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guidelines Pushing

Why A.A.P. Guidelines Are Pushing for Schools to Reopen This Fall – The New York Times

Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics encourage “having students physically present in school.” Dr. Sean O’Leary, an author of that advice, explains why.

Credit…Kyle Grillot/Reuters

Dana Goldstein

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a reputation as conservative and cautious, which is what you would expect from an organization devoted to protecting children’s health. But this week, the academy made a splash with advice about reopening schools that appears to be somewhat at odds with what administrators are hearing from some federal and state health officials.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, have advised that remote learning is the safest option. But the academy’s guidelines strongly recommend that students be “physically present in school” as much as possible, and emphasize that there are major health, social and educational risks to keeping children at home.

Dr. Sean O’Leary, a pediatrics infectious disease specialist at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, helped write the academy’s guidelines. He is a father of two children, 12 and 16, and a survivor of Covid-19 who is still experiencing some symptoms after he and his wife contracted the coronavirus in March.

“I absolutely take this seriously,” Dr. O’Leary said. “I’m still sick.” But he explained why the academy was emphasizing the need to get students back in classrooms.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

The academy guidelines place a big emphasis on the importance of physical school over remote learning. Can you summarize why?

As pediatricians, many of us have recognized already the impact that having schools closed even for a couple months had on children. At the same time, a lot of us are parents. We experienced our own kids doing online learning. There really wasn’t a lot of learning happening. Now we’re seeing studies documenting this. Kids being home led to increases in behavioral health problems. There were reports of increased rates of abuse.

Of course, the reason they were at home was to help control the pandemic. But we know a lot more now than we did then, when schools first closed. We’re still learning more every day.

This virus is different from most of the respiratory viruses we deal with every year. School-age kids clearly play a role in driving influenza rates within communities. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Covid-19. And it seems like in countries where they have reopened schools, it plays a much smaller role in driving spread of disease than we would expect.

Back in March, there was this idea of children as silent superspreaders who put older adults and other vulnerable people at immense risk. Has that picture changed?

What we have seen so far in the literature — and anecdotally, as well — is that kids really do seem to be both less likely to catch the infection and less likely to spread the infection. It seems to be even more true for younger kids, under 10 or under 12. And older kids seem to play less of a role than adults.

Here in Colorado, I’ve been following our state health department website very closely. They update data every day and include the outbreaks in the state they are investigating. As you can imagine, there are lots and lots in long-term care facilities and skilled nursing homes, some in restaurants and grocery stores. There have been a total of four in child care centers, and we do have a lot of child care centers open. In almost every one of those cases, transmission was between two adults. The kids in the centers are not spreading Covid-19. I’m hearing the same thing from other states, as well.

Image

Credit…John Moore/Getty Images

The academy’s guidelines talk about balancing the need for physical distance with children’s educational and developmental needs, such as the need for hands-on play. They suggest that if older students are masked, three feet of distance between desks might be sufficient, compared to the six feet recommended by the C.D.C. Why is your advice different?

I don’t know that we’re different. The C.D.C. said six feet if “feasible.” The point we are trying to make is, that’s really not feasible. When you consider the overall health of children and really the community at large, adhering to a six-foot rule, which would mean having a lot of kids at home, may not be in the best interest of overall health. Something has to give.

From our perspective as pediatricians, the downsides of having kids at home versus in school are outweighed by the small incremental gain you would get from having kids six feet apart as opposed to five, four or three. When you add into that other mitigation measures like mask wearing, particularly for older kids, and frequent hand washing, you can bring the risk down.

I do think it’s a balance. I’m not going to come out here and say on June 30 that everything is going to be perfect in the coming school year. There will be cases of Covid-19 in schools even where they make their best efforts. But we have to balance that with the overall health of children.

As I talk to school administrators, most are planning temperature checks. The academy guidelines warn this could be impractical and take away instructional time. Can you say more about why you’re skeptical that this is the right strategy?

