Thursday, April 2, 2020

Pandemic sparks rural migration

The coronavirus pandemic is causing many Americans to escape to the country. Dubbed an impromptu ‘great American migration,’ as cities become hotspots for COVID-19, urban dwellers are seeking refuge in small towns and rural areas. The exodus is also fueled by the lure of remote work, though internet connectivity and access to health care can be a challenge in rural areas. Some experts believe that the pandemic will only accelerate the ongoing shift to “middle ground” areas — towns that have urban amenities but are less densely populated. (Washington Post)


Empty NY hotels house virus patients

New York hotels will be turned into hospitals to help ease the burden of care of coronavirus patients. The move comes after a 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship reached Manhattan earlier this week; while a 68-bed hospital was due to open in Central Park, and as it was revealed the Queens tennis complex that hosts the U.S. Open would become a 350-bed field hospital. New York hospitals, which have been ordered to cancel all elective surgeries, have around 20,000 beds. So far, nearly 39,000 people in the city have been infected. (New York Daily News)


Ventilator production ramps up

Automakers Ford and GM are going into production overdrive to make ventilators, which are desperately needed by the most seriously afflicted victims of COVID-19. Ford, with GE Healthcare, says it will produce 1,500 by the end of April, some 12,000 by the end of May and 50,000 by July 4. GM has also been working for weeks with its own ventilator partner, Ventec Life Systems haven’t publicly committed to targets, but it is believed they could produce 20,000 a month. Meanwhile, Virgin Orbit has developed a ventilator with medical researchers that it plans to mass produce and send to hospitals around the U.S. (CNBC)


A statistical model estimates that by mid-April, more than 2,000 Americans may die from coronavirus every day

The model, which is publicly available and was mentioned by the White House coronavirus team over the weekend, estimates that the U.S. will reach “peak resource” by April 15. By then, over 224,000 hospital beds will be needed to care for coronavirus patients – which means that there will be a shortage of around 60,000 beds. The model forecasts that approximately 82,000 Americans could die from the virus by August, even if social distancing measures continue in place. (CNN)


Florida pastor arrested after church seen jammed for Sunday service during pandemic

Police have arrested a pastor for holding services in a megachurch in Tampa, Florida, in violation of a stay-at-home order. Since March 27, the residents of Hillsborough County can only venture outside their homes for “essential services” (like buying food or going to the doctor) but not to go to church. However, Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne has been holding up to two services a day. The sheriff told church leaders they were in direct violation of the order that was issued by Hillsborough County officials and went into effect last week. It requires that businesses and organizations considered essential abide by social distancing guidelines and keep people 6 feet away from each other or shut down. Soon after, the sheriff, along with Hillsborough State Attorney, filed a pair of charges against Howard-Browne, including unlawful assembly. The Pastor was booked into the Hernando County Jail and was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules. A violation of the county’s “safer-at-home” order is considered second-degree misdemeanors punishable by up to 60 days in jail and fines of up to $500. He posted bond of $500 and was released. (WTSP)


Idaho Governor Signs Into Law Anti-Transgender Bill

This makes Idaho the first among more than 40 states that have introduced such legislation this year to enact them. The first bill bans transgender girls from joining girls’ and women’s sports teams, and the second prohibits transgender people from changing their gender in their birth certificates. Backers said the laws are needed to ensure that the state has “accurate” birth certificate records and argues that transgender female athletes should not compete with women and girls because they have physical advantages. Human rights groups said the measures discriminate against transgender people and would subject athletes to invasive tests to prove their gender. The sports ban applies to all sports teams sponsored by public schools, colleges and universities. A girls’ or women’s team will not be open to transgender students who identify as female. It takes effect July 1. More than 40 bills to limit the rights of transgender people have been introduced across the U.S. this year. (News Max)


