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By Matt Casale
For many Americans across the country, staying home to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) means adapting to long-term telework for the first time. We're doing a lot more video conferencing and working out all the kinks that come along with it.
The author (above) wrote this while working from home, baby in tow. Emily Anderson (author's wife/home office mate)<p>The coronavirus will pass, but it's looking more and more like remote work will stick around. This time has demonstrated that, despite the ups and downs many of us have experienced, <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/04/06/telecommuting-will-likely-continue-long-after-the-pandemic/" target="_blank">telework works</a> for way more of us than we knew.</p><p>Even before this we knew that there were several benefits for both employers and employees to sidestepping the office. <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrealoubier/2017/07/20/benefits-of-telecommuting-for-the-future-of-work/#3f278e0916c6" target="_blank">Studies have shown</a> that it can lead to increased productivity, higher morale and lower employee turnover. It can also reduce real estate and office operation costs for employers.</p><p>We may now also be seeing some larger societal benefits that make the case for taking telework even further. Our current situation has provided a window into how a reduction in driving, buoyed, in part, by a greater adoption of telework, could relieve some of the stress on our overburdened transportation system and help heal at least a portion of the environmental damage it causes.</p><p>Today, roads that would normally clogged at all hours of the day are <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/photos-empty-airports-trains-roads-during-coronavirus" target="_blank">virtually empty</a>, even during rush hour. And the reduced car travel leads to fewer crashes and less air pollution, which harms human health and contributes to global warming. Air that's usually cloudy with smog has cleared. Los Angeles, which has notoriously pollution-choked skies, could recently boast having the <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/07/us/los-angeles-pollution-clean-air-coronavirus-trnd/index.html" target="_blank">cleanest air in the world</a>. And this year, experts predict, the transportation transformation will contribute to the <a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-coronavirus-set-to-cause-largest-ever-annual-fall-in-co2-emissions" target="_blank">largest-ever annual decline in global carbon emissions</a>.</p>
Virtually empty Los Angeles streets on May 7. Chris Yarzab / CC BY 2.0<p>Clearly not every job can be done from home, and it's not just commuting for work that has come to a halt during coronavirus lockdowns. In 2017 only around <a href="https://nhts.ornl.gov/assets/2017_nhts_summary_travel_trends.pdf" target="_blank">28 percent</a> of total miles driven were work-related. Even if telework continues or expands on a much larger scale, non-work-related car trips — shopping, recreation, visits to doctors and the like — can be expected to go back to normal.</p><p>Still, telework's potential for taking cars off the road can clearly have an impact on global warming emissions and air pollution. Just how much of an impact could telework have? As it turns out, the answer is a significant one — and with a few important steps, the benefits can be even greater and more sustainable.</p>
How Much of the Workforce Could Reasonably and Permanently Transition to Telework?<p>According to the U.S. Census Bureau, <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/13/people-who-work-from-home-earn-more-than-those-who-commuteheres-why.html" target="_blank">5.2 percent of U.S. workers</a> — around 8 million people — worked from home in 2017. But that's still just a fraction of potential teleworkers. Earlier this month researchers at the University of Chicago found that <a href="https://bfi.uchicago.edu/wp-content/uploads/BFI_White-Paper_Dingel_Neiman_3.2020.pdf" target="_blank">37 percent of U.S. jobs can plausibly be performed at home</a>. The U.S. workforce reached <a href="https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CLF16OV" target="_blank">164.5 million</a> in February 2020, before the pandemic, meaning approximately 61 million of those workers could plausibly telework permanently once the economy starts up again.</p><p>Of course, the full economic consequences of this public health crisis are still unknown. It's possible that coronavirus-related job losses will impact the overall number of those employed for some time. But for these purposes, this assumption of 53 million new remote workers will be useful to illustrate the potential impacts of telework.</p>
How Much Driving Would Full-Capacity Telework Avoid?<p>In 2019 Americans drove a total <a href="https://afdc.energy.gov/data/10315" target="_blank">3.23 trillion miles</a>, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The DoE doesn't break that down by reasons driving, but we know that in 2017 there were <a href="https://nhts.ornl.gov/assets/2017_nhts_summary_travel_trends.pdf" target="_blank">683 billion total commute miles</a> driven. Reducing the commuting workforce by about 32 percent (37 percent of total workers who could telecommute minus the 5.2 percent of them who already do) would theoretically decrease commuting totals by about 219 billion miles.</p>
