The World vs. SARS-CoV-2

the effect of wind speed on social distancing

We computationally investigate the effect of wind speed on social distancing. For a mild human cough in air at 20○C and 50% relative humidity, we found that human saliva-disease-carrier droplets may travel up to unexpected considerable distances depending on the wind speed. When the wind speed was approximately zero, the saliva droplets did not travel 2 m, which is within the social distancing recommendations. However, at wind speeds varying from 4 km/h to 15 km/h, we found that the saliva droplets can travel up to 6 m with a decrease in the concentration and liquid droplet size in the wind direction. [Physics of Fluids]

Superspreading events are ill-understood and difficult to study […] Individual patients’ characteristics play a role as well. Some people shed far more virus, and for a longer period of time, than others, perhaps because of differences in their immune system or the distribution of virus receptors in their body. […] Singing may release more virus than speaking, which could help explain the choir outbreaks. People’s behavior also plays a role. Having many social contacts or not washing your hands makes you more likely to pass on the virus.

We know most people get infected in their own home. A household member contracts the virus in the community and brings it into the house where sustained contact between household members leads to infection. But where are people contracting the infection in the community? I regularly hear people worrying about grocery stores, bike rides, inconsiderate runners who are not wearing masks…. are these places of concern? Well, not really. In order to get infected you need to get exposed to an infectious dose of the virus; based on infectious dose studies with other coronaviruses, it appears that only small doses may be needed for infection to take hold. Some experts estimate that as few as 1000 SARS-CoV2 infectious viral particles are all that will be needed (ref 1, ref 2). Please note, this still needs to be determined experimentally, but we can use that number to demonstrate how infection can occur. Infection could occur, through 1000 infectious viral particles you receive in one breath or from one eye-rub, or 100 viral particles inhaled with each breath over 10 breaths, or 10 viral particles with 100 breaths. Each of these situations can lead to an infection. […] We still do not know whether a person releases infectious material in feces or just fragmented virus, but we do know that toilet flushing does aerosolize many droplets. Treat public bathrooms with extra caution (surface and air), until we know more about the risk. […] A single cough releases about 3,000 droplets and droplets travels at 50 miles per hour. A single sneeze releases about 30,000 droplets, with droplets traveling at up to 200 miles per hour. If a person is infected, the droplets in a single cough or sneeze may contain as many as 200,000,000 (two hundred million) virus particles which can all be dispersed into the environment around them. […] A single breath releases 50 - 5000 droplets. Most of these droplets are low velocity and fall to the ground quickly. There are even fewer droplets released through nose-breathing. Importantly, due to the lack of exhalation force with a breath, viral particles from the lower respiratory areas are not expelled. Unlike sneezing and coughing which release huge amounts of viral material, the respiratory droplets released from breathing only contain low levels of virus. […] Speaking increases the release of respiratory droplets about 10 fold Speaking increases the release of respiratory droplets about 10 fold; ~200 virus particles per minute. Assuming every virus is inhaled, it would take ~5 minutes of speaking face-to-face to receive the required dose. […] Remember the formula: Successful Infection = Exposure to Virus x Time. […] In meat processing plants, densely packed workers must communicate to one another amidst the deafening drum of industrial machinery and a cold-room virus-preserving environment. There are now outbreaks in 115 facilities across 23 states, 5000+ workers infected, with 20 dead. […] Weddings, funerals, birthdays: 10% of early spreading events. […] infection events were indoors, with people closely-spaced, with lots of talking, singing, or yelling. The main sources for infection are home, workplace, public transport, social gatherings, and restaurants. This accounts for 90% of all transmission events. In contrast, outbreaks spread from shopping appear to be responsible for a small percentage of traced infections. [Erin Briomage]

Coronavirus is going to make film shoots more expensive. […] To manage the on-set health and safety measures, studios are expected to hire “COVID coordinators” who will lead staffs of 10 to 15 people on smaller movies, according to one production source. For bigger shoots, that staff could be 30 people or more. […] Studios’ insurance costs are also likely to rise because of the risk of having to pause shooting for weeks when a member of the cast or crew gets sick. […] So-called intimacy coordinators, who work with actors to ensure appropriate behavior during sex scenes, may be called upon to help performers feel comfortable during other types of shooting that require people to be near each other. [LA Times]

Some film sets are talking about quarantining together so they can keep working.

it turns out that one of the biggest obstacles to dining in a restaurant, renewing a doctor’s appointment or going back to the office is the prospect of having to use a public restroom — a tight, intimate and potentially germ-infested space. […] A Texas barbecue restaurant reopened only after hiring for a new job category: a bathroom monitor, who assures that people waiting their turn are spaced well apart. In Florida, malls are installing touch-free sinks and hand dryers in restrooms before opening their doors. McDonald’s is requiring franchisees to clean bathrooms every 30 minutes. Across the country, businesses are replacing blow dryers with paper towels, decommissioning urinals that now seem too close together, and removing restroom doors to create airport-style, no-touch entrances. […] The Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-In theater in North Ridgeville, Ohio, reopened this week with 10 portable toilets added to the eight existing stalls. On its marquee facing the highway, the theater touted the advantages of outdoor, in-car movie watching: “Social Distancing Since 1965.” [Washington Post]

The purpose of a phase 1 clinical trial is to establish whether or not the drug or vaccine being investigated is safe. It’s not designed to test for efficacy. That being said, the trials can still provide some insights into the potential of the drug or vaccine to treat patients.

