COVID tracking

Tracking COVID-19 in Alaska: 66 new cases reported Sunday and 1 new death – Anchorage Daily News

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Alaska reported 66 new cases of COVID-19 in residents on Sunday and one new death. No new cases were reported in non-residents.

Since Thursday, officials reported the deaths of three Alaskans with COVID-19: One was a resident of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta whose death was reported by the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. on Thursday, and the other was a North Pole man in his 80s whose death was announced by the state Friday.

So far, 32 Alaskans with the virus have died since the start of the pandemic.

In total, 4,741 Alaska residents and 817 nonresidents have tested positive for COVID-19 since March.

There were 39 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and nine others awaiting test results by Sunday, state data showed. Alaska has 153 intensive care unit beds, which are used for the state’s sickest patients, and state data showed that 82 were in use statewide by the end of the weekend.

While hospitalizations for COVID-19 have not overwhelmed the state’s health care capacity, they are still going up as are deaths from the illness, the state’s health department said this week.

The state is also seeing a “rapid increase” in new cases of COVID-19 among Alaska residents, the department said in a summary report on cases that occurred between Aug. 9 and 15.

New cases reported by the state on Saturday included 26 cases in Anchorage, two in Eagle River and one each in Girdwood and Chugiak.

The state reported another 40 cases among residents from elsewhere in Alaska: 8 in Wasilla, four in Palmer, two in Kenai, one in Soldotna, 11 in Fairbanks, six in Juneau and one in Bethel. Among smaller communities in the state, there was one resident case each in the Bethel Census Area, the Fairbanks North Star Borough and the Nome Census Area.

Of the new cases reported, it wasn’t clear how many were showing symptoms of the virus when they tested positive.

The state’s testing positivity rate reported Sunday was 1.74% over a seven-day rolling average.

– Tess Williams

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growing tracking

NASA Is Tracking a Vast, Growing Anomaly in Earth’s Magnetic Field – ScienceAlert

NASA is actively monitoring a strange anomaly in Earth’s magnetic field: a giant region of lower magnetic intensity in the skies above the planet, stretching out between South America and southwest Africa.

This vast, developing phenomenon, called the South Atlantic Anomaly, has intrigued and concerned scientists for years, and perhaps none more so than NASA researchers. The space agency’s satellites and spacecraft are particularly vulnerable to the weakened magnetic field strength within the anomaly, and the resulting exposure to charged particles from the Sun.

The South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) – likened by NASA to a ‘dent’ in Earth’s magnetic field, or a kind of ‘pothole in space’ – generally doesn’t affect life on Earth, but the same can’t be said for orbital spacecraft (including the International Space Station), which pass directly through the anomaly as they loop around the planet at low-Earth orbit altitudes.

During these encounters, the reduced magnetic field strength inside the anomaly means technological systems onboard satellites can short-circuit and malfunction if they become struck by high-energy protons emanating from the Sun.

These random hits may usually only produce low-level glitches, but they do carry the risk of causing significant data loss, or even permanent damage to key components – threats obliging satellite operators to routinely shut down spacecraft systems before spacecraft enter the anomaly zone.

Mitigating those hazards in space is one reason NASA is tracking the SAA; another is that the mystery of the anomaly represents a great opportunity to investigate a complex and difficult-to-understand phenomenon, and NASA’s broad resources and research groups are uniquely well-appointed to study the occurrence.

“The magnetic field is actually a superposition of fields from many current sources,” explains geophysicist Terry Sabaka from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The primary source is considered to be a swirling ocean of molten iron inside Earth’s outer core, thousands of kilometres below the ground. The movement of that mass generates electrical currents that create Earth’s magnetic field, but not necessarily uniformly, it seems.

A huge reservoir of dense rock called the African Large Low Shear Velocity Province, located about 2,900 kilometres (1,800 miles) below the African continent, disturbs the field’s generation, resulting in the dramatic weakening effect – which is aided by the tilt of the planet’s magnetic axis.

