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Coronavirus weekly: treatments on the horizon and lessons for the next pandemic

The pandemic is still raging. Health, money, work, relationships, environment have changed throughout the world, and perhaps permanently so.

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Shutterstock / Nelson Antoine

The COVID-19 pandemic is the largest and worst relay race in history. Without vaccines or reliable treatment on the horizon, when the curve goes down in one region it goes up in another. Prevention and isolation measures remain the most effective ways to control the curve. But the disease continues to affect not only human health, but all aspects of our lives.

The Conversation’s international network is working with researchers around the world to report on the latest science, the economy, and the impact of the pandemic in various parts of the world.


This is our weekly roundup of expert info about the coronavirus.
The Conversation, a not-for-profit group, works with a wide range of academics across its global network. Together we produce evidence-based analysis and insights. The articles are free to read – there is no paywall – and to republish. Keep up to date with the latest research by reading our free newsletter.


The latest science

  • Is the medicine already on the market? Professor Nial Wheate of the University of Sydney explains how a low-cost medicine on the market appears to be a possible option for treating COVID-19. Dexamethasone, a common anti-inflammatory, has been successfully used in the treatment of intubated patients. Apparently, this drug reduces pressure in the lungs and improves the respiratory process of seriously ill patients. However, these results are preliminary and we will have to wait for more complete and detailed information.

  • Why some scientists are paying close attention to the gut microbiome. At the University of Calgary, researchers Shirin Moossavi and Marie-Claire Arrieta are studying the correlation between the gut microbiome and the severity of COVID-19 infection. They found that the risk is higher in people with high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, which are associated with alterations in the gut microbiome. This evidence opens the possibility of working on certain gut microbiome species that could improve these conditions.

  • Inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth provides a powerful medical benefit. This is not a meditation course, it is the breathing technique recommended by the University of California, Los Angeles professor and winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine Louis J. Ignarro. This technique takes advantage of the benefits of the nitric oxide (NO) produced in the nasal cavities. The presence of NO in the lungs could help fight coronavirus infections as it dilates the pulmonary arteries and airways, increasing the blood flow and oxygen levels in lungs and blood. Furthermore, when reacting with white blood cells, it generates antimicrobial agents that can destroy bacteria, parasites and viruses.

The latest gadgets

  • Protection, MacGyver style. The lack of protection materials and other supplies for the management of the COVID-19 has generated various DIY solutions. Stuart Marshall of Monash University explains why the medical material approval process is long and rigorous.

  • Infrared thermometers are not necessarily reliable. Professors Andrea Fuller and Duncan Mitchell from the University of the Witwatersrand explain the reasons why fever screening is not effective as a health control measure in public spaces. To detect fever you must measure the internal temperature of the body, but thermal cameras and infrared thermometers measure the temperature on a surface.

The latest on the economy

  • The rise of parasitic capitalism. Richard Shearmur, a professor at McGill University in Montreal explains how, unless employees are duly rewarded for their expenses, teleworking could become a variant of “parasitic capitalism”, whereby corporate profits increasingly rely on extracting value from the public — and now personal — realm, rather than on generating new value.

  • The disconnected stock market. “The stock market is not the economy,” wrote economist Peter Krugman. Gunther Capelle-Blancard from the University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne explains the disconnect between the stock markets and the real world (in French). At the beginning of the pandemic they remained buoyant, when COVID-19 reached Europe they panicked and now they have already recovered their euphoria as if infections, deaths and the confinement of half the world meant nothing to the economy.

  • The reshaping of commercial aviation. Professor Pere Suau from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya studies the challenges commercial aviation faces (in Spanish). It is more than likely the crisis will alter the processes of commercial aviation: from the resizing of the supply and demand of travel to airport operations.

  • The shift in the tourism industry. Tourism faces the challenge of reinventing itself after the pandemic. For Professor Anna Leask of Edinburgh Napier University, an option for Scotland would be to encourage national tourism.

The end of the road? Joshua Earle/unsplash

The latest in various countries and regions

  • US: rural areas more susceptible to COVID-19 than cities. David J. Peters of Iowa State University explains how, at the beginning of the pandemic, rural areas of the US seemed to be better protected from the coronavirus than large cities. This provided a false sense of security which has given way to a spectacular increase in the number of infected people in the least populated areas of the country. The reasons for this phenomenon? An ageing population or the presence of facilities such as military bases, prisons and meat industries as well as the fact that in these small communities the lack of social and welfare services aggravates the situation of vulnerability.

  • New Zealand: no longer Coronavirus-free. Despite the good management by New Zealand authorities, after 23 days without positives, two cases were confirmed: two women from the UK who, for compassionate reasons, were allowed to skip quarantine (to visit their dying father). This situation has once again put the country on alert and has forced the suspension of any quarantine exemptions. With this it has become clear that, despite the end of community transmission, control on risk factors must be maintained.