Clinical trial phases

Genetic Engineering Could Make a COVID-19 Vaccine in Months Rather Than Years

How to take a digital detox during the Covid-19 pandemic

The pandemic is emptying call centers. AI chatbots are swooping in.

To Avoid Coronavirus Risks, Some People Live Where They Work

Novel Anti-Inflammatory High-CBD Cannabis Sativa Extracts Modulate ACE2 Expression in COVID-19 Gateway Tissues

world’s daily carbon emissions fell 17% in April […] total emissions this year will be between 4% and 7% lower than 2019’s total […] Almost half of the world’s emissions reductions last month came from a drop in transportation pollution, as people confined to their homes drove less. Reduced air travel only accounted for 10% of the emissions drop. [study]

Their brand new Full Metal Jacket is indeed made mostly of copper, a known virus-killing material for generations […] 15 kilometers of copper fiber is put into each jacket, in a production process that takes a full week to create […] Available in two colors from Vollebak, for $1095.

Tear gas flavor ice cream

Our projections suggest warmer and more humid times of the year, and locations, may offer a modest reduction in reproductive number;  however, upcoming changes in weather alone will NOT be enough to fully contain the transmission of COVID-19. 

112 persons were infected with SARS-CoV-2 associated with fitness dance classes at 12 sports facilities. Vigorous exercise in confined spaces should be minimized during outbreaks. […] Instructor C taught Pilates and yoga for classes of 7–8 students in the same facility at the same time as instructor B, but none of her students tested positive for the virus) [CDC]

Even before Vietnam reported its first cases on 23 January, it was on high alert for Covid-19.

At one Lima market, 79% of vendors had coronavirus

There is a common misunderstanding that the social benefits of a share of the population acquiring immunity to a disease kick in only once a critical mass is reached (60% or 70% have often been quoted in the context of this new coronavirus). In fact, the social benefits start accruing from the very start of an epidemic and can be significant even when a relatively small share of the population has acquired immunity. As a result, subsequent waves of the epidemic may be somewhat easier to manage, with a slower build-up of cases for any given level of social distancing and effectiveness of test, trace and isolate (TTI) processes. Equivalently, it may be possible to suppress subsequent waves with less social distancing than was the case during the initial wave – with this effect being even stronger if the effectiveness of TTI also improves. [Alma Economics]

Herd Immunity sounds promising for a once-in-a-lifetime disease. But if immunity only lasts 12 to 24 months, that’s a several times per decade disease, which sounds like a less attractive deal. Let’s say the Infection Fatality Rate is just 0.5% per run to Herd Immunity, which would be achieved at, say, 60% of the US population of 330 million or about 1,000,000 deaths each time. […] Advocates of a Herd Immunity strategy really need to get out their spreadsheets and do the math of how this would turn out to be a good thing. Perhaps it is the best alternative, but, please, show your work. [Steve Sailer]

The two drivers of the spread of the disease are close contact and crowding in closed spaces

Getting a handle on asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection

It’s safer to be outside than in the office or the mall. With fresh air and more space between people, the risk goes down. But experts also expressed particular caution about outdoor dining, using locker rooms at pools and crowds in places like beaches. […] Practice social distancing and wear a mask when that is not possible. Ideally, people should socialize only with people who live in their homes, they say. If you decide to meet friends, you’re increasing your risk, but you can take precautions. It’s important to keep gatherings small. Don’t share food, utensils or beverages; keep your hands clean; and keep at least six feet from people who don’t live in your home. […] While the risk of outdoor transmission is low, it can happen. In one study of more than 7,300 cases in China, just one was connected to outdoor transmission. In that case, a 27-year-old man had a conversation outdoors with a traveler who had just returned from Wuhan. Seven days later, he had his first symptoms of Covid-19. [NY Times]

Loud talking could leave coronavirus in the air for up to 14 minutes (The study was also run in a tightly controlled environment, and it did not account for the types of air circulation and temperature changes you would find in nearly any real-world environment.)

Across Sweden, almost 30 percent more people died during the epidemic than is normal during this time of year, an increase similar to that of the United States and far higher than the small increases seen in its neighboring countries. […] Swedish officials chose not to implement a nationwide lockdown, trusting that people would do their part to stay safe. Schools, restaurants, gyms and bars remained open, with social distancing rules enforced, while gatherings were restricted to 50 people. Two months later, it has not been the worst-case scenario many envisioned. […] But there is reason to believe that Sweden’s approach may not work as well elsewhere. But there is reason to believe that Sweden’s approach may not work as well elsewhere. […] And although Sweden is not a particularly young country in comparison with its Western European peers, it has a high life expectancy and low levels of chronic diseases, like diabetes and obesity, that make the virus more lethal. [NY Times]

Tear gas is among the new flavors at a Hong Kong ice cream shop.