A traffic jam on January 17. Raphael Labaca Castro / CC BY-SA 2.0<p>Of course telecommuting won't let us avoid logging <em>all</em> of those miles, since people may occasionally still need to travel to an office for meetings and may need to make new trips they wouldn't otherwise have taken (you can't stop at the grocery store on the way home from work when you work at home). Various studies have found that telecommuting actually reduces driving somewhere between <a href="https://ww3.arb.ca.gov/cc/sb375/policies/telecommuting/telecommuting_brief120313.pdf" target="_blank">60 and 90</a> percent of commute vehicle miles traveled (VMT). We'll split the difference and calculate that telework reduces commute miles by about 75%, meaning the new teleworkers could avoid around 164 billion miles driven.</p>
U.S. Department of Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center<p>Still, that much of a transformation may not work for everyone, as people will still need to do face-to-face work — and, let's be honest, the other thing the lockdowns have taught us is to appreciate the value of regular social contact. That said, even if most people worked from home two to three days a week and the actual VMT reduction were closer to 2 or 3 percent, the difference would still be significant — especially considering that VMT has been <a href="https://afdc.energy.gov/data/10315" target="_blank">steadily rising</a> since the 1970s, except for a few years during economic downturns. Even if just a quarter of American workers started working from home one day a week, total vehicle miles traveled would fall by <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063006473" target="_blank">1</a> percent — not a huge amount, but enough to make a difference on a grander scale.</p>
Impact on Global Warming Emissions<p>The cars and trucks we drive every day are major sources of air pollution and global warming emissions. Transportation as a whole accounts for <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks" target="_blank">28</a> percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., more than any other source. Light-duty vehicles and medium- and heavy-duty trucks are responsible for<a href="https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/fast-facts-transportation-greenhouse-gas-emissions" target="_blank"> 82</a> percent of the transportation sector's emissions.</p><p>The average American car or SUV emits <a href="https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/greenhouse-gas-emissions-typical-passenger-vehicle" target="_blank">404 grams</a> of carbon dioxide (CO2) per mile traveled. So reducing commuting by 164 billion miles would avoid 66 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. These are significant emissions reductions, but they'd only make a small dent in total transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, which reached nearly <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks" target="_blank">1.9 billion metric tons</a> in 2018.</p>
Impact on Health-harming Air Pollution<p>People across America regularly breathe polluted air, which increases their risk of attacks and other adverse health impacts, and even premature death. In fact, in 2018 <a href="https://uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/EnvironmentAmerica_TroubleintheAir_scrn.pdf" target="_blank">108 million Americans</a> lived in areas that experienced more than 100 days of degraded air quality. Our cars and trucks are a major source of this pollution, which includes ozone, particulate matter and other smog-forming emissions.</p><p>There's a reason the air has cleared over many of our major cities during the coronavirus lockdowns. When you remove cars from the road, you also remove smog. The lockdowns have resulted in an extreme reduction of VMT — between <a href="https://frontiergroup.org/blogs/blog/fg/america-pause-vehicle-travel-during-covid-19-and-what-comes-next" target="_blank">68 and 72</a> percent across the country (and in some places closer to 90 percent). Assuming that telework has contributed something close to its peak potential reduction of 7 percent, it seems likely that it has played at least a supporting role in helping to clear our skies.</p>
Additional Emissions Reductions From Reduced Traffic<p>The average American commuter wastes <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/22/us/traffic-commute-gridlock-transportation-study-trnd/index.html" target="_blank">54 hours</a> a year stuck in traffic. That's lost time with friends and families, lost productivity at work, wasted money, tons of unnecessary stress, and a lot more pollution from idling cars.</p><p>Traffic patterns are complicated because traffic is <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2014/12/4-steps-to-tackling-traffic-congestion/" target="_blank">non-linear</a>, meaning there isn't a one-to-one ratio of percentage of cars removed to percentage of traffic alleviated. As such, just a <a href="https://www.accessmagazine.org/spring-2017/the-access-almanac-traffic-congestion-is-counter-intuitive-and-fixable/" target="_blank">few extra cars</a> on or off the road can have an outsize impact on traffic. Reducing commute VMT by up to 7 percent would have a huge impact on rush hour traffic (when bottlenecks are at their worst and most of that driving occurs). A greater adoption of telework could give people back some of those 54 hours so they can spend it doing the things that matter to them. And slow moving or stop and go traffic results in <a href="https://www.accessmagazine.org/fall-2009/traffic-congestion-greenhouse-gases/" target="_blank">greater emissions</a> than free-flowing traffic. So freeing up the roads and alleviating traffic for the remaining will result in even greater emissions reductions.</p>