Do the harms outweigh the benefits? In this case, if it means students are congregating, it could increase the risk of spread. And we don’t have great evidence that temperature screening is helpful. That’s for a couple reasons. One, a lot of kids who have Covid-19, perhaps the majority, never get a fever. To use fever as a screen and assume that’s going to be good enough? You will miss a kid. And many fevers are not going to be Covid-19. Kids should not go to a school with a fever, period.

  • Updated June 30, 2020

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


As you were preparing these guidelines, did the emergence of the potentially deadly pediatric inflammatory syndrome linked to Covid-19 sway you at all?

We talked about it. It is by any measure a rare condition. And so it’s something we have to pay attention to and figure out what causes it and the best treatment. We should also point out that even those kids who have gotten very sick, the vast majority of them have recovered and done well.

The guidelines emphasize that teachers and school staff members should stay physically distanced to the greatest extent possible and conduct meetings remotely. But I am hearing from a lot of teachers. Many are, frankly, scared to go back to school before a vaccine is available. A few have told me that they feel that their health is treated as expendable. What’s your message to them?

We’re pediatricians. We’re not educators. We don’t want to tread in space where we don’t belong. But what I would say is it depends on the level of risk for the individual person. Every district I have talked to here in Colorado? They are making major considerations for their teachers, trying to figure out how to keep them safe.

There are a couple of things we know now that we didn’t know when we closed schools down in March. One is that masks really do seem to work. They are very effective. Two, physical distancing works as well. If they are taking as many precautions as they can, I think the risk is pretty low.

Some of these are very personal decisions. But schools can do a lot of things to really make the environment as safe as possible.

What do you hope is next in terms of local schools making specific plans to reopen?

How this gets rolled out in August or September when schools reopen is really dependent on what is going on at that time with the virus. If you’re in a state that is doing well with very few cases, all of the measures in the guidance are far less important. But if you’re in a place where the virus is raging, all of those things become much more important.

As a country, we have to get on the same page. It’s a tragedy to me that the virus has become a political issue. It’s costing tens of thousands, potentially hundreds of thousands, of lives.

Reopening schools is so important for the kids, but really for the entire community. So much of our world relies on kids being in school and parents being able to work. Trying to work from home with the kids home is disproportionately impacting women. So it goes beyond just the health of the child, which is, of course, very important. As a country, we should be doing everything we can right now, for lots of reasons, to make sure we can safely reopen schools in the fall.

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explains Kinzinger

Rep. Kinzinger explains why question of Trump being briefed on Russia bounty intel is ‘irrelevant’ – Fox News

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., told Fox News Radio Tuesday that it is unlikely President Trump was briefed on intelligence that Russia secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan due to the information’s unverified nature.

“I don’t think the president was briefed,” Kinzinger told “The Brian Kilmeade Show.” “The briefer made the decision when he — keep in mind this is when the coronavirus pandemic is kicking off as well — skipped over that issue to wait for more information.”

MCENANY: PELOSI ‘PLAYING POLITICS’ WITH ‘FALSE’ REPORTING ON RUSSIAN BOUNTIES FOR US TROOPS

The New York Times report on the intelligence sent shockwaves throughout Washington over the weekend. A senior U.S. official told Fox News Monday that the National Security Council recently met to come up with a “menu of responses” to Russian action in Afghanistan. However, a White House official said the president was not briefed on the matter until “after the NY Times reported on unverified intelligence” Friday.

“What I do know is that whether or not the president was briefed, frankly, is irrelevant because the intelligence agencies could not yet agree on this,” explained Kinzinger, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who attended a White House briefing on the subject. “If this is something, you need to have large agreement or at least [agreement] to a point of significant confidence to be able to take action.

“Otherwise, in theory, if it’s not true and you’re reacting against the Russians, think of the damage of that.”

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Kinzinger added that the intelligence leak to the Times is more than likely going to “dry up any trails we have been pursuing to get more information on this,” but urged lawmakers to resist politicizing the issue as they wait for more information.

