Posts tagged with "coronavirus"

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, COVID-19

Covid Risk Increases During Holidays

By Hannah DiPilato

With the holiday season quickly approaching, Covid cases are skyrocketing all over the country and officials are advising people to social distance this holiday season.

According to CNN, more than 12 million people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus and over 260,000 people have died. With those that are elderly or immune-compromised, the risk of complications due to COVID-19 is higher.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated the safety guidelines for traveling. “CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving Day period,” Dr. Henry Walke, Covid-19 incident manager for the CDC, said in a conference call.

“Right now, especially as we are seeing exponential growth in cases and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time,” Walke continued.

The CDC has also recommended people stay in their immediate households for the holiday season. Even without traveling across the country, seeing those you don’t usually see can lead to a breakout of coronavirus.

Walke said he does not plan to visit his own family for the holiday season. “I haven’t seen my parents since January. I’m staying home and that’s been difficult as I have older parents who would like to see me and who would like to see my children as well,” he said.

“It’s been a long outbreak, almost 11 months now, and people are tired. And we understand that and people want to see their relatives and their friends in the way they’ve always done it,” he continued, “But this year, particularly, we’re asking people to be as safe as possible and limit their travel.”

If you plan to gather with those outside of your immediate household, there are important precautions to take to prevent the spread of coronavirus. First, keep gatherings as small as possible. Many states have restrictions in place which limit the number of people allowed to gather inside. Check your local and state regulations to ensure your gathering is following the laws.

The CDC’s Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz said, “The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people in your household.”

If possible, move your Thanksgiving dinner outside. Coronavirus is less likely to spread outside where there is better ventilation than indoors. Although many places are getting cold, tell your guests to load up with blankets and winter gear. If it’s too cold for an outside gathering, keep the windows open to ventilate the area.

One of the most important and simplest things you can do to stop the spread of Covid is to wear a mask. In many states, masks are required in public places and Thanksgiving dinner should be no exception. Keep your mask on unless eating and remain six feet away from other guests.

It is also recommended that guests handle making their own food and bringing their own utensils to Thanksgiving dinner this year. This prevents the spread of germs as well as cross-contamination between households. Remember to frequently wash your hands when cooking, eating and generally to stop the spread of germs.

Covid cases are rising in communities as well as healthcare networks which is making the virus even harder to handle. Many more people are becoming hospitalized due to the virus and healthcare workings are at risk.

According to the Associated Press, 905 staff members at The Mayo Clinic Health System have been infected with coronavirus in the last two weeks. The Mayo Clinic Health System is a network of clinics and hospitals in the midwest that are run by Mayo Clinic.

Executive dean of Mayo Clinic Practice, Dr. Amy Williams, said that most cases came from exposure within the community and not from work. “It shows how widely spread this is in our communities and how easy it is to get COVID-19 in the communities here in the Midwest,” she said.

If a virtual gathering isn’t in your Thanksgiving plans this year and you will be seeing people outside of your family in person, consider isolating yourself beforehand. Since the incubation period of the virus is 14 days, a negative test result doesn’t necessarily mean a person does not carry the virus. Although a negative test result for coronavirus isn’t a sure sign of safety, it is an extra precaution everyone should add before mingling this holiday season.

Besides getting a coronavirus test, people should also consider a 14-day quarantine before seeing loved ones, or afterward. Isolating before seeing family will decrease the risk of spreading the disease within your holiday circle. If you plan on traveling for the holiday, consider isolating yourself after returning to prevent the spread of covid in your community.

The CDC has predicted this will be a dark winter and although a vaccine is in the works, it likely won’t be ready for mass distribution for a few more weeks. The holiday season will only lead to more cases with an increase in travel and group gatherings. As the weather in many places gets colder, inside gatherings are more likely to occur.

The CDC also recommends everyone get their flu shot for the upcoming flu season. By protecting yourself from the flu, you can help the healthcare system more easily manage the large influx of people going to the hospital.

In all states except Hawaii, Maine and Vermont, there is an active or imminent outbreak of coronavirus according to Covid Act Now. Even these three states are at risk for an outbreak. Currently, North Dakota has the highest number of new daily cases per 100,000 people with 159.6 cases. Wyoming and New Mexico follow closely behind.

Many states have separated their cities and counties into different zones depending on the number of Covid cases present. The restrictions in place for these areas are then determined by the number of cases.

New York City is starting to enforce tighter restrictions as cases start to rise. “In the next week or two we should see some substantial restrictions,” said Mayor, Bill de Blasio. “I think indoor dining will be closed, gyms will be closed.  I’m not happy about it. No one is happy about it but that’s what’s coming.” There is currently a 10 person gathering limit and a curfew for nonessential businesses between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Similarly, in Boston, Governor Charlie Baker has released a stay-at-home advisory for the same time frame. People are urged to only go out between these hours for essentials. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people while outdoor gatherings should be capped at 25 people.

Things on the west coast seem just as bleak. According to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, restaurants, bars, wineries and breweries will be closed for dine-in services for at least three weeks. People in Los Angeles are being advised to stay home and have a similar curfew to Boston and New York City.