What Needs to Happen for Telework to Live Up to Its Potential?<p>It's clear that telework can have significant societal benefits, including less global warming pollution and cleaner skies. But significant benefits are only possible if everyone whose job could plausibly be done from home has that opportunity.</p><p>To reach that goal, several barriers must be overcome:</p><p><em>Technology: </em>We've all had technical mix-ups when using Zoom or Google Hangouts or one of the other conferencing platforms. But the real technological barrier is access to broadband. <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/internet-broadband/#who-has-home-broadband" target="_blank">Roughly three-quarters</a> of American adults have broadband internet service at home, but the rate of access is much lower in rural parts of the country, according to a report by Pew Research Center. Those locations often don't have broadband infrastructure and even <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/04/06/telecommuting-will-likely-continue-long-after-the-pandemic/" target="_blank">14</a> percent of households in urban areas lack access, usually because they are not able to afford it. States should make funding available to develop broadband capacity in underserved areas.</p><p><em>Employer policies and managerial reluctance</em>: Coronavirus lockdowns across the country have forced employers and managers to adapt to large-scale telework quickly on an emergency basis, meaning these barriers are less likely relevant now than before. But general employer and manager <a href="https://www.gao.gov/assets/690/683455.pdf" target="_blank">reluctance</a> to embrace working from home has slowed this transition. Cities and states can encourage employer acceptance of telework by providing <a href="https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2019/07/25/gov-baker-proposes-telecommuting-tax-break-for-companies" target="_blank">tax benefits</a> or other incentives for greater adoption.</p><p><em>Car-centered transportation policies: </em>Our current transportation policies often incentivize driving or parking. From commuter and parking benefits to decades of outsized spending on <a href="https://uspirg.org/reports/usp/highway-boondoggles-5" target="_blank">highway infrastructure</a>, we tip the scales toward getting behind an automobile's wheel. In other words, our transportation policies are meant to move cars rather than incentivize things, such as telework, that would take cars off the road.</p><p>We need to rethink this approach and shift toward better "<a href="https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/plan4ops/trans_demand.htm" target="_blank">Transportation Demand Management</a>." This requires the implementation of a set of strategies aimed at maximizing traveler choices. Those strategies should include greater employer and employee incentives for telework, as well as policies designed to facilitate more walking, biking, ridesharing, vanpooling and public transportation use.</p>
Bikeshare in Milan, October 2019. Guilhem Vellut / CC BY 2.0<p>That's important, because the potential gains we'd see from telework would only be sustained if that shift were paired with other policies to ensure those commuter miles aren't just replaced with other trips. We usually talk about this in relation to widening or building new highways, but when you open up highway capacity, it usually fills quickly. This is what the wonks call "<a href="https://uspirg.org/reports/usp/highway-boondoggles-5" target="_blank">induced demand</a>." People who otherwise would have driven at a different time of day, taken a different route, taken public transportation or would have avoided traffic on the highway some other way, come back to the road. The same could happen here if additional measures aren't taken.</p><p>It's likely that, even after the coronavirus lockdowns are over, telework is going to become more and more common in the American workforce. As it does, the environmental benefits will be significant. In a time when climate change presents an existential threat to life as we know it and millions of people across the world are subjected to unhealthy levels of air pollution, we need to be taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to solving these problems. Telework can clearly be a significant part of the long-term solution — especially if we take further steps to maximize its potential.</p>
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By Richard leBrasseur
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered humans' relationship with natural landscapes in ways that may be long-lasting. One of its most direct effects on people's daily lives is reduced access to public parks.