“I think where we’re at now, unfortunately, this has become a political issue,” he said. “Republicans and Democrats should both agree that if Russia is doing this, there has to be harsh consequences. Instead, a lot of people have taken this as a moment to do politics with it and embarrass the president.”

Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin and Kristin Fisher contributed to this report.

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embargo Pompeo

Pompeo: If UN lets Iran arms embargo expire, it will ‘betray’ ideals of peace, security – Fox News

Pompeo urges United Nations to extend Iran arms embargo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seized on a U.N. report confirming Iranian weapons were used to attack Saudi Arabia in September and were part of an arms shipment seized months ago off Yemen’s coast; State Department correspondent Rich Edson reports.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the United Nations Security Council Tuesday in another attempt to persuade the international security group to extend the arms embargo against Iran.

“This chamber has a choice: Stand for international peace and security, as the United Nations’ [UN’s] founders intended, or let the arms embargo on the Islamic Republic of Iran expire, betraying the UN’s mission and its finest ideals, which we have all pledged to uphold,” Pompeo said during a video conference.

The arms embargo against Iran is set to expire in October as a part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also referred to as the Iran Nuclear Deal signed by Iran, the EU and permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — including the United States, which pulled out of the deal in 2018 under President Trump, who called the agreement “decaying and rotten.”

IRAN ISSUES ARREST WARRANT FOR TRUMP OVER SOLEIMANI KILLING, US CALLS IT ‘PROPAGANDA STUNT’

Pompeo urged the council to consider Iran’s ability to purchase “Russian-made fighter jets” should the embargo expire, adding that the aircraft have the ability to strike “up to a 3,000-kilometer radius, putting cities like Riyadh, New Delhi, Rome, and Warsaw in Iranian crosshairs.”

Pompeo said Iran would be able to more easily supply weapons to known terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezballah, and become a “rogue weapons dealer” profiting off arms supplied to Venezuela and Syria.

The U.S. has already created a draft resolution calling to extend the embargo indefinitely. And while the resolution only needs nine of the 15 votes to pass, it cannot be vetoed by Britain, China, France or Russia.

China and Russia are likely to veto the bill, as their partnership has only strengthened while the United States’ has diminished, particularly with China in recent months.

POMPEO: US IMPOSES 9 MORE SANCTIONS ON EXPORTS IRAN USES TO FUND ITS REVOLUTIONARY GUARD

Pompeo warned that they, too, should be wary of the arms embargo expiring, saying Iran will threaten economic stability in the Middle East, which will in turn affect stable energy prices that countries like China and Russia rely on.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has also said: “When the embargo… is lifted next year, we can easily buy and sell weapons.”

“We should take him at his word,” Pompeo added.

“Just consider the secretary-general’s report that we’re discussing today,” he continued. “The report confirmed that weapons used to attack Saudi Arabia in September 2019 were of Iranian origin.”

“The report has also confirmed the weapons interdicted off the coast of Yemen in November 2019 and February 2020 were of Iranian origin,” Pompeo said, noting that Iran is already breaking the terms on its arms agreement prior to the expiration date.

US BID TO EXTEND IRAN ARMS EMBARGO UNDER CONSIDERATION AT UN SECURITY COUNCIL

Addressing the comments made by Pompeo, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the Security Council that any change to the agreement, including extending the embargo, is “tantamount to undermining [the JCPOA]… in its entirety.”

“The council must not allow a single state to abuse the process,” Zarif said.

Members of the Security Council criticized Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the nuclear deal in 2018, saying it would threaten security stabilization efforts in the region and nuclear non-proliferation.

The U.K, France and Germany recently put forward a resolution through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), condemning Iran’s lack of nuclear transparency and compliance.

However, it is unclear if the U.K. or France will side with the United States’ resolution to extend Iran’s arms embargo.

