Posts tagged with "COVID-19"

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.

Bts illustration by Kaelen Felix for 360 magazine.

BTS – Be

Written by Thais Jacomassi 

Illustration by Kaelen Felix 

The wait is over. BTS’ fifth studio album, Be, is out now featuring the record-breaking, hit single “Dynamite.” This is the band’s second album release of 2020 – following their release of Map of the Soul: 7 in February — marking the latest comeback for their already historic career. While live concerts and events came to a halt and BTS’ Map of the Soul Tour was canceled due to the pandemic, the band took this opportunity to spur their creativity. The end result was a sentimental and thoughtful eight-track album, including a spoken skit, that reflected on what the past year has been like for them. 

As many sections in the US are entering a new state of crisis with rising Covid-19 cases, Be sends a reassuring message for fans to stay upbeat and hopeful with good-humored, singalongs to keep us afloat from the stress and fear that the pandemic has brought out of everyone. 

Be opens with the band’s newest single, “Life Goes On.” The song’s theme revolved around the pandemic which is made clear in its music video — directed by band member Jeon Jungkook — that features various shots of the members reminiscing on their lives prior to Covid-19 beginning with the line “One day the world stopped.” Despite its melancholic tone, the lyrics are sweet with the promise that one day life will return back to normal, but until then it is important to find positivity among other things. Watch/Listen to “Life Goes On” Here. 

Accompanying the single are more somber and vulnerable songs like “Blue & Grey” and “Fly To My Room” which explore the loneliness that many people have claimed to experience from the confinement of quarantine, especially in the beginning months of the pandemic. In an article by Time Magazine, public health experts stated that coronavirus has amplified the already rising problem of loneliness in the US and across the globe. These two songs not only demonstrate how these negative thoughts have been plaguing so many of us, but it also shows the close and understanding relationship between the band and its millions of fans worldwide. 

“Skit” is a spoken word interlude placed right in the middle of the album which was originally recorded at the same moment that the group was celebrating becoming the first all-Korean group to rise to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in August with their single “Dynamite.” It serves as the perfect tool to transition the mood of the album from emotional to cheerful with songs like “Telepathy” and “Dis-ease.” 

Tracklist: 

  1. Life Goes On
  2. Fly To My Room 
  3. Blue & Grey 
  4. Skit 
  5. Telepathy 
  6. Dis-ease 
  7. Stay 
  8. Dynamite 

Listen to Be Here

Listen/Watch “Life Goes On” Here

Listen/Watch “Dynamite” Here

About BTS:

Otherwise known as Bangtan Boys, BTS is a South Korean boy band that was originally formed in 2010 but only debuted in 2013 under Big Hit Entertainment. The seven members — RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook– co-write and co-produce their own music whose style ranges over a wide variety of genres including pop, R&B, hip-hop, and rap. 

BTS crossed borders into the global market by becoming the first Korean group to receive an RIAA for their single, “Mic Drop,” as well as the first Korean group to top the US Billboard 200 chart with their album, Love Yourself: Tear. Since then, they have continued to lead K-pop’s global phenomenon and break records by being the first all-South Korean group to reach number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 with their single “Dynamite” and their remix of Jason Derulo’s “Savage Love.”

More on BTS: 

Instagram

Twitter

Spotify 

Youtube 

About Big Hit Entertainment:

Big Hit Entertainment is a South Korean entertainment company that was founded on February 1, 2005, by Bang Si-hyuk. It currently manages idol groups like BTS and TXT and soloists like Lee Hyun. Big Hit Entertainment continues to make new innovations to the music industry business model and according to their website, “Big Hit strives to become the world’s best music-based entertainment lifestyle platform company.” 

More on Big Hit Entertainment: 

Website 

Facebook 

Youtube 

Andrew Exner, a graduate research assistant in Purdue’s Motor Speech Lab, is working to help Parkinson’s patients during the COVID-19 pandemic as announced by 360 MAGAZINE.

