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Magma News | April 2, 2020 - There are now officially 1 Million coronavirus cases. - How helpful are Facemasks? - Trump has invoked Defese Production Act for Ventilators - Apple May be releasing a new iPhone this month - Meet the Peloton trainer helping the worlds best athletes stay in shape during quarantine. - Zoom conferencing reaches 200 million daily active users.
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Apr 03, 2020
03:22 AM

The World Just Hit 1 Million Coronavirus Infections.

Rachel Chang | Bloomberg

The new coronavirus has now infected 1 million people across the world, a milestone reached just four months after it first surfaced in the Chinese city of Wuhan. More than 51,000 have died and 208,000 recovered in what has become the biggest global public health crisis of our time.

When the virus was first discovered, doctors likened it to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, the illness that sickened 8,000 people mostly in Asia in 2003. Highly contagious, and appearing with little or no symptoms in some cases, Covid-19 has rapidly eclipsed all recent outbreaks in scale and size. Fewer than 20 countries in the world remain free of infection.

With some virus carriers presenting few outward signs of illness, and many countries unable or unwilling to conduct wider testing, the true number of global infections is likely higher -- some say far higher -- than 1 million.

The U.S. now has the most cases officially recorded globally with more than 234,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, which draws on a combination of data sources -- from governments to the World Health Organization and local media -- to feed its tallies. Next is Italy, with 115,000, the JHU data show. Italy has the highest death toll with almost 14,000 virus fatalities, followed by Spain.

Mapping the Coronavirus Outbreak Across the World

With world travel paralyzed and millions of people under some form of lockdown as a result of government efforts to contain the spread, the health crisis has also become an economic one: The global economy is expected to shrink 2% in the first half of 2020. Business activity has ground to a halt in many sectors, with predictions the U.S. jobless rate could reach 30% in the second quarter.

Here’s how we got here:

The Pathogen Emerges

Wuhan’s first known virus patient begins developing symptoms on Dec. 1, according to a paper published Jan. 24 in The Lancet medical journal. On Dec. 16, doctors at the Central Hospital of Wuhan send samples from another patient with a persistent fever for lab testing. Those results show a SARS-like virus and on Dec. 30 Ai Fen, the head of the hospital’s ER department, posts a picture of a lab report on Chinese social media, which is re-posted and circulated by several other doctors. They’re reprimanded by local police for “spreading rumors.”

At the end of December, the virus first appears in China’s tightly controlled state media, with reports government officials are probing dozens of cases of a mystery pneumonia in Wuhan. They don’t elaborate further. This is the first time that many within China and the outside world learn about the virus’ existence. By Jan. 3, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan -- Asian cities hit hard by the SARS pandemic -- institute fever screenings at airports for arrivals from Wuhan, a key transport and manufacturing hub for central China.

The Virus Spreads Beyond Wuhan

On Jan. 11, a team of scientists in Shanghai sequences the complete genome of the virus and publishes it on virological.org, an online discussion forum for epidemiologists. This gives researchers around the world a way to identify the virus in patients and infections are quickly found outside of Wuhan. Thailand confirms its first case on Jan. 13 and three days later one appears in Japan. Cases are reported in Beijing and the southern Guangdong province around Jan. 20, the same day Chinese infectious diseases expert Zhong Nanshan confirms on state television that the virus is spreading between humans.

Things escalate quickly from this point and -- with questions being asked about delays in identifying and tackling the outbreak -- China’s government starts ordering measures to control the disease’s spread. On Jan. 23, a day before the country’s week-long Lunar New Year holiday, Wuhan is placed under lockdown, with transport halted and restrictions on who can go in and out. The quarantine is expanded quickly to cities surrounding Wuhan and ultimately all of Hubei province, effectively sealing off 60 million people.

Asia Gets Hit

The World Health Organization declares the epidemic a global health emergency on Jan. 30, allowing it to coordinate responses among nations and recommend policy actions, including travel restrictions. The Philippines reports the first death outside of China: a 44-year-old man. A wave of infections starts to sweep Asia, and Hong Kong moves to shut schools and offices.

In Japan, more than 3,600 passengers on the Carnival Corp. cruise ship Diamond Princess are quarantined on board Feb 5 amid concern they’ll spread the coronavirus on shore. The disease races around the vessel, ultimately infecting more than 600 passengers. At least six die. The situation was a harbinger, with the virus breaking out on ships from the U.S. to Australia, hobbling the global cruise industry and leaving passengers stranded as countries refuse to allow boats to dock.