U.K. Deputy Representative to the U.N. Jonathan Allen agreed that lifting the arms embargo in October “would have major implications for regional security and stability.” But Allen also said that the “preservation of the JCPOA will continue to be the guiding principle” in the U.K.’s decision in how to proceed with Iranian arms.

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“Seventy-five years ago, the founders of the U.N. came together after the devastation of World War II to ensure that the world would never again have to face such horrors,” Pompeo said in his closing remarks to the council.

“Let’s uphold the mission of this body to address the threats to international peace and security that the Islamic Republic of Iran presents,” he added.

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Putin Russia's

Russia’s Putin appeals to patriotism as key vote reaches climax – BBC News

A girl skates her board past members of a local electoral commission wearing face masks

Image copyright
AFP

All week, millions of Russians have been voting to reform their constitution, many using polling stations set up on tree stumps, park benches and even car boots.

Giant prize draws have helped entice them to the ballot, with the chance of winning everything from shopping vouchers to a car or flat.

Opposition figures have dismissed the whole process as a farce, stretched over seven days with no proper monitoring or independent scrutiny.

But for the Kremlin the amendments are vital. The vote will clear the way for Vladimir Putin to stay in power up to 2036, if he chooses.

Putin’s vision of Russia

Not that the president mentioned that in his address to the nation ahead of the final day of voting.

“We are voting for the country we want to live in… and which we want to hand down to our children,” Mr Putin declared, standing beneath a giant, ghostly new statue of a Soviet soldier, to underline the “patriotic” theme that runs through this process.

Vladimir Putin

EPA

The sovereignty of Russia is supported by our feelings of genuine patriotism… as well as respect for our history, culture, language and traditions

The biggest overhaul of the constitution since 1993, this vote is partly about setting down Vladimir Putin’s vision of Russia: spelling out the values and priorities he has established during two decades in the Kremlin.

“Putin can’t just say to himself, ‘I need to do everything possible to stay in power!’,” argues Tatiana Stanovaya, the head of R.Politik, a political think-tank.

Image caption

“We’re choosing the future today,” reads this notice in a block of flats, with the word Yes above it

“People try to hide the low things they’re doing within something more grandiose and positive. So he says instead, ‘I want to create a great Russia, and stay in power too’.”

What are Russians voting on?

The new constitution includes articles promoting a patriotic education, reiterating the ban on same-sex marriage and adding explicit mention of God – all in line with the increasing cultural conservatism of Vladimir Putin’s rule.

Image caption

Wednesday is the final day for Russians to vote on the constitutional reforms

Those “ideological” articles, alongside “social” ones like minimum wage guarantees, are the changes actively discussed on state TV and by celebrity endorsers.

By contrast, the amendments allowing Vladimir Putin to restart the clock on his presidency when his current term ends in 2024 – and so run twice more for president – are barely mentioned.

They were left off the initial information on the vote altogether.

Russia’s new constitution

The amendments cover dozens of existing articles, and add several new ones. They fall broadly into three categories and many enshrine things in the constitution that are already federal law:

  • 1: Conservative ideology

Banning any action aimed at the “expropriation” of Russian territory, or calls for that.

Protecting the “historical truth” of the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) and banning any “belittling” of the feats of those who fought.

Protection of the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Senior officials barred from holding foreign passports, residency or overseas bank accounts.

Refers to Russians’ faith in God, as handed down by their ancestors.

  • 2: Social/Welfare

Pensions to be index-linked.

Minimum wage no less than subsistence minimum income.

Forming a “responsible attitude” to animals.

Image caption

You can already buy the new constitution in bookshops even before the vote is over

  • 3: Institutions

State Council to set “direction of domestic and foreign policy and socio-economic priorities”.

A person can only hold the presidency for two terms (replacing “two consecutive terms”).

In the case of a person already holding the presidency, previous terms will not count – the so-called “zeroing” of Vladimir Putin’s terms so far.

Yes or No

Voters can only select one of two boxes: accepting or rejecting all of the amendments.