AI Technology Helps Parkinson’s Patients During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is leading a Purdue University innovator to make changes as she works to provide new options for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Jessica Huber, a professor of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences and associate dean for research in Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences, leads Purdue’s Motor Speech Lab. Huber and her team are now doing virtual studies to evaluate speech disorders related to Parkinson’s using artificial intelligence technology platforms.

Huber and her team have been working to develop telepractice tools for the assessment and treatment of speech impairments like Parkinson’s disease. They received a National Institutes of Health small business innovation and research grant to develop a telehealth platform to facilitate the provision of speech treatment with the SpeechVive device, which has received attention at the Annual Convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

In the current study, Huber and her team are collaborating with a startup company, Modality AI, which developed the AI platform that will be used in the study.

“The application of the technology we are evaluating may lead to far-reaching insights into more standardization in assessments, earlier diagnoses and possibly an easier way to track discrete changes over time to guide interventions,” said Andrew Exner, a graduate research assistant in the Motor Speech Lab. “My personal research passion, and the mission of our lab, is to find ways to improve the quality of life for people with Parkinson’s and other related diseases.”

Exner is leading the virtual study for participants across the country to evaluate an AI platform that can collect and automatically measure the speech skills of people with Parkinson’s disease. The need for AI platforms is increasing as the use of telepractice explodes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My interest in speech-language pathology actually started during my training as an actor and opera singer,” Exner said. “I saw the effects of pathology on the voice and wanted to extend that interest into speech disorders.”

SpeechVive Inc. is an Indiana startup company based on Huber’s research. The company has developed a wearable medical device to improve the speech clarity of people with Parkinson’s.

Anyone interested in learning more about the virtual studies or taking part, can email Exner at exner@purdue.edu.

Image courtesy of Purdue University.

Rita Azar illustration for 360 MAGAZINE travel stories

Tips for Reducing Holiday Stress and Staying Mindful While Traveling

The holiday season is typically the busiest time of the year for traveling. People enjoy going to see family members or exploring new locations as they have time off from their jobs and schoolwork. This year, traveling may come with a bit more stress and anxiety due to the pandemic that people are facing around the world. The good news is that there are some things you can do to help reduce holiday stress, as well as stay safer while traveling.

“There may be fewer people traveling this holiday season, but there will still be a lot who do, and they need to know how to make it more enjoyable,” explains Katie Sandler, personal development and career coach. “Mindful travel is the key to reducing stress, staying safer, and making the most of your time traveling. This year will be a great exercise in mindfulness, which is something to be excited about.”

As an expert at using mindfulness, Sandler helps people not only reduce their stress, but also reach new goals. The key to traveling safely during the pandemic, as she points out, is in using the technique throughout the experience. By remaining mindful, travelers will go about their experience in a way that is conscientious and intentional. Just as with many things in life, this is an issue that comes down to learning to be more focused and plan ahead.

Sandler has created a recipe for mindful safe travel in the era of COVID, which includes the following tips:

  • Forget being spontaneous. This is not the time to be spontaneous. In order to help reduce risks and stress. Figure everything out ahead of time. Know about everything before you go do it. This goes for restaurants, excursions, and even visiting others. Call ahead so you can plan out as much as possible.
  • Know the rules and regulations. The rules today differ by city and state, so it’s important to know what they are for where you are heading. Get the information you need so that you are prepared. Whether it means all meals will be takeout, you will have to wear a mask, or you need to limit the number in your party, avoiding surprises will help keep things stress-free.
  • Get tested before you go. Getting a COVID test before you travel is a good way to help reduce stress and the spread of the virus. This way you will know that you are not unknowingly spreading it around wherever you may go.
  • Create a checklist to use. A checklist is a great way to ease the hassle of ensuring you have everything covered. Make a list of what needs to be packed, calls that need to be made, things that must be done before heading out, etc. This will prove much easier than trying to simply remember everything.
  • Make reservations wherever possible. This is a great time to make reservations for everything possible. Whether it’s at a restaurant, a tour company, or something else, this is a great way to help them limit the number of guests allowed in any one place at the same time.
  • Be kind and patient. People you come across while you are traveling are doing things differently, too, and it may cause them to be stressed out and provide slower service. Take that time to remind yourself to be in the here and now, and focus on being kind and patient.

