co.uk – Today[…]   With the vaccine rollout, both are ‘bullish’ on the UK economy, with a particular interest on ‘consumer, domestic spending’ […]N/A

Manufacturers to share inspirational stories of digital technology adoption at Made Smarter virtual summit – Industrial Compliance http://www.connectingindustry.com – Today[…] that Made Smarter’s adoption pilot is having on individuals, businesses, the environment, and the UK economy […]N/A

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Stocks struggle but the Bitcoin shines http://www.arabnews.com – Today[…] London sentiment was dented somewhat by news that the coronavirus-ravaged UK economy shrank by a record 9 […]N/A

The UK dodged a double-dip recession, so what next? podcast http://www.thisismoney.co.uk – Today[…] The GDP figures are in for the final three months of 2020 and the UK economy grew by 1 per cent, according to the ONS, despite widespread expectations that it would shrin […]N/A

‘Too early’ to book summer holiday despite Covid vaccine success, says Rishi Sunak http://www.itv.com – Today[…] The UK economy contracted by 9 […] 9% Contraction in the UK economy in 2020 Last week, the Bank of England delivered an upbeat assessment of our prospects goin […]39

By investors, for investors: Leading investors and professionals come together to create a next-generation blueprint for Diversity and Inclusion in the investment industry | BVCA | British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association http://www.bvca.co.uk – Today[…] our under-represented entrepreneurs and business founders could provide a massive boost to the UK economy […]1

Pubs and restaurants ‘to be allowed to serve outdoors from April’ http://www.lbc.co.uk – Today[…] Read more: PM to lay out roadmap for easing lockdown over coming months on 22 February Read more: UK economy fell by 9 […]26

About — http://www.artisessential.art – Today[…] 8 billion a year to the Treasury via taxation to the UK economy, and provides 363,700 jobs, but recent events have exposed the delicate ecology of our secto […]30

MARKET REPORT: Shares in airline Jet2 plunge http://www.thisismoney.co.uk – Today[…]   The market overall had a shaky start following revelations that the UK economy shrank by a record 9 […]N/A

Virus expected to last long-term despite global vaccine rollout medicalxpress.com – Today[…] Record drop for UK economy European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen urged the 27 EU member countries to accelerat […]1

Re-imagining corporate real estate http://www.shoosmiths.co.uk – Today[…] costs UK businesses around £70 billion a year, with an estimated total annual cost to the UK economy of £340 billion […]0

Bridging the digital skills gap with apprenticeships bruntwood.co.uk – Today[…] at Platform in Leeds said: Apprenticeships are one of the mechanisms that are going to help the UK economy recover from the impact of Covid-19; they build expertise quickly within high-growth areas an […]N/A

UK economy shrinks by record 9.9% in 2020 pandemic http://www.youtube.com – February 125

UK economy shrinks by record 9.9% in 2020 pandemic – Channel 4 News news.google.com – February 120

The Fight to Survive. COVID & BREXIT vs a Small Events Company. – Timmo’s Tour Blog http://www.timbrennan.co.uk – February 12[…] An Industry that through the efforts of many companies like ours is worth billions to the UK economy […]1

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Over £18bn of private debt lending has helped finance businesses – Credit Connect http://www.credit-connect.co.uk – February 12[…] recovery, supporting business growth will be a fundamental driver of a thriving post-Covid-19 UK economy […]

Five Lessons From The Pandemic Light A Path Forward To The Future Of Work

Finally, we are nearing the end of the 2020 tunnel and seeing encouraging glimmers of light. While the pandemic is not yet under control, we do have promising vaccine news as 2021 approaches, and many countries in the Asia-Pacific region have returned to on-site work. We see stabilization in US government after months of uncertainty, and the beginning of commitment and action to address longstanding racial and social justice inequities.

At a more granular level, these months of operating in survival mode have provided valuable insight into how organizations and people can truly move forward from this disruption and position themselves to navigate the future disruptions that are bound to occur. In short, we see a path toward thriving, not merely surviving.

The lessons learned over the past eight months bring sharp focus to global human capital trends that have been evolving for years—trends in well-being, reskilling, superteams (combining humans with machines), workforce strategies, and the role of HR. Even more, these lessons reinforce the overarching need to build the human element into everything an organization does in order to create lasting value for workers, organizations, and society at large.

1. Human potential is our greatest untapped asset.

Organizations have tended to think about what people can do in terms of the bullet points on their resumes and job descriptions. But none of us really knows what we’re capable of and what our limits are until we’re tested and pushed to those limits. The past eight months have been a defining test. They’ve taught us that people can operate differently. They can adapt and perform in ways far beyond what their jobs and roles specifically call for and do what has to get done.

We must now challenge how we think about the workforce and use technology to help identify and unleash human potential within and beyond the organization. This includes retaining the magic that comes from empowering people to break through hierarchy and bureaucracy, lead at all levels, and roll up their sleeves to get the job done.

2. True top-of-the house leadership looks like nothing we’ve seen before.

For years we’ve talked about “tone at the top” and the importance of top-down leadership. Now we have stellar examples of what that looks like: examples of CEOs being more transparent and human than they’ve ever been before. This includes opening dialogues on tough issues like racism and well-being and allowing them to be front and center, and generally leaning into issues that go way past the traditional C-suite agenda.

Senior leaders now have the opportunity to embody the organization’s purpose—its set of values supporting economic, social, and human interests—to infuse meaning into work that mobilizes employees around common, meaningful goals.