In some cities where cases are skyrocketing, restrictions are not being put in place as heavily as in California and New York. In Miami, restaurants are able to be open to 100% capacity and seat 10 people per table. Most things in Miami are reopened, but with restrictions such as requiring masks.

It is crucial for everyone to work together to bring covid cases back down over the coming weeks. As cases spike, it is important to remember that each state has precautions in place for a reason. Although many states won’t fully shut down, you can decide to continue social distancing and only going out for essentials.

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, COVID-19

New Possible Key for Targeting Viruses

“Position 4” didn’t seem important until researchers took a long look at a particular peptide. That part of the peptide drawn from a SARS-CoV virus turned out to have an unexpected but significant influence on how it stably binds with a receptor central to the immune system’s ability to attack diseased cells. 

In a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at Rice University’s Brown School of Engineering and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center revealed models at an atomic resolution that detail not only the binding but also, for the first time, the unbinding mechanisms that underlie a key component of the immune system. 

They say a better understanding of the entire mechanism could lead to advancements in immunotherapy that boost the body’s ability to fight disease. 

Rice computer scientist Lydia Kavraki, alumnus Jayvee Abella and postdoctoral researcher Dinler Antunes, led the study.

“Finding good targets to trigger a protective immune response is very challenging, especially in cancer research,” Antunes said. “The fact that this particular peptide was predicted not to bind to HLAs (human leukocyte antigens) by sequence-based methods highlights a blind spot in our current prediction capacity.”

“By incorporating structural analysis, we can detect the contribution of these secondary interactions to peptide binding and stability, hopefully enabling us to find better targets for antiviral vaccine development and T-cell-based cancer immunotherapy,” he said.

The researchers used their simulations to illuminate details of how the intracellular SARS peptide, QFKDNVILL, binds to an MHC receptor protein known as HLA-A24:02, primarily at dominant anchors on both ends of the peptide (at positions 2 and 9) and presents them for inspection to the immune system’s T cells. 

Stable binding of a peptide and MHC is a prerequisite to the activation of T cells, which look for peptides not normally found in healthy cells. If the peptide and protein don’t bind, the T cell is not prompted to attack. 

“That much was known from previous studies of the bound and unbound states of many such complexes,” Kavraki said. “What they didn’t capture was the intermediate states and the transitions that lead from one state to another, especially the unbinding.

“I think this is the only analysis that shows the unbinding of peptides from the MHC with atomic resolution,” Kavraki said. “Other peptides have similar characteristics and we think they would have similar behaviors.”

All of these interactions were revealed in great detail through Markov state models that analyze how systems change over time. In this case, the models revealed the importance of secondary sites that support the peptide’s primary anchors. That’s where position 4 stood out.

“There are the main, canonical anchors that people know, but there are these secondary interactions that contribute to the binding and the stability,” Antunes said. “These are harder to capture, but in this study, it seems that position 4 plays a very important role. When you mutate it, it affects the behavior of the peptide as it unbinds from the molecule.”

The researchers modeled mutations of the MHC to see how they would influence binding and found they supported the importance of position 4 to the stability of the complex.

“Our computational approach was able to make predictions on the effect of mutations that are then experimentally verified,” said co-author Cecilia Clementi, a former Rice professor who recently became Einstein Professor of Physics at the Free University of Berlin. 

The researchers developed a two-stage process to simplify the computational complexity of atom-scale analysis of large molecules. The first stage used a technique called umbrella sampling to accelerate the initial exploration of the molecules. The second, exploratory stage used adaptive sampling, in which simulations are driven to accelerate the construction of the Markov model.  

“The challenge is that these MHCs are pretty large systems for computational chemists to simulate,” said Abella, whose research on the topic formed much of his doctoral thesis. “We had to make some approximations and leverage advances in these classes of methods to move forward.”

“We’re not the first one to study unbinding, but what characterizes our work over others is that we keep full atomic resolution in our simulations,” he said. “Other works use a technique known as a Markov chain Monte Carlo, whereas we use molecular dynamics, which lets us incorporate time into our computation to capture the kinetics.”

Their methods can be applied to other peptide-MHC complexes with existing 3D models. “This was, in some sense, a feasibility study to show we can use molecular dynamics and build a Markov state model of a system this size,” Abella said. 

The researchers also noted the study’s relevance to the current fight against COVID-19, as the SARS peptide they viewed, QFKDNVILL, is highly similar to the NFKDQVILL peptide in SARS-CoV-2, with the same binding pockets in positions 2, 4 and 9.

“These results suggest that both peptides can bind to HLA-A*2402 and provide targets for anti-viral T-cell responses, which are of great interest in light of the current pandemic,” said co-author Gregory Lizée, a professor in the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology at MD Anderson. “But these results also shed light on many other potential immune targets, including those of other viruses and even human cancers.”

Kavraki noted that experimental work by long-term collaborator Lizée and Kyle Jackson, a graduate research assistant at Lizée’s lab who produced the mutant proteins, were critical to validate their simulations. Kavraki’s own lab won a National Science Foundation (NSF) Rapid Response Research grant to help identify fragments of SARS-CoV-2 viral proteins as possible targets for vaccine development. 

Kavraki is the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science and a professor of bioengineering, mechanical engineering and electrical and computer engineering. 

