Coronavirus Briefing: Returning to work, new healthcare platforms and our four-legged friends

Today’s Coronavirus Briefing is 1,408 words and will take you seven minutes to read.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

We made it to the end of April. For many of us, it marks a full month (or longer) of home quarantine, social distancing and the new normal. We truly are all in this together, apart. 

Today’s Coronavirus Briefing is 1,408 words and will take you seven minutes to read. Click here to sign up for the newsletter.


Top news

  • The U.S. stock market rallied on Wednesday, bolstered by indications that antiviral medication remdesivir, a drug being tested as a possible treatment for COVID-19, could be showing progress. But there is controversy over its effectiveness.
  • Iowa prepares to partially reopen on Friday, warning its furloughed workers they will lose their unemployment benefits if they refuse to return to work. Texas, Georgia, South Carolina and other states are expected to announce similar mandates.
  • A few governments around the world are reporting remarkably positive milestones, recording zero new domestically transmitted coronavirus cases, or no new cases at all.

The Takeaway:

The U.S. unemployment situation is dire and the urgency to start reopening America understandable, but it is difficult to demand that everyone must return to work when there are such variances in people’s situations. Some have underlying health issues, or young kids who aren’t back in school or daycare. Others will be fearful of contracting the virus and passing it onto a vulnerable family member. It is unlikely that remdesivir is a miracle drug.  


Biz stuff

A look at some of the ways companies are reopening and recalibrating to stay relevant online. 

  • Andrew Reid of Shelton Fleming Associates shares his thoughts in Conference & Incentive Travel on how conferences and trade shows can evolve using social distancing measures. Considering 2021 to be a realistic target for when physical events may start back up, Reid explores nine measures designed to provide safety and reassurance through innovation and good communication.
  • A U.K. poll conducted by People Management reveals 63% of respondents had seen no change to the current headcount of their HR teams, while an additional 2% reported they were planning to grow their HR function. This, despite the vast majority of respondents furloughing staff elsewhere in the business.
  • Over in PR, things look a little different: Arvind Hickman of PRWeek U.K. takes a look at a new study that provides a snapshot of the severe impact on agencies that are introducing radical measures to manage the impact of coronavirus on their bottom line — including furloughing, pay cuts and redundancies everywhere. 
  • LiveWorld, a pure-play digital and social agency named one of 2019’s “Ones to Watch,” by Medical Marketing & Media, offers three thought-starters to help you reimagine the role of digital in your marketing mix.
  • And if you’re curious what tech execs, VCs and analysts think are going to be the lasting impacts of the pandemic, this is an interesting read

The Takeaway:

The word “acceptable” pops up in a lot of these articles, as in, what has become “acceptable” has vastly changed: Expectations around availability have changed, remote working may expand tech opportunities outside of the coastal hubs, and seeing everyone at home, every day in their leisure-wear finest, has everyone realizing, “Bosses, they’re just like us!”


Med stuff

Struggles, some bright moments, still searching for a cure.

  • Yellowlees Douglas, PhD, wrote a poignant piece about the long-term effects of social isolation for Psychiatry Advisor. Her thoughts on loneliness in older populations, students, and those who already suffer from feeling alone, are all considered. 
  • Last Wednesday, healthcare technology company Aetion and health data platform HealthVerity revealed Real-Time Insights and Evidence — the collaborators’ first real-world system designed for biopharma manufacturers and regulators to assess treatment approaches for COVID-19. The platform has been built specifically for researchers to generate evidence on the usage, safety and effectiveness of prospective treatments for COVID-19, and to continuously update and expand the evidence as time progresses. 
  • Medical Marketing & Media’s Marc Iskowitz caught up with Jeffrey Abraham, digital medicine company Akili Interactive’s VP, market access and trade, to learn about the remarkably speedy rollout out of Endeavor: the firm’s ADHD video game-like app. Launched on April 22, Endeavor includes a symptom tracker and caretaker support line and is available to families with children aged 8-12 who have been diagnosed with primarily inattentive or combined-type ADHD. The launch was facilitated by the FDA’s temporary relaxation of elements of its traditional regulatory review during the health crisis.

The Takeaway:

The most encouraging takeaway is a quote in the MM&M article above, from Jeffrey Abraham. “What’s happening with telemedicine and digital right now, you’re seeing an expediting of that altruism... And that’s not something you hear every day.”


Hospitality stuff

Restaurants and bars are desperately trying to save themselves, and our communities.

  • A new “Restaurants Deliver: Home Meals for Seniors” initiative was introduced this week in California by Governor Gavin Newsom. Designed to support the 1.2 million Californians over the age of 65 who live alone, the majority FEMA-funded program reimburses restaurants for providing seniors three free meals a day, thus supporting hospitality workers and owners who have lost businesses and feeding isolated and lonely people. 
  • The Independent Restaurant Coalition is calling on Congress to create a $120 billion fund to save independent restaurants and bars — a community that represents more than 500,000 drinking and dining establishments and 11 million employees. Right now, only one in five restaurant owners say they are confident they can reopen when it’s “allowed”. The National Bureau of Economic Research states that restaurants only have a 15% chance of staying open if the COVID-19 crisis lasts six months. They desperately need support or we will lose a vast swath of our neighborhoods.

The Takeaway:

Putting aside the fact that restaurants and bars are the very things that make neighborhoods and states unique, diverse and dynamic, the hospitality industry is the number one contributor to America’s record unemployment figures.


(Mostly) great news!

  • Eight Labrador retrievers are being trained to detect an odor associated with the virus that causes COVID-19. The dogs are the first trainees in a University of Pennsylvania research project that, if successful, could evolve into a “canine surveillance” corps, aka a noninvasive, four-legged method to screen people in airports, businesses or hospitals. 
  • Lockdowns during the pandemic have offered respite to the natural world, with clear skies and the return of wildlife to, well, everywhere. Now, evidence of a drop in underwater noise pollution has led experts to predict the crisis may also be good news for whales and other sea mammals. Lest we get too hopeful though, the rise in disposable face masks and gloves, many finding their way into the ocean when not disposed of properly, is exacerbating our already polluted waters. At least 8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year, making up 80% of all marine debris.
  • Enterprising New York creatives continue finding new ways to put their skills to use. In this article you’ll find a film and television location scout finding buildings for hospital overflow, photographers throwing virtual fundraisers, a group of students at Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island teaching their older neighbors to use WhatsApp, and more!

The Takeaway:

We need to show way more respect for animals. Use your skills however you can.


Songs and a poem

In honor of all the creatures of the land, some bands with animal names and their disputably excellent videos and songs.

That’s it for this week — we’ll be back next Tuesday. Try to have a pleasant weekend.


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