How this moment will be misremembered

3.jpgDrive-in rave in Germany

there is a substantial probability that normal speaking causes airborne virus transmission in confined environments

The highest levels of SARS-CoV-2 copies per cell were detected in the respiratory tract, and lower levels were detected the kidneys, liver, heart, brain, and blood

Kidney injury seen in more than a third of hospitalized COVID-19 patients: U.S. study

Three domestic cats were inoculated with SARS-CoV-2 on day 0. One day after inoculation, a cat with no previous SARS-CoV-2 infection was cohoused with each of the inoculated cats to assess whether transmission of the virus by direct contact would occur between the cats in each of the three pairs. […] On day 3, one of the cats with no previous infection had infectious virus detected in a nasal swab specimen, and 5 days later, virus was detected in all three cats that were cohoused with the inoculated cats. [ The New England Journal of Medicine]

The evidence suggests that these are instances of human-to-dog transmission of SARS-CoV-2. It is unclear whether infected dogs can transmit the virus to other animals or back to humans. [Nature]

I’ve landed in Hong Kong after flying from Paris CDG, via London Heathrow. I now have to wait ~8 hours before I get my #COVID19 test results and thus have ample time to tweet about my experience. [Laurel Chor, Twitter]

Here’s How Wuhan Plans to Test All 11 Million of Its People for Coronavirus

Most elevators aren’t big enough to allow people to stay six feet apart, so there’s a chance that infected passengers could transmit the virus, particularly if they are unmasked and are coughing, talking or just came in from a jog and are breathing heavily. But even if you’re riding the elevator alone, there are other ways you might catch the coronavirus, although the risk is low. Elevator buttons and side rails are a potential risk if your hands become contaminated and you touch your face. […] If you step into an elevator after an infected person has been riding in it, can you breathe in floating germs? […] given the variety of elevators and buildings, there are thousands of scenarios that give different results. [NY Times]

The Inn at Little Washington (DC area’s only restaurant with three Michelin stars) Thinks Mannequins Will Make Social Distancing Less Awkward

‘How This Moment Will Be Misremembered’ — An Internet Theorist on What Social-Media Images Hide About the Pandemic

What Role Does Design Play in a Public Health Crisis?

Even mild dehydration can be a physical stressor to the body, according to Melissa Majumdar, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. If we’re not adequately hydrated, we may experience nausea and loss of appetite, and may find it difficult to concentrate and perform physical tasks, like carrying groceries or lifting weights. The Institute of Medicine recommends that women aim to consume 2.7 liters (or 91 ounces) of fluids daily, and men drink 3.7 liters (or 125 ounces). But that recommendation doesn’t focus on water specifically. Rather, it includes all fluids and water-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables and soups. Considering that about 80% of our water intake comes from fluids and about 20% from foods, that breaks down to a daily goal of about 9 cups (or 72 ounces) of fluids for females and 12½ cups (or 100 ounces) for males.

messing with AI models

Spiky ‘coronavirus hairdo’ makes comeback in Kenya

Wearing a face mask against COVID-19 results in a reduction of social distancing

Men less than women believe that they will be seriously affected by the coronavirus, and this partly mediates gender differences in intentions to wear a face covering (this is particularly ironic because official statistics actually show that men are affected by the COVID-19 more seriously than women). […] men less than women intend to wear a face covering, but this difference almost disappears in counties where wearing a face covering is mandatory. […] Men more than women agree that wearing a face covering is shameful, not cool, a sign of weakness, and a stigma. [ psyArXiv]

The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on female sexual behavior in women in Turkey. Sexual desire and frequency of intercourse significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, whereas quality of sexual life significantly decreased.

Following a 2.5-hour choir practice attended by 61 persons, including a symptomatic index patient, 32 confirmed and 20 probable secondary COVID-19 cases occurred (attack rate = 53.3% to 86.7%); three patients were hospitalized, and two died. Transmission was likely facilitated by close proximity (within 6 feet) during practice and augmented by the act of singing. [CDC]

In studies of people isolated in submarines, space stations or polar bunkers, researchers have found there appears to be an inflection point where the frustration and hardship of being cooped up inside gets suddenly harder to bear. […] there was panic buying and confusion, and then a “honeymoon period” when it felt novel and different to stay at home. “People are now saying they’re feeling really lonely,” Dr Norris said. In the psychological study of extreme confinement and isolation, this is known as the ‘third-quarter phenomenon’. [ABC]

Did shutting down the economy help? Can we (partially) reopen the economy without risking the second wave?

Sweden’s coronavirus strategy will soon be the world’s –Herd immunity is the only realistic option. The question is how to get there safely.

