Posts tagged with "COVID-19"

Scared of school: 4 out of 5 parents are considering homeschooling their kids this fall

August 4, 2020

A new survey has found that four out of five parents nationwide are thinking seriously about homeschooling their children during the 2020-2021 academic year.

The poll—commissioned by Crispy Green, a producer of freeze-dried fruit snacks; and conducted by OnePoll—spoke with 2,000 U.S mothers and fathers to see how families are adjusting to the “new normal” created by COVID-19.

Health is the biggest concern for most parents. The vast majority of respondents say the risk of infection is their biggest worry, according to a report by Study Finds. 

Among the parents thinking about a virtual education, 81% point to increasing health concerns. Eighty-two percent admit they’re more scared to send their kids into a school than ever before.

Parents also worry that, once children are back in class, hygiene issues will quickly put schools at risk. About 60% of respondents don’t believe their children will properly wash their hands in school. Nearly half the respondents say they’re trying to teach their kids about proper hygiene during the pandemic.

Researchers say a majority of parents are also taking this time in isolation to talk to their children more about safety and the importance of social distancing.

Another big takeaway from the poll is how costly COVID-19 will be for parents preparing children for school. Three in four respondents are expecting to spend an extra $147 per child to get them the proper supplies. Those same parents add that getting their kids ready for class will take much longer. They believe prepping to go to school during the pandemic will take an extra 40 minutes each morning.

Despite all the preparations families are making, 77% of moms and dads say they won’t be fully prepared for schools to reopen. Many parents have a long list of demands for education officials before they begin to feel comfortable with the idea of going back to school.

Over half, 55%, want increased COVID-19 testing and regular temperature checks on school premises, Study Finds notes. Nearly the same number of parents want smaller class sizes in the fall. Fifty percent want plenty of hand sanitizer available for children; while 40% of parents want schools to use more digital textbooks, too.

However, despite all the uncertainty tied to the next school year, parents know their children are doing a better job of coping with all the changes than they are. Fully 71% admit they wouldn’t have handled a pandemic as well when they were children.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Penguins at England’s Newquay Zoo perk up and play during pandemic with new bubble machine

July 28, 2020

Who can resist a shiny stream of bubbles—blowing willy-nilly in front of them? Certainly not the penguins at the Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, England, who were both fascinated and delighted when a patron recently donated a bubble machine for their amusement, the Good News Network reports.

The bubbles, which cause no harm to the animals, have in the past also proven popular among the zoo’s squirrel monkeys and Sulawesi crested macaques. But they were particularly appreciated by the penguins, who had been sorely lacking in entertainment since the pandemic began.

Penguin caretaker Dan Trevelyan told Good News Network that the bubbles help to keep the penguins’s predatory reflexes sharp.

“In the wild, these guys are marine predators who are very sensitive to objects and movement,” said Trevelyan. “The bubble machine is fantastic, as all the movement and new shapes and colors really stimulate these guys. They have a great time chasing them around. And all these donations are really appreciated.”

Animal enrichment programs are used to provide zoo animals with specialized stimulation designed to encourage their natural behaviors and prevent them from getting bored. Enrichment usually consists of branches and foliage, but can also come in the form of food hidden in hard-to-reach places for the animals to find.

These birds in particular are usually kept occupied by feeding shows and guests visiting the zoo, but due to the novel coronavirus, their daily routine was forced to change. Thankfully, Newquay Zoo fully re-opened to the general public on July 1.

Research contact: @goodnews_ntwrk

Google will extend employee work-from-home policy until Summer 2021

July 28, 2020

We doubt that there will be much pushback from employees, now that Google has once again pushed back the date when its offices will reopen—this time, to Summer 2021., The Wall Street Journal reports.

Previously, the search engine platform had said that employees would return to the office on July 6 of this year; then, had postponed reopening to September. The latest change of plans reflects the current COVID-19 landscape—with more than 4.2 million cases nationwide and deaths mounting—which has grown immeasurable more dangerous just since May.

Indeed, the Journal reports, Google CEO Sundar Pichai made the decision partly to help employees with children who may be facing a partly or mostly remote school year.

“To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we are extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don’t need to be in the office,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an email to employees obtained by the Journal. “I hope this will offer the flexibility you need to balance work with taking care of yourselves and your loved ones over the next 12 months.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Rob Copeland first reported that Google would announce as early as Monday, July 27, that it had pushed its return-to-office date back to July 2021 for nearly all of its 200,000 employees and contract workers.