Making Healthy Places<p>Olmsted was born in 1822 but became a landscape architect rather late in his career, at <a href="https://www.olmsted.org/the-olmsted-legacy/olmsted-theory-and-design-principles/olmsted-his-essential-theory" target="_blank">age 43</a>. His ideas evolved from a diverse and unique set of experiences.</p><p>From the start, Olmsted recognized the positive effect of nature, noting how urban trees provided a "<a href="https://loa-shared.s3.amazonaws.com/static/pdf/Olmsted_Trees.pdf" target="_blank">soothing and refreshing sanitary influence</a>." His "sanitary style" of design offered more than mere decoration and ornamentation. "Service must precede art" was his cry.</p>
Olmsted's 1874 plan for the U.S. Capitol grounds in Washington, DC. Architect of the Capitol<p>Olmsted came of age in the mid-19th century, as the public health movement was rapidly developing in response to typhoid, cholera and typhus epidemics in European cities. As managing editor of Putnam's Monthly in New York City, he regularly walked the crowded tenement streets of Lower Manhattan.</p><p>At the U.S. Sanitary Commission during the Civil War, Olmsted led efforts to improve sanitation in Union Army military camps and protect soldiers' health. He initiated policies for selecting proper camp locations, installing drainage and disposing of waste, ventilating tents and preparing food, all designed to reduce disease. And in 1866 he witnessed adoption of New York's <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_Health_Bill" target="_blank">Metropolitan Health Bill</a>, the first city law to control unhealthy housing conditions.</p>
Antidotes to Urban Stress<p>The insights Olmsted gained into connections between space, disease control and public health clearly influenced his landscape architectural career and the design of many urban park systems. For example, his design for the interlinked parks that forms Boston's <a href="https://ramboll.com/-/media/files/rgr/lcl/bgi_final-report_mit_boston_20160403.pdf?la=en" target="_blank">Emerald Necklace</a> foreshadowed the concept of green infrastructure.</p><p>This system centered on stagnant and deteriorated marshes that had became disconnected from the tidal flow of the Charles River as Boston grew. City residents were dumping trash and sewage in the marshes, creating <a href="https://landscapes.northeastern.edu/water-sanitation-and-public-health-in-boston/" target="_blank">fetid dumps that spread waterborne diseases</a>. Olmsted's design reconnected these water systems to improve flow and flush out stagnant zones, while integrating a series of smaller parks along its trailways.</p>
Parks in the Time of COVID-19<p>Today researchers are documenting many health benefits associated with being outside. Spending time in parks and green spaces clearly benefits urban dwellers' <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2007.09.009" target="_blank">psychological, emotional and overall well-being</a>. It <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph10030913" target="_blank">reduces stress</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916591231001" target="_blank">improves cognitive functioning</a> and is associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s40471-015-0043-7" target="_blank">improved overall health</a>.</p><p>In my view, government agencies should work to make these vital services as widely available as possible, especially during stressful periods like pandemic shutdowns. Certain types of public green spaces, such as botanical gardens, arboretums and wide trails, are well suited to maintaining social distancing rules. Other types where visitors may be likely to cluster, such as beaches and playgrounds, require stricter regulation.</p><p>There are many ways to make parks accessible with appropriate levels of control. One option is stationing agents at entry points to monitor and enforce capacity controls. Park managers can use timed entries and parking area restrictions to limit social crowding, as well as temperature screening and face mask provisions.</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
As the COVID-19 virus was spreading around the world, deforestation in the world's rainforests rose at an alarming rate, the German arm of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in a study published on Thursday.
Indonesia Forests Hit Hardest<p>The forests most heavily hit by deforestation in March were in Indonesia, with more than 1,300 square kilometers lost. </p><p>The Democratic Republic of Congo saw the second-largest forest loss with 1,000 square kilometers followed by Brazil with 950 square kilometers.</p><p>The Brazilian non-profit research institute Imazon told news agency DPA that deforestation was up in April as well. The institute recorded a loss of 529 square kilometers in the Amazon in April, a rise of 171% compared to last year.</p>
Tied to COVID-19<p>The WWF says there's ample evidence to suggest the boom in rainforest deforestation is being fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p>With stay-at-home orders and strict lockdowns in place in countries around the world, authorities haven't been able to patrol nature preserves and indigenous territories as often — a situation that criminal organizations and illegal loggers have been using to their advantage.</p><p>The virus has also prompted massive job losses in many countries, leaving many newly-unemployed people increasingly desperate for sources of income.</p>
By Tonya Russell
A few years ago, my fiance and I got into an argument on our way to spend Christmas with my family.