3. Leadership and culture are about connection and empowerment.

As people isolated at home, team leaders became the organization’s lifeline. It became their responsibility to not only focus on outcomes and organize the work accordingly, but also think about the moments that mattered culturally and foster trust in the organization. If they didn’t have empathy, listening skills, the trust of their teams, and the ability to communicate, manage, and lead, work suffered or at times didn’t get done at all.

Going forward, leaders and teams at all levels (not just higher levels) must develop capabilities that enable them to work and lead effectively while supporting the human needs of their team and representing the organization’s culture.

4. Work is the most underutilized source of value.

Work is more than simply the output it produces. It’s a powerful human force—a way for people to connect to a purpose, feel motivated, build relationships, and showcase their true capabilities. Yet no one is responsible for driving work transformation, keeping up with the pace of change, or harnessing what it can bring to the enterprise.

Organizations now have the opportunity to re-architect work for the future, not as a mechanized process, but as a flow that aligns with ways humans think and engage, and that continues to evolve. By its handling of COVID-19 challenges, HR has earned the right to spearhead this effort on behalf of the organization.

5. Ecosystems are essential to extend organizational capabilities.

The sheer enormity of the past year’s challenges proved the value of being able to leverage external partners and resources to accomplish what organizations couldn’t do on their own. For example, one transportation industry CEO related to us that, given the company has no Chief Medical Officer, he was able to enlist a top academic medical center to provide that guidance. In another example, we’re working with a group of 10 CHROs to build a cross-organizational learning program aimed at moving Black and Latinx professionals from the director to the executive level.

Going forward, organizations should deliberately cultivate an ecosystem of partners, vendors, alternative workers, and professional networks, realizing it’s the new reality of how work gets done.

From hard-learned experience to a leap forward

It would be a tremendous waste to treat the past year as a detour—a momentary delay that leads us right back to the path we were on. Instead, we need to treat 2020 as a shortcut that showed us how to leapfrog to our desired destination: a place where we’re not merely surviving, but thriving.

With the end of 2020 in sight, we have the means to createthe light we want to step into. There’s no “waiting for a better time”—the time is now. We’ll be sharing more insights on how organizations can get this done in the coming weeks in Deloitte’s 2021 Global Human Capital Trends (sign up to receive a copy here).

This piece was co-authored by Jeff Schwartz, principal and US leader for the Future of Work, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Erica Volini

Erica Volini

Erica Volini is the Global Human Capital leader for Deloitte Consulting. Throughout her career, she has worked with some of the world’s leading organizations to link their business and human capital strategies. She is a frequent speaker on how market trends are shaping the future of work and the HR profession and is a recognized thought leader in the trends shaping the world of human capital today.

Steve Hatfield

Steve Hatfield

Steve Hatfield is a Principal with Deloitte Consulting and serves as the Global Leader for Future of Work for Deloitte. He has over 20 years of experience advising global organizations on issues of strategy, innovation, organization, people, culture, and change.

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A new global initiative will use nuclear science to better manage pandemic threats, such as COVID-19. The IAEA Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC) project will establish a global network to help national laboratories in monitoring, surveillance, early detection and control of animal and zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola, avian influenza and Zika. ZODIAC is based on the technical, scientific and laboratory capacity of the IAEA and its partners and the Agency’s mechanisms to quickly deliver equipment and know-how to countries. Subscribe for more videos: http://goo.gl/VxsqCz Follow IAEA on social media: Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/iaeaorg/ Twitter – https://twitter.com/iaeaorg Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+iaea Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/iaeaorg/ LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/company/iaea © IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication http://iaea.org

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How The Pandemic Has Changed Our Lives in 2020

To say that 2020 was a year unlike any other would be putting it mildly. The COVID-19 pandemic left few parts of daily life unscathed. From forcing legions of children to attend school via Zoom to revising how we work, travel, and shop for food, here’s a look at some of the most notable ways life changed in 2020.

Related: Americans’ Top 10 Biggest Fears About the Coronavirus Pandemic

With urban hubs like New York City making headlines for being COVID-19 hotspots, the suburbs have never been quite so appealing. A variety of studies have found that Americans of all demographics began adopting suburban life during 2020. In particular, the moving resources and information company MyMove conducted a study of change of address data from the U.S. Postal Service and found that more than 15.9 million people moved during coronavirus. The MyMove report notes that “people are leaving big, densely populated areas like Manhattan, Brooklyn and Chicago and spreading out to suburbs or smaller communities across the country.”

Related: Pandemic Phrases That Have Infected Our Vocabulary

COVID-19 also triggered a massive shift in how we work. At the onset of the pandemic, countless Americans created home offices overnight in order to adapt to the new normal. And while it seemed initially that the shift would be temporary, more than a few of America’s most well-known employers have since announced long-term work from home plans and policies. In fact, Flexjobs has said working remotely may very well be the way of the future, pandemic or not, with some companies even deciding to let employees work from home permanently, including Coinbase, Infosys, Lambda School, Nationwide Insurance, and Nielsen.

Related: 18 Big Companies Letting People Work From Home Long-Term

Students of all ages have seen their worlds altered dramatically. Remote learning has become the norm for all ages, from elementary school through college. As 2020 draws to a close, the remote learning continues for many, with many school districts around the country — from San Diego to Chicago and Boston — pushing back any plans to return to in-person education as the pandemic rages. Zoom classes, it seems, are here to stay for a while longer.

Related: 25 Top-Rated Products on Amazon for Working From Home and Remote Learning

School and work aren’t the only parts of life that have moved almost entirely online. More Americans than ever are grocery shopping online, we’re holding virtual happy hours, and even taking part in Zoom doctors’ appointments more routinely. Computers have likely never played a more central role in our lives. An article from MyMove calls it the “telepresence boom” noting that entire families are now performing basic functions from their homes via a computer and an internet connection. And many of those changes are not likely to ease any time soon.