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, the Gulf Coast Consortia, the NSF, the Einstein Foundation Berlin and the Welch Foundation supported the research.

Diwali light illustrated by Kaelen Felix for 360 Magazine

Diwali 2020

By: Elle Grant

Over the course of mid-November, the annual five-day festival, Diwali, took place from November 12th to November 16th. Known as the festival of lights, for those who follow Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, major religions in South Asia, this is one of the most important religious festivals of the year. It lasts the aforementioned five days, from the 13th day of the dark half of the lunar month Ashvina to the second day of the light half of the lunar month Karttika. (the corresponding dates in the Gregorian calendar usually fall in late October and November).

Diwali as a festival has deep meaning within the communities it is celebrated. Its name comes from the Sanskrit term dipavali, meaning “row of lights.” In turn, the lighting of Diwali candles is an essential part of the celebration. The festival generally symbolizes the victory of light over darkness. In this context, light symbolizes knowledge and wisdom, while darkness is a symbol for all negative forces including wickedness, destruction, violence, lust, envy, injustice, greed, oppression and suffering. The third day of Diwali is celebrated on Saturday, November 14, 2020. While it is widely celebrated by a vast proportion of the world’s population, precisely how Diwali is celebrated varies by culture.

Across, South Asia, different regions celebrate different deities first and foremost with the festival. Among Hindus the most widespread custom is the lighting of diyas (small earthenware lamps filled with oil) on the night of the new moon to invite the presence of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. In Bengal the goddess Kali is worshipped with the event. In North India the festival additionally celebrates the royal homecoming of Rama to the city of Ayodhya after defeating Ravana, the 10-headed king of the demons, thus connecting the festival with the holiday of Dussehra. In South India the festival marks Krishna’s defeat of the demon Narakasura. The celebration of Diwali offers just a glimpse into how culture varies across South Asia.

Homes of those who celebrate reflect the importance of the day. Many begin the holiday with a deep cleaning of their home, from top to bottom. Floors inside and out are covered with rangoli, consisting of elaborate designs made of colored rice, sand, or flower petals. The doors and windows of houses are kept open in the hope that Lakshmi will find her way inside and bless the residents with wealth and success. Other ways Diwali is celebrated include visiting loved ones, exchanging gifts, wearing new clothes, feasting, feeding the poor, and setting off fireworks. Delicious food is a large part of the celebration. Yet how this holiday is specifically celebrated this year has been affected by the ongoing global pandemic caused by the spread of COVID-19.

Before Diwali even took place, experts warned of the danger of gathering for the event, in the vein of warnings being made for the coming holidays of Christmas and Hannukah for Christian and Jewish populations of the world. International lockdowns in places like Europe have put a damper on the plans of many. Yet many are finding ways around the restriction of movement and celebration; many are planning calls with families across different continents, in which there will be singing, games, and tasty foods shared through screens. Some say it has even brought them closer as a family.

Like many holidays, Diwali assuredly looks different this year. Yet the resilience displayed by those celebrating, to find a way to connect with family and friends during this special spiritual time, again reflects some of the best of human ingenuity during the coronavirus pandemic.

Criteria to Ensure Preparedness of Federal Programs

The Strategic Stockpile Failed; Experts Propose New Approach to Emergency Preparedness

A new analysis of the United States government’s response to COVID-19 highlights myriad problems with an approach that relied, in large part, on international supply chains and the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). A panel of academic and military experts is instead calling for a more dynamic, flexible approach to emergency preparedness at the national level.

“When COVID-19 hit, the U.S. was unable to provide adequate testing supplies and equipment, unable to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), and didn’t have a functioning plan,” says Rob Handfield, first author of the study and Bank of America University Distinguished Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management at North Carolina State University.

“The SNS hadn’t replenished some of its supplies since the H1N1 pandemic in 2009-10. Many of its supplies were expired. And there was no clear leadership. Federal authorities punted problems to the states, leaving states to fight each other for limited resources. And the result was chaos.

“We need to be talking about this now, because the nation needs to be better prepared next time. And there is always a next time.”

To that end, Handfield and collaborators from NC State, Arizona State University, the Naval Postgraduate School and the Air Force’s Contracting Career Field Management Team came together to outline the components that are necessary to ensure that there is an adequate federal response to future health crises. They determined that an effective federal program needs to address five criteria:

1). More Flexibility: In order to respond to unanticipated threats, any government system needs to have sufficient market intelligence to insure that it has lots of options, relationships and suppliers across the private sector for securing basic needs. 

“You can’t stockpile supplies for every possible contingency,” Handfield says.

2). Inventory Visibility: The government would need to know what supplies it has, where those supplies are, and when those supplies expire. Ideally, it would also know which supplies are available in what amounts in the private sector, as well as how quickly it could purchase those supplies.

“The same is true on the demand side,” Handfield says. “What do people need? Where? When?”

3). Responsiveness: The governmental institution overseeing emergency preparation needs to have leadership that can review information as it becomes available and work with experts to secure and distribute supplies efficiently. This would be an ongoing process, rather than a system that is put in place only in the event of crises.