South Korea explodes to record Asia’s second-largest epidemic after one patient sets off an outbreak within a secretive religious sect, but rapid testing brings the country’s outbreak under control within weeks, without lockdowns or businesses shuttering.

In China, the epidemic balloons to tens of thousands of cases, including a one-day addition of nearly 15,000 infections on Feb 13 after officials said the methodology was changed. People in Hubei suffer as the local heath system collapses under the strain. Hospitals struggle with shortages of medical supplies and equipment, while health-care workers fall sick in grisly scenes that will come to be repeated weeks and months later, from Italy to Spain and the U.S. Li Wenliang, a young doctor who was one of the first whistleblowers at the Central Hospital of Wuhan, contracts the virus and dies, with government obfuscation over his death triggering outrage online.

Epicenter Shifts to Europe

France sees Europe’s first virus death on Feb. 14, a sign of an impending shift in the virus’s center. Europe soon starts recording new cases daily, at a volume beyond China at its peak. The explosive outbreak in Iran, where the virus emerges Feb. 19, gives a precursor to the struggles facing poorer countries in containing the virus.

Italy becomes the heart of Europe’s outbreak after the virus takes hold in its wealthier northern regions in mid-February. Italian towns are placed under lockdown from Feb. 22 and restrictions grow to encompass the whole nation on March 9. The death toll surpasses that in China as Italy’s aging population -- the oldest in Europe -- bears the brunt of the epidemic. In neighboring Spain, deaths grow to second-highest in the world. A state of emergency is declared on March 14.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson contracts the virus, as does Prince Charles. German Chancellor Angela Merkel goes into quarantine on March 22 after her doctor tests positive, while a former French minister, Patrick Devedjian, dies from Covid-19. France and Germany pump billions into steadying their economies and keeping companies afloat, while European Union finance ministers discuss using the European Stability Mechanism’s 410 billion-euro ($448 billion) war chest.

America Wakes Up

The U.S. reports its first Covid-19 death on Feb. 29, but detections remain low for some time due to low testing levels. In mid-March, Hollywood superstar Tom Hanks says he has the virus, the same day the National Basketball Association cancels the rest of the season, bringing the reality of the virus to middle America. The World Health Organization officially declares a pandemic.

U.S. President Donald Trump declares a national emergency March 13, after earlier downplaying the risks of the outbreak. As testing is expanded, cases in the U.S. surge and New York State emerges as the next virus hot spot. The case tally surpasses Hubei province on March 30, as New York’s hospitals grapple with shortages of essential equipment like ventilators. Doctors and nurses who speak out over a lack of equipment to protect themselves face reprisal from hospitals.

Trump signs into law a $2 trillion stimulus package that provides roughly $500 billion in loans and other aid for major companies, including $62 billion for the airline sector. Middle and low-income Americans are promised direct payments while hospitals are slated to receive $117 billion in assistance.

A wave of jobs are lost in the U.S., as cities invoke stay-at-home orders and urge social distancing. On Thursday, the Labor Department says that over 6.65 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits the previous week, more than double the then-record 3.31 million reported in the prior week.

Second Wave Fears

As Europe and the U.S. struggle to slow the virus’s spread, Asian cities which contained a first wave of infections from China begin seeing fresh cases, arriving through travelers from the west.

Data out of China -- which the U.S. questions -- show zero new infections on March 19, but the country also sees infections at its borders. Hong Kong and Singapore see their largest single-day case increases on March 20 largely from inbound arrivals. They start to tighten measures, imposing quarantines and modes of tracking new infections.

In India, the government orders a nationwide lockdown -- the largest in the world at more than 1.3 billion people -- as it races to stop the virus from taking hold among its vulnerable population.

Epidemiologists say that even after countries contain their first outbreaks, the virus is likely to return in later waves, as the flu pandemic of 1918 did. A growing awareness that a sizable group of infected people show no symptoms at all and are likely to spread the virus to others undetected sparks concern that the epidemic will evade control for months to come.

Face masks: can they slow coronavirus spread – and should we be wearing them?

Health officials appear to be coming around to masks for the general public. We asked four experts for their advice

Danielle Renwick | The Guardian

For several weeks, health professionals, political leaders and even the World Health Organization have told the public that people do not need to use protective face masks unless they are sick or caring for someone with Covid-19.

Experts agree that medical-grade protective gear, such as N95 respirators, should be reserved for health workers, but officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US said on Monday they were reviewing their recommendations after new data showed nearly a quarter of those infected did not show symptoms, meaning they were infectious perhaps without realizing it.