Image caption

This sign reading “vote FOR your future” went up in Moscow flats

Lobbying for either option is officially banned, but fliers posted to Moscow apartment blocks all called on people to vote “for” the amendments, rather than “on” them.

A much smaller counter-campaign has plastered stickers with Mr Putin’s face around town urging Muscovites to say “No”.

Will the pandemic affect the vote?

A short drive from the capital, on the outskirts of Podolsk, voters were invited to a tent in a car park to make their choice.

Election officials in face visors, masks and white suits were a reminder that this nationwide vote was being held in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

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AFP

Postponed from April, the Kremlin was keen to reschedule as soon as possible.

A poll by the independent Levada Centre in early May reported a slide in Mr Putin’s approval rating to 59% – his lowest ever. The continuing Covid-19 crisis is unlikely to improve things.

So officials have done their utmost to get people out to vote.

An election official in Omsk, Siberia, made national headlines when she won an apartment in the lucky draw. Her protest that she was “just another voter” met with a deeply sceptical response.

There were no prizes in Podolsk, but plenty of enthusiastic pensioners.

“All the amendments suit me!” Galina said, dropping her voting slip into a transparent plastic briefcase decorated with a double-headed eagle.

“The index-linking of pensions, the right to study and work and housing,” she listed as her favourites, although the latter few are not explicitly covered by this reform.

“I like the idea that marriage should only be between a man and a woman,” said Elena, selecting her top amendment.

In her thirties, she also had no problem with Vladimir Putin staying on as president. “He suits us for now,” she said.

Is there much opposition?

In the town centre, beneath a tower block decorated with Russian flags, some younger voters were scornful of the vote.

“What’s the point? Putin will stay forever in any case,” one girl flung over her shoulder.

Maxim said he and “lots of friends” had voted against.

“We’ve had one president for 20 years, and Putin could do another 16 years? I think our country needs something new,” he said.

Image caption

This anti-Putin sticker on a road sign reads “Tell him NO”

Russia’s most prominent opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, has published a stream of posts on social media mocking the makeshift nature of the vote and highlighting irregularities.

They include pressure on some to vote and other people discovering their ballot had already been cast for them.

Influential blogger Yury Dud described the vote as “shameful”, in an Instagram post liked by more than a million people. He quoted Vladimir Putin himself in 2008 insisting that it was “absolutely unacceptable” to remain in office for life.

But the blogger hadn’t decided whether to boycott or tick the “No” box.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionCelebrating Russia’s victory during World War Two has become an important part of the Russian national idea

In fact, this vote is not required by law: the reforms to the constitution were approved by Russia’s parliament back in March.

But the Kremlin is said to want a high turnout and 70% support at this ballot, as a popular mandate to point to in future.

One exit poll already published – something that’s banned at a normal election – suggests it’s well on target.

In any case, the new constitution has already been printed and is on sale in bookshops.

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Against Vaccine

An Old Vaccine May Help Against Coronavirus – The Wall Street Journal

The Global Virus Network is a collaboration among virology researchers and social scientists to improve pandemic preparedness and response. We know that life must go on while work on a Covid-19 vaccine continues. We believe that as people return to work, their risk of infection can be minimized by applying an old vaccine known to be a potent stimulus of the innate immune system.

Whether there will be a Covid-specific vaccine is still unclear. The sequence of the Covid-19 viral genome, published in January by Chinese scientists,…

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probably protests

Protests probably didn’t lead to coronavirus spikes, but it’s hard to know for sure – The Washington Post

But after Floyd’s death, the streets filled with people shouting and yelling in proximity — sparking concerns among public health experts and local officials who had been urging people during the pandemic to stay at home or to engage in social distancing.

Now, some public health officials and disease trackers say there appears to be scant evidence the protests sparked widespread outbreaks. Others say that because many states reopened about the same time as the protests, and because of the limits of contact tracing, they simply can’t say for sure.