How to Reopen the Economy by Exploiting the Coronavirus’s Weak Spot — People can work in two-week cycles, on the job for four days then, by the time they might become infectious, 10 days at home in lockdown.

There were 93,324 deaths in France between 1 March and 17 April of this year, a difference of 22,198 or about 31 percent over the average 71,126 over the same period for the previous 20 years. […] The Covid-19 epidemic represents one of two spikes in 20 years, the other being the heat wave that killed an estimated 15,000 people over a three-week period in summer 2003. The study also shows Covid-19 is far deadlier than the seasonal flu, which itself took particularly large tolls during epidemics in 2015, 2017 and 2018, without confinement measures. [RFI]

Screening and Severity of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Children in Madrid, Spain

an hypothesis that there is a potential association between mean levels of vitamin D in various countries with cases and mortality caused by COVID-19 […] Vitamin D levels are severely low in the aging population especially in Spain, Italy and Switzerland.

California is one of a handful of states where coronavirus cases and deaths are rising faster than researchers expected, according to the latest calculations in a widely relied-upon model of the COVID-19 outbreak

L.A. County ‘with all certainty’ will keep stay-at-home orders in place through July

Our weird behavior during the pandemic is messing with AI models. Machine-learning models trained on normal behavior are showing cracks —forcing humans to step in to set them straight.

According to historians, pandemics typically have two types of endings: the medical, which occurs when the incidence and death rates plummet, and the social, when the epidemic of fear about the disease wanes.

My Mask Fogs My Glasses — Health workers have a few tricks for solving this vexing problem, but it will take trial and error to find the one that works for you.

A new society in which the public conceals their faces from one another has wide-ranging implications for crime and security

Aztec Kings Had Rules for Plagues, Including “Do Not Be a Fool”

These groups are exploiting loopholes in Facebook anti-violence policies — using satire, code words and other tactics that mask their motives, according to experts who follow fringe groups on social media. One of the more common such phrases is “boogaloo,” which can refer to a kind of music but more recently has come to describe a pending civil war. … Facebook’s efforts to fight everything from Covid-19 misinformation to animal trafficking have been made more difficult by the company’s push into more private, encrypted communication, which can make some illicit activity almost impossible to detect … Facebook is aware that groups try to hide from their detection efforts, which include user flagging, artificial intelligence and human reviewers, the spokeswoman said. For example, the term “boogaloo” doesn’t always refer to civil war — it also refers to a music genre, which means Facebook has to review boogaloo uses in context, according to the spokeswoman. It’s also a “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” reference to the 1984 breakdancing movie “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” according to Alice Marwick, an assistant professor of media and technology at the University of North Carolina. [Bloomberg]

Four-legged robot and men’s semen

Coronavirus found in men’s semen

Four-legged robot reminds visitors of safe distancing measures in Singapore

Patient 1—a woman in her 60s—[…] tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Her husband (Patient 2) […] tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. 372 contacts of both cases were identified; 347 underwent active symptom monitoring, including 152 community contacts and 195 health-care personnel. Of monitored contacts, 43 became persons under investigation, in addition to Patient 2. These 43 persons under investigation and all 32 asymptomatic health-care personnel tested negative for SARS-CoV-2. […] Person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 occurred between two people with prolonged, unprotected exposure while Patient 1 was symptomatic. Despite active symptom monitoring and testing of symptomatic and some asymptomatic contacts, no further transmission was detected. [The Lancet]

Superspreading and the effect of individual variation on disease emergence

Quantifying the impact of physical distance measures on the transmission of COVID-19 in the UK — We found a 74% reduction in the average daily number of contacts observed per participant (from 10.8 to 2.8). This would be sufficient to reduce R0 from 2.6 prior to lockdown to 0.62.

COVID-19 settings of transmission databse

We found many examples of SARS-CoV-2 clusters linked to a wide range of mostly indoor settings. Few reports came from schools, many from households, and an increasing number were reported in hospitals and elderly care settings across Europe.

Almost 75% of people on board Diamond Princess with COVID-19 may have been asymptomatic

It is currently believed that herd immunity to SARS-CoV-2 requires 60-70% of the population to be immune. Here we show that variation in susceptibility or exposure to infection can reduce these estimates.

Death from COVID-19 was strongly associated with being male, older age and deprivation (both with a strong gradient); uncontrolled diabetes, severe asthma, and various other prior medical conditions. People from Asian and black groups are at markedly increased risk of in-hospital death from COVID- 19, and contrary to some prior speculation this is only partially attributable to pre-existing clinical risk factors or deprivation; further research into the drivers of this association is therefore urgently required. [PDF]

Hydroxychloroquine Fails to Help Coronavirus Patients in Largest Study of the Drug to Date

What is a mask valve, and why are cities banning them?