“The holidays are a special time, and most of us still want to travel,” added Sandler. “While we shouldn’t live in constant fear of the virus, we should strive to keep being keenly aware of the situation and our surroundings. When we do that, we will reduce the stress and anxiety, help to keep everyone healthier, and still be able to enjoy life, even more than when we travel without being so focused.”

Through her personal development and career coaching services, Sandler has helped people in many different ways. From helping them to identify things holding themselves back to being able to achieve personal goals, she brings a crucial, helpful outsider’s perspective. In addition to personal achievements, she helps many people with their career goals, as well as working with companies to provide their team with impact training. Through her efforts, companies have been able to reduce absenteeism rates, motivate their team, reduce stress levels, engage their employees, and create a better workplace.

Sandler offers impact retreats, corporate impact events, and one-on-one coaching services. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in mental health counseling, has a strong foundation in mindfulness-based stress reduction, and has worked in hospitals and private practices. She has also spent time as a research assistant at Johns Hopkins. Upcoming retreats include Reignite in Tulum, Mindfulness in Mykonos, Rewire and Renew in The French Alps, and Mindfulness & Mindset in The Hamptons. To learn more about Katie Sandler and her services, or to see the retreat schedule, visit the site: https://katiesandler.com/.

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, COVID-19

Annual (RED) Shopathon Lights Up Today

The sixth annual (RED) Shopathon lights up today ahead of World AIDS Day and Giving Tuesday, December 1st. Offering more than 200 stylish and giftable products that give back with every purchase, the campaign is supported by Merck (known as MSD outside the U.S. and Canada) and will see (RED) generate money for the Global Fund to fight two pandemics: AIDS and COVID-19.

THE ALL-NEW (echo)RED AND OVER 170+ (RED) PRODUCTS ON AMAZON.COM/RED:

For the fourth year, (RED) is partnering with Amazon to give customers a single destination to shop more than 170 products that give back, spanning tech, health & wellness, kitchen & home, and more.

New for 2020 is the next-generation, limited-edition (echo)RED, featuring an all-new sleek spherical design, premium sound, and smart home hub support for Zigbee, Bluetooth Low Energy, and Amazon Sidewalk. Amazon will donate $10 of every (echo)RED sale to the Fund for the Global Fund to support COVID-19 response and HIV/AIDS programs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Customers can also donate to (RED)’s fight against these two pandemics on any Alexa-enabled device by simply saying, “Alexa, donate to (RED).” With all products available at amazon.com/red, shoppers can put impact into every purchase. The limited-edition (echo)RED is available starting today for only $99.99 (amazon.com/echored).

(RED) LAUNCHES ITS FIRST-EVER VIRTUAL POP-UP SHOP ON SNAPCHAT:

(RED) is launching its first-ever immersive pop-up shop on Snapchat. Using Snapchat’s AR technology, users can now browse and buy Amazon.com/RED products directly from their mobile app, and support (RED)’s fight against AIDS and COVID-19. The lens, supported by Merck (known as MSD outside the U.S. and Canada), is live worldwide today and accessible throughout the duration of the campaign. Snap, shop, and save lives by going to this link.

Kaelen Felix Illustrates a COVID-19 Article for 360 MAGAZINE

Antidepressant x COVID-19

Based on a trial from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, the antidepressant fluvoxamine appears to prevent COVID-19 infections from worsening, even keeping patients out of the hospital.

The clinical trial was conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Fluvoxamine was compared with a placebo in 152 adult patients who were infected with the coronavirus.

80 participants received the fluvoxamine, and not one of the 80 became seriously ill after 15 days. Six patients receiving the placebo became seriously ill with four being hospitalized for between four and 21 days. One of the four in the hospital was on a ventilator for 10 days.

Though the sample size was relatively small, the data is believed to be statistically significant. The plan is to launch a larger trial in coming weeks.

