As the novel coronavirus pandemic spreads around the globe, so does xenophobia and racism against ethnic Asians in Western countries, and Trump’s accusation against China, where the outbreak was first reported, fueled the hatred.
A growing number of incidents against Chinese and ethnic Asians as the whole have been reported around the world since the outbreak started, and the number of racist remarks and crimes against Asian communities spiked after Trump publicly referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” on his Twitter on March 16.Read more…
For the ninth week in a row, millions of Americans filed for initial unemployment benefits. Even as the economy is beginning to reopen in parts of the country, layoffs and furloughs have taken hold of the US labor market.
Another 2.4 million Americans filed for first-time benefits last week, the Department of Labor reported on Thursday. In total, 38.6 million people have filed for initial unemployment aid since mid-March, when lockdowns began in full force across the country.
In a quirk that you don’t see every week, claims for the week ended May 9 were revised down rather sharply — from nearly 3 million to 2.7 million. Although that’s welcome news, it was expected, caused by a reporting mistake from Connecticut’s Labor Department that way overreported the number of claims from the prior week.
Now the (relatively) good news: First-time claims have declined for seven straight weeks. They peaked at 6.9 million in the final week of March.
Economists expect further declines in the next weeks as states begin to reopen their economies. Even so, the weekly claims are still historically high. The four-week average sits just above 3 million claims, while the weekly numbers were around the 200,000 mark in the years before the pandemic.
In addition to regular unemployment insurance, more than 2.2 million people in 35 states filed initial claims for the pandemic unemployment assistance program last week. That’s up from nearly 1.9 million people who filed first-time pandemic claims in the two weeks ending May 9.
Congress created the program to provide benefits to independent contractors, the self employed, gig workers and certain people affected by the coronavirus.
More than 6 million Americans in 27 states were receiving benefits under the pandemic program in the week ending May 2, a spike of more than 2.7 million in seven days.California had the highest number of residents receiving continuing pandemic unemployment benefits at nearly 1.8 million, followed by Michigan with more than 1.2 million. Read more
New information may offer insight into the honesty of China’s coronavirus numbers.
Beijing claims that since the coronavirus pandemic began at the end of last year, there have been only 82,919 confirmed cases and 4,633 deaths in mainland China. Those numbers could be roughly accurate, and in that case a detailed account would be an important tool in judging the spread of the virus. But it’s also possible that the numbers presented to the rest of the world are vastly understat ed compared to Beijing’s private figures. The opaqueness and mistrust of outsiders in the Chinese Communist Party’s system makes it hard to judge—but learning more about the coronavirus data used directly by Chinese officials is invaluable for governments elsewhere. A dataset of coronavirus cases and deaths from the military’s National University of Defense Technology, leaked to Foreign Policy, offers insight into how Beijing has gathered coronavirus data on its population. The source of the leak, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of sharing Chinese military data, said that the data came from the university. The school publishes a data tracker for the coronavirus: The online version matches with the leaked information, except it is far less detailed—it shows just the map of cases, not the distinct data.
The dataset, though it contains inconsistencies—and though it may not be comprehensive enough to contradict Beijing’s official numbers—is the most extensive dataset proved to exist about coronavirus cases in China. But more importantly, it can serve as a valuable trove of information for epidemiologists and public health experts around the globe—a dataset that Beijing has almost certainly not shared with U.S. officials or doctors. (The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not immediately respond to requests for comment.) Read more
As Israelis are notoriously loud, it is perhaps in their own interest to continue wearing masks to stop the spread of the virus and “lower the curve.”
Tiny particles escaping from a person’s mouth when they speak loudly – which may contain the coronavirus – can stay in the air from eight up to as much as 14 minutes, a study has found.The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
The results emphasize the importance of wearing medical masks amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The research was conducted by a team of scientists belonging to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and found that the particles that come out of a person’s mouth when they speak loudly are much like those when they cough or sneeze.Researchers had people repeat phrases loudly and monitored the droplets that flew out of their mouths as they decayed in the air using sensitive lasers. They reached the conclusion that “a single minute of loud speaking generates at least 1,000 virus-containing droplets,” according to the MIT Technology Review.Those same droplets can stay in the air for over eight minutes and up to 14 minutes. This presents serious implications about just how easy it is for a patient to release germs into their immediate environment: by simply speaking. The researchers additionally claim that there are people who produce larger amounts of the virus and may then release 10 times more of it into the air than others by speaking loudly.
