Posts tagged with "Coronavirus"

Flush with success: TP contest entrants may have created the world’s most in-demand wedding gowns

March 26, 2020

For the past 16 years, Charm Weddings of Boca Raton, Florida, has challenged professional and amateur designers nationwide to create stunning, wearable wedding dresses and headpieces made only of toilet paper, glue, tape ,and needle and thread.

Little did the owners—sisters Susan Bain and Laura Gawne—realize that this year’s coronavirus pandemic would ratchet up the value of those hip and inspired gowns in a world without Charmin, Cottonelle, Scott, Quilted Northern, or White Cloud.

Indeed, in a press release, the Charm Weddings owners say they now have an inventory from past Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Contests of the most valuable wedding apparel in the world!

This would be the time of year when the contest would normally begin. However, the 2020 challenge has been temporarily postponed due to COVID-19 and will be rescheduled at an appropriate time, Bain and Gawne say.

“When the Covid-19 outbreak began, we didn’t realize the potential impact and how the availability of toilet paper would come into play!” comments Gawne.

Fans of the contest as well as all of the potential entrants can find updates on the company’s social media platforms and websites in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, the sisters are holding on to the Top 3 wedding dresses from 2019…they could be more valuable than gold.

Research contact: @CharmWeddings

Gap is dedicating factories to make masks, gowns, and scrubs for healthcare workers

March 26, 2020

Gap is the latest retailer to announce a commitment to use its resources to create personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, Business Insider reports.

The clothing and accessories manufacturer and marketer announced on March 25 via Twitter, “Our teams are connecting some of the largest hospital networks in Calif. w/our vendors to deliver PPE [personal protective equipment] supplies, while we pivot resources so factory partners can make masks, gowns & scrubs for healthcare workers on the front lines.”

The company—which opened its first store in 1969 in San Francisco, selling primarily jeans and LP records—said it would connect with hospitals in California to deliver the supplies.

In order to provide the crucial and urgently needed supplies to healthcare providers, Gap made the decision to temporarily close its company owned and operated stores across North America, including Old Navy, Athleta, Banana Republic, Gap, Janie and Jack, and Intermix brands. The closures were effective March 19.

Other retailers have announced similar initiatives to support healthcare workers as the coronavirus prompts a nationwide shortage of masks and other protective equipment. In California, hospitals have turned to Los Angeles seamstresses to make masks.

Nike also announced it was creating personal protective equipment such as face shields to support doctors and nurses in Oregon. Zara announced a similar initiative.

Research contact: @GapInc

Addressing the ‘Not Me’ mindset: The other essential pandemic office that Trump eliminated

March 20, 2020

Much attention has been paid to the Trump Administration’s shortsighted elimination of the White House Pandemic Response Team—a move that resulted in a failure to test rapidly and widely for the COVID-19 virus before it had reached epidemic proportions in the United States.

But the president and his advisers also are responsible for ousting the White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST), created by Executive Order in 2015 during Obama’s term of office, Slate reports—a group of professionals who could have advised the American population about how best to institute social distancing; and about how to get people to actually follow such instructions.

In its brief existence, the SBST tackled a broad range of issues, from fighting food insecurity to helping people save for retirement, through an evidence-based policy approach. For example, the group encouraged U.S. households to make their homes more energy-efficient by highlighting the immediate, concrete benefits of saving money on their power bills; rather than trying to appeal to the abstract, distant goal of slowing climate change.

Crucially, SBST programs did not try to tell Americans what to do by throwing a bunch of facts and statistics at them—a current coronavirus-fighting approach that has only worked with a subset of the population, Slate says.

Specifically, while epidemiologists are trying to model COVID-19’s true fatality rate (3.4%? 1%?), decision scientists already know that people are generally pretty bad at objectively assessing probabilities. Famous behavioral economists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky argued that people “discard events of extremely low probability,” simplifying minuscule percentages to basically zero. In other words, regardless of COVID-19’s true case fatality rate, our human brains are tempted to shortcut it to “super unlikely, so probably not me.”

Of course, even a 1% fatality rate means a devastating number of lives lost around the world. Effectively communicating the lethality of COVID-19 is paramount to convincing people to take the threat seriously.

One strategy is to leverage the “identifiable victim effect,” in which people are more moved to help known individuals than unknown others. (You’ve experienced this yourself if the coronavirus didn’t feel real until Tom Hanks tested positive, Slate notes.)

People in their 20s appear to face just a 0.09% fatality rate, an even-more-near-zero number that, combined with that age group’s propensity for risk-taking and socializing, makes it hard to convince young adults to follow social distancing guidelines to save themselves.