“I’m about to do a podcast laying out all I don’t know,” Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said last week. “And it’s a hell of a lot more than I know.”

As protests were building across the nation, hundreds of public health experts signed a letter arguing systemic racism is a public health crisis, too, and that protests were therefore worth the risk — even as many of them warned that protests could spread the virus. Cities hurried to set up testing facilities near protest sites to identify cases early.

The number of positive coronavirus tests in recent weeks have grown almost unchecked in many parts of the country. Hospitals in Arizona, California and Texas are stretched to the breaking point. Governors are resorting to the once politically unthinkable measure of shutting businesses again. But most experts say the protests are probably not to blame, or almost certainly not the only thing to blame in places where cases are soaring.

Absent a few positive tests among protesters announced here and there, the only major outbreak tied to protests happened in South Carolina, where organizers postponed demonstrations or moved them online after at least 13 people who took part in previous protests tested positive.

Organizer Lawrence Nathaniel posted a video to Facebook saying those testing positive marched in Columbia, S.C., between May 30 and June 17, including six protesters. four organizers of the demonstration and three photographers. According to South Carolina’s Joint Information Center, the state has not tracked data about whether new cases there are tied to the protests.

Meanwhile, data from other cities suggests protests have not been followed by an increase in cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed and where the protests began, has registered a steady decrease in case numbers this month.

According to Minneapolis Department of Health spokesman Doug Schultz, more than 15,000 people were tested at centers the city set up in communities affected by the protests, and 1.7 percent of tests came back positive — below the statewide average of about 3.6 percent. Health systems in the area that tested thousands of people who attended the demonstrations returned positivity rates of less than 1 percent.

Schultz said officials believe the low infection rates reflect that the protests were outside, that most people wore masks and that people spent most of their time in motion, circulating through the crowd.

Officials in New York and Philadelphia have drawn similar conclusions and say they see no evidence of cases accumulating because of the protests.

In Seattle; Portland, Ore.; and Oakland, Calif. — cities experiencing a coronavirus resurgence — officials have asked people testing positive whether they attended protests, and few said they had. Neetu Balram, a spokeswoman for Alameda County, which includes Oakland, said officials there figured they would have identified signs of a demonstration-related outbreak by now but haven’t.

The same is true in Seattle. Out of more than 1,000 positive tests in recent weeks, 34 of the people testing positive said they attended a protest or mass gathering since late May, according to King County Health Officer Jeff Duchin. Nearly 3,000 people who said they were at protests have been tested by the city, and fewer than 1 percent were positive, Duchin said.

“The data may be imperfect, but we certainly don’t have any evidence that those gatherings outdoors are triggering this increase we’re seeing,” Duchin said.

In other places, the impact of the protests is less clear. Brent Andrew, spokesman for San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, said the city is still monitoring potential ties between a recent surge in cases and protests. In Houston, at the epicenter of a covid-19 crisis in Texas, officials attribute rising case loads to a variety of factors — and say protests could be one.

Houston Health Department spokesman Porfirio Villarreal said rising cases there could also reflect infections spread at Memorial Day gatherings and other family events, such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day; graduations; bars where people failed to wear masks; and “people interpreting reopening as back to normal.”

Many states moved forward with reopening bars, restaurants, gyms and hair salons about the time the protests began. Some states — including Arizona, Florida and Texas — reopened as early as mid-May and were already seeing ominous trends before protests began. Surges in other states have also emerged 10 to 14 days after reopening — roughly the same time it can take someone who has been exposed to the virus to develop symptoms and undergo testing.

“You have many other things happening in states opening up. Really the only way, in my view, you can get a sense of where people get infected is through contact tracing,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, who added it is far easier to conduct contact tracing for a small gathering or family party than when tens of thousands of people pour into the streets.

Many of those participating in the protests were relatively young, Nuzzo said, and younger people are less likely to experience severe cases of covid-19 and therefore might be less likely to have symptoms that would prompt them to seek a test.