Some countries, such as Austria, have made mask-wearing in supermarkets compulsory. Local leaders in the United States have begun encouraging – and in some cases mandating – that people cover their faces in public. We asked four experts for their advice.

How effective are face masks at stopping transmission?

Jeremy Howard The primary transmission [of coronavirus] is now known to be droplet-based, and we now know that that transmission largely occurs in the first seven days after infection, when people are largely asymptomatic. So that means that if you’re highly infectious, you probably won’t know it. So we should all assume that we are potentially lethal to people around us. The way we are potentially lethal to people around us is when we speak: that’s when these micro droplets get ejected up to six feet.

If you’re speaking, and you put a couple of layers of cotton or paper towel in front of your mouth, the droplets go into that and not into the face of the person you’re speaking to. That’s why masks dramatically help reduce the spread of the virus.

Jessica Justman It’s like a pitcher and a catcher at a baseball game. And the masks are all about trying to keep the pitcher from pitching the ball. There are more pitchers than we realized, and if we need to all wear masks in order to keep the pitchers from pitching their balls, then so be it.

Are masks more effective at protecting the wearer? Or everyone else?

Howard There is some extra protection for the wearer, but it is imperfect. It’s good to think about wearing a mask as protecting your community and asking your community to do the same for you.

Why have the WHO and CDC been reluctant to recommend masks for the general public?

Howard They were trying to protect frontline healthcare workers from running out of N95 respirators.

Ben Cowling If the WHO were to consider modifying their current recommendations, they might go in the direction of saying: “Save the surgical masks for the healthcare settings, and let’s look into using homemade masks and cloth masks in the community to reduce transmission.”

Are you concerned that people might use masks incorrectly, and that could make them less effective or give a false sense of security?

Saskia Popescu I worry about someone who is sick wearing a mask, but then touching their mouth underneath, not washing their hands, and touching surfaces. I worry about the false sense of security, about people not wearing them appropriately, or cleaning them appropriately. So there are a lot of other pieces to [stopping transmission] that extend beyond the mask.

Of course, we want sick people to be wearing the mask, but if you tell everyone to go wear a mask right now, I think that could put a run on supplies.

Howard When we found that seatbelts keep people safe, we required people wear them. When we realized that condoms can protect you from disease, we told people to avoid unprotected sex. If there’s something that could dramatically slash the transmission of disease, and our response is to tell people not to use it because they might do it wrong, that’s incompatible with any other kind of policy decisions we make.

Do you have advice for individuals making face masks at home?

Howard Cambridge University has shown that a couple of layers of cotton, like a T-shirt, would work great. A Shenzhen hospital scientist showed a couple of layers of paper towel worked great. We have a DIY recipe on our site that actually shows a combination of those two things requiring no tools other than a pair of scissors.

Cowling Cover the mouth, the nose, and the chin. Don’t touch the front of the mask because it might be contaminated.

Is it important to form a seal? Would that pose a problem for people with beards?

Howard: No, not at all. A seal is something you need for aerosol-generating procedures. So unless you’re planning on intubating patients at your own home or during your shopping trip, that’s not an issue. Remember, the main thing we’re doing is protecting those around you.

Is there any way to disaggregate the widespread use of face masks from other measures – like social distancing – to understand how effective they are?

Howard: We absolutely can’t. There are four measures – rigorous testing, contact tracing, quarantine of potentially infected persons and universal mask-wearing – that represent a known good recipe. We don’t know exactly which combination of those things works and how important each one is. We’ve just got to do what works.

● Ben Cowling is a professor of epidemiology and co-director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control at the University of Hong Kong

● Jessica Justman is a professor and attending physician in the division of infectious diseases at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center

● Jeremy Howard is a distinguished research scientist at the University of San Francisco and founder of the #Masks4All campaign

● Saskia Popescu is a Phoenix-based epidemiologist

Trump invokes Defense Production Act for ventilator manufacturing.

Kif Leswing | CNBC

In a memo released by the White House, Trump directed the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary to use his authority to help facilitate the supply of ventilator materials for six companies.

On Thursday Johns Hopkins University said more than 1 million people around the world currently have the coronavirus.

State officials and health experts said the United States will ultimately need tens of thousands of additional ventilators.

President Donald Trump on Thursday invoked the Defense Production Act to aid companies building ventilators for coronavirus patients to receive the supply of materials they need.

In a memo released by the White House, Trump directed the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary to use his authority to help facilitate the supply of ventilator materials for six companies - General Electric, Hill-Rom Holdings, Medtronic, Resmed, Royal Philips N.V. and Vyaire Medical.