Eric J. Lenze, MD, of the Washington University School of Medicine, said patients who took fluvoxamine did not require hospitalization because of issues in lung function.

“Most investigational treatments for COVID-19 have been aimed at the very sickest patients, but it’s also important to find therapies that prevent patients from getting sick enough to require supplemental oxygen or to have to go to the hospital,” Lenze said. “Our study suggests fluvoxamine may help fill that niche.”

UVA’s Alban Gaultier, PhD, and former graduate student Dorian A. Rosen, PhD, found in 2019 that fluvoxamine may stop sepsis, a deadly inflammation causing the immune system to spiral out of control. The findings of Gaultier and Rosen inspired the tests at the Washington University School of Medicine.

Gaultier and Rosen determined that fluvoxamine reduces the production of cytokines, which have been linked to deadly cytokine storms, which are thought to occur in severe cases of COVID-19

“Because elevated cytokines levels have been associated with COVID-19 severity, testing fluvoxamine in a clinical trial made a lot of sense to us,” said Gaultier. “We are still unclear about the mode of action of fluvoxamine against SARS-CoV-2, but research is under way to find the answer.”

Washington University’s Angela M. Reiersen, MD, said the drug works by interacting with the sigma-1 receptor to reduce the production of inflammatory molecules.

“Past research has demonstrated that fluvoxamine can reduce inflammation in animal models of sepsis, and it may be doing something similar in our patients,” Reiersen said.

The limitations of the research were emphasized. The small sample size was noted along with the fact that 20% of participants stopped answering surveys during the trial. Though the researchers could rule out hospital visits for those who stopped answering, they did believe it possible that the participants sought treatment elsewhere.

Because of the limitations, the findings should be considered encouraging and worthy of further research rather than iron clad truth.

Gaultier said, “If a larger clinical trial (phase III) confirms the results, fluvoxamine would be a perfect treatment for COVID patients newly diagnosed. Fluvoxamine is not an experimental drug, it is cheap and safe and could be available as a first line of defense to unburden the hospitals that are overwhelmed by the COVID health crisis.”

For more medical research news from UVA, you can click right here.

Cryptograph platform announced by the 360 MAGAZINE.

The next decade’s most disruptive technology

Virtual reality has already had a major impact in a range of different industries. IDTechEx predicts in its recent market research reportthat this technology will grow to $8Bn by 2030. One way that virtual reality has been used is in planning. VR technologies have recently been shown by an article in the Financial Times to be used by the City of London Corporation to help with planning decisions for future office areas. Virtual reality will be a key technology of the next decade, with IDTechEx predicting that the augmented and virtual reality market will grow to over $30Bn by 2030.

The City of London collaboration was between the City of London Corporation, Innovate UK, New London Architecture (NLA) and VU.CITY. The level of detail captured by the project is down to a 2cm accuracy in a nearly 3km square area. This is a first for an area of this size, and aims to help planners realize what “plans offer in terms of space, enhancement of the public realm and to the City,” according to Alastair Moss, Chair of the Planning and Transportation Committee at the City of London Corporation. The ability to plan cities with VR technology will allow for more highly advanced urban planning solutions.

Virtual, augmented and mixed reality products have continued to receive high levels of funding and investment during the 2010 decade. This is predicted to continue into the next decade. IDTechExforecasts that the AR/VR and MR to be over $30Bn by 2030. This market will impact many different industries and its use cases wide-reaching and the technology will continue to innovate and accelerate innovation in these industries.

IDTechEx has a range of market research reports covering virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality products. Part of the wearables portfolio, the parent report “Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality 2020-2030” and the detailed technology analysis of “Optics and Displays in AR, VR and MR 2020-2030: Technologies, Players and Markets” provide the key insights and deep analysis of this innovative technology for the next decade.  The detailed market research report “Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality 2020-2030” from IDTechEx reviews and analyzes over 100 products and details of over 80 companies, to create detailed conclusions about the future of this market. Alongside this, IDTechEx offers a second deeper dive report into the optics and display technologies in AR/MR/VR devices.