Companies are offering direct-to-consumer test kits for COVID-19

The kits were touted as a way for consumers to manage this difficult situation themselves. No struggle to see the doctor. No calls to the health department. No waiting in line at a drive-thru test site. Instead, consumers could collect their own samples, by either swabbing the throat or cheek or spitting into a cup. The samples would then be mailed back to the companies’ partner laboratories, which would test for the coronavirus. Prices ranged from $135 to $181. However, At-home tests could be skimming the resources needed for lab-based tests. There is also the possibility of people collecting their samples incorrectly and questions about follow-up care. Not to mention the risk of inaccurate results. The Food and Drug Administration responded with a March 20 press release, which stated that the FDA had not authorized any test “that is available to purchase for testing yourself at home for COVID-19.” At least four companies, Nurx, EverlyWell, Forward and Carbon Health, have since said they halted sales. (Kaiser Health News)


The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is organizing virtual tours for the millions of us locked at home

The zoo had to close its doors to the public due to coronavirus, but some 100 zookeepers, vets and support staff are still caring for thousands of animals belonging to around 500 species. Over the past few days, zookeepers have been posting tons of videos showing off some of the zoo’s most emblematic guests, including red pandas, hippos and snow leopards. If you want to venture into the wild without leaving your home, you can catch the zoo’s videos and pictures on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. (Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden)


The Trump administration plans to roll back an Obama-era measure to encourage the production of more clean vehicles

By lowering fuel efficiency standards, the White House will allow automakers to produce cars with a much higher carbon footprint. The new rule states that by 2025, the average fuel efficiency of the cars produced by any given company has to be under 40 miles per gallon – under the Obama-era regulation, the average fuel efficiency of new cars had to be under 54 miles per gallon. The new regulation could lead to nearly a billion more tons of CO2 being released into the atmosphere, experts say. (The New York Times)


Using artificial intelligence, researchers have developed a blood test that can detect 50 different types of cancer

The system works by identifying “methylation patterns,” which are chemical signatures on a tumor’s DNA that circulate in the bloodstream. The researchers trained the system by feeding it data on methylation patterns in blood samples taken from thousands of people including both healthy individuals and people suffering from cancer. According to a new study published this week, the system has a very high success rate (it only gave false positives in about 1 percent of cases) and successfully identified the tissue in which the cancers originated in 96 percent of samples. Researchers are conducting clinical trials to verify their findings. (Annals of Oncology)


Two tech entrepreneurs have launched a coronavirus dating app to help people make connections despite social distancing

Daniel Ahmadizadeh and Christopher Smeder launched Quarantine Together on March 15. This is how the app works: At 6 pm, users get a text message asking them if they have stayed home and washed their hands. If users say “yes” the app matches them with a date. Once they are paired up, users are given 20 minutes to exchange text messages before they are offered a link to start a video chat. The app’s goal is to facilitate conversations between people in isolation. (Quarantine Together)


Target, Walmart, Costco ordered to stop in-person sales of nonessential items in Vermont

Big box retailers like Target, Walmart and Costco are being ordered to stop in-person sales of nonessential items in some areas. Such nonessential items, as detailed by the state, include things like beauty supplies, arts and crafts, clothes, electronics and more. Rather these stores are being asked to stick to items like food, pharmacy and beverages. Vermont Governor Phil Scott added this to his original executive order amid the coronavirus pandemic. (WZTV)


Pennsylvania pastor slams coronavirus precautions, plans ‘Woodstock’-like Easter gathering

A Pennsylvania pastor said he plans to organize an outdoor “Woodstock”-like service in protest of coronavirus stay-at-home orders and following the arrests of multiple pastors in the U.S for allegedly violating such orders. The Evangelist said he will hold an “outdoor Easter blowout service,” even though a Florida pastor was arrested earlier this week for holding services the day before, potentially placing attendees at risk for COVID-19. “I’m gonna announce it. … We’re gonna hold an outdoor Easter blowout service. Not online. A national gathering. You come from all over, like Woodstock. And we’re gonna gather and lift up Jesus Christ,” he said. (KDKA)


Thirsty Thursday Stays Wet With:

  • International Children’s Book Day
  • Mule Day
  • National Ferret Day
  • National Burrito Day (First Thursday)
  • National Love Your Produce Manager Day
  • National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day
  • Reconciliation Day
  • World Autism Day
  • World Autism Acceptance Day

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