Google closed its offices in March as the coronavirus hit the San Francisco Bay Area. Management is now looking at the situation in California with an abundance of caution; although Pichai said in his memo to employees that Googlers had returned to the office “with robust health and safety protocols in place” in 42 countries where conditions have improved.

Google is one of several tech companies mulling how and when to reopen offices. Microsoft has said employees will work from home through at least October, while Amazon has said employees will work remotely until January. Both companies are based in Seattle, where coronavirus cases are still on the rise.

Twitter, based in San Francisco, announced in May that employees could work from home forever if they wanted. For Facebook, which appears to have sent some employees back to the office in July, as many as half of all employees will most likely work from home permanently, CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently said.

Research contact: @WSJ

Study: Chances of catching COVID are reduced by 79% on flights with empty middle seats

July 20, 2020

While such carriers as American Airlines are booking full flights now, a new academic study has found that, if  you plan to fly during the pandemic, you’re better off choosing an airline with a policy of keeping the middle seat empty. Such a policy lowers the risk of contracting COVID from 1 in 4,400 to 1 in 7,300, Fortune reports.

That estimate comes from Arnold Barnett, a statistics professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. His findings—which suggest a “no middle seats” flight reduces risk by 79%—also note that the risk of dying from catching COVID on a flight are less than 1 in 500,000.

Barnett’s conclusion on the risk of middle seats comes as U.S. airlines pursue different approaches. For instance, Delta, JetBlue and Southwest have chosen to keep middle seats empty; while, in addition to American, United and Spirit are filling them.

The new research should be taken with a grain of salt, however, as Barnett himself acknowledges. In his paper, he emphasizes that his findings are “rough conjecture” in light of the difficulties in calculating such a risk.

Barnett’s calculations are based on numerous assumptions, including that all passengers are wearing masks—a step he says reduces risks of catching COVID by 82%. He also assumes that someone is more likely to catch COVID from those in the same aisle rather than from those in rows behind or in front of them

The findings also disregard the risk of catching COVID from trips to the restroom, or from boarding or getting off the plane. But the latter situation may pose a significant risk according to The Wall Street Journal, which notes the close proximity of passengers waiting to board or scrambling to store luggage.

The Journal, which cited the Barnett study, suggested that flying is not especially dangerous overall, in part because planes frequently replace the air in the cabin.

For his part, Barnett concludes by noting that middle seat policy will also be informed by economic considerations facing the airlines.

“The calculations here, however rudimentary, do suggest a measurable reduction in COVID-19 risk when middle seats on aircraft are deliberately kept open,” he writes. “The question is whether relinquishing 1/3 of seating capacity is too high a price to pay for the added precaution.”

Research contact: @FortuneMagazine

Trump cites game show host Chuck Woolery on pandemic while sabotaging Dr. Anthony Fauci

July 15, 2020

On Monday, July 13, President Donald Trump retweeted a message from Chuck Woolery, a longtime game show host and conservative commentator, which accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of “lying” to the American public about the coronavirus, The Washington Post reported.

The most outrageous lies are the ones about COVID-19,” Woolery said in his tweet, adding, “Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most ,that we are told to trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I’m sick of it.”

Trump in recent days has also accused Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and  the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, of making “mistakes,” blasted CDC guidelines for opening schools as “impractical,” and repeatedly undercut public health officials’ recommendations by questioning the efficacy of masks and social distancing.

Taken together, the president’s efforts have led to a lack of clarity and consistency in the national response to the virus, Ben Sommers, a doctor who teaches at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the Post.

“When the president is calling the guidance wrong and endorsing the view that these public health experts are lying, it makes it incredibly difficult for the public to know what to do,” he said. “It erodes the long-term ability of our government to provide one of its basic goals which is to protect the public safety.”

While Trump has played down the virus and dismissed the warnings of public health experts for months, his recent push has come amid a fresh surge in cases and concern over how to safely reopen schools in the coming weeks. Trump primarily has been focused on trying to revitalize the economy, which has been devastated by the pandemic, seeing its revival as key to his reelection chances this fall.

Indeed,  the Post notes,Trump also retweeted a post from Woolery, who hosted “Love Connection” in the 1980s, pointing to “worldwide and overwhelming” scientific evidence that schools should reopen in the fall. Trump and his aides have tried to make the restart of schools a simple choice of opening or not opening. Public health experts have said that while restarting schools should be a top priority, the issue is that without proper safety measures the move could worsen the pandemic.”