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Ah, the good old days when we attended big concerts without a second thought, as well as weddings, festivals or sporting events. The year 2020 significantly altered this part of life with social distancing and lockdowns being the rule. As an article in Physician Sense notes, all of these things will be back at some point, but even after the pandemic has subsided, large gatherings are likely to be forever altered in some ways.

Related: 12 Things You Likely Won’t See at the Next Wedding You Attend

The pandemic of course, changed our eating habits, a topic worthy of an entire article of its own. But let’s start with the renewed or increased focus on beans. This humble, protein-filled staple has taken on new importance amid COVID-19. The New York Times reported in March a huge boom in bean sales, which makes sense, right? Beans are filling, nutritious, and inexpensive.

Related: Best Beans and Rice Recipes From Around the World

The past year has been stressful, unnerving, boredom-filled, and more. So, it’s no surprise that we’re reaching for comfort food more regularly. A poll released in September found that two out of three people are eating more comfort food. This includes an increase in the consumption of pizza (55 percent), hamburgers (48 percent), ice cream (46 percent), and more.

Related: 20 Comfort Food Recipes That Freeze Well

While we’re seeking out the comfort food, we’re ditching the healthy stuff. Forbes found Google Trends data suggesting that searches for terms like “salads” and “veggies” were lower in 2020 than at the same time in 2019.

Related: Top Google Searches Before & After Covid-19

With restrictions on dining inside restaurants in 2020 thanks to social-distancing guidelines, drive-thru became the next best thing for many people. Restaurants far and wide responded by redesigning their customer experience to include many adding drive-thru lanes or creating spaces for curbside pickup — even if they already had drive-thru lanes. What’s more, a recent article from Forbes says that curbside pickup is here to stay, even after the pandemic ends. The publication reported that Starbucks CFO Pat Grismer says curbside service is part of the chain’s plans for longer-term recovery.

Related: How Drive-In Restaurants Are Catering to Customers Amid the Pandemic

Before COVID-19 altered our world, about 20 percent of Americans shopped for food more than three times each week. A study by consulting firm McKinsey, however, found that number was down to 10 percent by June 2020. Meanwhile, Supermarket News reported that online grocery sales skyrocketed, rising from $1.2 billion in August 2019 to $7.2 billion in June 2020.

Related: Online Grocery Delivery Comparison: Is One of These Services Right for You?

Remember when it seemed almost rude not to greet the individual who delivered food to your home? The days when we would meet him or her at the door and perhaps provide a cash tip. That’s a distant world, isn’t it? Now we practically cower inside our homes fearing human contact, requesting the delivery driver drop our food on the doorstep and be gone. Close contact with strangers became a health hazard in 2020 and we have adapted accordingly. Doordash, Seamless, and many smaller delivery services offer a contact-free option.

Outdoor dining used to be far more prevalent in Europe than the U.S., but with social distancing being the new normal and the fact that the hazards of COVID-19 are reduced in fresh-air environments, restaurants that never before considered al fresco offerings have scurried to set up tents and tables in parking lots, on sidewalks and in roadways. Some 67 miles of streets were closed to vehicular traffic in New York City, with more 2.6 miles dedicated to the city’s Open Restaurants program, which has been made permanent. Some restaurants are also making structural alterations, building patios and decks. As Architectural Digest reported: “Masked waiters, tables spaced six feet apart, plexiglass barriers, and even stuffed animals occupying seats — these are some of the changes you might encounter the next time you dine out.”

Related: Beloved Restaurants and Bars That Closed Permanently This Year

A Statista survey conducted during the earliest days of the pandemic revealed our personal hygiene habits had also begun to change significantly in 2020. Back in April, 79 percent of the Statista survey participants said they wash their hands more regularly. Not surprising under the circumstances. And the reality is that stepped-up hand washing is still a necessity as the pandemic rages on.

Related: How to Disinfect Without Harming Your Stuff (or Yourself)

Headline-grabbing protesters aside, it seems the need for making face masks a part of our lives has begun to sink in as the year draws to a close. A HealthDay/Harris Poll found that “more than nine in 10 U.S. adults (93%) said they sometimes, often or always wear a mask or face covering when they leave their home and are unable to socially distance, including more than seven in 10 (72%) who said they always do so.” And until vaccines become more widely distributed, masks will continue to be an important part of life.

Related: Masks and Accessories to Make Covering Your Face More Comfortable

To say the travel experience changed in 2020 would be an understatement. This is a topic that has received immense coverage. Some of the most immediate impacts to our lives include the lack of travel altogether and the bans on Americans visiting many countries around the world because of the COVID-19 rates in this country. But travel has changed in more subtle ways as well, with some airlines blocking middle seats from being used to keep passengers from sitting too close together, and cruise lines practically ceasing operations, while hotels are redoubling efforts to provide clean, sanitized rooms when you check-in.

Meanwhile, more Americans are taking road trips and rediscovering America again. A survey conducted by Cooper Tires and reported by the New York Post earlier this year found that 43 percent of those surveyed had replaced canceled travel plans with a road trip of some sort.

Related: I Drove Cross-Country During the Pandemic — Here’s What I Learned

Another sign of the times, public transportation has become a highly undesirable way to get from place to place. A Statista survey conducted in April found 38 percent of respondents said they had begun avoiding crowded modes of public transport. It’s a shift that’s not likely to reverse course any time soon.

