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The Lonely Reality of Grieving Online During Social Isolation

April 13, 2020

(MIT Technology Review) – The global coronavirus pandemic has forced people to think about death, while simultaneously upending the ways in which we are used to experiencing grief and loss. Zoom funerals, delayed burials, and virtual goodbyes have replaced hugs, wakes, and held hands. The only option is to grieve online. Experts say that while there are ways in which live video and online social connections can help, everyone needs something different in grief. Just like everything else, mourning the dead is harder in our new reality.

“It’s a Time Bomb”: 23 Die as Virus Hits Packed Homeless Shelters

April 13, 2020

(The New York Times) – While much of New York City is staying inside, a crisis has taken hold among a population for whom social distancing is nearly impossible: the more than 17,000 men and women, many of them already in poor health, who sleep in roughly 100 group or “congregate” shelters for single adults. Most live in dormitories that are fertile fields for the virus, with beds close enough for people sleeping in them to hold hands. And rather than keeping people away from shelters, the virus has driven them in.

He Beat Coronavirus. Now His Blood May Help Save Lives.

April 13, 2020

(The New York Times) – As part of a newly approved federal trial, researchers at the network, Hackensack Meridian Health, are preparing to infuse patients fighting for life with antibody-rich blood plasma donated Wednesday by a neonatal doctor who was infected with the virus and recovered. The hope is that the plasma will boost patients’ immune systems and help them combat the virus before their lungs are destroyed.

Declare Abortion a Public Health Issue During Pandemic, WHO Urged

April 13, 2020

(The Guardian) – The World Health Organization is being urged to declare abortion an essential health service during the coronavirus pandemic. In guidance notes issued last week, the WHO advised all governments to identify and prioritise the health services each believed essential, listing reproductive health services as an example. Clinical guidelines published by the organisation last month said that women’s right to sexual and reproductive healthcare “should be respected irrespective of Covid-19 status, including access to contraception and safe abortion”.

How Apple and Google Are Enabling Covid-19 Contact-Tracing

April 13, 2020

(Wired) – Since Covid-19 began its spread across the world, technologists have proposed using so-called contact-tracing apps to track infections via smartphones. Now, Google and Apple are teaming up to give contact-tracers the ingredients to make that system possible—while in theory still preserving the privacy of those who use it. On Friday, the two companies announced a rare joint project to create the groundwork for Bluetooth-based contact-tracing apps that can work across both iOS and Android phones.

‘We Carry That Burden.’ Medical Workers Fighting Covid-19 Are Facing a Mental Health Crisis

April 10, 2020

(TIME) – In interviews with TIME, several doctors and nurses said that fighting COVID-19 is making them feel more dedicated to their profession, and determined to push through and help their patients. However, many also admitted to harboring darker feelings. They’re afraid of spreading the disease to their families, frustrated about a lack of adequate protective gear and a sense they can’t do enough for their patients, exhausted as hours have stretched longer without a clear end in sight, and, most of all, deeply sad for their dying patients, many of whom are slipping away without their loved ones at their side. It’s those lonely deaths that have hit the hardest for some.

Yemen ‘Faces Nightmare’ as First Coronavirus Case Confirmed

April 10, 2020

(BBC) – Aid agencies have expressed alarm after the first virus case was confirmed in Yemen, where years of civil war have devastated health systems. Oxfam said it was a “devastating blow”, the International Rescue Committee called it a “nightmare scenario”. Yemen is suffering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and millions are reliant on food aid. Diseases including cholera, dengue and malaria are rife and only half of hospitals are fully functional.

New Ebola Case Dashes Hopes That the 2-Year-Old DRC Outbreak Was Over

April 10, 2020

(STAT News) – The long-running Ebola outbreak in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has encountered another setback, with health authorities confirming on Friday that a new case has been discovered after 52 days without a positive diagnosis. The country had been expected to declare the outbreak over on Monday, which would have been 42 days after the last Ebola survivor had been declared free of infection and discharged from an Ebola treatment clinic. Forty-two days is the length of two incubation periods of the disease and is considered the point at which it can be reasonably safe to declare an outbreak over.

Thousands of Coronavirus Tests Are Going Unused in US Labs

April 10, 2020

(Nature) – As the United States struggles to test people for COVID-19, academic laboratories that are ready and able to run diagnostics are not operating at full capacity. A Nature investigation of several university labs certified to test for the virus finds that they have been held up by regulatory, logistic and administrative obstacles, and stymied by the fragmented US health-care system. Even as testing backlogs mounted for hospitals in California, for example, clinics were turning away offers of testing from certified academic labs because they didn’t use compatible health-record software, or didn’t have existing contracts with the hospital.

More Coronavirus Vaccines and Treatments Move Toward Human Trials

April 10, 2020

(The New York Times) – As the coronavirus pandemic spreads at unprecedented rates, invading the lungs of people of all ages, ethnicities and medical histories, companies are ratcheting up their efforts to fight the disease with accelerated schedules for creating new vaccines, and beginning clinical trials for potential treatments. On Wednesday, Novavax, a Maryland-based biotech company, said it would begin human trials in Australia in mid-May for its vaccine candidate. Novavax is one of more than two dozen companies that have announced promising vaccine programs that are speeding through the early stages of testing unlike ever before.