4). Global Independence: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fact that the U.S. has outsourced manufacturing of critical biomedical materiel, because it was cheaper. Authorities need to consider investing in domestic manufacturing of PPE, testing supplies and equipment, pharmaceutical chemicals, syringes, and other biomedical supplies.

“The past year has really driven home the consequences of being dependent on other nations to meet basic needs during a pandemic,” Handfield says. “Relying largely on the least expensive suppliers for a given product has consequences.”

5). Equitable: The government needs to ensure that supplies get to where they are most needed in order to reduce the infighting and hoarding that we’ve seen in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A first step here is to settle on a way of determining how to prioritize needs and how we would define an equitable allocation and distribution of supplies,” Handfield says.

The last ingredient is bureaucratic: Coordinating all five of these components should be done by a permanent team that is focused solely on national preparation and ensuring that the relevant federal agencies are all on the same page.

“This is a fundamental shift away from the static approach of the SNS,” Handfield says. “We need to begin exploring each of these components in more detail – and defining what a governing structure would look like. We don’t know how long we’ll have until we face another crisis.”

The paper, “A Commons for a Supply Chain in the Post-COVID-19 Era: The Case for a Reformed Strategic National Stockpile,” is published open access in The Milbank Quarterly. The paper was co-authored by Blanton Godfrey, the Joseph D. Moore Distinguished Professor in NC State’s Wilson College of Textiles; Major Daniel Finkenstadt of the Naval Postgraduate School; Eugene Schneller of Arizona State; and Peter Guinto of the Air Force’s Contracting Career Field Management Team.

Kaelen Felix illustrates Veterans Day for 360 Magazine

Remembering Veterans During a Strained Time

By: Elle Grant

Wednesday, November 11th marks the annual commemoration of veterans in the United States, aptly named Veterans Day. This year, in the unprecedented context of coronavirus, as well as intense political and social strife, the day takes on an additionally sacred context as a reminder of those who have served our country.

Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on November 11, 1919, the first anniversary marking the end of World War I. Congress then passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, with the day becoming a national holiday beginning in 1938. Similar to Memorial Day, which is an annual federal holiday in May, it celebrates veterans of the United States. However, the difference between them is that Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans, living and dead. Yet a particular focus is on those veterans still with us, who served their country with honor and distinction whether during war or peacetime.

Several countries have similar days commemorating their veterans that find their root in remembering World War I and World War II on or near November 11th. Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday. World War I, as arguably the most brutal conflict in human history on the soldiers, is a devastating reminder of why countries celebrate those who serve.

2020 is a particularly remarkable year as it marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War, and the 30th anniversary of both the end of the Panama Invasion and the beginning of Desert Shield.

Veterans Day has been distinctly impacted by the coronavirus, still sweeping the nation especially in the Midwest. As such, celebrations and efforts of remembrance are being affected in large ways. Arlington National Cemetery, used to hosting hundreds of thousands of veterans, their families, and the families of veterans who have passed, has altered its yearly ceremony in context of the current pandemic. For the first time, it will be livestreamed, with certain areas closed off, and embracing social distancing and masked mandates. Furthermore, the beloved observance at Memorial Amphitheater has been closed off to the general public, yet the overall cemetery will remain open.

Yet it is no time to despair or to pause the nation’s respects. There are 18.2 milling living veterans who have served during wartime alive in the United States today, all deserving admiration.

Many businesses and restaurants salute veterans during this day with special deals for those who have served and their families. 360 Magazine thanks all veterans for their service.

Loose Standards Undermined Research on COVID-19 Test Accuracy

The COVID-19 pandemic was met with a rush of research on the many factors related to the crisis, including the accuracy of different testing methods. However, many of the studies conducted in the early stages of the pandemic did not meet the usual rigorous scientific standards, according to researchers at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine.

In “The estimation of diagnostic accuracy of tests for COVID-19: A scoping review,” which will appear in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Infection, authors Dierdre Axell-House, Richa Lavingia, Megan Rafferty, Eva Clark, E. Susan Amirian and Elizabeth Chiao found that better-designed studies are needed to appropriately evaluate the different types of COVID-19 tests.

They reviewed 49 articles published between Dec. 31, 2019, and June 19, 2020, that evaluated the validity of different types of coronavirus testing. These studies were assessed using elements of the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies (QUADAS-2) guidelines, which are used to evaluate if bias could be playing a role in the results of studies on diagnostic test accuracy.

Amirian, an epidemiologist at Rice’s Texas Policy Lab (TPL), said when it comes to conducting studies on testing accuracy, design is critically important. She said the major limitations found in the design of most of the studies they examined could lead to erroneous or misleading results.

“Without rigorous evaluations of which tests are the most accurate, it’s hard to know which tests are more likely to lead to false negatives, which could contribute to greater spread of the virus,” said Rafferty, a health data analyst at the TPL. “Although it’s difficult to say, some of the quality issues may have resulted from these studies being streamlined in response to the immediate need for timely information.”

“COVID-19 has now been a health crisis for nearly a year,” Amirian said. “With regard to research, the academic community needs to move away from being in acute emergency mode and think about how we’re going to handle this as a chronic crisis. When researchers are in emergency mode, we tend to be more open to sacrificing a lot of the strict quality standards for conducting research that we usually uphold.”