As we drove through unfamiliar territory, we began to notice a lot of people who appeared to be without a home. This started to break up the tension as we turned our thoughts to this bigger issue.
Shifting Priorities<p>Many have trouble volunteering because of hectic schedules. With virtual volunteering, it's easy to find opportunities that fit your terms.</p><p><a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0164027504271349" target="_blank">Studies show</a> that those who volunteer report higher levels of happiness, likely due to an increase in empathy and a resulting sense of gratitude for what you have.</p><p>It can also boost self-confidence and give individuals a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-helping-people-affects-your-brain" target="_blank">sense of belonging</a> and purpose. I've personally felt idle sitting at home, and a sense of purpose is just what I need.</p>
Ways to Give<p>Whether you want to take the lead on a project or jump in and help, here are tips to find the right volunteer opportunity for you while physical distancing:</p><p><strong>Find Virtual Opportunities</strong></p><p>Databases are a great first step in finding the perfect volunteer opportunity. You can filter by categories, hours, and locations. That way, you can pick somewhere nearby in case you want to volunteer in person later.</p><p><a href="https://www.volunteermatch.org/virtual-volunteering" target="_blank">VolunteerMatch</a> and <a href="https://www.justserve.org/" target="_blank">JustServe</a> offer virtual opportunities to volunteer for nonprofit organizations, charities, and businesses with heart.</p><p><strong>Grant a Wish</strong></p><p>If you have extra cash or a way to raise funds, you can fulfill <a href="https://gooddler.com/Landing" target="_blank">charity wish lists</a>. Many organizations accept items year-round.</p><p>You can choose from different categories like animal welfare, environmental organizations, health services, and the arts. Whatever moves you, you'll find a cause to give to.</p><p>Items range in price from low cost to high ticket, so you'll still have something to offer if you're on a budget.</p>
Adapting to Our New Day to Day<p>We aren't quite certain when things will go back to normal, or if quarantine <em>is</em> the new normal. While we may be limited in what we can do, that doesn't need to stop our ability to give.</p><p>So many — from those experiencing homelessness to the neighborhood kids — depend on our generosity right now.</p><p>My fiancé and I look forward to seeing familiar faces when we can return to volunteering in shelters.</p><p>Until then, we've partnered with an assisted living facility to offer virtual art classes and music hours to keep their residents entertained.</p><p>Our hope is to inspire others to step outside their situations and look after someone to connect with anyone who has also been affected by COVID-19.</p><p>We're grateful that technology has made altruism easier, so we can continue our ritual of giving back.</p>
By Claudia Finkelstein
Even if we escaped getting sick from the coronavirus, we are all sick of staying at home, practicing social distancing and wearing masks. While case numbers and deaths from COVID-19 are trending downward, this is not the time to let down your guard. These are not ordinary days. These novel days call on us to make decisions with limited and evolving information. The coronavirus is still circulating.