The magazine pointed out, however, that the study assumed that coming into contact with a virus necessarily causes infection, despite that being questionable.In addition, since the study was in a controlled environment, it did not take into account different factors that exist in a regular environment, such as wind and temperature. Read more
Anti-Asian hate crimes are on the rise. It’s a scary time – but we must fight for diversity
In March, when my sister in California said she thought strangers were giving her dirty looks for being Chinese, I said she was probably imagining it. Why? Because being a racial minority entails constantly triple-checking whether every micro-aggression was in fact racially motivated, or if you’re being paranoid. I try not to “make everything about racism” because when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail. But mostly I believe that thoughts lead to feelings, and feelings lead to actions, and sometimes I need to subscribe to fictions of safety to conspire a way to leave the house. Until the paranoia turns real, and the violence comes knocking.
Anti-Asian hate crimes are on the rise. In New York, a woman punched an Asian woman on the street, possibly dislocating her jaw, after shouting “You’ve got coronavirus!” In Texas, a man cut and stabbed a Burmese American family of four at a Sam’s Club, slashing one of their two sons from the back of his ear to his eye. One day, I’ll hear Trump insist on calling the coronavirus “the Chinese virus”, and on another, I’ll read the Chinese American writer Jiayang Fan report hearing a man call her a “Chinese bitch” while she was taking out the trash. At some point between the two, I stop thinking my sister was imagining dirty looks, and I think twice about whether or not I should take walks with earbuds in. “I wasn’t offended,” writes Fan. “I was afraid.”
An instinct towards fear before offense betrays a kind of racial pragmatism that I’m familiar with. I am not used to asserting pride in my race. I’m more likely to lay aside my ego and try to avoid conflict out of self-preservation. To ignore racism means to think like a white person, and if you think like a white person you might be able to live as one – so goes the myth of the model minority, which my mother subscribed to, when taking me as a child to the LA Philharmonic or the Huntington Library so that I could be schooled in western art. Read more
Donald Trump has called for the protection of Asian Americans despite being accused of fuelling racism by referring to Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus”.
In comments at the White House that echoed remarks he made minutes earlier on Twitter, the president said the nation’s Asian American community was in no way responsible for the spreading of the virus.
Indeed, he said, they, as with other communities, were helping combat its the spread.
“It’s important Americans stay united in purpose,” he said. “It’s very important we protect our Asian American community, within the US and around the world.”
The president spoke amid reports that members of the community had reported an increase in racist abuse and attacks as part of a backlash at the Asian origins of Covid-19, which was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Yet, the president has also been accused of helping to encourage such attacks by his continued reference to the disease as the “Chinese coronavirus”.
Last week, he was asked why he used the phrase and if his comments were racist. Read more
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) appears to be seizing the opportunity provided by the coronavirus pandemic to increase its power.
The IRGC is cognizant of the fact that the popularity of the ruling clerics has been significantly impacted in recent months, particularly due to its handling of the coronavirus crisis. When the virus first emerged in Iran, top clerics strongly opposed following the health authorities’ recommendations. Mohammad Saeedi, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representative in Qom, argued that the enemy would not succeed in projecting the holy city as being unsafe.
Saeedi insisted on leaving the shrines in Qom open and encouraged people to visit them in order to be cured of the coronavirus. Iranians quickly witnessed how the clerics’ decisions made Qom the center of the coronavirus outbreak in the country and heightened the crisis. A manager of the Group of Experts of Social Factors Impacting Health at the Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran even admitted in February: “Almost all cases in the country have been caused by Qom. Therefore, our greatest mistake was that we did not control the source.”
Lawmakers have also criticized the clerics for mishandling the situation. Alireza Rahimi, a member of the Majlis (parliament) leadership, was quoted by state-run news agency ISNA as asking: “Why was the coronavirus outbreak in Qom overshadowed by the Majlis elections? Why was Qom not quarantined to prevent the spread of coronavirus across the country?”
People also witnessed how the clerics continued to refuse to follow the health authorities’ recommendations to quarantine Qom. One of the most important criticisms of the clerics came from Nahid Khodakarami, head of Tehran City Council’s Health Commission, who said on March 1: “Two weeks ago, I told Dr. Iraj Harirchi and even Dr. (Ali) Nobakht (the head of the parliamentary health committee) that Qom must be quarantined, but they did not listen. There must be restrictions placed on Qom. Now, the entire country has been infected. Even in a small city like Khansar, three people have tested positive for coronavirus. All three had gone there from Qom. Yesterday, three people traveled from Qom to Tehran and all of them died. If we had not given priority to the concerns of the clerics, we would have been in a much better situation.”
Qom is a center for training powerful Shiite religious figures from other countries, with thousands of seminaries established there. Among those studying in Qom at the time of the outbreak were hundreds of Chinese students.