The gym industry has also taken a beating this year as have the exercise habits of Americans in general, with many hesitant to spend extended periods of time in confined spaces with fellow exercisers who are sweating and breathing heavily.

As Time reported, sweeping and repeated lockdowns have made Americans more sedentary than ever before and the effects are likely long-lasting. One survey reported by Time revealed a 32 percent reduction in physical activity among U.S. adults who had previously been meeting recommended exercise guidelines. Meanwhile, many gyms and personal trainers began offering virtual exercise sessions in 2020 in order to stay afloat, bringing their services to our living rooms for a change. No more rushing to get to your gym in time for an exercise class.

Related: 18 Fitness Challenges to Keep Pace (and Your Distance) During the Pandemic

While carrying cash was largely becoming a thing of the past prior to 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak has hastened this trend. It’s not unusual to walk into a store these days and see a sign that says “Credit cards preferred.” That April Statista survey found that cash is being used far less day-to-day by 36 percent of survey respondents. For those still not clear on the why behind this shift in daily life — a scientific study explains that “paper currency by its very nature is frequently transferred from one person to another and represents an important medium for human contact.” And as we all know so well now — human contact is the big no-no of 2020.

Related: Cash-Based Businesses That Must Change to Survive in the COVID-19 Era

By: Mia Taylor

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Billionaire Eric Lefkofsky’s Tempus Raises $200 Million To Bring Personalized Medicine To New Diseases

On the surface, Eric Lefkofsky’s Tempus sounds much like every other AI-powered personalized medicine company. “We try to infuse as much data and technology as we can into the diagnosis itself,” Lefkofsky says, which could be said by the founder of any number of new healthcare companies.. But what makes Tempus different is that it is quickly branching out, moving from a focus on cancer to additional programs including mental health, infectious diseases, cardiology and soon diabetes. “We’re focused on those disease areas that are the most deadly,” Lefkofsky says. 

Now, the billionaire founder has an additional $200 million to reach that goal. The Chicago-based company announced the series G-2 round on Thursday, which includes a massive valuation of $8.1 billion. Lefkofsky, the founder of multiple companies including Groupon, also saw his net worth rise from the financing, from an estimated $3.2 billion to an estimated $4.2 billion.

Tempus is “trying to disrupt a very large industry that is very complex,” Lefkofsky says, “we’ve known it was going to cost a lot of money to see our business model to fruition.” 

In addition to investors Baillie Gifford, Franklin Templeton, Novo Holdings, and funds managed by T. Rowe Price, Lefkofsky, who has invested about $100 million of his own money into the company since inception, also contributed an undisclosed amount to the round. Google also participated as an investor, and Tempus says it will now store its deidentified patient data on Google Cloud. 

PROMOTED Google Cloud BrandVoice | Paid Program How Anthos And Multi-Cloud Are Transforming Enterprise IT UNICEF USA BrandVoice | Paid Program Protecting Children In Venezuela During The Pandemic AWS Infrastructure Solutions BrandVoice | Paid Program Studios Of The Future: A Hybrid Cloud Model For Media & Entertainment

“We are particularly attracted to companies that aim to solve fundamental and complex challenges within life sciences,” says Robert Ghenchev, a senior partner at Novo Holdings. “Tempus is, in many respects, the poster child for the kind of companies we like to support.” 

MORE FOR YOUTony Hsieh’s American Tragedy: The Self-Destructive Last Months Of The Zappos VisionaryWhy 40 North Ventures Bought GE Ventures’ Stakes In 11 Industrial StartupsAt-Home Health Testing Company Everlywell Raises $175 Million Series D Round At A $1.3 Billion Valuation

Tempus, founded by Lefkofsky in 2015, is one of a new breed of personalized cancer diagnostic companies like Foundation Medicine and Guardant Health. The company’s main source of revenue comes from sequencing the genome of cancer patients’ tumors in order to help doctors decide which treatments would be most effective. “We generate a lot of molecular data about you as a patient,” Lefkofsky says. He estimates that Tempus has the data of about 1 in 3 cancer patients in the United States. 

But billing insurance companies for sequencing isn’t the only way the company makes money. Tempus also offers a service that matches eligible patients to clinical trials, and it licenses  de-identified patient data to other players in the oncology industry. That patient data, which includes images and clinical information, is “super important and valuable,” says Lefkofsky, who adds that such data sharing only occurs if patients consent. 

At first glance, precision oncology seems like a crowded market, but analysts say there is still plenty of room for companies to grow. “We’re just getting started in this market,” says Puneet Souda, a senior research analyst at SVB Leerink, “[and] what comes next is even larger.” Souda estimates that as the personalized oncology market expands from diagnostics to screening, another $30 billion or more will be available for companies to snatch up. And Tempus is already thinking ahead by moving into new therapeutic areas. 

While it’s not leaving cancer behind, Tempus has branched into other areas of precision medicine over the last year, including cardiology and mental health. The company now offers a service for psychiatrists to use a patient’s genetic information to determine the best treatments for major depressive disorder. 

In May, Lefkofsky also pushed the company to use its expertise to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The company now offers PCR tests for Covid-19, and has run over 1 million so far. The company also sequences other respiratory pathogens, such as the flu and soon pneumonia. As with cancer, Tempus will continue to make patient data accessible for others in the field— for a price. “Because we have one of the largest repositories of data in the world,” says Lefkofsky, “[it is imperative] that we make it available to anyone.” 

Lefkofsky plans to use capital from the latest funding round to continue Tempus’ expansion and grow its team. The company has hired about 700 since the start of the pandemic, he says, and currently has about 1,800 employees. He wouldn’t comment on exact figures, but while the company is not yet profitable he says Tempus has reached “significant scale in terms of revenue.” 