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But I Want to Be Outside.<p>Now that almost all states have opened back up, in varying degrees, it is important to remember that the virus is still out there. The risks of getting infected when passing by a runner or cyclist fairly quickly are not terribly high, at least in the absence of a sneeze or cough, and are even lower at a distance. Solitary activities transmit fewer particles than team sports or horseplay in the pool.</p><p>Going alone or only with the people in your <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/30/health/how-to-form-a-bubble-wellness/index.html" target="_blank">quarantine bubble</a> will minimize your risk. Proximity to people outside your bubble means <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html" target="_blank">you should wear a mask properly</a> to protect others. The <a href="https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/2004/2004.07052.pdf" target="_blank">quarantine bubble</a> is shorthand for a small group of friends you may choose to get together with who have followed social distancing guidelines and whom you know to be healthy. The safety of your bubble, however, is only as good as the agreement between members to follow safety precautions outside the bubble.</p><p>Look at the logistics of your plan. It's worth breaking your intended activity down to basic steps.</p><ul><li>How will you get there? Remember, public transportation and air travel are still high-risk. And, if you are driving on the highway or interstate, remember that you might need to stop for bathroom breaks. In the spirit of "better safe than sorry," if you do travel long distances by car, bring your own food and water as well as a hygiene kit containing wipes, paper towels, travel soap and sanitizer.</li><li>What will I need while there? Consider the need for bathroom breaks, food and water, your ability to wash hands and maintain distance. Bathrooms and changing rooms are full of "high touch" surfaces, and while definitive information is lacking, early evidence demonstrates <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.200885" target="_blank">virus persistence</a> on surfaces. You should treat public bathrooms as high-risk areas and keep in mind that many may not even be open.</li></ul>
Factors Out of Your Control<p>Finally, there is the wild card of figuring out what the people around you will be doing to protect you as you are deciding how you will protect yourself, your loved ones and them. Will they respect your space and wear masks? The final word on outdoor recreation? Of course, go out and be active. It's important for your mental and physical health. But, choose wisely, be prepared and stay safe.</p>
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By Sarah Shakour and Natalie Pierce
COVID-19 has infected nearly 5 million people around the world, and continues to spread rapidly. Although lockdowns are now being eased in some countries, the impacts from this the virus will continue to be felt until a viable solution or vaccine is found. And while the world waits for such a solution, young people are adopting a do-it-ourselves attitude and using emerging technologies to strengthen local relief efforts, often in the some of the hardest-hit and most vulnerable places on the planet.
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<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="77f149fd23b964a114838aeebf0b1abd"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/savHgQntSQk?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>"Young people cannot wait for others to take action on COVID-19. This is our new normal and it is the perfect opportunity to take action with purpose today," said Gonzalez-Silen. </p>
By Jake Johnson
President Donald Trump on Monday sent a four-page letter to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, threatening to permanently freeze U.S. funding to the United Nations agency in the midst of a global pandemic that has made international cooperation as crucial as ever.
Trump's letter, which he posted to Twitter Monday night, repeats the president's accusations that WHO is deferential to China and says that if the organization "does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the World Health Organization permanent and reconsider our membership in the organization."
The president also alleged that WHO ignored early warnings about the spread of the coronavirus and made "grossly inaccurate or misleading" claims about the virus. Observers noted that much of Trump's critique of WHO's handling of the coronavirus pandemic applies to the White House's handling of the crisis, which has been condemned as fatally slow and inadequate.
"This is a phenomenally damning letter—of the president's own response," tweeted HuffPost White House correspondent S.V. Dáte. "All of those early dates? Late December and January? Were known to U.S. officials and relayed to Trump. Who did nothing."
Trump wrote that WHO "consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier, including reports from The Lancet."
Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, a U.K.-based medical journal, refuted the president's claim in a tweet early Tuesday.
"Dear President Trump—You cite The Lancet in your attack on WHO. Please let me correct the record," Horton wrote. "The Lancet did not publish any report in early December, 2019, about a virus spreading in Wuhan. The first reports we published were from Chinese scientists on Jan 24, 2020."
Trump's letter comes just over a month after he announced his decision to temporarily halt U.S. funding to WHO, a move Horton condemned at the time as an "appalling betrayal of global solidarity" that "every scientist, every health worker, every citizen must resist and rebel against."
Devi Sridhar, professor and chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, tweeted that the U.S. president's letter shows that he "doesn't understand what WHO can and cannot do."
"It is a normative, technical agency which needs to keep member states at the table," Sridhar said. "If he thinks they need more power then member states should agree and delegate it more. This letter is written for his base and to deflect blame."
John Cavanagh, director of the Institute for Policy Studies and former economist at the WHO, wrote in an op-ed for Foreign Policy In Focus earlier this month that while "WHO is far from perfect," the organization "is playing a key role in poorer countries, and its importance will only grow as the pandemic spreads in these nations."