The paper is available online here.

Los Angeles Dodgers Win 2020 World Series

The 2020 World Series was one that baseball fans won’t forget anytime soon. A season that struggled to get off the ground and faced a few pandemic outbreaks ended with the most difficult gauntlet of a playoff format in baseball history. 9 wins later, the two best regular season teams in baseball clashed.

The season closed in Arlington with a battle between the little team that fully embraced modern baseball analytics and a team that, well, fully embraced modern baseball analytics but had way more money.

The Tampa Bay Rays, a team with the third lowest payroll in the entire league, were expected to be a team that put pitching and defense first, and that’s exactly what they did. Even with Brandon Lowe becoming the team’s breakout star on offense, Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow and the “stable” of arms Tampa Bay bullpen made the Rays the best team in the American League.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, were expected to be one of the greatest teams of all time. The offseason acquisition of Mookie Betts, arguably the second best player in baseball, put them in conversation with the Yankees in the late 1920s and the Big Red Machine for the best offense of all time.

Impressively enough, Mookie Betts was the only superstar on the team that wasn’t homegrown or brought to prominence by the Dodgers. Justin Turner, Max Muncy and Chris Taylor were all reclamation projects, and platoon outfielder A.J. Pollock was signed in free agency, but almost the rest of the Dodgers core, including the pitching staff, was a product of incredible scouting, drafting, developing and extending.

LA finished the season with 43 wins, a pace that would have been good for 116 in a 162 game season, which would tie the regular season record. They even seemed to get better as the year went on, with Cody Bellinger finally coming around toward the end of the season and Corey Seager emerging as the player the Dodgers hoped he’d become when he won Rookie of the Year in 2016.

The Dodgers faced little adversity in the playoffs until the National League Championship Series, going up against the Atlanta Braves. The Braves had arguably the hottest offense in baseball, complete with the likely MVP of the National League in Freddie Freeman.

While the Braves jumped out to a 2-0 series lead, something seemed to click for the Dodgers in the seventh inning of game two. They couldn’t quite overcome a 7-0 deficit, but they picked up some momentum scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and four more in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The next day the Dodgers came out swinging with 11 runs in the first inning, basically ending the game before the Braves ever had a chance to answer. Behind five strong innings from Julio Urías, the Dodgers went on to win game three by a score of 15-3.

Clayton Kershaw fed the narrative that he struggles in the playoffs in game four giving up four runs over five innings on the way to a Dodgers loss. The boys from Chavez Ravine proceeded to play near perfect baseball the rest of the way, riding their bullpen in games five and seven and Walker Buehler in game six. A missile from defending MVP Cody Bellinger in game seven was the deciding factor and the exclamation point on LA’s third NLCS victory in the last four years.

The Dodgers met the Rays in the World Series, who were coming off a game seven themselves against the Houston Astros. Again, the Rays relied on pitching and defense to get through the playoffs, but they brought the hottest player in the playoffs into the World Series in left fielder Randy Arozarena.

When accounting for adjusted salary for his time in the majors and the shortened pandemic season, Arozarena made $90,000 in 2020. For reference, the two highest paid left fielders for the Dodgers, Joc Pederson and A.J. Pollock, made more than $10 million last year. Arozarena out-homered the Pederson-Pollock duo in the 2020 playoffs ten to two.

Unfortunately for Arozarena, he was the only member of the Rays consistently hitting. Just as the Rays had done all season, it was a new guy delivering the big hit every night. Mike Brosseau did it in game five of the American League Divisional Series against the Yankees, Kevin Kiermaier came up with a few clutch hits and Manny Margot played a big role in downing the Astros, but Arozarena seemed to be the only one the Rays could consistently count on.

Game one was proof of that as the Rays were shut down by Clayton Kershaw, who set the tone to repave his playoff legacy. Kershaw went six innings in the first game of the World Series, giving up just one run before exiting. Dodgers MVPs Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts both homered on the way to an 8-3 Dodgers victory.

The Rays evened the series in game two on the back of Brandon Lowe, who hit two home runs, driving in three runs. Rays third baseman Joey Wendle drove in two more on a fourth inning double and another on a sixth inning sacrifice fly. Homers from Chris Taylor, Will Smith and Corey Seager weren’t enough for the Dodgers as Blake Snell and the Rays bullpen held off the LA offense.

Though a score of 6-2 might not seem like a punishing victory for the Dodgers, they owned game three. The Dodgers current ace, Walker Buehler went six innings, striking out ten Rays batters and giving up just one run on a Willy Adames double. The bullpen trio of Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol and Kenley Jansen picked up where Buehler left off, giving up one run on a Randy Arozarena home run in the ninth. The Rays sent just 31 hitters to the plate.

Game four is the game that will go down in history. When everyone looks back on the 2020 World Series, they will probably remember games four and six. It might have been the craziest game of the year, and it happened on baseball’s biggest stage.

Two lefties started the game for the Dodgers and Rays, with Julio Urías and Ryan Yarbrough on the hill, respectively. Justin Turner opened the scoring with a home run in the first inning for the second night in a row. Corey Seager homered in the third inning to put the Dodgers up 2-0, a score that would hold for one inning when Randy Arozarena launched his second home run of the World Series and his record-breaking ninth of the postseason.