“Trump Death Clock” in Times Square

Outbreaks in Germany, South Korea Show the Risks in Easing Up

Covid-19 Reignites a Contentious Debate Over Bats and Disease

Welcome Back to the Office. Your Every Move Will Be Watched. [Wall Street Journal Podcast]

Coronavirus Might Kill The Music Industry. Maybe It Needed To Die

Jeffrey Golde, an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School, has been teaching his previously in-person leadership class via Zoom for about a month now and he said it’s been strangely wearing. “I’ve noticed, not only in my students, but also in myself, a tendency to flag,” he said. “It gets hard to concentrate on the grid and it’s hard to think in a robust way.” This is consistent with research on interpreters at the United Nations and at European Union institutions, who reported similar feelings of burnout, fogginess and alienation when translating proceedings via video feed. Studies on video psychotherapy indicate that both therapists and their patients also often feel fatigued, disaffected and uncomfortable. Sheryl Brahnam, a professor in the department of information technology and cybersecurity at Missouri State University in Springfield, explains the phenomenon by comparing video conferencing to highly processed foods. “In-person communication resembles video conferencing about as much as a real blueberry muffin resembles a packaged blueberry muffin that contains not a single blueberry but artificial flavors, textures and preservatives,” she said. “You eat too many and you’re not going to feel very good.” [NY Times]

We are entering a new evolutionary stage of retail, in which big companies will get bigger, many mom-and-pop dreams will burst, chains will proliferate and flatten the idiosyncrasies of many neighborhoods, more economic activity will flow into e-commerce, and restaurants will undergo a transformation unlike anything the industry has experienced since Prohibition. This is a dire forecast, but there is a glimmer of hope. If cities become less desirable in the next few years, they will also become cheaper to live in. In time, more affordable rents could attract more interesting people, ideas, and companies. This may be the cyclical legacy of the coronavirus: suffering, tragedy, and then rebirth. [The Atlantic]

A Hard-Eyed Look at Mass Transit

A list of the most significant events that might impact the United States over the next 30 to 50 years. These are threats that seem rare, but that over a given period are almost guaranteed to occur.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D Insufficiency is Prevalent in Severe COVID-19

Patterns of COVID-19 Mortality and Vitamin D

Man wears KKK hood while grocery shopping in California

The 42-year-old footwear executive told his mother on the phone, “I’ll be out of here in a couple of days.” But Pignal would test positive for the coronavirus for five more weeks, despite developing no further symptoms. He wasn’t released until the 40th day after he first fell ill, when he finally tested negative two days in a row. Medical researchers worldwide puzzle over why the coronavirus — which typically lasts about two to three weeks in the body — appears to endure longer in some patients, even relatively young, healthy ones. […] Although studies show that the average recovery time from COVID-19 is two weeks, and nearly all patients are virus-free within a month, “less than 1% to 2%, for reasons that we do not know, continue to shed virus after that.” […] One study from Hong Kong found the virus’ nucleic acid in the saliva of a patient whose symptoms had appeared 25 days earlier. A Southern California man who was infected aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship took 29 days to test negative despite showing almost no symptoms. [LA Times]

Former lab technician assembled his own covid antibody tests for himself and his friends

With a large-scale survey completed during Italy’s nationwide lockdown, we studied the appreciation, i.e., funniness and aversiveness, of Covid-19 humor … the perceived risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 amplified Covid-19 humor aversiveness, while greater spatial distance from the Italian epicenter of the contagion allowed to deeper enjoy humor both related and not-related to Covid-19

Iceland encourages its residents to hug trees instead of people

about 36 months

Three potential futures for Covid-19: recurring small outbreaks, a monster wave, or a persistent crisis

“I’ve been telling everybody that my event horizon is about 36 months, and that’s my best-case scenario,” she said. “I’m quite certain that this is going to go in waves,” she added. “It won’t be a tsunami that comes across America all at once and then retreats all at once. It will be micro-waves that shoot up in Des Moines and then in New Orleans and then in Houston and so on, and it’s going to affect how people think about all kinds of things.” [NY Times]

Deaths in March 2020 vs March 2015-9. Northern Italy +94.9%. Southern Italy +2%. Lombardy +186.5%. Emilia-Romagna +70.1%. Campania -1.9%. Sicily -2.7%. Milan +92.6%. Rome -9.4%.

COVID can come for anyone, but older adults, men, and black people have elevated risk of death

Paul Romer [Nobel Prize-winning economist] on how to survive the chaos how of the coronavirus

How did COVID-19 disrupt the market for U.S. Treasury debt?

The world is on lockdown. So where are all the carbon emissions coming from?