"The story line from Reagan to Trump is the same: undermining global public health to serve narrow interests," Cavanagh wrote. "For Reagan, it was to help a few well-connected corporate backers. For Trump, it may be to help a single billionaire in particular—himself. Only now, we're in the middle of a pandemic that's only just begun to devastate the vulnerable regions that need the WHO the most. The United States shouldn't be cutting support now. We should be increasing it."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Ryan Malosh
Editor's note: Now that states are relaxing social distancing restrictions, people desperately want to see friends and family, go to a restaurant and let our kids have playdates. Even grocery shopping sounds fun. But how can you do that and still stay safe? Here, an epidemiologist who is immune-compromised himself walks you through some decision-making.
What’s Associated With a High Risk of Transmission?<p>How SARS-CoV-2 <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/368/6491/eabb6936.abstract" target="_blank">transmits</a> from person to person is still a mystery. It can certainly be transmitted by large <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30113-4" target="_blank">respiratory droplets</a>, like those produced when we cough or sneeze. Evidence also suggests that <a href="https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-drifts-through-the-air-in-microscopic-droplets-heres-the-science-of-infectious-aerosols-136663" target="_blank">smaller aerosol particles</a>, spread while talking or breathing, can lead to transmission. There is some <a href="https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/7/20-1595_article" target="_blank">evidence</a> that people can transmit the virus before they have symptoms, although they will likely have the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0869-5" target="_blank">highest amount of virus</a> close to the start of the illness.</p><p>Taking all this together, it's safe to say the riskiest thing you can do is to come into close contact with sick people. That's why the advice about self-isolation <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/index.html" target="_blank">if you feel ill</a> is so important.</p><p>It's also becoming clear the virus transmits most effectively in indoor settings. There, close contact between infected people and inadequate ventilation are more likely. The infection risk is especially high among <a href="https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.11.20056010v1" target="_blank">household contacts</a>. Efficient transmission in crowded, enclosed spaces also explains the high attack rates in <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6913e1.htm" target="_blank">nursing homes</a>, <a href="https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/04/us-food-processing-plants-become-covid-19-hot-spots" target="_blank">food processing plants,</a> <a href="http://jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?doi=10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.1856" target="_blank">jails and prisons</a> and cruise ships. On the flip side, the risk of transmission does seem to be <a href="https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.04.20053058v1" target="_blank">lower</a> outdoors.</p>
How Do We Minimize Risk?<p>If the riskiest thing is to be in a crowd while indoors with sick people, then it follows the least risky behavior is to be in small groups, outdoors and to avoid sick people.</p><p>I think it will help to describe a simple model of infectious disease. The rate of new infections over a given time period is called the "force of infection," which depends on a few things: the rate at which people contact each other; the probability of infection given contact; and the number of infectious individuals in a population.</p><p>This means our ability to prevent new infections depends on two things: reducing the rate at which people contact each other – or reducing the probability of infection given contact.</p><p>Reducing the contact rate was the goal of stay-at-home measures. By all accounts, this is still the most effective tool to prevent new infections.</p><p>Other nonpharmaceutical interventions, like face masks and hand hygiene, reduce the effective contact, or the chance the virus is transmitted if there is contact. <a href="https://theconversation.com/masks-help-stop-the-spread-of-coronavirus-the-science-is-simple-and-im-one-of-100-experts-urging-governors-to-require-public-mask-wearing-138507" target="_blank">Universal masking</a> may be <a href="https://arxiv.org/pdf/2004.13553.pdf" target="_blank">particularly effective</a> if we can't rely on symptomatic screening for identifying infectious cases.</p><p>Or maybe you've heard of the <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/04/24/swiss-cheese-approach-second-chance-contain-covid-19/" target="_blank">layers of Swiss cheese</a>. Sometimes you have a few interventions (slices of Swiss cheese), but none is perfect (the holes). But stack the slices up, and the holes start to cover up. Layering imperfect interventions can, in a similar way, slow down transmission.</p>
So What Does It All Mean?<p>I once read a quote about the common cold from Ian Mackay, an Australian virologist: "The only fail-safe means of avoiding a cold is to live in complete isolation from the rest of humanity." The same is probably true for COVID-19.</p><p>But that's not realistic. Authorities should borrow ideas from HIV prevention and focus on clear messages for <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/quarantine-fatigue-real-and-shaming-people-wont-help/611482/" target="_blank">harm reduction</a>. In the absence of stay-at-home orders, all of us will have to decide for ourselves how much risk we are willing to tolerate.</p><p>I'm a leukemia survivor, so I will factor that in. You, too, will need to consider your medical history. When I'm not in isolation, I will stack as many layers of Swiss cheese as I can to minimize any risk: staying 6-10 feet away from others, wearing masks, staying outdoors.</p>
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By Leah Campbell
It started with Eve donning a black mask against a backdrop of wisteria flowers, hashtagging her efforts #MaskingForAFriend. Sophia Bush, Matt McGorry, and Mayim Bialik soon followed, with others quickly joining the cause launched by the Pandemic Action Network.
