Coronavirus Briefing: Charities and tests are saving the world

Today’s Coronavirus Briefing is 1,205 words and will take you five minutes to read.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

The news is grim. It’s challenging stuff to wake up to. We commute from our bedrooms to our offices, aka, whatever flat surfaces we’re using to constitute a “desk.” Our work clothes hang neglected in our closets. All the things we once complained about — packed commuter trains, boring desk salads, the rush to sneak in a midday workout — are now the stuff our dreams are made of. Today, we bring you a large amount of relatively positive news to help you stay alive, peppered with the usual bleakness.

Today’s Coronavirus Briefing is 1,205 words and will take you five minutes to read. Click here to sign up for the newsletter.

Just the hits

  • The U.S. has the highest number of reported cases in the world — more than 160,000 — but has yet to fully ramp up testing, meaning many cases are going undetected.

  • Spain reported a record-day death toll; Vietnam entered lockdown; and Russia recorded its biggest daily rise in cases for the seventh day running. Live updates here

  • But this thank you from Infectious Disease Advisor should brighten everyone’s day.

Giving their all

We dedicate a significant amount of space today to some of the nonprofits going the extra mile during this pandemic, and the organizations helping them expand their reach.

  • Andy Ricketts for Third Sector reports that the Charities Aid Foundation has launched an emergency fund in the U.K., giving grants to small charities affected by the coronavirus. “These are the people who are delivering support in so many ways in every corner of the U.K. and we need them to be there during and after this crisis,” said chief executive Sir John Low.

  • Elsewhere in Third Sector, Ricketts reports that the U.K.’s National Lottery Community Fund will direct all new funding over the next six months toward tackling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The fund plans to expedite money for projects aimed at supporting communities through the pandemic and/or organizations adversely affected by it financially. 

  • Samaritan's Purse, a U.S.-based Christian global relief agency, constructed a hospital in Central Park’s East Meadow in Manhattan, directly across from one of the facilities in the Mount Sinai hospital group. The 68-bed field hospital is equipped with a respiratory unit — a much-needed addition to the city’s overcrowded hospitals where more than 9,500 people are currently hospitalized; 2,352 of them being treated in intensive care units.

  • The Guardian Angels are stepping in to care for New York City’s most vulnerable population — the homeless and emotionally disturbed. The volunteer vigilantes have been handing out care packages stuffed with sandwiches, fruit snacks, hand wipes, water and peanut butter crackers.

  • In collaboration with the National Football League Players Association, clubs, owners and players, the National Football League has donated more than $35 million for COVID-19 relief efforts, including $3.4 million from the NFL Foundation. The 10 organizations receiving donations are: American Red Cross, Bob Woodruff Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, CDC Foundation, GENYOUth Foundation, Meals on Wheels America, Salvation Army, Team Rubicon, United Way and Wounded Warrior Project.

The Takeaway:

There are more nonprofits and organizations out there doing everything they can to help those afflicted by the virus. Whether it’s medical, personal or professional — a large number of people are getting the help they need. Thank you. All of you. 

New testing

Last week we mentioned that a lack of adequate testing was the biggest challenge the U.S. faced in its fight against COVID-19. While that continues to be the case, astonishing headway has been made.

  • The FDA has issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the Abbott ID Now COVID-19 test — a molecular point-of-care test that delivers results within minutes reports Diana Ernst in MPR. According to Abbott, the rapid test provides clinicians with positive results within five minutes and negative within 13 minutes. The company expects to deliver 50,000 tests per day beginning this week, allocating them to the most impacted areas. 

  • For McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, Alicia Lasek reports that symptom screening may miss half of all nursing home residents infected with COVID-19. Investigators warn that operators should consider implementing a comprehensive transmission-prevention strategy as soon as a single coronavirus case is discovered. 

  • “Serological” tests are the newest blood tests on the scene, able to identify people immune to COVID-19. The test, which relies on drawn blood rather than a nasal or throat swab, identifies those who were infected and have recovered, as well as those who were never diagnosed. Scientists expect these individuals will be safe from another infection, so the tests could signal who can return to work, or serve as a frontline health worker.

  • The Baseline COVID-19 Testing Program with support from Verily’s Project Baseline has rapidly rolled out four drive-up sites across California, testing more than 3,700 individuals as of March 28. Currently available in San Jose, San Mateo, Lake Elsinore and Sacramento, the program is working to expand its capacity into other communities. 

The Takeaway:

These life-saving innovations have been fast-tracked in a way we could never have imagined just a few months ago. Perhaps the good that will come out of all this, in addition to a vaccine, is the knowledge that we are stronger together. When our medical, technological, private, and public sectors unite, everyone benefits.

Lessons from the past

Scientists, epidemiologists and global health experts all agree — studying the past can help save the future.

  • A deep dive in Scientific American by journalist Sara Goudarzi posits that the 1918 influenza pandemic and 2002–03 SARS outbreak suggest social distancing, communication, and international cooperation are the most effective methods to slow COVID-19. The exhaustively-researched piece also looks at the 2015–16 Zika outbreak in Central and South America, the global SARS outbreak from 2002 to 2003 and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2014 to 2016 for clues.

  • National Geographic investigates the way cities “flattened the curve” during the 1918 flu pandemic, coming to similar conclusions regarding the dire need for social distancing. “The lessons of 1918, if well heeded, might help us to avoid repeating the same history today,” said Stephen Morse, Columbia University epidemiologist.

  • Healthline takes a comparative look at how the new coronavirus “stacks up” against the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, the seasonal flu, SARS, 2009’s H1N1 and Ebola.

  • Did you know that Candy Land, one of the most popular board games of all time, was created by a retired schoolteacher during her convalescence from polio? At a time when most board games were designed for all-family play, Candy Land was particularly popular since it could be played alone by children who were confined indoors. Evidence that just because we’re stuck inside, doesn’t mean we can’t be creative.

The Takeaway:

What we know about COVID-19 is still evolving, but like everything in life, we can learn from the past. Maybe this can be useful in our own personal lives right now — who are our tried-and-true lifelines? What clears our minds and makes us feel, even if just for a moment, a little better? Let’s do that.

Made for kids but fun for adults

As always, we aim to go out on a sunrise sprinkled with dew. The animations below were created for kids; are beloved by adults. 

See you tomorrow.

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