‘Pants Optional’ Wedding On Zoom

42.jpgDrive-through Strip Club

Couple Hosts “Pants Optional” Wedding On Zoom Amid Lockdown

How the Coronavirus Pandemic Is Warping Our Sense of Time

France’s sports ministry said Thursday that joggers and cyclists will have to stay at least 10 metres (33 feet) from one another once stay-at-home orders are lifted on May 11. [France 24]

The coronavirus has killed so many people in Iran that the country has resorted to mass burials, but in neighboring Iraq, the body count is fewer than 100. The Dominican Republic has reported nearly 7,600 cases of the virus. Just across the border, Haiti has recorded about 85. In Indonesia, thousands are believed to have died of the coronavirus. In nearby Malaysia, a strict lockdown has kept fatalities to about 100. The coronavirus has touched almost every country on earth, but its impact has seemed capricious. Global metropolises like New York, Paris and London have been devastated, while teeming cities like Bangkok, Baghdad, New Delhi and Lagos have, so far, largely been spared. The question of why the virus has overwhelmed some places and left others relatively untouched is a puzzle that has spawned numerous theories and speculations but no definitive answers. […] Interviews with more than two dozen infectious disease experts, health officials, epidemiologists and academics around the globe suggest four main factors that could help explain where the virus thrives and where it doesn’t: demographics, culture, environment and the speed of government responses. [NY Times]

Chinese Scientists Uncover Structural Basis for SARS-CoV-2 Inhibition by Remdesivir

The five-tonne cocaine cargo seized in Antwerp was concealed in a refrigerator container carrying squid from Latin America

The five-tonne cocaine cargo seized in Antwerp was concealed in a refrigerator container carrying squid from Latin America

Rich Americans Seize Historic Chance to Pass On Wealth Tax-Free

Upcoming films from Cannes, Sundance & more on YouTube for Free — The virtual festival will kick off on May 29 and run until June 7. It will feature programming by festivals such as Cannes, Sundance, Toronto International, Berlin International, Tribeca, and Venice. [We Are One: A Global Film Festival]

false positives, not reinfections

41.jpgTests in recovered patients found false positives, not reinfections, experts say

The findings of this study suggest that most transmission of COVID-19 occurred at the very early stage of the disease or even before the onset of symptoms. […] High transmissibility of COVID-19 before and immediately after symptom onset suggests that finding and isolating symptomatic patients alone may not suffice to interrupt transmission, and that more generalized measures might be required, such as social distancing. [JAMA Intern Med.]

My problem with contact tracing apps is that they have absolutely no value. I’m not even talking about the privacy concerns, I mean the efficacy. Does anybody think this will do something useful? … This is just something governments want to do for the hell of it. To me, it’s just techies doing techie things because they don’t know what else to do. It has nothing to do with privacy concerns. The idea that contact tracing can be done with an app, and not human health professionals, is just plain dumb.

COVID-19 Futures, Explained With Playable Simulations

the amount of virus exposure

4.jpg The largest Arctic ozone hole ever recorded is now closed

Facial recognition has become more widespread and accurate in recent years, as an artificial intelligence technology called deep learning made computers much better at interpreting images. Governments and private companies use facial recognition to identify people at workplaces, schools, and airports, among other places, although some algorithms perform less well on women and people with darker skin tones. Now the facial-recognition industry is trying to adapt to a world where many people keep their faces covered to avoid spreading disease. […] “We can identify a person wearing a balaclava, or a medical mask and a hat covering the forehead,” says Artem Kuharenko, founder of NtechLab, a Russian company whose technology is deployed on 150,000 cameras in Moscow. He says that the company has experience with face masks through contracts in southeast Asia, where masks are worn to curb colds and flu. US Customs and Border Protection, which uses facial recognition on travelers boarding international flights at US airports, says its technology can identify masked faces. But Anil Jain, a professor at Michigan State University who works on facial recognition and biometrics, says such claims can’t be easily verified. [WIRED | Previously: Frustration grows in China as face masks compromise facial recognition ]

Danes and Czechs say easing lockdowns has produced no Covid-19 surge, South Korea reports no new cases

Does the amount of virus exposure affect disease severity? It looks that way. Many health care workers have become seriously ill with COVID-19, despite being young and healthy. Various reports have suggested it’s because they were exposed to more virus than a typical COVID-19 patient. This is consistent with experimental studies of porcine respiratory coronavirus (PRCV). Scientists found pigs that were inoculated with it developed more severe cases than the pigs that caught the disease naturally. This makes logical sense, since the higher the amount of virus infecting you, the harder it is for your body to control its replication and spread. […] One outcome: The disease could become milder with time. This may have happened with HCoV-OC43, which appears to have diverged from its ancestral virus BCoV around 1890, when it jumped from cattle to humans. Coincidentally, that was also the year of a nasty influenza epidemic — though it may very well have been a coronavirus outbreak, like today’s. The increased mildness of HCoV-OC43 may have been facilitated in part by the deletion of 290 base pairs of the virus’s RNA near the spike gene, which allows a virus to penetrate and infect its host’s cells. This deletion likely hindered its ability to bind effectively, making it harder to produce severe infections. Such evolution by deletion is actually a common feature of these viruses. […] Another possible outcome if SARS-CoV-2 never goes away: recombination, where the virus mixes and matches its genetic material with those of other circulating coronaviruses. These events are frequent, and they can result in the emergence of entirely new viruses. [Quanta]

Four coronaviruses cause around a quarter of all common colds, but each was probably deadly when it first made the leap to humans. What four coronaviruses from history can tell us about covid-19