Heading into the top of the sixth, the Dodgers had a 3-2 lead, which they extended on a double from utility man Kiké Hernández. That set the stage for Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe, who launched a three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth to put the Rays on top for the first time in the game.

The Dodgers answered quickly on a Joc Pederson single that scored Corey Seager and Justin Turner, giving the Dodgers a 6-5 lead. The battle was just beginning, as Kevin Kiermaier homered in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at 6, only for Corey Seager to give the Dodgers the lead once again with an RBI single in the top of the eighth inning.

It was quiet until the bottom of the ninth inning, when the unlikely Rays postseason MVP Randy Arozarena stepped up the the plate with two outs and a man on first base. Arozarena worked a full count from Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, eventually drawing a walk to put runners on first and second base. That would bring up the most unlikely of heroes.

Brett Phillips didn’t even make the ALCS roster. He was with the Kansas City Royals before being traded to the Rays on Aug. 27. He originally pinch ran earlier in the game with little expectation of getting a plate appearance, but with the way Rays manager Kevin Cash uses his bench, the Rays were out of options. Phillips was going to bat.

Down to his last strike, the career .202 hitter flicked a ball into center field. Kevin Kiermaier score easily, but a bobble from Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor caused the Rays third base coach to send Arozarena to the plate in an attempt to score the winning run. Arozarena fell down on his way to the plate, which should have ended the inning.

The throw to the plate from Taylor was cut off by Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy, who relayed the ball to LA catcher Will Smith. Smith was unable to hang onto the throw, and the ball rolled to the backstop, allowing Arozarena to score the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. The long shot hero scored the Rays most valuable postseason player, and the sight of Arozarena pounding on home plate for the eighth run is something that will be burned in the memories of baseball fans forever.

Game five saw Clayton Kershaw take the hill once again to face Rays hard-throwing right hander Tyler Glasnow. Again, Kershaw set out to rewrite his playoff story, going five and two-thirds innings, striking out six and giving up two runs. Joc Pederson and Max Muncy both homered for the Dodgers on their way to a 4-2 victory.

Game six had the Rays up against a wall forcing them to send out their horse, Blake Snell. Randy Arozarena immediately launched a ball into the right field seats off Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin for his record tenth homer of the postseason. Snell was mowing down Dodgers hitters through five and one-thirds innings before giving up a single to catcher Austin Barnes.

The most talked about decision of the World Series came next, with Kevin Cash removing a blistering hot Snell from the game before facing Mookie Betts, who hit .208 against left-handed pitching in 2020. Right-hander Nick Anderson took the hill for the Rays, and Betts proceeded to slap a double down the left field line. A wild pitch with Corey Seager at the plate scored Barnes and advanced Betts to third, then Seager grounded a ball to first base, scoring Betts, who looked like he was out to prove he’s the best baserunner in the game this postseason.

The Dodgers went up 2-1, but for Rays fans and players, it must have felt like the score was 12-1, as the Rays couldn’t get a single thing going the rest of the game against the Dodger bullpen. Betts swatted a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning for an insurance run, and Julio Urías slammed the door over the last two and one-third to give the Dodgers their first World Series victory since 1988.

Corey Seager took home the trophy for World Series MVP, but Clayton Kershaw really stole the spotlight. The eight-time All-Star, three-time Cy Young winner and 2014 MVP Award winner picked up the first ring of his career in his tenth postseason. He was a lock for the Hall of Fame before 2020, but now he’ll get to make his induction speech wearing at least one World Series ring, and with the litany of young talent and financial resources at the fingertips of Dodgers management, he figures to eye a few more before he calls it a career.

In probably the worst story of the night, third baseman Justin Turner exited the game early because of a positive test for COVID-19. When it was announced at the conclusion of the game, it was a difficult moment for everyone who knew Turner had been with this Dodgers team the entire way. Outside of Kershaw, he might have been the most deserving of a celebration.

He even sent out a tweet thanking everyone for checking in on him and saying he could’t believe he couldn’t be out on the field to celebrate winning the World Series. The story went sour when it appeared that Turner actually did celebrate on the field, presumably placing everybody he came in contact with in danger.

The MLB released a statement saying Turner was adamant about celebrating on the field despite security officials advising him not to leave an isolated space. The story is still developing, but fans obviously voiced their discontent via social media, and it made the success of what MLB called their “bubble” to that point seem moot. While the disappointment for Turner being unable to celebrate a title that he was such a key part of is palpable, it is difficult to justify his actions exposing players, families and fans to COVID-19.

Turner, along with Pedro Baez, Kiké Hernandez, Jake McGee, Joc Pederson, Blake Treinen and Alex Wood, is set to become a free agent after not receiving a qualifying offer from the Dodgers. It is yet to be seen how this will affect him in free agency, or he could return to the Dodgers where he is already one of the organizations most beloved players.

The 2020 baseball season ended about as well as anyone who has lived through 2020 could have predicted, but baseball fans who were worried about 2020’s title feeling cheap seem to have come around to the idea that this title was equally or more trying to achieve. 60 games or 162 games, the 2020 Dodgers will go down in history.