Instead, argues Oxford neuroethicist and Yale psychology professor Molly Crockett, it may be more persuasive to highlight how our actions can avoid causing harm to others. For example, White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx spoke of focusing on protecting older Americans and then specifically called for Millennials to do their part to stop the virus.

And, while it may be especially hard to convince older adults to give up social aspects of their lives that connect them to others, we can reframe “social distancing” as “distance socializing” to emphasize our intentions to continue socializing from afar.

The SBST was founded with the belief that behavioral science insights could improve Americans’ lives through evidence-based policy. Right now, those insights could save American lives, but there’s no longer a direct way to pass such information to the White House. Here’s hoping, Slate says, that our next administration will see the value of seeking counsel from scientists and reinstate them in advisory positions.

Research contact: @Slate

Biden sweeps Tuesday’s primaries as voters defy coronavirus fears

March 19, 2020

It may have been, literally, a death-defying act but—in defiance of the coronavirus threat—many Americans in three states made it out to the polls on March 17 to vote in the Democratic primary race.

Joe Biden won all three primaries held Tuesday on a day filled with anxious voting, building a lead in the Democratic presidential nomination race that appears increasingly difficult for Bernie Sanders to overcome, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The two-man race lurched forward against the major disruptions triggered by COVID-19, as the first balloting was held—in Florida, Illinois and Arizona—since the crisis engulfed the nation.

As of Wednesday morning, the former vice president had 52.8% of the delegates allocated so far and 57.6% of the number needed to win the nomination:

  • In Florida, a critical battleground state in the general election, the former vice president won nearly three times as many votes as the Vermont senator and carried all 67 counties.
  • With 99% of Illinois precincts reporting, Biden had garnered 59.1% of the vote versus 36.1% for Sanders.
  • In Arizona, with 88% of the vote in, the former vice president had won 43.6% against his rival’s 31.6%.

Ohio had been expected to hold a primary on Tuesday, but it joined a growing list of states that have delayed their contests until May or June in hopes the coronavirus situation will improve.

The latest large victories for Biden are likely to place more pressure on Sanders to exit from the race so the party can focus on President Trump. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released on March 15 found that Biden was favored nationally, 61% to 32%, among those who have already voted in the Democratic primary or planned to do so.

Speaking from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden said his campaign is moving toward winning the nomination as he reached out to his rival’s supporters. He delivered his address via a live stream to avoid gathering supporters during the pandemic.

“We’ve moved closer to securing the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, and we’re doing it by building a broad coalition,” he said, according to the Journal.

In an effort to close ranks against President Donald Trump in the Demoratic Party, Biden said he and Sanders “may disagree on tactics, but we share a common vision” on issues such as health care, wealth inequality and climate change. He told young voters inspired by Sanders, “I hear you, I know what’s at stake.”

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee noted Tuesday night that the president had secured enough delegates through the GOP primaries to become the party’s “presumptive nominee” for president.

“Nobody motivates our base more than President Trump, as evidenced by the historic turnout we’ve seen in state after state this primary season,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. “Fueled by both our longtime supporters and the thousands of new voters that continue to join our movement, we are united and enthusiasm is on our side.”

In a statement released late Tuesday, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez called for states with upcoming primaries and caucuses to use vote by mail and other alternatives to casting ballots in person, the Journal reported.

“What happened in Ohio last night has only bred more chaos and confusion,” he said, adding that states should focus on figuring out how to make voting easier and safer as opposed to postponing primaries “when timing around the virus remains unpredictable.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Time out: NBA suspends season after player tests positive for coronavirus

March 13, 2020

The NBA announced on March 12 that the 2019-2020 basketball season has been suspended “until further notice” after one Utah Jazz player  tested positive for the novel coronavirus and another was believed to also have contracted the illness. The league said that it will “use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the … pandemic.”

The NBA initially had reported on March 11 that one member of the traveling team, Rudy Gobert, had tested positive for COVID-19.  “The test result was reported … [just] prior to the tip-off of tonight’s game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena,” the NBA said in its Wednesday statement. “At that time, tonight’s game was canceled. The affected player was not in the arena.”

Earlier in the day, the Utah Jazz tweeted that players Emmanuel Mudiay and Gobert were both ill. Gobert is the only player who has reportedly tested positive for the virus.

Both teams are currently under quarantine and Gobert is being treated by health officials in Oklahoma City, according to the Jazz.

“The health and safety of our players, our organization, those throughout our league, and all those potentially impacted by this situation are paramount in our discussions,” the team said in a statement. “We are working closely with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], Oklahoma and Utah state officials and the NBA to determine how to best move forward as we gather more information.”