Elimination is not the end, it’s the start of the next phase.
  • England: a group of people were well prepared to do contact tracing when the pandemic broke. Professor Jackie Cassell of Brighton and Sussex Medical School explains how NHS workers who carry out contact tracing in cases of sexually transmitted infections could have helped. In the world of sexually transmitted infections, contact tracing is known as partner notification. The UK’s network of sexual health clinics is unique as a locally embedded public health infrastructure with experience in contact tracing operations.

  • Spain: entire society is being reshaped. Rafael Puyol, president of the International University of La Rioja, analyses the demographic consequences (in Spanish) of the pandemic in Spain. In 2019, the number of deaths surpassed the number of births by 57,000. In 2020 the difference will be higher due to the deaths caused by the pandemic, and in 2021 due to the decrease in the birth rate. Furthermore, the closing of borders now, and then the economic downturn, will negatively influence the arrival of immigrant workers.

  • South Africa: what to do when confinement and contact tracing don’t work as planned. The country has been unable to maintain confinement long enough to contain the virus, nor to implement testing and contact tracing systems to contain the spread. A group of researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand explain the importance of redirecting efforts towards the management of public spaces, where there is a high risk of contagion. For this, it is essential the authorities provide the population with clear and precise information.

  • Sudan: its transitional government must be supported. As long as there is no vaccine, prevention and care are essential, but particularly difficult in those countries whose institutional weaknesses hinder their governance. Sarah Logan at The International Growth Centre explains how political instability and a limited financial capacity makes Sudan such a fragile state, which should be supported.

  • Latin America and the Caribbean: greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. The decrease in exports, the fall in the price of raw materials, the collapse of tourism and the drop in the flow of remittances will provoke a great economic crisis (in Spanish). After the pandemic, inequality and poverty will be more pressing. These are the results of the analysis of Professor René Hernández, from the University of Alcalá.

Fruit area of ​​the central market in Arequipa, Peru. Matyas Rehak/Shutterstock

And before you go

People from different religions are praying for everyone to stay safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. www.shutterstock.com

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Cruise Line Drops Pre-Cruise Covid Testing Rule

The major cruise lines walk a delicate line. They need to take the actual steps required to keep their passengers safe and they also need to be aware of…

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The major cruise lines walk a delicate line. They need to take the actual steps required to keep their passengers safe and they also need to be aware of how things look to the outside public. It's a mix of practical covid policy balanced with covid theater.

You have to do the right thing -- and Royal Caribbean International (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Group Report, Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) - Get Carnival Corporation Report, and Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCLH) - Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report have been doing that with very meticulous protocols-- but you also have to show the general public you're taking the pandemic seriously. The cruise industry has been under the microscope of both public perception and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) since covid first appeared.

That's not because you're likely to get infected on a cruise ship than at a concert, sporting event, theme park, restaurant, or any other crowded space. It's because when you get sick at one of those locations nobody can pinpoint the source of your infection

Cruises last from 3 days to 7 days or even longer and that means that some people will get covid onboard and that will be blamed on the cruise industry. To mitigate that Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian have rigid protocols in place that require passengers 12 and over to be vaccinated as well as pre-cruise covid tests taken no more than two days before your cruise leaves.

Once cruise line has dropped that testing requirement (at least on a few sailings) and that could lead Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian to follow. 

Sina Schuldt/picture alliance via Getty

Holland America Drops Some Covid Testing

As the largest cruise lines sailing from the U.S., Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian don't want to be the first to make major covid policy changes. They acted more or less in tandem when it came to loosening, then dropping mask rules and have generally followed the lead of the CDC, even when that agency's rules became optional.

Now, Holland America cruise line has dropped pre-cruise covid testing on a handful of cruises. It's a minor move, but it does provide cover and precedent for Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian to eventually do the same.

"Holland America Line becomes the first US-based cruise line to remove testing for select cruises. Unfortunately for those taking a cruise from the United States, the new protocols are only in place for certain cruises onboard the company’s latest ship, the Rotterdam, in Europe," Cruisehive reported.

The current CDC guidelines do recommend pre-cruise testing, but the cruise lines into following those rules. By picking cruises sailing out of Europe, Holland America avoids picking a fight with the federal agency just yet, but it will be able to gather data as to whether the pre-cruise testing actually helps.

Holland America has not changed its vaccination requirements for those cruises which mirror the 12-and-up rule used by Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian.

Some guests have called for the end of the testing requirement because they believe it's more theater than precaution because people can test and then contract covid while traveling to their cruise.

The Current Cruise Protocols Work

Royal Caribbean President Michael Bayley does expect changes to come in his cruise line's covid protocols, and he talked about them during Royal Caribbean's recent President's Cruise, the Royal Caribbean Blog reported.

"I think pre cruise testing is going to be around for another couple of months," Bayley told passengers during a question and answer session. "We obviously want it to go back to normal, but we're incredibly cognizant of our responsibilities to keep our crew, the communities and our guests safe."

People do still get covid onboard despite the crew being 100% vaccinated and all passengers 12 and over being vaccinated, but the protocols have worked well when it comes to preventing serious illness.

Bayley said that the CDC shared some information with him in a call.