How Coronavirus Mutates and Spreads

In the early 1950s, psychiatrists began treating schizophrenia with a new drug called chlorpromazine. Seven decades later, the drug is still used as an anti-psychotic.
But now scientists have discovered that the drug, also known as Thorazine, can do something entirely different. It can stop the new coronavirus that causes Covid-19 from invading cells. Driven by the pandemic’s spread, research teams have been screening thousands of drugs to see if they have this unexpected potential to fight the coronavirus. […] The researchers determined that the virus manipulates our cells by locking onto at least 332 of our own proteins. By manipulating those proteins, the virus gets our cells to make new viruses. Dr. Krogan’s team found 69 drugs that target the same proteins in our cells the virus does. They published the list in a preprint last month, suggesting that some might prove effective against Covid-19. […] Most of the 69 candidates did fail. But both in Paris and New York, the researchers found that nine drugs drove the virus down. […] “The things we’re finding are 10 to a hundred times more potent than remdesivir,” Dr. Krogan said. […] Dr. Frieman and Dr. Chanda also found that chloroquine-related drugs worked fairly well in slowing the virus in cell cultures. But Dr. Chanda found they didn’t work as well as the six compounds at the top of his list. [NY Times]

Even assuming that immunity is long-lasting, a very large number of people must be infected to reach the herd immunity threshold required. Given that current estimates suggest roughly 0.5 percent to 1 percent of all infections are fatal, that means a lot of deaths. Perhaps most important to understand, the virus doesn’t magically disappear when the herd immunity threshold is reached. That’s not when things stop — it’s only when they start to slow down.

What Is ‘Covid Toe’? Maybe a Strange Sign of Coronavirus Infection

Researchers are testing whether decades-old vaccines for polio and tuberculosis could protect against infection

Zen Japanese Rock Garden Toast

facial hair and sex

Changes in sexual behaviors of young women and men during the coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak (44% of participants reported a decrease in the number of sexual partners and about 37% of participants reported a decrease in sexual frequency)

The effect of facial hair and sex on the dispersal of bacteria below a masked subject (mask wiggling has been reported to increase dermabrasion and bacterial contamination of surfaces immediately below the face … Bearded males may also consider removing their beards)

how much COVID-19 related thinking is too much

Eight Labrador retrievers are being trained to sniff out coronavirus cases. It would not be surprising if the dogs prove adept at detecting SARS-CoV-2. In addition to drugs, explosives and contraband food items, dogs are able to sniff out malaria, cancers and even a bacterium ravaging Florida’s citrus groves. Research has found viruses have specific odors.

Remdesivir, which must be given intravenously, is likely to remain a treatment for patients who are hospitalized. But it is also likely that it will be most effective in patients who have been infected more recently, said Nahid Bhadelia, medical director of the special pathogens unit at Boston Medical Center. “We know that with most antiviral medications the earlier you give it the better it is.” That means that better diagnostic testing will be essential to identifying patients who could benefit. [STAT]

Researchers say people can catch mild, cold-causing coronaviruses twice in the same year. The research included four coronaviruses, HKU1, NL63, OC42, and C229E, which circulate widely every year but don’t get much attention because they only cause common colds. [study]

COVID-19 study shows that men have over double the death rate of women

In summary, COVID-19 might be associated with hypercoagulability

The US already has the technology to test millions of people a day

Five things we need to do to make contact tracing really work (It won’t be easy)

“As we speak, there are 100 hairless mice being exposed for 15 months,” said David J. Brenner, director of Columbia’s Center for Radiological Research. The mice live under the lights eight hours a day and get eye and skin tests every couple of weeks, and after eight months the researchers have found no damage, “which is encouraging.” The lamps could have helped prevent the spread of covid-19, Brenner said, but “it’s come a little too soon for us. If it had come at this time next year, we’d be in a good position to fight it.” […] Boeing is experimenting with lavatories that can sanitize themselves in less than three seconds. Engineers at the U.S. manufacturer and its top competitor, Airbus, have explored changing the way air moves around passengers to reduce infections. [Washington Post]

Current antibody surveys are revealing, furthermore, that immunity to COVID-19 can vary widely from location to location. The pandemic may be global but, as Yonatan Grad, an immunologist at Harvard University, told me, “it is made up of hyperlocal epidemics that are differentially impacting communities.”

Sewage may be key to tracking covid-19 outbreaks, researchers find. Researchers have detected genetic traces of the coronavirus in the wastewater in the Bay Area in California and in Massachusetts, as well as in European cities including Rome, Paris and Amsterdam.

Florida has at least two obvious advantages over somewhere like New York when it comes to keeping one’s distance: More people live in single-family homes, and more people travel by car than public transportation.