Still, available data suggests the protests did not ignite the same kind of outbreaks associated with some conferences, choir practices and religious services.

Many epidemiologists and virologists suggest being outside allows coronavirus-infected particles to disperse more easily, making outdoor gatherings — such as protests — less dangerous than those inside.

Angela L. Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, said the difference in risk between indoor and outdoor settings can be explained by the way water moves through a fish tank as opposed to the open ocean.

In an indoor space, where air circulates through a limited area, people can be exposed to a higher concentration of respiratory droplets that may contain the virus. The more time people spend in that space, the more they will be exposed. Outside, while those droplets could reach others in the vicinity, they can also dissipate into the open air.

“While outdoor transmission is certainly possible, it does seem like it happens less frequently and that’s one of the reasons why: Your exposure is going to be higher indoors,” Rasmussen said.

Still, the relationship between being outside and exposure to the virus remains murky. Reports have surfaced of family barbecues or high school pool parties leading to major outbreaks, although it is unclear how much time people at those events might also have spent inside. Rasmussen said a variety of factors could explain why a small outdoor gathering spawns more covid-19 cases than a massive protest.

“If people are at a backyard barbecue, were they hanging out in the house together also? Were they in close proximity with each other? That would have an impact,” Rasmussen said. “I’d want to know if they were distancing, wearing masks, all of that.”

Economists from the Center for Health Economics and Policy Studies recently used anonymous cellphone data from the company Safeguard and covid-19 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to try to determine whether the protests spread the coronavirus.

The researchers explain in a preprint paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research that they tracked more than 300 of the largest cities in the United States to see whether protests led to increased case numbers. They also used cellphone data to track social distancing in cities that held protests.

The paper found “no evidence that net COVID-19 case growth differentially rose following the onset of Black Lives Matter protests.”

The paper also concluded that, based on cellphone data, social distancing increased overall in cities that were home to protests — meaning so many more people stayed home in cities with protests that it canceled out the lack of social distancing by protesters.

But according to Dhaval Dave of Bentley University, an author of the paper, one shortcoming of the study is that it tracks covid-19 prevalence in a city’s entire population. In other words, the protests might have contributed to a rise in cases among certain demographic groups that didn’t manifest in broader data — once again blurring evidence and dulling the conclusions that can be drawn from it.

“Unfortunately, we live with the elephant sign philosophy,” Osterholm said. “I put a sign up in my front lawn three years ago to say ‘no elephants allowed.’ I have not had an elephant on my lawn in three years. So you think, see, it works!

“Epidemiology requires we think about much more than that.”

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Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi scores goal No. 700 vs. Atletico, but did Barcelona deserve the penalty? | ESPN FC – ESPN UK

Following Barcelona’s 2-2 draw vs. Atletico Madrid, a result that puts their La Liga title hopes in peril, ESPN FC’s Alejandro Moreno and Craig Burley delve into Luis Suarez’s struggles in the match and the decisions that made VAR so active on the day, including the penalty decision that led to Lionel Messi’s 700th career goal.

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million small

NASA pays out $51 million to small businesses with big ideas – TechCrunch

NASA has announced its latest batch of small business grants, providing more than 300 businesses a total of $51 million in crucial early-stage funding. These “phase I” projects receive up to $125,000 to help bring new technologies to market.

The Small Business Innovation Research/Technology Transfer programs help entrepreneurs and inventors transition their work from lab to commercial availability. The money is like a grant, not an investment, and Phase I recipients are eligible for larger Phase II grants if they’re warranted.

This year’s selections, as always, cover dozens of disciplines and apply to a wide range of industries. Among NASA’s own highlights in a news release are high-power solar arrays, a smart air traffic control system for urban flight, a water purification system for use on the moon and improved lithium-ion batteries.

There’s even one award for a company making “a compact sterilizer for use on spacecraft materials” that could also be employed by health workers.