“The observed SAA can be also interpreted as a consequence of weakening dominance of the dipole field in the region,” says NASA Goddard geophysicist and mathematician Weijia Kuang.

“More specifically, a localised field with reversed polarity grows strongly in the SAA region, thus making the field intensity very weak, weaker than that of the surrounding regions.”

src1src nasa south atlantic anomaly 2Satellite data suggesting the SAA is dividing. (Division of Geomagnetism, DTU Space)

While there’s much scientists still don’t fully understand about the anomaly and its implications, new insights are continually shedding light on this strange phenomenon.

For example, one study led by NASA heliophysicist Ashley Greeley in 2016 revealed the SAA is drifting slowly in a north-westerly direction.

It’s not just moving, however. Even more remarkably, the phenomenon seems to be in the process of splitting in two, with researchers this year discovering that the SAA appears to be dividing into two distinct cells, each representing a separate centre of minimum magnetic intensity within the greater anomaly.

Just what that means for the future of the SAA remains unknown, but in any case, there’s evidence to suggest that the anomaly is not a new appearance.

A study published last month suggested the phenomenon is not a freak event of recent times, but a recurrent magnetic event that may have affected Earth since as far back as 11 million years ago.

If so, that could signal that the South Atlantic Anomaly is not a trigger or precursor to the entire planet’s magnetic field flipping, which is something that actually happens, if not for hundreds of thousands of years at a time.

Obviously, huge questions remain, but with so much going on with this vast magnetic oddity, it’s good to know the world’s most powerful space agency is watching it as closely as they are.

“Even though the SAA is slow-moving, it is going through some change in morphology, so it’s also important that we keep observing it by having continued missions,” says Sabaka.

“Because that’s what helps us make models and predictions.”

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COVID tracking

UK’s COVID-19 tracking system under fire amid warning of second spike – Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s system for tracing those with the novel coronavirus was under fire on Thursday as it grappled with the development of a tracking app and health workers warned the government that unless there was clarity it could suffer a second deadly wave.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday a “world-beating” programme to test and trace those suspected of having been in contact with people who have tested positive for COVID-19 would be in place by June 1.

Britain is currently testing the app – based on Bluetooth – on the Isle of Wight off the southern coast of England where the government says more than half the residents had downloaded it.

James Brokenshire, the junior interior minister in charge of security, said there were technical issues with the app but that traditional measures would be used until it works.

“The track and trace system is going to be ready,” Brokenshire told Sky News.

“We obviously want to see that the app is put in place well and effectively, learning from the experience on the Isle of Wight and dealing with all of the feedback that we’re receiving on some of the technical issues, to ensure that the app is as strong as we can make it.”

When asked directly if the system could work without the app, he said: “Yes”.

Tracking and tracing those infected is seen as crucial to preventing a deadly second wave of the outbreak – and thus getting the economy working again after the lockdown.

But Britain’s system has been dogged by criticism: opposition lawmakers said an earlier promise of a nationwide roll-out of a National Health Service (NHS)-developed smartphone app had slipped from the middle of this month.

The NHS Confederation, a group which represents the health service’s organisations, said the United Kingdom is at risk of a second jump in cases without clarity on government strategy.

“The relaxation of restrictions based on scientific advice is the right approach but it must be accompanied by an effective test, track and trace strategy which enables us to monitor local spread of the disease,” the confederation said.

“To achieve this we must have national, local and cross-agency involvement. Without this, we do face the risk of a second wave of infections.”

When asked about a trial in Britain of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, the drug U.S. President Donald Trump says he takes, Brokenshire said that all drugs were tested carefully. When asked if he would take it, he said he felt there was no need to make such statements.

Slideshow (6 Images)

His comments come after Trump on Tuesday defended taking hydroxychloroquine to try to ward off the novel coronavirus despite medical warnings about its use.

“I’m taking hydroxychloroquine,” Trump, 73, said on May 18. “All I can tell you is so far I seem to be OK.”

Brokenshire also said restrictions on arrivals in Britain from overseas would be introduced early next month. He declined give any further details.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton; editing by Michael Holden, William Maclean

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