Posts tagged with "Coronavirus"

State DOC rejects 4,600 face masks for inmates donated by Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware

April 30, 2020

Following weeks of refusal by the Delaware State Department of Correction (DOC) to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to prison inmates; on April 30 , Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware (CPBD) denounced the state in a press release for rejecting its donation of 4,600 face masks.

After distributing 10,000 masks to frontline healthcare workers and vulnerable populations throughout Delaware;  CPBD secured an additional 4,600 face masks, which the group immediately offered to the DOC in the wake of the first inmate death from the virus at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center for men near Smyrna, Delaware, earlier this week.

After initially accepting CPBD’s offer, the DOC reversed its decision and rejected the masks just four hours later—after agency officials informed the office of DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis, a political appointee of Governor John Carney, who has been criticized by CPBD for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

CPBD castigated the state’s rebuff, saying: “The DOC’s rejection of the PPE comes as the agency has still failed to provide face masks to all 4,200 inmates in its facilities, despite updated Centers for Disease Control guidelines that recommend wearing face coverings to slow the spread of the virus.

“With prisons across the country emerging as vectors for transmission of the deadly coronavirus, civil rights organizations including the ACLU and the NAACP have urged state officials to take steps like providing masks to mitigate the risk of coronavirus in correctional facilities.

“Delaware’s prisons are disproportionately filled with people of color, and racial breakdowns of the state’s coronavirus cases show that Black and Hispanic Delawareans are being infected with the coronavirus at a drastically higher rate than white residents.”

Said Pastor Dale Dennis II of Hoyt Memorial CME Church in Wilmington, “People of color make up over 60% of Delaware’s prison population—but less than 40% of our residents. We know that black and brown folks have been the victims of historic, systemic injustices at the hands of our criminal justice system, but the coronavirus crisis has put those that are incarcerated at a different level of vulnerability. I am joining the calls from many Pastors across the State for the DOC to provide the care that they would want to receive and protect our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers housed in their correctional care.”

Research contact: @ProBusinessDE

Poll: 67% of voters support mail-in ballots for November elections

April 22, 2020

As states explore ways to expand voting options amid the lockdown for the coronavirus outbreak, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds that a majority of voters support changing election law so that everyone can vote by mail.

Nobody wants to risk catching the lethal disease while he or she is standing in line for the polls, or voting.

And they have a point: Indeed, according to Business Insider and the Associated Press, officials in Wisconsin have traced at least seven positive cases of COVID-19 to in-person voting held during the April 7 primaries in that state. Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Koiwalik said six of the cases involved voters who cast ballots in person on election day; while in one case, a poll worker was infected.

In the latest poll by the Journal/NBC News, some 58% of voters said they favor changing election laws permanently to allow voting by mail. While 39% oppose a permanent change, one-quarter of that group says mail-in voting should be allowed this November due to the virus.

When those findings are combined, 67% of voters in the survey say they favor a mail-in voting option for this November.

Views divide sharply by party, with 82% of Democrats backing a permanent change, compared with 31% of Republicans. Among Independents, 61% favor expanding the option.

In Congress, Democrats are pushing for funding in coronavirus legislation to expand mail-in voting nationwide, but President Trump opposes the idea, claiming it allows for fraud.

Five states already vote almost entirely by mail. Nearly a quarter of Americans from all states cast mail or absentee ballots in the 2016 general election, according to federal data.

Some states, including Republican-led West Virginia and Indiana, said they would allow any voter to cast an absentee ballot in party primaries this year because of the pandemic. In states such as Texas and Wisconsin, mail-in voting proposals have been the subject of partisan disputes.,

Views on the matter also differ by age and race, the Journal/NBC News poll found. Among 18- to 34-year-old respondents, 74% favored allowing all voters to cast ballots by mail. By contrast, 46% of those 65 or older supported the idea.

Some 67% of African-Americans and 73% of Latinos favored a permanent change to broaden mail-in voting, compared with 54% of white voters.

The Journal/NBC News poll surveyed 900 registered voters from April 13-15.

Research contact: @WSJ

On phone call, Bank of America exec rejects staff concerns about coming back to work amid virus

April 10, 2020

Your money or your life: Some U.S. employers are so concerned about the bottom line that they are ignoring the fears of staff members about getting back to work amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

And now one of the worst management-level offenders has been caught in the act:  A recording of a top Bank of America executive complaining about the effect of the coronavirus on his staff’s work-ethic has been leaked to CNBC.

According to the cable news network, Fabrizio Gallo, global head of Equities, told top-level colleagues during a March 25 conference call that staff productivity comes before personal comfort and the wish to work from home. He noted on the call that “We cannot provide orderly markets” with people working from home.

Although 95% of employees currently are conducting trades from home, the bank is considering when to ask them to return to their office desks. Gallo noted on the call that “We cannot provide orderly markets” with people working from home.

Gallo told those on the call there would be “special circumstances” for those with underlying illnesses—singling out one staffer with a compromised immune system from a battle with cancer —but he made it abundantly clear that everyone wouldn’t get the same treatment. “Of course, we are going to entertain special cases but not the ‘I don’t feel comfortable, sorry.’ It doesn’t work that way over the long term.”

He pointed out that long-term employees, especially, must take the needs of the firm into consideration—and even hinted at demotions and layoffs in the tape received by CNBC, should “people decide they don’t want to be in a critical function.”

“So, people have to understand that too,” he said. “You cannot on one hand say you cannot trust the firm and on the other hand get the money from the firm, for a long period of time if you are in a critical function. Now if people decide they don’t want to be in a critical function we can have that conversation too. Every single person in this office right now has a family. Every single person in this office right now has children. Every single person in this office right now has elderly parents. Some are very far away, some are here. Every single person in this office is worrying about it.”