Lawmakers have clamored for Trump to invoke the act to end or at least reduce the country's yawning shortage of ventilators. Because the fast-spreading coronavirus is a respiratory disease, the need for ventilators is multiplying by the hundreds each day. On Thursday Johns Hopkins University said more than 1 million people around the world currently have the coronavirus.

State officials and health experts said the United States will ultimately need tens of thousands of additional ventilators.

"I am grateful to these and other domestic manufacturers for ramping up their production of ventilators during this difficult time," Trump said in a short statement released alongside the memo. "Today's order will save lives by removing obstacles in the supply chain that threaten the rapid production of ventilators."

Trump also said in a tweet that signing the Defense Production Act enabled his administration to "hit 3M hard."

An order released Thursday under the Defense Production Act authorizes the head of FEMA to "acquire" as many N95 masks from 3M or its subsidiaries as Trump deems necessary.

Last week Trump first invoked the emergency powers to compel auto giant General Motors to produce ventilators.

Apple iPhone 9 May Release April 2020

The affordably-priced model may launch by mid-month.

By Jake Silbert | Hypebeast

According to industry insiders, Apple‘s budget-minded iPhone 9 may roll out by mid-April. With a spring launch already hinted at by leak experts, the latest news not only confirms the whispers, but offers specific dates.

As noted by Forbes, well-regarded Apple analyst Jon Prosser is estimating a launch event for April 15, while the phone will actually debut at retailers on April 22. Interestingly, this is a later date than the recently-leaked iPhone 9 cases would imply, as they reportedly hit shelves April 5.

How are NFL, NBA and PGA stars staying in shape during social distancing? Peloton -- and one 'tough love' instructor

Kevin Seifert | ESPN

Admitting you own a Peloton bike is a lot like plastering a "26.2" sticker on your car. You get some approving nods, the way Volvo drivers wave at each other, and a whole lot of smirks that mock privilege, trend-chasing and passive swagger.

The guys in the office think it's hysterical to send me promotional photos of the bike. This one is set up to face views of the Swiss Alps. That one is a screenshot from a failed advertising campaign. They assume I'm on a ride if a Slack message goes unanswered for five minutes.

These days, as we huddle inside during this most unsettling tragedy, it feels like the Peloton is less luxury and more survival, a piece of technology unintentionally suited for this moment. As the country grows accustomed to Zoom video conferences and Google Hangouts, an in-home spin bike connected to live and on-demand classes has never been more utilitarian. In a seemingly organic way, the Peloton experience has transformed into a virtual world where middle-aged sportswriters and stressed-out moms are now joined by elite pro athletes to exercise together in lockdown.

If social media is any guide, NFL players from the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes to the Browns' Baker Mayfield to the Dolphins' Adrian Colbert are among those who have flocked to the Peloton during a time when they are usually ramping up for the start of their teams' offseason programs. Pro golfers such as Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson have issued challenges to each other and invited fans to join them on rides. The Golden State Warriors are even taking group rides, according to the Wall Street Journal.

More often than not, the stampede has led to Peloton instructor Alex Toussaint, a 27-year-old New York native who grew up in a military school and hosted former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton for an in-studio ride last summer. Toussaint's classes frequently feature hip-hop music and revolve around a vibe he calls "Tough Love with AT." His gravely, deep voice sounds a lot like some of the football coaches I've covered over the years and the drill sergeants I've seen portrayed in movies, and rat-a-tat instructions leave no confusion about class expectations.

"I played basketball growing up and had that hoop dream of going to the NBA," Toussaint said by phone this week. "I wasn't good enough, so for me at Peloton, this is my way of feeling like I'm in the league in a sense. I try to bring that straight athlete approach to my class. I feel like for them it's super relatable. I think the approach is super relatable. The delivery is super relatable, the music is super relatable. It makes them want to compete and want to continue to show up.

"I'm providing an athlete workout. I call it the 'this ain't day care' kind of energy. We're not here to twiddle our thumbs. We have 30 minutes of opportunity, which means I have 30 minutes of motivation, and you can have 30 minutes of greatness. Let's go get it. For you to be a pro athlete, you have to be of that mindset. Otherwise, you wouldn't have made it to the pros."

In cycling, the "peloton" is a group of riders who stay together and work as a team to achieve a larger goal. In business, Peloton has marketed itself as a way to build community through the shared convenience of virtual connection. In the quiet of these recent weeks, I've been thinking a lot about the distinction between hokey and hope, and the idea of a digital spinning community doesn't seem so schmaltzy. The embrace of pro athletes who thrive on competition has caught my eye.