How Does COVID-19 Kill? Uncertainty Is Hampering Doctor’s Ability to Choose Treatments

April 9, 2020

(Nature) – How does COVID-19 kill? Uncertainty over whether it is the virus itself — or the response by a person’s immune system — that ultimately overwhelms a patient’s organs, is making it difficult for doctors to determine the best way to treat patients who are critically ill with the coronavirus. Clinical data suggest that the immune system plays a part in the decline and death of people infected with the new coronavirus, and this has spurred a push for treatments such as steroids that rein in that immune response. But some of these treatments act broadly to suppress the immune system, stoking fears that they could actually hamper the body’s ability to keep the viral infection in check.

In Uganda, Mothers in Labor Die Amidst Coronavirus Lockdown

April 9, 2020

(Reuters) – Fearful that the viral pandemic could overwhelm already overburdened hospitals, authorities have banned private transport without special authorisation. But in a poor country with few ambulances, the travel ban can be deadly for some. A human rights group in the East African country says seven women in labour and two babies have died because they were forced to walk to hospital to give birth. The Ministry of Health said it was investigating the reports and could not comment yet.

International Trial Uses AI to Rapidly Identify Optimal Covid-19 Treatments

April 9, 2020

(STAT News) – A randomized controlled trial ramping up in dozens of hospitals around the world proposes a third way — fusing those two approaches together by using artificial intelligence to home in on the most effective treatments on the fly. The REMAP-CAP study seeks to turn frenetic attempts to save lives on the front lines into a running international experiment, with the goal of quickly identifying optimal treatments for desperately ill patients. By analyzing data on outcomes from more than 50 hospitals, organizers hope to supply fast answers to pressing questions, such as whether the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine is an effective therapy and, if so, for which types of patients. The trial will also allow the researchers to test multiple therapies at once.

Prisons and Jails Across the US Are Turning into ‘Petri Dishes’ for Coronavirus. Staffers Are Falling Ill, Too.

April 9, 2020

(CNN) – In the US, the largest known concentration of coronavirus cases outside of hospitals isn’t on a cruise ship or in a nursing home. It’s at a jail in Chicago. At least 251 detainees and 150 staff members at Cook County Jail have tested positive for coronavirus, the county sheriff’s office said Wednesday. At least 22 of the detainees are hospitalized. Across the country, prisons and jails have become hotbeds for coronavirus. Close confinement is likely fueling the spread.

NIH Begins Trial to Test Hydroxychloroquine for Treating COVID-19

April 9, 2020

(Reuters) – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) said on Thursday it was testing anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19, days after several U.S. doctors said they were using the drug on infected patients without evidence that it worked. The use of the decades-old drug, which has been touted by President Donald Trump as a potential weapon against COVID-19, has soared as the United States has quickly become the epicenter of the pandemic.

“Human Challenge Trials,” Where Healthy Volunteers Would Be Exposed to Covid-19, Explained

April 9, 2020

(Vox) – Now, a bioethicist and two epidemiologists are proposing a bolder option: You can volunteer to get infected yourself. In a recent article published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, bioethicist Nir Eyal and epidemiologists Marc Lipsitch and Peter G. Smith called for “human challenge studies” to test the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines as they’re developed. These studies would involve testing the vaccines on a group of volunteers who have been knowingly exposed to the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19. The hope is that it will allow researchers to ascertain more quickly and conclusively the effectiveness of the proposed vaccine.

Nurses and Doctors Speaking Out on Safety Now Risk Their Job

April 9, 2020

(New York Times) – As the coronavirus crisis has escalated, workers as varied as grocery cashiers, customer-service representatives and flight attendants have clashed with the employers they accuse of failing to protect and properly value them. Amazon drew attention when it fired a worker who had led a protest over health concerns at a Staten Island warehouse. But perhaps the most curious and persistent management-labor tension has arisen between health care providers like doctors and nurses, who are at the forefront of the virus battle, and the administrators they report to.

Methadone Clinic Lines and Packed Waiting Rooms Leave Clients Vulnerable to Coronavirus

April 9, 2020

(STAT News) – Aimed at reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus, the new rules allow people considered “stable” to take home up to a 28-day supply of methadone under a blanket exception, and people considered “less than stable” to take home up to a 14-day supply. But advocates for people recovering from addiction say compliance with the new guidelines has been inconsistent.

Are Mesenchymal Stem Cells a Promising Treatment for COVID-19?

April 9, 2020

(The Scientist) – A recent pilot study in China in which seven COVID-19 patients received intravenous infusions of donor mesenchymal stem cells—multipotent cells thought to have immunomodulatory capacities—indicates that the intervention was safe, and that the approach may improve patient outcomes. While all seven patients recovered, scientists are mixed in their opinions on the logic behind the approach and how well it truly performed. On Sunday (April 5) the US Food and Drug Administraton approved mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) treatments for use in the very sickest COVID-19 patients under what’s known as expanded access compassionate use.

With Ventilators Running Out, Doctors Say the Machines Are Overused for Covid-19

April 8, 2020

(STAT News) – Even as hospitals and governors raise the alarm about a shortage of ventilators, some critical care physicians are questioning the widespread use of the breathing machines for Covid-19 patients, saying that large numbers of patients could instead be treated with less intensive respiratory support. If the iconoclasts are right, putting coronavirus patients on ventilators could be of little benefit to many and even harmful to some. What’s driving this reassessment is a baffling observation about Covid-19: Many patients have blood oxygen levels so low they should be dead. But they’re not gasping for air, their hearts aren’t racing, and their brains show no signs of blinking off from lack of oxygen.

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