Key Questions answered in these two reports include:

  • What are the major drivers for optic or display choice in an AR/MR or VR device?
  • What are the major drivers in the adoption of AR/MR and VR devices? Which use cases benefit the most from this technology?
  • How will the sales of VR and AR/MR devices evolve from 2020-2030 and what are the drivers behind future growth?

A timeline of some of the major AR and VR headsets of the past. Source: IDTechEx

What is the impact of COVID?

Recently the versatility of mixed and augmented reality products has come to the forefront of the news, with an Imperial led project at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. COVID has put the spotlight on this hands-free, interactive technology, and it is unlikely that this focus will move for some time. There will be a need for this technology in many new use cases, which previously did not require hands-free, or remote capabilities.

Where can I find more information?

More information on “Optics and Displays in AR, VR and MR 2020-2030” and “Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality 2020-2030” can be found at www.IDTechEx.com/Research/WT.

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.

Pfizer coronavirus vaccination article illustration by Kaelen Felix for 360 Magazine

Pfizer × BioNTech near historic vaccine

By Althea Champion

Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Monday that their COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90 percent effective. If approved, it could potentially be available to the public by early December, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The results came out of Pfizer’s Phase 3 trial, which involved 40,000 individuals. Of those participating, 94 contracted COVID-19. These results, like much of 2020, are historic. Vaccines have never been developed on such a fast-moving timeline. The last vaccine that was developed in such considerable haste was for mumps, and it took four years.

Pfizer says that they plan to ask the Federal Drug Administration for emergency use by the end of the month. The vaccine will require two doses administered three weeks apart. The company hopes to have enough doses for 25 million people by the end of the year, and 650 million people in 2021.

In the case that the vaccine supply is limited, the C.D.C. will first vaccinate healthcare personnel, essential workers, people who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions, as well as those 65 years and older.

An expedited timeline does not mean drug companies are cutting corners. Fauci, like many of his colleagues in Washington, assures that manufacturers will stick to a process of vaccine development that ensures the safety of patients. The FDA will still make the final call.

“Today is a great day for science and humanity,” said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO, in Pfizer’s press release. “The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19.”

However, a few questions remain unanswered.

“Historically, important scientific announcements about vaccines are made through peer-reviewed medical research papers that have undergone extensive scrutiny about study design, results and assumptions,” writes Arthur Allen in the Opinion section of the NYT. “Not through company press releases.”

According to Allen, it is unclear from the press release how long Pfizer’s vaccine will keep patients protected, if it is safe for high-risk populations like the elderly, or if rare side effects can arise in patients who are vaccinated. He notes that the Novavax and Sanofi Pasteur vaccines may be safer for older patients.

Novavax and Sanofi Pasteur are subunit vaccines, like the hepatitis B vaccine. They deliver only the essential antigens of the virus to the immune system, so it learns how to attack it. Because it is only a part, or a subunit, of the virus, fewer side effects are likely.

Pfizer’s is a nucleic acid vaccine that uses RNA. According to the Washington Post, “this type of vaccine contains a strip of genetic material within a fat bubble” that enters the cell. Once inside, “the RNA generates a protein found on the surface of the virus.” It can then familiarize itself with the virus and learn how to fight it.

Moderna’s vaccine is also an RNA vaccine in Phase 3 trials. Pfizer’s success bodes very well for Moderna, according to a statement Fauci made to CNN.

Furthermore, because the vaccine must be stored in extremely low temperatures—on dry ice at negative 100 degrees Fahrenheit according to the Washington Post—its roll-out becomes complicated. If left out in the sun, or just at room temperature, or even at just below freezing, the mRNA self-destructs and the vaccine becomes useless.

Shortly after Pfizer’s announcement, President-elect Joe Biden addressed the nation, warned of the “dark winter” ahead, and urged Americans, regardless of party affiliation, to wear a mask until the vaccine is available.

The head of the C.D.C. warned this fall, that “for the foreseeable future, a mask remains the most potent weapon against the virus,” he said from the podium. “Today’s news does not change that urgent reality.”