 Trump’s aides have amplified his statements promoting a return to normalcy and undermining government health expertise in the middle of a pandemic. White House officials disseminated negative talking points about Fauci to reporters over the weekend after The Washington Post reported that Fauci had been sidelined by Trump in recent weeks.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany used a news briefing Monday to defend those criticisms of Fauci and reinforce the president’s attacks on the government’s health experts. She accused “some rogue individuals” at the CDC of misleading the public and defended Trump’s retweet of Woolery by saying he was calling out scientists for engaging in politics.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Report: For three months, White House blocked CDC from briefing Americans on COVID-19

July 6, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was denied permission by the White House to brief the public about the coronavirus crisis, a source at the agency told Yahoo News. 

As a result, the CDC found itself unable to do public briefing for three months—from March 9 through June 12—starting not long after a senior official warned in late February that the virus was likely to hit hard nationwide, Business Insider reports.

As the coronavirus swept across America, it was the White House coronavirus task force led by Vice President Mike Pence, and fronted with increasing frequency by President Donald Trump, that took the lead in briefing the public about the crisis.

Earlier in the year the CDC had given frequent briefings on the pandemic. But then it fell abruptly silent.

A CDC spokesperson, speaking anonymously to Yahoo, confirmed that the agency “slowly but surely took a backseat” to the coronavirus task force.

“We continued to ask for approval” from the White House to hold briefings, the CDC spokesperson told Yahoo News. “We were not given approval. Finally, we just stopped asking.” 

In a briefing on February 25, Nancy Messonnier, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), had issued a stark warning about the likely impact of the disease.

“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen,” she said.

The message contrasted sharply with Trump’s attempts at the time to downplay the likely impact of the disease, Business Insider said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

A task force member told Yahoo that the CDC was too concerned with its own stature, and an interagency response to the crisis was required. “The CDC feels like they should be in charge of this,” remarked

Research contact: @YahooNews

Trump has an Achilles heel—and Democratic advertisers finally know how to use it to advantage

July 3, 2020

After more than a year of polling, focus groups, and message testing against the president, there’s a growing consensus about what damages Trump —and what doesn’t, David Siders of Politico reports.

Indeed, President Donald Trump wasn’t even halfway through his May 20 speech in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when Democratic advertisers in Washington, D.C. and New York knew they had struck gold: They didn’t focus on the president’s rants about descending a ramp at West Point. or drinking a small glass of water with two hands—or even on his use of the term, Kung Flu, to describe the pandemic.

Instead, Politico notes, they ads zeroed in on Trump’s admission that he urged officials to “slow the [coronavirus] testing down.”

It’s a reflection of a growing consensus among Democrats about what kind of hits on Trump are most likely to persuade swing voters — and which ones won’t. As in 2016, ad makers are focusing on Trump’s character. But unlike four years ago, they are no longer focusing on his character in isolation. Rather, they are pouring tens of millions of dollars into ads yoking his behavior to substantive policy issues surrounding the coronavirus, the economy, and the civil unrest since the death of George Floyd.

“You can’t chase the Trump clown car,” said Bradley Beychok, president of the progressive group American Bridge 21st Century PAC, which claims to be “the largest opposition research, video tracking, and rapid response organization in Democratic politics.”

“Him drinking water and throwing a glass is goofy and may make for a good meme, but it doesn’t matter in the scheme of things … What people care about is this outbreak.”

How does he know? In their preparations for 2020, outside Democratic groups spent more than a year surveying voters in swing states by phone and online. They convened in-person focus groups and enlisted voters in swing states to keep diaries of their media consumption.

Multiple outside groups said they began to test their ads more rigorously than in 2016, using online panels to determine how likely an ad was to either change a viewer’s impression of Trump or to change how he or she planned to vote. Priorities USA, a major Democratic super PAC, alone expects to test more than 500 ads this cycle. Priorities, American Bridge, and other outside groups, including organized labor, have been meeting regularly to share internal research and media plans.

“One thing we saw in polling a lot before the coronavirus outbreak is that people didn’t think he was a strong leader or a good leader, they complained about his Twitter,” Nick Ahamed, analytics director at Priorities USA, told Politico. “But they had a hard time connecting those character flaws they saw in him with their day-to-day experience.”

Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and recent protests, he said, “really made concrete for people the ways in which his leadership has direct consequences on them and their loved ones … It’s easier to make ads that talk about his leadership than before the outbreak.”

The advertising elements that appear to work, according to Politico’s interviews with more than a dozen Democrats involved in message research, vary from ad to ad. Using Trump’s own words against him often tests well, as do charts and other graphics, which serve to highlight Trump’s distaste for science. Voters who swung from President Barack Obama to Trump in 2016—and who regret it—are good messengers.

And so is Joe Biden, whose voice is widely considered preferable to that of a professional narrator. Not only does he convey empathy, according to Democrats inside and outside Biden’s campaign, but using Biden’s voice “helps people think about him as president,” said Patrick Bonsignore, Biden’s director of paid media.

But the ad makers’ overarching takeaway from their research was this: While Trump may not be vulnerable on issues of character alone, as he demonstrated in 2016, he is vulnerable when character is tied to his policy record on the economy and health care.

 “What we’ve learned form a lot of previous experience … is that quite honestly, people who work in politics can be bad prognosticators in terms of which ad will work,” said Patrick McHugh, Priorities’ executive director. “You see a lot of times the videos that go viral on Twitter … you test those ads, and more often than not they backlash … they can move voters toward Trump.”

For the negative ad industry, the coronavirus has been a bonanza because it inextricably linked both the economy and health care. On the evening of his Tulsa rally, American Bridge, which had already been working on an ad pummeling Trump for his response to the coronavirus, bookended its material with Trump’s acknowledgment that he urged officials to “slow the testing down.”

Biden’s campaign rushed a video onto social media skewering Trump for the admission. And Priorities USA, the Biden campaign’s preferred big-money vehicle, was on TV within days with Trump’s testing remarks in the swing states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan.

And the ads hit their target.

 “On the campaign they’ll say such horrible things about me. It’s a very unfair business,” Trump said on Fox News. “But the ad [Democrats] did this morning, it’s a great ad for them.”

Research contact: @politico

Judge strikes down Trump Administration rule denying asylum to most migrants at southern border

July 2, 2020

A federal judge has nullified a Trump Administration rule that, since July 2019, has banned most migrants from receiving asylum at America’s southern border with Mexico, The Hill reports.

The rule in question made all applicants at the southern border ineligible for asylum unless they had previously applied from another country or had been the victims of sex trafficking.

Late on Tuesday night, June 30, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly of the District of Columbia ruled that the Trump Administration had failed to follow the procedural law governing how regulations can be implemented—which requires advance notice and a period for the public to comment on the proposal.

“These procedures are not a mere formality,” Kelly, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, said in his opinion.

The ruling—one of several that have disappointed the POTUS in recent weeks—will likely have little immediate impact amid the president’s strict border restrictions over the coronavirus pandemic.

Hardy Vieux, an attorney at Human Rights First, one of the plaintiffs in the case, hailed the decision.

“Judge Kelly’s ruling is proof that the administration cannot do an end-run around the law,” Vieux said in a statement. “In the United States of America, we follow the rule of law, even when it benefits asylum-seekers demonized by this administration. We do not follow the rule of one capricious man, who treats the law as something on which to trample, on his way to a photo op.”

The Capital Area Immigrants Rights Coalition, another plaintiff, added that the decision would remove a barrier for those seeking safety from persecution.

“By striking down this rule, Judge Kelly reaffirmed two fundamental principles,” said Claudia Cubas, the group’s litigation director. “The protection of asylum seekers fleeing for safety is intertwined with our national values and that the United States is a country where the rule of law cannot be tossed aside for political whims.”

Still, the decision could be appealed. A spokesperson for the Justice Department did not immediately respond when asked for comment.

Research contact: @thehill

Near and dear: 60% of fathers say they are closer to their kids because of the COVID-19 lockdown

June 20, 2020

While some may say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, many American fathers who have been sheltering with their children during the COVID-19 pandemic would disagree: In fact, they say that they are more “in touch” with their kids—both psychologically and physically—than ever before.

In fact, the Good News Network reports, a pair of new studies reveal a silver lining amid the COVID gloom. The studies, released last week as part of Canadian Men’s Health Week, were conducted in May on behalf of the nonprofit Canadian Men’s Health Foundation (CMHF).

The first survey asked 1,019 Canadian fathers about the impact of the COVID lockdown on their roles as fathers. “Even though families have faced stressors and challenges with COVID-19, we recognize that fathers have been granted a golden opportunity to take time to slow down and connect with their children,” said Canadian Health Minister Adrian Dix.