The Associated Press reported that Gobert had “joked” about the illness in a post-practice press interview earlier in the week, during which he “touched all the tape recorders that were placed before him on a table—devices that reporters who cover the Utah Jazz were using during an availability with him on Monday before a game with the Detroit Pistons.

“It isn’t so funny now,” the AP said, noting that, “Gobert is now the NBA’s Patient Zero” for coronavirus in the NBA. The news outlet also reported on the rumor that Gobert’s Utah teammate Donovan Mitchel, had tested positive as well.

Before Gobert finally was tested for COVID-19, he tested negative for the flu and strep throat.

Research contact: @NBA

Trump’s travel ban exempts his own European resorts

March 13, 2020

President Donald Trump’s new European travel restrictions will not affect the occupancy rates at his properties: The ban exempts countries—Ireland and Scotland in the United Kingdom—where three, struggling Trump Organization  golf resorts are located, according to a report by Politico.

Specifically,  the resorts that have been excluded from the new containment regulations include the Trump Turnberry golf course in Firth of Clyde in Ayrshire, Scotland; the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg, Ireland; and the Trump International Golf Links in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Trump already has been under fire for visiting his properties in both Ireland and Scotland as president. In doing so, he has profited from U.S. taxpayer money being spent there-for example, to cover the cost of U.S. Secret Service accommodations and meals. The president has been saddled with lawsuits and investigations throughout his term alleging that he’s violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause by accepting taxpayer money other than his salary.

According to Politico, the U.S. government proclamation initiating the ban targets 26 European countries that comprise a visa-free travel zone known as the Schengen Area.

The United Kingdom, which is home to Trump Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links, and Ireland, which is home to another Trump-branded hotel and golf course at Doonbeg, do not participate in the Schengen Area. Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania are also not part of the Schengen Area.

Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, is scheduled to meet with  Trump at the White House in one of the few events related to St. Patrick’s Day that has not been canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

The administration’s European travel proclamation notes that “the Schengen Area has exported 201 COVID-19 cases to 53 countries. Moreover, the free flow of people between the Schengen Area countries makes the task of managing the spread of the virus difficult.”

EU leaders condemned Trump’s move on Thursday, and disputed the president’s criticism of Europe’s handling of the crisis.

“The Coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel said in a joint statement.

“The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation,” they said, adding that the bloc was “taking strong action to limit the spread of the virus.”

Research contact: @politico

Corporate America races to respond to a crisis that routs the usual 9-5 routine

March 11, 2020

Employers are implementing contingency plans—from dividing teams across locations, to limiting visitors, to allowing employees to telecommute—as the spread of the novel coronavirus is starting to topple basic expectations about the safety and sustainability of office-based work, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The moves, designed to minimize disruption to businesses while protecting workers, range from advising colleagues to stand at least six feet apart, to requiring that people register their personal travel plans with their employers. While some companies have done emergency planning, the virus’s breadth and speed are posing challenges still hard to anticipate, executives said.

On Monday, the Journal notes, Bank of America began splitting up some employees on its Equities and Fixed-Income teams between New York and Connecticut—creating redundancies, so that if an employee gets sick and a whole team has to self-quarantine, a backup team can keep functioning in its place. More than 100 employees will work from Connecticut, while the majority will remain in New York.

Microsoft has instructed thousands of its workers in Seattle and the Bay Area area to work from home if they are able, and recommended that employees still needed in open office spaces stay six feet away from others. The company also asked its staff to try to limit prolonged interaction with other people.

Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a company email, encouraging staff in California and areas around the world with a high concentration of infections to work from home if possible over the coming week. The note represented an escalation in the company’s caution to staff. It last week had encouraged its 25,000 workers across Silicon Valley to work from home.

Meanwhile, the news outlet reports, Harvard informed students this week that they should not return from Spring Break; all classes will be held online. In addition, several colleges, including Texas A&M and MIT, have started asking employees and students to register their personal travel plans, so that administrators can keep track as coronavirus spreads—and MIT says, “Classes with more than 150 students will begin meeting virtually [this week]…; numerous MIT events have been postponed or modified.”

Stripe a San Francisco-area financial-technology company, has switched to videoconferencing for job interviews in place of on-site meetings. Becton Dickinson ,a medical-supplies company based in New Jersey, told employees to limit client meetings off-site.

Facebook, which on Thursday recommended that thousands of its employees in the San Francisco-area start working from home, is further encouraging people to stay away from the campus by canceling shuttle-bus operations for the coming week.