The in-home Peloton display includes a leaderboard of participants ranked by total output measured in kilojoules. But every instructor I've taken, Toussaint included, encourages riders to pay less attention to rankings and focus more on ways to pull the group, or be pulled, as necessary. That message seems especially relevant, and not at all trite, at a time when we're being asked to recalibrate our daily lives to help others, if not ourselves.

"It's amazing to have a competitive edge," Toussaint said. "But at Peloton, the edge shouldn't be, 'I beat your score.' It should be, 'Hey, I pushed myself to push you.' It's a competitive edge that evolves together. You'll see people at the top of the leaderboard, and they're getting [personal records] or whatnot, but they're not shunning the people at the bottom of the leaderboard. They're out there giving encouragement and high-fives. We're a family. We're a unit. That's what makes it special, the community aspect. Yes, you can be competitive and that plays a role, but the community is what brings it all together and makes it stick like glue."

In our conversation, Toussaint dropped many of the lines that class regulars will recognize. He wanted us to "show up and show out" and be "a better version of themselves in every single way." He asked riders to "subtract your doubt, add your courage and multiply your hustle."

He relayed his journey to Peloton. Battling depression after leaving college, Toussaint lived on the floor of a friend's house. He got a job mopping floors at a cycling studio in New York called Flywheel. One day, he asked if he could take a class. Another day, he was asked if he would like to teach. Now, in addition to his growing celebrity through Peloton, he works as a spokesman for Ladder, a sports nutrition company owned in part by NBA star LeBron James.

"That's why I show up in every one of my rides in that Michael Jordan Game 7 approach," he said, "because I know what it feels like to not have any sort of hope. And now I have all of the light, and I want to provide that to anybody that can possibly need it. That's my No. 1 priority right now. It's all I want to do."

Not everyone is on board. "My butt always hurts after doing those rides," Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph said last week. Instead, Rudolph uses an Arc machine for cardio and recently ordered a Tonal for strength work.

No matter. These days, we'll take the light wherever we can find it.

Zoom CEO says company reached 200 million daily users in March

Maggie Miller | The Hill

Video conferencing company Zoom announced this week that around 200 million daily meeting participants used its services in March as the coronavirus forced people to stay home, up from a maximum daily average of 10 million in December.

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan announced the spike in a blog post, saying usage had "ballooned overnight" to far surpass expectations. Around 90,000 schools in 20 countries were among those using Zoom as people worldwide have increasingly turned to the platform for everything from work meetings to happy hours.

The company has faced concerns in recent days about its cybersecurity and privacy policies, issues that Yuan vowed to address.

"For the past several weeks, supporting this influx of users has been a tremendous undertaking and our sole focus," Yuan wrote. "However, we recognize that we have fallen short of the community's - and our own - privacy and security expectations. For that, I am deeply sorry."

These issues have included the new phenomenon of "Zoom bombing" in which an uninvited individual or group has disrupted educational, social or other meetings, often screaming offensive statements. The company also had a class-action lawsuit filed against it this week by a user following reports that Zoom was sending some analytics data to Facebook.

Yuan said the company "appreciated" the scrutiny from journalists and security experts in recent weeks, saying the concerns raised would "make Zoom better."

In order to address the company's problems, Yuan detailed steps taken including removing Facebook's software development kit to stop the collection of unnecessary user data, updating Zoom's privacy policy to be more transparent, giving tips to users to prevent Zoom bombings and offering more specific programs for classes on Zoom.

In the next 90 days, the company also intends to conduct a third-party security review of its platform to root out vulnerabilities, do cyber penetration tests and begin weekly webinars detailing Zoom privacy and security upgrades.

"We did not design the product with the foresight that, in a matter of weeks, every person in the world would suddenly be working, studying, and socializing from home," Yuan wrote. "We now have a much broader set of users who are utilizing our product in a myriad of unexpected ways, presenting us with challenges we did not anticipate when the platform was conceived."

The efforts Zoom is taking to address security and privacy concerns come on the heels of several lawmakers looking into the company.

On Tuesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to Yuan asking questions around how the company was protecting users, and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) has zeroed in on Zoom as well. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told The Hill on Wednesday that he is also looking into Zoom.

The company has seen a surge in its stock prices as its user numbers have increased, withBusiness Insider estimating that Yuan has made nearly $4 billion in the past three months alone.

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