And why is he so sure that his company’s massive valuation isn’t over-inflated? “We benefit from two really exciting financial sector trends,” he says: complex genomic profiling and AI-driven health data. Right now, Lefkofsky estimates, about one-third of cancer patients have their tumors sequenced in three years. Soon, he says, that number will increase to two-thirds of patients getting their tumors sequenced multiple times a year. “The space itself is very exciting,” he says, “we think it will grow dramatically.” Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip

Leah Rosenbaum

Leah Rosenbaum

I am the assistant editor of healthcare and science at Forbes. I graduated from UC Berkeley with a Master’s of Journalism and a Master’s of Public Health, with a specialty in infectious disease. Before that, I was at Johns Hopkins University where I double-majored in writing and public health. I’ve written articles for STAT, Vice, Science News, HealthNewsReview and other publications. At Forbes, I cover all aspects of health, from disease outbreaks to biotech startups.

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Eric Lefkofsky

To impact the nearly 1.7 million Americans who will be newly diagnosed with cancer this year, Eric Lefkofsky, co-founder and CEO of Tempus, discusses with Matter CEO Steven Collens how he is applying his disruptive-technology expertise to create an operating system to battle cancer. (November 29, 2016)

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In Rural America, Resentment Over COVID-19 Shutdowns is Colliding With Rising Case Numbers

As COVID-19 spreads through rural America, new infection numbers are rising to peaks not seen during this pandemic and pushing hospitals to their limits. Many towns are experiencing their first major outbreaks, but that doesn’t mean rural communities had previously been spared the devastating impacts of the pandemic.

Infection rates in rural and frontier communities ebbed and flowed during the first seven months, often showing up in pockets linked to meat packing plants, nursing homes or prisons.

Even if they had no cases, many rural areas were under statewide public health orders that left businesses closed and events canceled. And that has become part of the problem today. The early compassionate and cohesive community responses to COVID-19 quickly gave way to growing anger and compliance fatigue, especially when some isolated towns didn’t see their first positive cases until summer.

That resentment toward public health recommendations, including mask-wearing, is now on a crash course with rising case numbers in the Mountain West, Midwest and Great Plains. For the fifth week in a row, rural counties witnessed a sharp increase in cases, to the point where over 70% of the nation’s nonmetropolitan counties had earned a “red zone” designation, suggesting local viral spread was out of control. The reality, though, is COVID-19 has never been “under control” in the U.S.

As professors of family medicine with experience in rural health policy and medical practice, we have been studying the barriers rural communities are facing during the pandemic and how they can solve COVID-19-related challenges.

Understanding the drivers of increasing COVID-19 cases in rural places is critical to both curtailing the current surge and limiting flareups in the future.

Why rural cases are on the rise

Several factors have contributed to the rise in rural case numbers.

The politicization of the pandemic – and of mask-wearing – has hampered both public health efforts and collaboration among businesses, community organizations and health care entities. Political tensions have given rise to misinformation, reinforced on social media, that can be difficult to turn around. If people aren’t taking protective measures, when COVID-19 does come in, it can easily and quickly spread.

In some communities, the resumption of small-town activities, such as school, church and sports events, has led to more infections. Experts have pointed to social gatherings, including the nearly 500,000-strong Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota in August, as sources of the recent COVID-19 surge in the upper Midwest.

Working from home is also nearly impossible for many rural jobs. Paid sick leave may also be difficult to come by, prompting some people to choose between working while sick and isolating at home without pay. Meat and poultry processing plants and other farm industries often employ immigrants whose living and commuting realities can make social distancing difficult. Many rural places are heavily dependent on recreation and service industries. When visitors arrive from out of town, they may bring COVID-19 with them.

A man partially wearing a mask waits for an employment interview in Imperial County, California.
Unemployed workers wait to fill out job applications in a region hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Local health care is already short-supplied

Pinpointing COVID-19 outbreaks early and stopping the spread can also be harder in rural areas.

Funding for rural public health departments has long been anemic, crippling their ability to test, share data and conduct contact tracing. Limited resources also constrain education and outreach efforts.

Many rural hospitals and primary care practices entered the pandemic in financial trouble and chronically short-staffed. They reside squarely at the end of the supply chain, making acquisition of needed personal protective equipment and testing supplies difficult. Rural hospitals have fewer ICU beds per capita than their urban counterparts. Lack of consistent broadband coverage can make access to telehealth difficult, as well.

These factors, compounded by caring for a population that is comparatively older, sicker and poorer, leave rural communities extraordinarily vulnerable as cases continue to rise.

How to turn the tide of rising cases

Intervening now can slow the rate of rise of COVID-19 cases in rural hot spots while simultaneously building a more robust long-term response.

To be most effective, each rural area’s unique demographics, economies and perspectives should be considered as policies are developed.

For example, allowing rural communities to exert control over their reopening and closing decisions based on local disease transmission dynamics would allow them to better balance disease mitigation with economic impacts. Some states allow rural communities with few or no cases to apply for waivers from statewide public health orders. These applications generally look at local infection data, containment measures and health care capacity.

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Changing the nature of the conversation around COVID-19 in the community can also help in implementing simple, effective measures like mask-wearing. When communications are personal, they may be more accepted. For example, a public service message could remind people that wearing a mask keeps your favorite business open and your grandmother healthy. Framing levels of risk in understandable terms for different types of activities can also help, such as how to exercise or socialize safely. Working with trusted local messengers, such as business owners and faith leaders, can help convey evidence-based information.