"The cruise industry sailing out of the US ports over the past 12 months and how many people have been hospitalized with Covid and how many deaths occurred from Covid from people who'd sailed on the industry's ships, which is in the millions," he said, "And the number of people who died from COVID who'd sailed on ships over the past year was two."

That success may be why the major cruise lines are reluctant to make changes. The current rules, even if they're partially for show, have been incredibly effective.

"Two is terrible. But but but against the context of everything we've seen, that's it's truly been a remarkable success." he added.

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Visualizing A Decade Of Population Growth And Decline In US Counties

Visualizing A Decade Of Population Growth And Decline In US Counties

There are a number of factors that determine how much a region’s population…

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Visualizing A Decade Of Population Growth And Decline In US Counties

There are a number of factors that determine how much a region’s population changes.

If an area sees a high number of migrants, along with a strong birth rate and low death rate, then its population is bound to increase over time. On the flip side, as Visual Capitalists Nick Routley details below, if more people are leaving the area than coming in, and the region’s birth rate is low, then its population will likely decline.

Which areas in the United States are seeing the most growth, and which places are seeing their populations dwindle?

This map, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, shows a decade of population movement across U.S. counties, painting a detailed picture of U.S. population growth between 2010 and 2020.

Counties With The Biggest Population Growth from 2010-2020

To calculate population estimates for each county, the U.S. Census Bureau does the following calculations:

      A county’s base population → plus births → minus deaths → plus migration = new population estimate

From 2010 to 2020, Maricopa County in Arizona saw the highest increase in its population estimate. Over a decade, the county gained 753,898 residents. Below are the counties that saw the biggest increases in population:

Phoenix and surrounding areas grew faster than any other major city in the country. The region’s sunny climate and amenities are popular with retirees, but another draw is housing affordability. Families from more expensive markets—California in particular—are moving to the city in droves. This is a trend that spilled over into the pandemic era as more people moved into remote and hybrid work situations.

Texas counties saw a lot of growth as well, with five of the top 10 gainers located in the state of Texas. A big draw for Texas is its relatively affordable housing market. In 2021, average home prices in the state stood at $172,500$53,310 below the national average.

Counties With The Biggest Population Drops from 2010-2020

On the opposite end of the spectrum, here’s a look at the top 10 counties that saw the biggest declines in their populations over the decade:

The largest drops happened in counties along the Great Lakes, including Cook County (which includes the city of Chicago) and Wayne County (which includes the city of Detroit).

For many of these counties, particularly those in America’s “Rust Belt”, population drops over this period were a continuation of decades-long trends. Wayne County is an extreme example of this trend. From 1970 to 2020, the area lost one-third of its population.

U.S. Population Growth in Percentage Terms (2010-2020)

While the map above is great at showing where the greatest number of Americans migrated, it downplays big changes in counties with smaller populations.

For example, McKenzie County in North Dakota, with a 2020 population of just 15,242, was the fastest-growing U.S. county over the past decade. The county’s 138% increase was driven primarily by the Bakken oil boom in the area. High-growth counties in Texas also grew as new sources of energy were extracted in rural areas.

The nation’s counties are evenly divided between population increase and decline, and clear patterns emerge.

Pandemic Population Changes

More recent population changes reflect longer-term trends. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the counties that saw the strongest population increases were located in high-growth states like Florida and Texas.

Below are the 20 counties that grew the most from 2020 to 2021.

Many of these counties are located next to large cities, reflecting a shift to the suburbs and larger living spaces. However, as COVID-19 restrictions ease, and the pandemic housing boom tapers off due to rising interest rates, it remains to be seen whether the suburban shift will continue, or if people begin to migrate back to city centers.

Tyler Durden Sat, 07/02/2022 - 21:00

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Tesla EV deliveries fall nearly 18% in second quarter following China factory shutdown

Tesla delivered 254,695 electric vehicles globally in the second quarter, a nearly 18% drop from the previous period as supply chain constraints, China’s…

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Tesla delivered 254,695 electric vehicles globally in the second quarter, a nearly 18% drop from the previous period as supply chain constraints, China’s extended COVID-19 lockdown and challenges around opening factories in Berlin and Austin took their toll on the company.

This is the first time in two years that Tesla deliveries, which were 310,048 in the first period this year, have fallen quarter over quarter. Tesla deliveries were up 26.5% from the second quarter last year.

The quarter-over-quarter reduction is in line with a broader supply chain problem in the industry. It also illustrates the importance of Tesla’s Shanghai factory to its business. Tesla shuttered its Shanghai factory multiple times in March due to rising COVID-19 cases that prompted a government shutdown.

Image Credits: Tesla/screenshot

The company said Saturday it produced 258,580 EVs, a 15% reduction from the previous quarter when it made 305,407 vehicles.

Like in other quarters over the past two years, most of the produced and delivered vehicles were Model 3 and Model Ys. Only 16,411 of the produced vehicles were the older Model S and Model X vehicles.

Tesla said in its released that June 2022 was the highest vehicle production month in Tesla’s history. Despite that milestone, the EV maker as well as other companies in the industry, have struggled to keep apace with demand as supply chain problems persist.

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