The top clerics also refused to delay the Majlis elections in late February. Later, a video clip emerged showing the tragic situation in Qom’s mortuary. It was widely circulated among Iranians on social media. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli admitted: “Some had recommended delaying the elections, and insisted on delaying elections in Qom. But I, as the official for the elections, refused to approve these recommendations.”
Meanwhile, the IRGC has been coy and has shrewdly attempted to increase its popularity by depicting itself as the country’s hero. After the coronavirus outbreak began, the IRGC started marginalizing Rouhani’s government and many of the clerics by infiltrating hospitals, overseeing health officials and introducing nationwide initiatives for supposedly fighting coronavirus.
For example, the IRGC this month unveiled a new Iranian-made device that is reportedly capable of instantly detecting the virus. The commander-in-chief of the IRGC, Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, boasted: “The device is able to detect every coronavirus infection case within a 100-meter radius by creating a magnetic field and using a bipolar virus inside the device. When the device’s antenna is pointed at a specific location, it will detect the contaminated spot within five seconds. This device has been tested in various hospitals and has an 80 percent accuracy level.” Read more
Commercial buildings shuttered for weeks to stem the spread of the coronavirus could fuel another grisly lung infection: Legionnaires’ disease.
Public health experts are urging landlords across the globe to carefully re-open buildings to prevent outbreaks of the severe, sometimes lethal, form of pneumonia.
The sudden and sweeping closures of schools, factories, businesses and government offices have created an unprecedented decline in water use. The lack of chlorinated water flowing through pipes, combined with irregular temperature changes, have created conditions ripe for the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, they said.
If diagnosed early, Legionnaires’ disease poses less of a health risk than COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Most cases can be successfully cured with antibiotics, and Legionnaires cannot be spread from human to human contact.
But as communities consider reopening, any commercial facility vacated or underutilized for more than three weeks is at risk for a Legionnaires’ outbreak, unless the water pipes are properly flushed and otherwise sanitized, health experts and government officials say.
“After surviving COVID-19, who wants to open a building and have another set of significant safety issues?” said Molly Scanlon, an Arizona environmental health scientist who is leading a coronavirus task force for the American Institute of Architects. “Our medical system is already under enough stress as it is.” Read more
As the novel coronavirus spread through New York City in late March, doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital noticed something strange happening to patients’ blood.
Signs of blood thickening and clotting were being detected in different organs by doctors from different specialties. This would turn out to be one of the alarming ways the virus ravages the body, as doctors there and elsewhere were starting to realize.
At Mount Sinai, nephrologists noticed kidney dialysis catheters getting plugged with clots. Pulmonologists monitoring COVID-19 patients on mechanical ventilators could see portions of lungs were oddly bloodless. Neurosurgeons confronted a surge in their usual caseload of strokes due to blood clots, the age of victims skewing younger, with at least half testing positive for the virus.
“It’s very striking how much this disease causes clots to form,” Dr. J Mocco, a Mount Sinai neurosurgeon, said in an interview, describing how some doctors think COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, is more than a lung disease. In some cases, Mocco said, a stroke was a young patient’s first symptom of COVID-19. Read more
A pattern is emerging among COVID-19 patients arriving at hospitals in New York: Beyond fever, cough and shortness of breath, some are deeply disoriented to the point of not knowing where they are or what year it is.
At times this is linked to low oxygen levels in their blood, but in certain patients the confusion appears disproportionate to how their lungs are faring.
Jennifer Frontera, a neurologist at NYU Langone Brooklyn hospital seeing these patients, told AFP the findings were raising concerns about the impact of the coronavirus on the brain and nervous system.
By now, most people are familiar with the respiratory hallmarks of the COVID-19 disease that has infected more than 2.2 million people around the world.
But more unusual signs are surfacing in new reports from the frontlines.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last week found 36.4 percent of 214 Chinese patients had neurological symptoms ranging from loss of smell and nerve pain, to seizures and strokes.
A paper in the New England Journal of Medicine this week examining 58 patients in Strasbourg, France found that more than half were confused or agitated, with brain imaging suggesting inflammation.
“You’ve been hearing that this is a breathing problem, but it also affects what we most care about, the brain,” S Andrew Josephson, chair of the neurology department at the University of California, San Francisco told AFP.
“If you become confused, if you’re having problems thinking, those are reasons to seek medical attention,” he added.
“The old mantra of ‘Don’t come in unless you’re short of breath’ probably doesn’t apply anymore.”
– Viruses and the brain –
It isn’t completely surprising to scientists that SARS-CoV-2 might impact the brain and nervous system, since this has been documented in other viruses, including HIV, which can cause cognitive decline if untreated.
Viruses affect the brain in one of two main ways, explained Michel Toledano, a neurologist at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Read more