Coronavirus Briefing: Stimulus package stalls as virus spreads

Today’s Coronavirus Briefing is 1,540 words and will take you seven minutes to read.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Well, it’s Monday. And like most Mondays, it’s the beginning of the work week. Except this work week looks distinctly unlike any other we’ve experienced. In today’s Coronavirus Briefing, we’ll take a look at some of the morning’s biggest headlines, hear the latest on COVID-19 testing, discuss how mental health experts are managing the crisis and celebrate an alternative happy hour.

Full disclosure, there’s a lot of doom and gloom out there, but thousands of extraordinary people — from health care workers, to supermarket and shop workers, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, to bartenders — are doing their part to heal our collective wounds.

Today’s Coronavirus Briefing is 1,540 words and will take you seven minutes to read. Click here to sign up for the newsletter.


COVID-19: The big picture

  • McKnight’s Senior Living’s Amy Novotney reports that, as of Sunday afternoon, more than 33,000 Americans had been sickened by the virus, and more than 315 had died. 

  • Wuhan loosed its restrictions on citizens for the first time since its two-month lockdown. Local authorities said residents could return to work if they have a green health code, signifying their virus-free status. 

  • Everybody’s doing their part but effective leadership exhibited via smart, calm and authentic communications will be key in getting the U.S. and the rest of the world through this unprecedented crisis, writes PRWeek US’ Steve Barrett.


Medical technology in the age of COVID-19

There was a time not long ago (two weeks give or take) that scientists, surgeons, and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs kept their inventions tightly guarded secrets, along the lines of Coca-Cola. Today, we’re all in a race together to find not only a cure for COVID-19, but also substantial amounts of life-saving materials such as face masks, ventilators and protective hospital gowns. Here’s a look at how some of our boldest are collaborating to make this happen:   

  • Medical Product Outsourcing broke the news on Friday that engineers, anesthetists, and surgeons from the University of Oxford and King’s College London, are building ventilator prototypes that can be manufactured using techniques and tools available in well-equipped university and small and medium enterprise (SME) workshops.

  • Supply Management’s Will Green reported on automobile manufacturers including Vauxhall and European multinational aerospace corporation Airbus collaborating to create 3D-printed components, in the hopes of producing 20,000 ventilators in as little as two weeks. But Dr. Jonathan Owens, program director for business and management at the University of Salford, warned: “Changing your production lines for a different flavor of crisps can take hours. Changing the color of paint on a car production line takes 12 hours. We are now looking at something that has never been done before.”

  • As Daniel M. Horn, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston opined in an op ed in The New York Times:Big tech needs to rapidly build and scale a cloud-based national ventilator surveillance platform which will track individual hospital I.C.U. capacity and ventilator supply across the nation in real time. Such a platform — which Silicon Valley could build and FEMA could utilize — would allow hospitals nationwide to report their I.C.U. bed status and their ventilator supply daily, in an unprecedented data-sharing initiative.

Here’s hoping the quantified importance of human lives helps incentivize these innovations.


Testing, testing, 1, 2, 1, 2.

A lack of adequate testing is the biggest challenge the U.S. faces in its fight against COVID-19. How many companies are working on tests, how many already have approval from the FDA for their tests, and how many tests are currently being shipped to labs is impossible to decipher, thanks to a bewildering quagmire of political messaging. Here are some of the people and places putting politics aside to help save lives.

  • McKnight’s Senior Living reporter Lois Bowers takes a look at a senior living operator believed to be first to offer widespread, on-site COVID-19 testing. As the population known to be the most vulnerable due to their age and underlying health issues, testing will help ensure not only the survival of residents, but their healthcare workers as well. 

  • An article on NPR.org announced that The Food and Drug Administration approved the first rapid point-of-care COVID-19 test that can deliver results in less than one hour. Until now, tests were sent off to a public health, commercial or hospital lab, to be processed. The new test can be done in a doctor's office or clinic with a detection time of approximately 45 minutes.

  • Brian Park, PharmD, wrote in Infectious Disease Advisor with more details about the clinical trial for a vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The trial is taking place at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, Washington.

  • And in The Medical Bag, Diana Ernst, digs into the FDA’s work expediting the availability of COVID-19 tests in New York State. This action will allow labs to interact solely with the New York State Department of Health instead of going through the FDA — a move that should help more patients get tested in the area. As of late afternoon yesterday, New York State was recorded as having one of the largest death tolls in the United States. 


How we’re feeling

In a live update about the coronavirus on Saturday afternoon, New York City’s Governor Andrew Cuomo said: “People are struggling with the emotions as much as they are struggling with the economics.” Whether you’re used to attending religious or family and community gatherings or struggling with the new psychological challenges of living 24/7 with your significant other and/or kids, here’s a glance at some of the outlets to help alleviate your mental stress. 

  • Natasha Abramson in Third Sector reports that the U.K. parenting charity NCT has moved its antenatal classes online so it can continue to support new parents while its usual face-to-face classes are halted. NCT chief executive Angela McConville said: “Expectant parents need social connection now more than ever.”

  • MDLIVE, Haymarket Media’s telehealth option, provides medical and behavioral health services over the phone or by video. 

  • Dibash Kumar Das writes in Psychiatry Advisor that the virus is causing posttraumatic stress syndrome in Chinese citizens, with females exhibiting symptoms more than males. And The Washington Post reports doctors and nurses suffering from pre-traumatic stress disorder as they await a battle being waged elsewhere that is fast, making its way toward them.

Everyone out there is feeling the mental effects of this pandemic. Find people to talk to — friends, family, professionals — whatever you need. At the risk of sounding pat, it’s at times like this that we need to be kind to ourselves, to be kind to others, and to come together (but stay apart) in order to get through it all.


Happy hour

There are few traditions as universal as meeting up for happy hour after a long, hard day at work. With bars across the globe closed in light of social distancing, here are some things you can do to feel, at least for a moment, like it’s business as usual:

  • Workers everywhere are engaging in virtual happy hours with their colleagues and friends via FaceTime, Slack and Skype. Social distancing at its best.

  • In many states, “roadies” are now legal. Head out to your local at 5:01pm (per usual), to shoot the breeze with your favorite bartender, and a grab a cocktail (to go). But, as always, make sure you keep your social distance.

  • A great way to support an industry decimated by the virus, is by buying bar books, visiting your local liquor store (see: essential) and mastering the hippy hippy shake with these tips from Time Out In New York.

So to everyone out there, proost, sláinte, salute, cin cin, kanpai, na zdrowie, skål, sei gesund, here’s looking at you, kid, cheers. However you’re toasting this happy hour, we’re right there with you. 

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