A cafe owner wears a protective face mask in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Stillwater, Oklahoma, pulled back on requiring people to wear masks in stores last spring after officials said some customers threatened store employees. Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty

Planning is also essential. Communities need to prepare so they can get supplies, testing and treatment when needed; protect the most vulnerable community members; educate the community; and support people in isolation and quarantine. A rural regional approach to testing and contact tracing, sharing supplies and swapping staff could help bridge some of the gaps. Getting test results closer to home could decrease wait times and courier costs. Sharing resources across health care organizations could also minimize the burden of response.

3 ways to strengthen systems for the future

COVID-19 isn’t likely to be the last pandemic rural America will see. Here are three ways to strengthen rural systems for the future.

  • By partnering with universities and local and state agencies, communities can incorporate their unique susceptibilities into dynamic epidemiological models that could better inform local public health and economic decisions.
  • Aligning public health and health care measures could help governments better balance pandemic responses and ensure all parts of the community are moving toward the same goal.
  • Increasing broadband access and internet speeds in rural and frontier communities could also help. During the pandemic, people everywhere have appreciated the need for internet connectivity for education, remote work and purchasing goods, as well as virtual health care.

By: Lauren Hughes / Associate Professor of Family Medicine, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus & Roberto Silva / Assistant Professor of Family Medicine, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, University of Colorado Denver

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CBS This Morning 1.64M subscribers The number of new coronavirus cases is rising across the country as the death toll approaches 200,000 in the U.S. Infectious disease experts are criticizing a reversal to critical guidance from the CDC on how COVID-19 spreads. David Begnaud reports.

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Hospital Beds Filling, Bars Closing With Nearly All Threshold

Countries across Europe are imposing new restrictions as the second wave of coronavirus infections that’s swept across the region since summer-time has recently taken a turn for the worse—seeping into older, more vulnerable populations and driving a surge in hospitalizations.

Key Facts

All but three European countries—Cyprus, Finland and Norway—have reached the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s (ECDC) coronavirus alarm threshold, which designates countries reporting above 20 cases per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average at high risk.

The ECDC’s most recent report, published last Thursday, also noted the rising death rate in Europe and identified sustained case increases in 27 countries, many of which are reporting more new infections than in the spring (though better detection methods play a factor). 

Among the countries faring the worst, the Czech Republic, reporting 22,179 cases and 158 deaths in the past week, enacted a second state of emergency Monday, while Madrid has entered a partial lockdown, barring non-essential travel to and from the city, as Spain reports nearly 10,000 new cases per day. 

France’s capital, which moved into a state of “maximum alert” on Monday as 30% of emergency beds in hospitals filled, leading to the closure of Paris bars and cafés, may be on the verge of tougher restrictions as the number of Covid-19 patients in emergency beds jumped to 40% on Tuesday. 

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Brussels, which has overtaken Paris and trails only Madrid in terms of infections per capita among Europe’s major cities, also announced it is shutting down bars and cafés in the city for a month on Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, a slew of other countries, including Ireland and Scotland, are mulling tough new restrictions.

Key Background 

While France, Spain, the Czech Republic and the U.K. are reporting higher numbers of new cases on average than they were during the peak of their spring outbreaks, the crisis isn’t as severe as it was through March and April. However, European authorities are concerned that rising infections, which have begun to spill into older populations, could soon bring hospitals back to the brink.

Crucial Quote 

“The enemy hasn’t been defeated yet,” said Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte last weekend, calling on Italians to be careful as to avoid a return to stricter pandemic measures. Italy, once the centre of the coronavirus pandemic, was the first country in the world to activate a nationwide lockdown in March.

Further Reading 

“British universities re-open with students locked-down and forced to care for infected classmates” (The New York Times) 

“As Second Covid-19 Wave Rolls Through Europe, Deaths and Hospitalizations Rise” (The Wall Street Journal)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus/Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip.

Jemima McEvoy

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

 Jemima McEvoy

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There are mounting concerns the pandemic will cause a global recession. It has been another torrid day on the markets. Stocks plunged around the world, despite a coordinated effort by central banks to protect growth and jobs. Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker begins our coverage with a look at the situation around Europe. –

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COVID-19 Has Killed Nearly 200,000 Americans. How Many More Lives Will Be Lost Before the U.S. Gets It Right?

Forty-five days before the announcement of the first suspected case of what would become known as COVID-19, the Global Health Security Index was published. The project—led by the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security—assessed 195 countries on their perceived ability to handle a major disease outbreak. The U.S. ranked first.

It’s clear the report was wildly overconfident in the U.S., failing to account for social ills that had accumulated in the country over the past few years, rendering it unprepared for what was about to hit. At some point in mid-September—perhaps by the time you are reading this—the number of confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. will have passed 200,000, more than in any other country by far.

If, early in the spring, the U.S. had mobilized its ample resources and expertise in a coherent national effort to prepare for the virus, things might have turned out differently. If, in midsummer, the country had doubled down on the measures (masks, social-distancing rules, restricted indoor activities and public gatherings) that seemed to be working, instead of prematurely declaring victory, things might have turned out differently. The tragedy is that if science and common sense solutions were united in a national, coordinated response, the U.S. could have avoided many thousands of more deaths this summer.

Indeed, many other countries in similar situations were able to face this challenge where the U.S. apparently could not. Italy, for example, had a similar per capita case rate as the U.S. in April. By emerging slowly from lockdowns, limiting domestic and foreign travel, and allowing its government response to be largely guided by scientists, Italy has kept COVID-19 almost entirely at bay. In that same time period, U.S. daily cases doubled, before they started to fall in late summer.