Coronavirus: ‘I’m tattooing myself every day in lockdown, but I’m running out of space’

Drink Camel Urine To Cure Coronavirus, Prophetic Medicine Man Says (w/ video)

intra-household contagion

In this paper, we explore different channels to explain the disparities in COVID- 19 incidence across New York City neighborhoods. … We find evidence consistent with higher intra-household contagion as days go by. … Although commuting patterns have been put forth as a major factor in the spread of the disease in NYC, we show that, after including occupation controls, they fail to significantly explain variation in share of positive tests at the zip code level. [Previously: Home outbreaks were the dominant category, followed by transport]

In NSW, from March to mid-April 2020, 18 individuals (9 students and 9 staff) from 15 schools were confirmed as COVID-19 cases; all of these individuals had an opportunity to transmit the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) to others in their schools. 735 students and 128 staff were close contacts of these initial 18 cases. One child from a primary school and one child from a high school may have contracted COVID-19 from the initial cases at their schools. No teacher or staff member contracted COVID-19 from any of the initial school cases. [NCIRS]

The proposed full scale model (applied to real COVID-19 dynamics in London, Moscow and New York City) shows that top 10% spreaders (100+ higher viral loading than median infector) transmit 45% of new cases. Rapid isolation of superspreaders leads to 4-8 fold mitigation of pandemic depending on applied quarantine strength and amount of currently infected people. New testing strategy may prevent thousand or millions COVID-19 deaths requiring just about 5000 daily RT-PCR test for big 12 million city such as Moscow. [medRxiv]

We find that mass-testing is much less effective than testing the symptomatic and contact tracing, and some blend of these with social distancing is required to achieve suppression. […] Even with an expectation of less than one new case per person, our model shows that exponential spread is possible. […] Without full lockdown, mass testing of the general population to search for unknown infected individuals is mostly futile for containment, since it would require near universal testing to be effective, which is far beyond current capacity. […] To create containment, we need to test 30% of the population every day. If we only test 10% of the population every day, we get 34% of the population infected - no containment. [Modeling COVID-19 on a network: super-spreaders, testing and containment]

We use mobile-phone-data-based counts of 11,478,484 people egressing or transiting through the prefecture of Wuhan between 1 January and 24 January 2020 as they moved to 296 prefectures throughout China. First, we document the efficacy of quarantine in ceasing movement. Second, we show that the distribution of population outflow from Wuhan accurately predicts the relative frequency and geographic distribution of COVID-19 infections through February 19, 2020, across all of China. Third, we develop a spatio-temporal “risk source” model that leverages population flow data (which operationalizes risk emanating from epidemic epicenters) to not only forecast confirmed cases, but also to identify high-transmission-risk locales at an early stage. Fourth, we use this risk source model to statistically derive the geographic spread of COVID-19 and the growth pattern based on the population outflow from Wuhan. [Nature]

Chinese scientists report that they captured tiny droplets containing the genetic markers of the virus from the air in two hospitals in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak started. It remains unknown if the virus in the samples they collected was infectious, but droplets that small, which are expelled by breathing and talking, can remain aloft and be inhaled by others. Scientists do not know yet whether the viruses remain infectious or whether the tests just detected harmless virus fragments. [NY Times | Nature]

The new serological data, which is provisional, suggests that coronavirus infections greatly outnumber confirmed covid-19 cases, potentially by a factor of 10 or more. Higher infection rates mean lower lethality risk on average. But the corollary is that this is a very contagious disease capable of being spread by people who are asymptomatic. […] an infection fatality rate between 0.5 and 0.8 percent, depending on which death toll is factored in. […] A rate of 0.5 percent “is way more than a usual flu season and I would think way more than the ’57 or 1968 [influenza] pandemic death toll, too,” Viboud said. […] Epidemiologists have said somewhere between 40 to 70 percent of the population will likely become infected in the next couple of years if there is no vaccine and the public does not take aggressive measures to limit the spread of the virus. “Do the math!” [Washington Post]

Jan Albert, a professor in the Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden: “It’s clear that Sweden had more deaths [than many other European countries] up until now, and that’s probably at least in part because we haven’t had as strict a lockdown and not a lockdown enforced by law. What’s the strategy of the other countries?” he asked. “It [herd immunity] was already the only thing that will eventually stop this, unless there is a vaccine in time, which is quite unlikely. “The truth is that no one, no one in Sweden, no one elsewhere either, knows what the best strategy is. Time will tell.” He said that he believed that stricter lockdowns “only serve to flatten the curve and flattening the curve doesn’t mean that cases disappear — they are just moved in time.” [CNN]

Africa’s youthful population may also help to explain the low death rate so far. The median age in Africa is 19.4 years, compared with 40 in Europe and 38 in the US.

Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido offers a grim lesson in the next phase of the battle against COVID-19. It acted quickly and contained an early outbreak of the coronavirus with a 3-week lockdown. But, when the governor lifted restrictions, a second wave of infections hit even harder. [Twenty-six days later, the island was forced back into lockdown.]

The Belgian government has reportedly been considering allowing people to form “social bubbles” of 10 people. The memo proposed that a bubble of people could spend time together on weekends, as long as all 10 people agreed to socialize exclusively with each other.

In Vilnius, Lithuania, some cafés will be able to set up outdoor tables free of charge