San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase last week asked several types of workers—including people with compromised immune systems, those who are “at risk because of age,” or people for whom getting sick would be especially problematic—to start working from home, according to Philip Martin, the company’s chief information security officer. He estimates that 200 out of 1,000 employees globally fell into groups that Coinbase asked to work remotely, including single parents and pregnant employees. The company on Friday suggested all employees begin working from home if they can starting this week.

However, The Wall Street Journal notes, working from home doesn’t work for swaths of the employee universe, from food-service and hotel staffers to nurses. Nearly four in 10 workers in the United States (or 37%) say it isn’t possible at all for them to do their job by working from home for a period of several weeks, according to a new Wall Street Journal/SurveyMonkey poll.

Companies say they are looking to federal and local authorities for guidance, but they are also closely watching how their peers respond, often not wanting to be first to implement a drastic protocol, said Lars Schmidt, the founder of Amplify, an HR consulting and executive-search firm.

“There’s a bit of a cascading impact,” he said. “Companies are holding out to see what others are doing.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Exercise caution: Gyms and coronavirus

March 10, 2020

Is it healthy to visit a health club right now? The spread of the coronavirus could make even the most ardent gym rats stress out about picking up barbells, using equipment and mats, or even just taking a crowded class where everyone is huffing and puffing.

There’s a lower risk of picking up the coronavirus at a gym or health club than at a church service, for example Dr. David Thomas, a professor of medicine and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine., told The New York Times this week. By comparison, church services may include shaking hands and being in closer proximity to people.

But if you’re in a community where there have been cases of the coronavirus, “that’s, perhaps, a time to be more cautious with all types of exposures, including a gym,” Dr. Thomas advised the news outlet.

Sweat cannot transmit the virus but high-contact surfaces, such as free weights, can pose a problem, he said.

Scientists are still figuring out how the virus exactly spreads but have provided some guidance on how it seems to be transmitted. A study of other coronaviruses published in The Journal of Hospital Infection found they remained on metal, glass and plastic for anywhere from two hours to nine days.

Certain objects, like handles and doorknobs, are “disproportionally affected by hands, and those are the surfaces most likely to have viruses for that reason,” Dr. Thomas said.

The owner of a yoga studio in Washington State, where several coronavirus patients have died, according to The Yoga Journal, “says she’s seen a direct impact from all the hysteria in the area on both attendance and business.”

Equinox, the luxury fitness club brand, has sent notices to members, reassuring them that additional steps are being taken during the peak flu season and amid growing concerns about the coronavirus, the Times reports.

The additional steps include disinfecting all club areas with a hospital-grade solution three times a day, reminding people to stay home if they are sick and asking instructors to eliminate skin-to-skin contact, like hands-on adjustments during yoga, a spokesperson told the newspaper.

Brian Cooper, chief executive of YogaWorks, sent an email to the company’s clients, reassuring them that it was stepping up its cleaning processes “to keep our facilities a safe and welcoming environment for all students and staff.”

David Carney, president of Orangetheory Fitness, listed precautions in an email on Thursday. “Wipe down your equipment after every block, and don’t hesitate to request a new wipe whenever you need to,” he wrote.

But do you actually know what’s in those nondescript spray bottle at gyms that you’re supposed to use to wipe down your machine, mat and equipment? If you’re not sure, ask staff members what’s in the bottle or take your own wipes to the gym.

“I’ll probably bring my own wipes,” Dr. Thomas told the Times of his gym trip planned for later that day. “I’ll know that they’re the right wipes and they have the right concentration of alcohol.”

Diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and several common household disinfectants should be effective against the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Environmental Protection Agency released a list of disinfectants against the virus.

Most important: If you’re feeling sick, stay home. “This is mostly about how you keep from getting sick at a gym, but please don’t go to the gym if you feel sick,” Dr. Thomas said. “Don’t give it to other people.”

Research contact: @nytimes

For a clean bill of health, disinfect your cell phone!

March 9, 2020

With the number of coronavirus cases steadily rising in the United States, as well as worldwide, there’s one preventative measure that’s “called for” even more than wearing a face mask, according to Debra Goff, Pharm.D., founding member of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Clean your cell phone, she advises.

“People handle their phones hundreds of times a day,” she told Prevention Magazine last week. “That means potentially exposing yourself to what’s on those surfaces every time.”

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak hit all the headlines, cell phones were acknowledged to be pretty nasty—even revolting—when it came to germs. For example, a 2017 study published in the infectious diseases journal, Germs, looked at 27 mobile phones owned by teenagers, and found “bacterial contamination” on all of them.

