Coronavirus Briefing: Umbilical cord treatments, counter-narratives and tailgating

Today’s Coronavirus Briefing is 1,330 words and will take you seven minutes to read.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

There’s a lot to discuss this week and most of it isn’t so bad — there’s a pervasive sense that the human race is picking itself up and dusting itself off. Pain and sadness are still very much on tap, but the world has changed and we’re starting to accept it, figure out how to make it work, tap into our inner Delores (from Westworld) and architect a new reality. If we’re lucky, when this is all over it’ll turn out to have been a savage plot twist, and we can go back to worrying about all the things we worried about before we had real things to worry about.  

Today’s Coronavirus Briefing is 1,330 words and will take you seven minutes to read. Click here to sign up for the newsletter.


Top news

  • The first COVID-19 vaccine to be tested on people appears to be safe and to stimulate an immune response against the virus. Great news since, somehow, even if you almost never leave the house, you still may get infected.
  • Germany has one of the best records for managing the coronavirus outbreak. As the country begins reopening, everyone is holding their breath, hoping its measured steps can become a roadmap for success elsewhere. 
  • Meanwhile, more than 100 million people in China’s northeast region are headed back into lockdown as a growing cluster of infections causes a backslide.
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is keeping beaches closed over Memorial Day weekend — the traditional start of the region’s summer season.
  • President Trump says he is taking hydroxychloroquine to prevent contracting coronavirus. Most scientists agree the antimalarial drug is not only ineffective as a preventative measure, but has the potential to incur fatal side effects.

The Takeaway:

Ideally, every country would share best practices with every other country when it comes to lifting lockdowns and reopening businesses, making the slogan “we’re all in this together” ring true. This is not going to be “the Summer of Love.” Don’t take hydroxychloroquine without a medical reason.


Testing innovations

Some new technologies are coming down the pike that, even in these early stages, give one some hope.

  • Marc Iskowitz of Medical Marketing & Media writes about a new at-home COVID-19 test, called STOPCovid, which is readying for widespread use by the end of this year. Created by a team of microbiologists headed by Dr. Feng Zhang of the McGovern Institute at MIT and the Broad Institute, STOPCovid is a simple, cheap, point-of-care test that uses a precision genome-editing technique called CRISPR to detect the virus. It has been hailed as one of the most important contributions to fighting COVID-19 thus far.
  • Monthly Prescribing Reference reports the FDA has approved a study evaluating the use of an umbilical cord lining stem cell technology for the treatment of patients with COVID-19. Use of the innovative therapy has been associated with a reduction in both oxygen requirements and circulating inflammatory markers in three critically ill COVID-19 patients treated at the Miami Cancer Institute under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization.
  • In Infectious Disease Advisor, Utsav Aiya, MD, takes a deep dive into why testing matters. Until an effective vaccine or treatment is available, mitigating the spread of a virus requires taking steps to minimize transmission, which necessitates reducing the number of people exposed to the virus. For the U.S., a robust testing strategy could support a transition to the case-based mitigation strategy as opposed to current population-based mitigation strategies such as social distancing and stay-at-home orders.
  • John O’Connor, editorial director for McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, speculates about the ramifications of sacrificing safety for political expediency, asking how “the cure can be worse than the illness” when the illness = death.

The Takeaway:

We may be tired of hearing it, but testing matters.


Messaging

How we’re talking to our friends, employees, coworkers and families about the pandemic and the havoc it’s wreaking on us, matters.

  • May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Campaign U.S. shares how The Ad Council, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and The Jed Foundation have teamed up to launch a campaign to get young people to stay close to one another during these days of self-isolation. The initiative was created pro bono by ad agency Droga5, with the goal of lowering suicide rates among young adults.
  • Mariya Parodi, senior press officer at Amnesty International USA, wrote an op-ed in PRWeek U.S. discussing the importance of positive communications. “Understanding the psychological factors of how people respond to pandemics is vital to how we frame our institutional narratives,” says Parodi. “We need counter-narratives to the societal problems associated with pandemics, like the spread of excessive fear, stigmatization and xenophobia that occurs when people are threatened with infection.” 
  • File this under straight up despicable: PRWeek U.K. exposes how big tobacco, e-cigarette and vaping companies are appropriating “stay at home” hashtags and pandemic-themed discounts — “get 19% off nicotine e-liquids by entering the code COVID-19” — to market their products. In the best of times, that’s uncool. In pandemic times, when smoking increases the risk for respiratory infections, weakens the immune system and can cause health conditions that increase vulnerability to COVID-19 risk, it’s just plain immoral.

The Takeaway:

Don’t support Big Tobacco, unless they’re using their plants to create a vaccine.


Stats

Some interesting, concerning and helpful statistics.

  • At the start of the shutdown in the U.S. in mid-March, PRWeek U.S. ran a poll to assess the initial impact and prospects for the PR industry. Seven weeks later, and the business and social landscapes have changed fundamentally. PRWeek’s Coronavirus Survey 2.0 is a comprehensive survey split between client (51.8%) and agency (48.2%) sides of the business, and represents the most credible analysis of the impact of the virus and implications for the future of PR.
  • More than a third of furloughed workers are drinking more alcohol than they used to. Elizabeth Howlett of People Management takes a look at a poll by U.K. nonprofit Drinkaware, warning that thousands of workers could emerge from lockdown with “risky or even dangerous” drinking habits, and urges employers to take action.
  • Conference & Incentive Travel has the latest map of partial and national lockdowns, travel restrictions and the number of people allowed to congregate in any place, at any time.

The Takeaway:

How is flying on a plane, like packing into a restaurant or bar, not simply a form of Russian Roulette?


Gathering

We miss our squads. We need our tribes. Our social lives, reformulated with restrictions, are better than eternal solitaire.

  • Rebecca Brennan-Brown, director of creative event agency The New Black Studio, shares excerpts from the company’s The Future of the Event Industry report in Conference & Incentive Travel. Intel from clients, suppliers and colleagues reveals how event design is going to change, from the more general implementation of hygiene stations, to the more nuanced considerations of balancing the environmental concerns of single-use utensils and cups with the need to eliminate prior norms such as buffets and self-serve coffee stations.
  • From temperature checks to decontamination misting booths to an industry-standard “stay safe charter” or certification, event planners shared their plans for social distancing with Conference & Incentive Travel.
  • One way to do it is to take a cue from Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, New Hampshire. The concert venue opened last weekend, leaving its 700-seat hall dark, but shining its Klieg lights on an outdoor stage and parking lot. For $75, attendees obtained two parking spaces — one for a car, and a second for chairs to kick back and enjoy the concert — all while devouring burgers, fries and soft drinks ordered via phone and delivered by employees on golf carts.

The Takeaway:

Tailgating is the new black.


Summer of Love

We may not go tripping through the desert in our festival finest this summer, but if we close our eyes and listen, we can dream. 

Peace out and see you tomorrow.


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