Among the world’s wealthy nations, only the U.S. has an outbreak that continues to spin out of control. Of the 10 worst-hit countries, the U.S. has the seventh-highest number of deaths per 100,000 population; the other nine countries in the top 10 have an average per capita GDP of $10,195, compared to $65,281 for the U.S. Some countries, like New Zealand, have even come close to eradicating COVID-19 entirely. Vietnam, where officials implemented particularly intense lockdown measures, didn’t record a single virus-related death until July 31.

There is nothing auspicious about watching the summer turn to autumn; all the new season brings are more hard choices. At every level—from elected officials responsible for the lives of millions to parents responsible for the lives of one or two children—Americans will continue to have to make nearly impossible decisions, despite the fact that after months of watching their country fail, many are now profoundly distrustful, uneasy and confused.

Friends and family mourn the death of Conrad Coleman Jr. on July 3 in New Rochelle, N.Y. Coleman, 39, died of COVID-19 on June 20, just over two months after his father also died of the disease

At this point, we can start to see why the U.S. foundered: a failure of leadership at many levels and across parties; a distrust of scientists, the media and expertise in general; and deeply ingrained cultural attitudes about individuality and how we value human lives have all combined to result in a horrifically inadequate pandemic response. COVID-19 has weakened the U.S. and exposed the systemic fractures in the country, and the gulf between what this nation promises its citizens and what it actually delivers.

Although America’s problems were widespread, they start at the top. A complete catalog of President Donald Trump’s failures to address the pandemic will be fodder for history books. There were weeks wasted early on stubbornly clinging to a fantastical belief that the virus would simply “disappear”; testing and contact tracing programs were inadequate; states were encouraged to reopen ahead of his own Administration’s guidelines; and statistics were repeatedly cherry-picked to make the U.S. situation look far better than it was, while undermining scientists who said otherwise. “I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told the journalist Bob Woodward on March 19 in a newly revealed conversation. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Common-sense solutions like face masks were undercut or ignored. Research shows that wearing a facial covering significantly reduces the spread of COVID-19, and a pre-existing culture of mask wearing in East Asia is often cited as one reason countries in that region were able to control their outbreaks. In the U.S., Trump did not wear a mask in public until July 11, more than three months after the CDC recommended facial coverings, transforming what ought to have been a scientific issue into a partisan one. A Pew Research Center survey published on June 25 found that 63% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said masks should always be worn in public, compared with 29% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

By far the government’s most glaring failure was a lack of adequate testing infrastructure from the beginning. Testing is key to a pandemic response—the more data officials have about an outbreak, the better equipped they are to respond. Rather than call for more testing, Trump has instead suggested that maybe the U.S. should be testing less. He has repeatedly, and incorrectly, blamed increases in new cases on more testing. “If we didn’t do testing, we’d have no cases,” the President said in June, later suggesting he was being sarcastic. But less testing only means fewer cases are detected, not that they don’t exist. In the U.S. the percentage of tests coming back positive increased from about 4.5% in mid-June to about 5.7% as of early September, evidence the virus was spreading regardless of whether we tested for it. (By comparison, Germany’s overall daily positivity rate is under 3% and in Italy it’s about 2%.)

Testing in the U.S. peaked in July, at about 820,000 new tests administered per day, according to the COVID Tracking Project, but as of this writing has fallen under 700,000. Some Americans now say they are waiting more than two weeks for their test results, a delay that makes the outcome all but worthless, as people can be infected in the window between when they get tested and when they receive their results.

Most experts believe that early on, we did not understand the full scale of the spread of the virus because we were testing only those who got sick. But now we know 30% to 45% of infected people who contract the virus show no symptoms whatsoever and can pass it on. When there’s a robust and accessible testing system, even asymptomatic cases can be discovered and isolated. But as soon as testing becomes inaccessible again, we’re back to where we were before: probably missing many cases.

Seven months after the coronavirus was found on American soil, we’re still suffering hundreds, sometimes more than a thousand, deaths every day. An American Nurses Association survey from late July and early August found that of 21,000 U.S. nurses polled, 42% reported either widespread or intermittent shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, gloves and medical gowns. Schools and colleges are attempting to open for in-person learning only to suffer major outbreaks and send students home; some of them will likely spread the virus in their communities. More than 13 million Americans remain unemployed as of August, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data published Sept. 4.

U.S. leaders have largely eschewed short- and medium-term unflashy solutions in favor of perceived silver bullets, like a vaccine—hence the Administration’s “Operation Warp Speed,” an effort to accelerate vaccine development. The logic of focusing so heavily on magic-wand solutions fails to account for the many people who will suffer and die in the meantime even while effective strategies to fight COVID-19 already exist.

We’re also struggling because of the U.S. health care system. The country spends nearly 17% of annual GDP on health care—far more than any other nation in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Yet it has one of the lowest life expectancies, at 78.6 years, comparable to those in countries like Estonia and Turkey, which spend only 6.4% and 4.2% of their GDP on health care, respectively. Even the government’s decision to cover coronavirus-related treatment costs has ended up in confusion and fear among lower income patients thanks to our dysfunctional medical billing system.

The coronavirus has laid bare the inequalities of American public health. Black Americans are nearly three times as likely as white Americans to get COVID-19, nearly five times as likely to be hospitalized and twice as likely to die. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, being Black in the U.S. is a marker of risk for underlying conditions that make COVID-19 more dangerous, “including socioeconomic status, access to health care and increased exposure to the virus due to occupation (e.g., frontline, essential and critical infrastructure workers).” In other words, COVID-19 is more dangerous for Black Americans because of generations of systemic racism and discrimination. The same is true to a lesser extent for Native American and Latino communities, according to CDC data.