Los Angeles Halloween Town

Story X Illustration by Kaelen Felix 

Not the year we hoped for – COVID-19 virus; stay-at-home mandate order to working remotely. Some did not have the option to work from home, and as a result, millions have lost their jobs. Many months have flown by since everyone had to shelter in place by the policy that was enacted. Fast forward from March to October, and while we are nine months into this, it feels as if there is no end in sight. Summer is behind us, and with Fall here, Halloween is so different from any year we have experienced to date. Everything in 2020 has been turned upside down, and the world is at a stand-still.

The Walt Disney Company announced the layoffs of 28,000 total with 10,000 affecting the Disneyland resorts, parks, hotels, and stores in Anaheim, CA. The coronavirus and the pandemic have hit L.A. hard, and these layoffs are effective this coming Sunday. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) has provided guidance on gatherings suggesting no more than ten people per group.

The virus continues to wreak havoc with our favorite holiday, Halloween! Why does this continue to happen? The CDC suggests that younger age group are not obeying the CDC suggestions to prevent further spreading. Halloween should be a free-spirited holiday for children and adults to play dress-up and to trick-or-treat. By restricting live entertainment and gatherings this Halloween, those feeling down or depressed may be further affected. So, how does this impact Halloween and what are the measures taken to make this year a success? And also, help with our health and well-being? The spirit of Halloween is all about expressing oneself through a costume, and of course who doesn’t want a bunch of candy by night’s end? Many places across the United States are working on solutions to abide to the social-distancing instructions.

In the Midwest where cases continually rise though some have found a different outlet to make Halloween extra creative. Minnesota, a friendly neighborhood family from the Woodbury area used a plastic piping to slide candy down safely to with physical contact. That way the children are not in close contact with the family members, and it is a safer method for the children. According to the 5 ABC Eye Witness News, the Humphries in the Woodbury family explain their thought process on this as, “Halloween is about being outside, dressing up and doing something different.” The Humphries also mentioned, “It’s important children still have those opportunities.”

In Chicago, many are taking the social-distancing measures very seriously, because they want to see children come out and enjoy a safe Halloween. A source from Block Club Chicago says, “One Chicago neighborhood will hold a contest on the best decorated house on Kenmore Avenue.” While that’s one example of how social distance will be handled, because people can ride around in their cars and vote accordingly. Meanwhile, another part of this adds, “The city is hosting a series of event giveaways for an entire week leading up to the holiday, which they’ve dubbed “Halloweek.”  Such a fun way to put on a show in the city suburb of Chicago. Another area in Albuquerque, New Mexico have routed together a bus with ten zombies on what they call an “Art” bus to keep social-distancing measures in order and to scare passengers as they board the bus. From a local news KRQE, “The city of Albuquerque announced this Friday that two art buses would feature 10 “zombies” in the seats usually taped off social distancing purposes.” Another creative method taken into action to keep the Halloween tradition and spirit alive.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health suggests that people comply with the personal protection measures, such as wearing a cloth-faced masks, keeping the six feet social distancing measures and most importantly, continually to wash hands often and use hand sanitizer if need be. Some of the best options to celebrate Halloween include doing virtual costume contests, car parades or trick-or-treating in a safe manner. Set up a table outside with candy in separate plastic bags and provide hand sanitizer as well. Forbes suggests if you have children there are some options for children’s interest in Halloween movies. Some of these examples include, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline, Coco, Monster House, Beetle Juice and Corpse Bride and more.

While we are still in this pandemic; we should applaud our essential front line responders for their diligent efforts. They work tirelessly to save many lives and they should be honored as our true heroes. Let us do our part to ensure we all have a fun and a safe Halloween this year even though this was not the year we wanted, at least we are close to 2021.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Save Our Stages

By: Gabrielle Archuleta

With Covid-19 making an impact on businesses, the live music industry has been among those hit the hardest. The loss in revenue is estimated to be $8.9 billion, along with the comedy and performing arts entertainment. More than 90% of independent venues are at risk of being permanently shut down. The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) is working hard to get emergency relief funds out to these venues in dire need. With the help of YouTube, NIVA and Save Our Stages created a virtual concert to help raise money, which will benefit these independent venues. The list of venues is on their website. Artists from around the country have joined together in an effort to raise awareness and save the stages they once performed in.

These venues have supported many big artists and have even launched careers for many. Not only are the artists feeling the impact, but the employees behind the scenes are as well. From the sound to the stage crew, many of them are left without a job and fear what will come next. Fans are left with tickets to be refunded and the uncertainty of future shows to come. This leaves the music industry shaken when it comes to the revenue that concerts bring. Concerts generate more money than streaming music on popular platforms such as Spotify, Apple music and Pandora. Popular artists such as Drake have made $23.7 million in one year from streaming, yet his last tour, Summer Sixteen featuring Future, grossed $85 million. Save our stages is the saving platform for artists, fans and lovers of music to support the venues we know and love and keep the live music alive.