He further threatened, ““There’s a balance there between critical mass in the office and not critical mass in the office. If you’re deemed critical and you decide to stay at home then we’ll just take your access away—no problem, after a certain period of time. I assume people when they’re staying at home, they are self-quarantining? Are they’re going out for a walk? They’re going to the supermarket? So, you can catch it at the supermarket. You can catch it at the CVS. You can catch it walking next to a person.”

In response to the CNBC report, a Bank of America spokesperson said: “The premise of this conversation is that, after a period of time and the government and health officials have said that it is safe, people will need to come back to work and we know people will have personal challenges and we will need to help them plan for that. This conversation took place two weeks ago when we were establishing new protocols about employees executing trades from home. We have 95% of our people working from home in the trading businesses including some of our most senior traders.”

Research contact: @CNBC

Skiers and suppliers donate goggles to healthcare workers in desperate need of PPE

April 3, 2020

As healthcare professionals continue to face severe supply shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) amid a global pandemic, one of the many makeshift solutions to the problem has been implemented by the winter sports community, The Boston Globe reports.

Skiers and snowboarders, like other sports enthusiasts, had their season cut short by the measures intended to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 outbreak. But thanks to a newly created New England-based organization, they can help pitch in to remedy the shortage of protective medical equipment.

Goggles For Docs is helping companies and individuals donate ski and snowboard goggles to hospitals for use as personal protective equipment (PPE). It was started by Jon Schaefer, co-owner and general manager of Catamount and Berkshire East ski areas.

Schaefer, who led the charge to close ski areas due to the threat of the coronavirus, noted that his heightened awareness was because of direct connections with the healthcare world.

“My wife is a physician’s assistant at Berkshire Medical Center, and there was an early outbreak in Pittsfield,” Schaefer said. “I know a lot of the doctors there. I have a friend who intubated patient zero in Vermont, so I guess I had a direct line to the stress.”

But. he said, the inspiration for the donations came on Saturday, March 28: “A friend of a friend, who is a physician in New York emailed me asking for ski goggles for the health care workers there. That email went out to six of us. Within 20 minutes, I was getting that same email forwarded to me from other friends. All I could think of is, jeez, this doctor is going to get 10,000 pairs of Smith goggles sent to his house and that’s not a very efficient use of resources.”

Schaefer started a Google sheet and a contact list. Pretty soon, the list of hospitals signing up went from one to six.  On Sunday morning, he woke up to what seemed like 500 emails.

One of the messages that came to Schaefer, who is, himself, a former Middlebury College Division 1 ski racer, contained a message from Trevor Crist, the CEO of Inntopia — a Stowe-based ski resort software company, offering whatever help was needed in getting things more organized.

“I knew the company, but had never spoken [to] or heard from these guys before,” says Schaefer.  “On a return trip from a local grocery, I started fleshing out a website on a phone call with them.” The Goggles for Docs site went online at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

“ All the while the word was spreading at the hospital level. “Even as we were on the phone building this, three more hospitals signed up,” Schaefer said.

As of Monday evening, March 30, nearly 2,000 used and new goggles were being sent to hospitals in seven states—and requests to organize have come in from hospitals as far away as New Zealand and Spain. On Monday night, ten more hospitals signed up, with a stated need of nearly 1,000 more goggles.

“I’m not sure how it works on their end, but doctors have told me two things: First, that they need goggles as COVID-19 can be transmitted with, say a direct cough to the eyeball, and second, that they can take care of disinfecting and distributing them,” Schaefer said.

While Schaefer’s wife is not currently wearing goggles as her hospital has adequate supplies of eyewear, Schaefer says that Berkshire Medical Center has put in an order for 300 and their need was met by the public with a large contribution, 217, coming from Uvex.

He told The Boston Globe, “What’s crazy about this whole thing is one day we’re all going to meet,” Schaefer said of the hundreds of volunteers. “There’s this whole team that’s developed, and only a handful of us that know each other face to face.

“Everybody wants to help. The one thing I think we did was connect people with a lot of passion to help and a motivated ski community with people that are really asking for help. If anything, maybe in that there’s just a little bit of hope. People are fired up.”

“I didn’t wake up this week thinking I was going to be the COVID Goggle Guy — we have a lot to take care of at our businesses now too,” says Schaefer. “It was just one thing that we as a ski industry could do to help.”

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Medtronic posts design specs for ventilator to combat coronavirus

March 31, 2020

Medical equipment company Medtronic announced on March 30 that it would publicly share the design specifications for a ventilator product, in order to enable other companies to explore producing it rapidly to help meet demand driven by the novel coronavirus.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the company posted online the design documents, service manuals and other information for its Puritan Bennett 560, which is sold in 35 countries. The company plans to post software code and other information shortly.

What’s more, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports,  Medtronic will get an assist from automaker Tesla Inc., which will convert a New York production plant to churn out medical devices instead of solar power cells.

Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak discussed the partnership in an interview with CNBC, while Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter, “Giga New York will reopen for ventilator production as soon as humanly possible. We will do anything in our power to help the citizens of New York.”

Medtronic has ramped up production of another of its ventilators in recent weeks, the Puritan Bennett 980.

“By openly sharing the PB 560 design information, we hope to increase global production of ventilator solutions for the fight against Covid-19,” said Bob White, executive vice president and president of the Minimally Invasive Therapies group at Medtronics.

Ventilators are needed for people severely ill with the coronavirus who have trouble breathing on their own. Hospitals and state officials have increased orders for the machines, and manufacturers have boosted production, but some health experts say there may not be enough to meet a surge in cases in coming weeks.

Research contact: @WSJ

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