Surfaces can be notorious for hosting viruses, and some of them linger longer than others. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), norovirus can stay on surfaces for days or even weeks. That particular virus gets attention most during cruise ship outbreaks, but it’s actually the most common cause of gastroenteritis (a.k.a. stomach flu) in the United States. Not only is it highly contagious, but it only takes a very small amount to make you sick.

Active influenza viruses also can live on surfaces for as long as two weeks, Prevention reports—and some are still present after seven weeks. Even on porous surfaces like cotton, the flu hung around for a week.

As for the coronavirus, it can make itself comfortable on your cell phone for at least nine days, scientists now believe.

So, exactly what should a cell phone owner do to ensure that his or her device is relatively germ-free? Prevention got a few tips from Goff and is passing them on—among them:

  1. Power down first. Before doing any cleaning, turn off your phone and unplug from any charger, Goff suggests.
  2. Opt for microfiber cloths. These specially designed cloths have more fibers than other types of material and, as a result, can pick up more microscopic particles, including bacteria and viruses, Goff says. That doesn’t mean it kills theml it just lifts them off surfaces without the use of water. Think of it as a little virus magnet. Because of that, be sure to thendisinfect the cloth before using it again. The best way is using your dishwasher—that “sanitize” cycle works like a charm—then hanging the cloth up to dry. However, you also can throw it in the washing machine with warm water. And of course, wash your hands thoroughly after handling the germy cloth.
  3. Turn to rubbing alcohol. If your cell phone is particularly grubby, or you don’t have microfiber cloths, you can disinfect by creating a solution of about 60% water and 40% alcohol. Use a small corner of a cloth to gently clean the phone. Immediately use a dry portion of the cloth right afterward. A caution: Don’t spray the alcohol directly on the cell phone, and be sure to dilute it. You can also use a microfiber cloth for this for extra cleaning clout. Goff adds that regular soap and water works, too, just be sure to squeeze out excess liquid before using.
  4. 4. Don’t use abrasive products. Using a screen protector is helpful,if you want to use other types of cleaning products, says Goff, but if you don’t have one, avoid using products with ingredients that will affect your phone’s screen coating. These includewindow cleaner, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide.
  5. Keep it clean. Also, be mindful about how you’re using your phone, Goff adds, especially in germy areas like public restrooms. Handling your phone or putting it down in an area that regularly gets a fine spray of toilet water, sneezes, and coughs? Yikes.

    Your phone will pick up whatever is on that surface,” says Goff. “So, keep your phone clean, but also change your habits in terms of how you handle it after that.”

    Research contact: @PreventionMag

Ground controls: United Airlines is first major airline to cut U.S. domestic flights during coronavirus scare

March 6, 2020

As a growing number of U.S. businesses, schools, and event sponsors scale back , cancel, or pull back on participation in large-scale assemblages with a wary eye on the coronavirus outbreak, United Airlines has become the first major U.S. air carrier to make broad cuts to both domestic and international flights, The Chicago Tribune reports.

Several airlines already had canceled flights to China, where COVID-19 first emerged; as well as to a handful of other destinations affected by the outbreak.

But the virus, which has killed about a dozen people in the United States to date, with numbers rising daily (and about 3,200 globally) now is  a pandemic— with cases in 76 countries. As a result, more companies are restricting travel and pulling out of conferences to protect employees; and airlines are waiving flight change fees to encourage customers to book despite uncertainty about how far the outbreak will spread.

United is the major first U.S. carrier to announce broad cuts to its operations, but it’s unlikely to be the last, as the virus has “gutted” demand for air travel, Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst and president of Atmosphere Research Group, told The Chicago Tribune.

In April, United plans to slash its international schedule by 20% and its domestic schedule by 10%. Similar reductions are expected in May, airline executives said in a letter to employees Wednesday. The airline is asking employees to volunteer for unpaid leaves of absence, and is postponing some salary increases and hiring

.Scaling back its schedule now will make it easier for United to return to normal operations, spokesperson Charles Hobart told the news outlet. “We expect the recovery to be smoother than had we taken a more wait-and-see approach and lost the ability to control our own actions,” he said.

The airline declined to say how much demand for flights was down, but in a regulatory filing last month, United reported a 75% drop in demand for its Asian routes outside of China.

Its pared-back schedule is not expected to cut off service to any U.S. city it currently serves. In some cases, the airline is reducing the frequency of flights on a particular route, delaying the start of seasonal service, or halting routes if travelers can connect through another United hub. Seasonal flights between Chicago and Zurich that usually start in April will be pushed back, for instance, and United is suspending flights between Chicago and Eugene, Oregon, Hobart said.

United will contact affected customers who have already booked flights to offer alternatives, Hobart said.

Research contact: @united