Perusing the lists I was struck by the number of neuromorphic computing efforts, from radiation-hardened chips to software techniques. I take these to be chips and approaches that utilize and accelerate machine learning methods, rather than attempts at computers that truly employ the spikes and plasticity of actual neuronal networks.

The 2020 Phase II announcements won’t come for a while — NASA just released 2019’s last month.

The SBIR program is one of the federal government’s inadvertently best-kept secrets, with billions allocated to a dozen agencies to distribute to small businesses. You can learn more at SBIR.gov.

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Chair Jerome

Fed chair Jerome Powell: Banking system has been source of strength – CNBC Television

Fed chair Jerome Powell: Banking system has been source of strength – CNBC Television
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Groups Progressive

Progressive groups urge Biden to tap Warren as running mate | TheHill – The Hill

A pair of national progressive groups are urging former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump tweets ‘we all miss’ Ailes after swiping at Fox Senior Trump campaign official reassigned in staff shakeup Poll: Biden, Trump locked in neck-and-neck battle for North Carolina MORE to tap Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenManchin draws line against repealing legislative filibuster Progressive groups urge Biden to tap Warren as running mate Young Turks host says Elizabeth Warren should be Biden’s VP pick MORE (D-Mass.) as his running mate, the latest push by activists to install a liberal on the presidential ticket. 

In an open letter to Biden, Progressive Democrats of America and RootsAction.org said that picking Warren would not only install an experienced lawmaker as his No. 2 but would also send a message to liberals that he was trying to unite the party ahead of the general election.

“If you want to unify the party and take back the White House, then you should choose the running mate best suited to those goals: Elizabeth Warren,” they wrote.

“Senator Warren is deeply qualified to be our next vice president, bringing decades of experience and a track record of leadership on issues from the Green New Deal to fighting corporate greed and corruption – issues that excite the progressive voters you’ll need to win the White House. Few senators have fought harder and more consistently for the kinds of structural reforms that would lift up working-class families and communities.” 

Progressive Democrats of America said in a separate release that it polled its members last week on who they backed for Biden’s running mate, with 52 percent saying they prefer Warren. Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisProgressive groups urge Biden to tap Warren as running mate Young Turks host says Elizabeth Warren should be Biden’s VP pick Karen Bass’s star rises after leading police reform push MORE (D-Calif.) finished in a distant second with 18 percent.

“For voters and activists who supported Bernie SandersBernie SandersHickenlooper beats back progressive challenge in Colorado primary Progressive groups urge Biden to tap Warren as running mate Young Turks host says Elizabeth Warren should be Biden’s VP pick MORE in the primary, it’s vital that Biden choose a running mate with a longstanding progressive track record of fighting for the working families of this country,” said Alan Minsky, executive director of Progressive Democrats of America. “Elizabeth Warren fits that bill, and she’s popular with Democratic voters in the progressive and centrist wings of the party.”

Biden has been the target of a sustained pressure campaign from an array of outside groups to pick their preferred running mate, though he has said he would prioritize someone with whom he’s “simpatico” and prepared to lead the country.

Warren is reported to be among those being seriously considered by the Biden camp and is undergoing the vetting process, with allies saying she’d be able to win over progressives who remain skeptical of Biden’s centrist brand of politics.

However, the former vice president has been urged to pick a woman of color as his running mate in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month and widespread unrest over police brutality and systemic racism. 

Among the other contenders being considered for vice president are Harris, Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsProgressive groups urge Biden to tap Warren as running mate James Carville on Biden VP pick: Wouldn’t care if it was Sarah Palin, ‘I just want to win this thing’ Warren top choice for VP for some Black progressives MORE of Florida and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

“We’re just underway now in the hard vet of going into the deep background checks that take anywhere from six to eight weeks to be done,” Biden said at a press conferenceTuesday. 

“Early August. I can’t guarantee you Aug. 1, but it will be in early August, several weeks before the convention,” he added, referring to the Democratic National Convention that will be held from Aug. 17 to Aug. 20 in Milwaukee.

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