Kicking off their first ever virtual event, an exclusive trailer narrated by Neil Young released footage featuring various iconic artists performing in these at-risk venues and some of the earliest known footage of Neil Young performing at the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, CT. This 3-day virtual event lasted from October 16th-18th. Day one started out with Alec Benjamin performing at Hotel Café in Los Angeles, CA. There was no audience, just the performers. Some talked of past show experiences and selling out venues. Following him was Billie Eilish’s brother, Finneas who is breaking out on his own, releasing his first single called Can’t Wait To Be Dead. Other artists for day one included, Sebastian Yatra, Dizzy Fae, Macklemore, YG, and Dillon Francis. Marshmellow and Demi Lovato hit the stage at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, CA. They performed their hit single together It’s Okay Not To Be Okay, as well as talked about their experiences in independent venues they’ve played in and seen other artists play in. Macklemore performed in Seattle, WA singing hits that included Ten Thousand Hours, Glorious, Good Old Days and a few others during his thirty-minute set. While G-Eazy took pieces of his hits and performed over a dozen songs in his set at The Independent in San Francisco, CA.

Day two kicked off with an even bigger list of performers. Sixteen artists each in their own independent venue to perform in. Jason Mraz was the first up, singing the best of his songs from I’m Yours to I Won’t Give Up out of the Belly Up Tavern in San Diego, CA. Rise Against brought the rock style back to the stage singing six of their hits from the Metro in Chicago,IL. Miley Cyrus played at the Whiskey-Go-Go in Los Angeles, CA wearing all black Rockstar attire. Though she had a short playlist, it was filled with fun energy. Also playing out of Los Angles from Troubadour, the Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl talks about his first experience at the Toubadour and meeting Bret Michaels for the first time. They start out with Skin and Bones continue with My Hero, These Days, Times Like These and end it with everyone’s favorite Everlong. The Roots performed a longer set list that lasted a little over an hour at the Apollo Theater in New York, NY. Wrapping up day two was Major Lazor performing out of Gramps in Miami, FL. He had a setlist similar to length of The Roots lasting a little over an hour and promoting Save Our Stages throughout his set. To many of these artists, the venues that are at stake are not only where they got their start in the music world but also where they discovered music. Demi Lovato mentions one of her first concerts was at an independent venue where she had seen Paramore.

The final day came with some big names. Little Big Town plays at the Exit/In in Nashville, TN. They talk about their first show and replayed one of their classic songs, Boondocks as an encore. The last song is a fan favorite, Girl Crush. Dave Matthews performs solo at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, VA. His setlist includes a new song that is played for the first-time live called the Ocean and the Butterfly. The Lumineers wrap up this event, taking it back home to Colorado at the Boulder Theatre in Boulder, CO. Reminiscing on the songs they’ve played in small independent venues and how great songs such as Ophelia came from those experiences and performing them.

Save our stages is not just important to the artists, but to the fans and music lovers all over the nation. There are over 2,000 venues that have joined the National Independent Venue Association to help save theses venues and keep not only the jobs that come with it but the live music experience we love and miss. Though this virtual event is over, the fight is not. Save our venues has raised over $1,000,000 and has a set goal of $5,000,000. The funds will be administered by the Giving Back Fund, a non-profit organization. The money will go to the venues in dire need and in fear of being shut down. With the help of all the artists who participated along with Youtube, NIVA and every person who donated, we can only hope that enough money is raised to save these venues.

The Doo Wop Project Wearing Masks

The Doo Wop Project: Live In Your Living Room

With The Doo Wop Project: Live In Your Living Room, fans can enjoy a Broadway theater experience from your very own home. The Doo Wop Project: Live In Your Living Room, a virtual theatrical concert, will be broadcast live from Shubert Studios on October 25th.

The Doo Wop Project traces the evolution of Doo Wop from the classic sound of five guys singing tight harmonies on a street corner to the biggest hits on the radio today. The theatrical concert takes audiences on a journey from foundational tunes of groups like the Crests, Belmonts, and Flamingos through their influences on the sounds of Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, and The Four Seasons all the way to “Doo-Wopified” versions of modern musicians like Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, and Maroon 5. Now, the talented cast of The Doo Wop Project includes Charl Brown, Dwayne Cooper, John Michael Dias, Russell Fischer, Dominic Nolfi, and Santino Paladino.

With a cast of stars from Broadway’s smash hits Jersey Boys and Motown: The Musical, The Doo Wop Project brings unparalleled authenticity of sound and vocal excellence to recreate-and in some cases entirely reimagine-some of the greatest music in American pop and rock history. The show has been in theaters across the country including Minnesota, Maryland, California, and New Jersey. Now, the show will be available globally with this unique virtual viewing experience.

“They say that music has the power to heal and I think we all could use a little healing right now,” said producer Ken Davenport. “The Doo Wop Project is more than just a concert though – it’s a theatrical exploration through some of the best tunes ever written. We look forward to having audiences experience the show virtually, in the comfort of their own homes, and we think the intimate Shubert Studios is the perfect venue to highlight this unique group.”

Attendees will have the opportunity to interact with each other and with The Doo Wop Project via a live chat, which will appear next to the video stream. Attendees can request songs to The Doo Wop Project in the chat. Tickets, ranging from $25-$75, are offered for General Admission, VIP Stream Pass, and VIP Stream Pass with a Meet & Greet and can be purchased by visiting: www.TheDooWopProject.com.