COVID-19, like any virus, is mindless; it doesn’t discriminate based on the color of a person’s skin or the figure in their checking account. But precisely because it attacks blindly, the virus has given further evidence for the truth that was made clear this summer in response to another of the country’s epidemics, racially motivated police violence: the U.S. has not adequately addressed its legacy of racism.The line for a drive-through food pantry in Grand Rapids, Mich. The line for a drive-through food pantry in Grand Rapids, Mich. Neil Blake—The Grand Rapids Press/AP

Americans today tend to value the individual over the collective. A 2011 Pew survey found that 58% of Americans said “freedom to pursue life’s goals without interference from the state” is more important than the state guaranteeing “nobody is in need.” It’s easy to view that trait as a root cause of the country’s struggles with COVID-19; a pandemic requires people to make temporary sacrifices for the benefit of the group, whether it’s wearing a mask or skipping a visit to their local bar.

Americans have banded together in times of crisis before, but we need to be led there. “We take our cues from leaders,” says Dr. David Rosner, a professor at Columbia University. Trump and other leaders on the right, including Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi, respectively, have disparaged public-health officials, criticizing their calls for shutting down businesses and other drastic but necessary measures. Many public-health experts, meanwhile, are concerned that the White House is pressuring agencies like the Food and Drug Administration to approve treatments such as convalescent plasma despite a lack of supportive data. Governors, left largely on their own, have been a mixed bag, and even those who’ve been praised, like New York’s Andrew Cuomo, could likely have taken more aggressive action to protect public health.

Absent adequate leadership, it’s been up to everyday Americans to band together in the fight against COVID-19. To some extent, that’s been happening—doctors, nurses, bus drivers and other essential workers have been rightfully celebrated as heroes, and many have paid a price for their bravery. But at least some Americans still refuse to take such a simple step as wearing a mask.

Why? Because we’re also in the midst of an epistemic crisis. Republicans and Democrats today don’t just disagree on issues; they disagree on the basic truths that structure their respective realities. Half the country gets its news from places that parrot whatever the Administration says, true or not; half does not. This politicization manifests in myriad ways, but the most vital is this: in early June (at which point more than 100,000 Americans had already died of COVID-19), fewer than half of Republican voters polled said the outbreak was a major threat to the health of the U.S. population as a whole. Throughout July and August, the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force was sending private messages to states about the severity of the outbreak, while President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence publicly stated that everything was under control.

Truly worrying are the numbers of Americans who already say they are hesitant to receive an eventual COVID-19 vaccination. Mass vaccination will work only with enough buy-in from the public; the damage the President and others are doing to Americans’ trust in science could have significant consequences for the country’s ability to get past this pandemic.Cardboard cutout “fans” at an L.A. Angels baseball game Cardboard cutout “fans” at an L.A. Angels baseball game Jae C. Hong—AP

There’s another disturbing undercurrent to Americans’ attitude toward the pandemic thus far: a seeming willingness to accept mass death. As a nation we may have become dull to horrors that come our way as news, from gun violence to the seemingly never-ending incidents of police brutality to the water crises in Flint, Mich., and elsewhere. Americans seem to have already been inured to the idea that other Americans will die regularly, when they do not need to.

It is difficult to quantify apathy. But what else could explain that nearly half a year in, we still haven’t figured out how to equip the frontline workers who, in trying to save the lives of others, are putting their own lives at risk? What else could explain why 66% of Americans—roughly 217.5 million people—still aren’t always wearing masks in public?

Despite all that, it seems the U.S. is finally beginning to make some progress again: daily cases have fallen from a high of 20.5 per capita in July to around 12 in early September. But we’re still well above the springtime numbers—the curve may be flattening, but it’s leveling out at a point that’s pretty frightening. Furthermore, experts worry that yet another wave could come this winter, exacerbated by the annual flu season.

There are reasons for optimism. Efforts to create a vaccine continue at breakneck speed; it’s possible at least one will be available by the end of the year. Doctors are getting better at treating severe cases, in part because of new research on treatments like steroids (although some patients are suffering far longer than expected, a phenomenon known as “long-haul COVID”). As the virus rages, perhaps more Americans will follow public-health measures.

But there is plenty of room for improvement. At the very least, every American should have access to adequate PPE—especially those in health care, education, food service and other high-risk fields. We need a major investment in testing and tracing, as other countries have done. Our leaders need to listen to experts and let policy be driven by science. And for the time being, all of us need to accept that there are certain things we cannot, or should not, do, like go to the movies or host an indoor wedding.

“Americans [may] start to say, ‘If everyone’s not wearing masks, if everyone’s not social distancing, if people are having family parties inside with lots of people together, if we’re flouting the public-health recommendations, we’re going to keep seeing transmission,’” says Ann Keller, an associate professor at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

The U.S. is no longer the epicenter of the global pandemic; that unfortunate torch has been passed to countries like India, Argentina and Brazil. And in the coming months there might yet be a vaccine, or more likely a cadre of vaccines, that finally halts the march of COVID-19 through the country. But even so, some 200,000 Americans have already died, and many more may do so before a vaccine emerges unless America starts to implement and invest in the science-based solutions already available to us. Each one of those lives lost represents an entire world, not only of those individuals but also of their family, friends, colleagues and loved ones. This is humbling—and it should be. The only path forward is one of humility, of recognition that if America is exceptional with regard to COVID-19, it’s in a way most people would not celebrate.

By Alex Fitzpatrick

SALESmanago Marketing Automation

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