“Many parents work full time and commute, and when that is taken away, they have more opportunities for togetherness, like a game of catch or going for a hike. Men’s health is impacted by their living situations, and getting a little more physical activity with their kids is a little thing that makes a big difference. We can learn from this pandemic in more ways than we think.”

As a result, the Good News Network reports, 40% of the respondents believe COVID-19 has had a positive impact on their role as a father; 52% are more aware of their importance as a father, and 60% felt closer to their children. Half of those surveyed have already decided to be more engaged as a father in the future.

According to the study, almost 66% of fathers have been providing companionship to their children more often during lockdown, and almost half pla60% felt n to continue doing so as restrictions are lifted. Likewise, 56% have been providing guidance to their children more often, with 46% planning to continue doing that as well.

“I’ve been off work since March and it’s been stressful, but the upside is I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with my daughters,” Dal Watson of Burnaby, B.C., told the news outlet.“I’m a professional chef and I’ve been spending time in the kitchen at home teaching my kids how to cook. We’re also sitting down as a family and eating together, which was something that couldn’t happen very often when I was working. I’m grateful for the extra time I have with my family.”

As a follow up to the online survey, The Men’s Initiative (TMI) at UBC conducted virtual focus groups with 45 fathers from across Canada. Many fathers described a hectic family dynamic prior to COVID with busy lives focused on long work days with commuting, eating on the run, and catering to children’s schedules. With the sports, extracurricular, and social activities, the family members experienced lives that were lived in parallel with each other.

As the pandemic evolves, fathers have expressed concern that they will experience a tension between shifting back to the “old normal,” and a desire to create a new normal going forward.

“We know the active and positive presence of fathers in their children’s lives has a positive effect on those children’s mental and physical wellbeing, and reduces the frequency of their negative behaviors,” noted Dr. David Kuhl, a UBC Professor of Medicine and a co-founder of TMI.

“If the COVID-19 lockdown accelerates the movement of dads to be more engaged with their children, that could be a lasting benefit from a tragic public health crisis,”said Dr. Larry Goldenberg, the founding chair of CMHF. “It is clear, however, that men realize it will be a challenge to continue spending quality time with their families once the daily stresses of commuting and working long hours are reintroduced to their lives.”

Research contact: @CMHFoundation66% providing more

As COVID-19 rages, Trump asks Supreme Court to strike down Obamacare

June 29,2020

The number of confirmed new coronavirus cases per day in the United States hit an all-time high of 40,000 on Friday, June 26—eclipsing the mark set during one of the deadliest stretches in late April, CBS News reports; noting that there is “ample evidence” that the pandemic is making a comeback.

Yet, even so, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court late on June 25 to terminate the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare—the only health insurance to which many Americans have access. If the justices agree, they will wipe out coverage for as many as 23 million Americans, The New York Times reports.

In an 82-page brief submitted an hour before a midnight deadline, the Administration joined Republican officials in 18 states in arguing that, in 2017, the largely Republican Congress had rendered the law unconstitutional when it zeroed out the tax penalty for not buying insurance—the so-called individual mandate.

In his brief, Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco maintained that the health law’s two remaining central provisions are now invalid because Congress intended that all three work together, the Times said.

The court has not said when it will hear oral arguments, but they are most likely to take place in the fall, just as Americans are preparing to go to the polls in November.

Republicans have long said their goal is to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act but have yet to agree on an alternative. They are bracing for the possibility that the effort to overturn the health law will cost them, according to the Times report.

Joel White, a Republican strategist, said in a recent interview with the news outlet that he considered it “pretty dumb to be talking about how we need to repeal Obamacare in the middle of a pandemic.”

Democrats, who view health care a winning issue—and who reclaimed the House majority in 2018 on their promise to expand access and bring down costs—are trying to use the Supreme Court case to press their advantage. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has scheduled a vote for Monday, June 29, on a measure to expand the healthcare law, in an effort to draw a sharp contrast between Democrats and Republicans.

“President Trump and the Republicans’ campaign to rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty,” Pelosi said in a statement late Thursday night, after the administration’s brief was filed.

“If President Trump gets his way,” she added, “130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions will lose the A.C.A.’s lifesaving protections and 23 million Americans will lose their health coverage entirely.”

Research contact: @nytimes