How Do Masks Protect People From COVID-19?<p>There's been a lot of confusion surrounding the benefits of using masks in the battle against COVID-19, and even the U.S. government has sent <a href="https://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/editorials/2020/04/22/Mask-confusion-Health-officials-give-conflicting-messages/stories/202004170049" target="_blank">conflicting messages</a>.</p><p>But now, thanks to evolving science and a better understanding of exactly whom masks protect, most health officials seem to finally be on the same page.</p><p>"<a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> recommends that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in the community setting," said <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/media/spokesperson/bell/index.html" target="_blank">Dr. Mike Bell</a>, deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. "This is to protect people around you if you are infected but do not have symptoms by blocking your respiratory droplets."</p><p>Bell has been working to provide the necessary medical perspective for the #MaskingForAFriend campaign, explaining that masking for others is what scientists and medical experts refer to as source control.</p><p>"If everyone does this, the amount of infection being spread in our communities can be greatly reduced," he said.</p>
What Else Might Masks Protect Against?<p><a href="https://providerdirectory.uabmedicine.org/provider/Kierstin+Kennedy/574872" target="_blank">Dr. Kierstin Kennedy</a>, chief of hospital medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said, "Masks can protect against any infectious illness that may be spread by droplets. For example, the flu, pertussis (whooping cough), or pneumonia."</p><p>Bell agrees, adding that wearing a cloth mask has benefits beyond slowing the spread of COVID-19, and that source control can reduce the transmission of many other easily spread respiratory infections — the kind that typically render people infectious even before they display symptoms, like influenza.</p><p>"Some international reports have noted a lower impact of flu related to the uptake of measures to prevent COVID-19," Bell said.</p><p>But that doesn't necessarily mean masks are for everyone.</p><p>"Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children younger than 2 years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance," Bell explained.</p>
Could Face Masks Become an Ongoing Trend?<p>The experts we spoke with agree that until the threat of this pandemic has been neutralized, people should embrace the protection masks allow them to provide to those around them.</p><p>After all, it's not necessarily about you — it's about everyone you come in contact with.</p><p>It's not at all uncommon to be an asymptomatic carrier of the new coronavirus — which means that even if you have no symptoms at all, you could potentially transmit the virus to someone who could then become gravely ill or even die.</p><p>A mask, alongside frequent handwashing and physical distancing measures, like staying at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart, reduces that risk.</p><p>But could this be a trend that continues even after COVID-19? And perhaps the more important question: Should it?</p><p>"As we start to navigate life beyond the stay-at-home orders, we likely will need to continue to use face masks if we want to prevent continued transmission," Kennedy said.</p><p>But she's unsure of what the future may hold beyond that.</p><p>"Once the threat of COVID-19 is gone, I don't think that ongoing use of face masks in public has to continue, though it remains to be seen whether we will adopt ongoing face mask use just as we have seen in Asian countries," Kennedy said.</p>
Being Honest About the Drawbacks of Face Masks<p>While wearing a face mask in public is one more way we can help protect our friends, loved ones, and community, that doesn't mean doing so is without sacrifice.</p><p>"Face masks certainly impact the way that we interact socially," Kennedy said. "You lose the ability to connect with others in the nonverbal ways that are customary."</p><p>As an example, she says before COVID-19 you may have flashed a warm smile to someone you were rushing past in the street — a way to convey you weren't trying to be rude and to pass along a nonverbal hello.</p><p>"We will likely have to find a new normal as it relates to expected social interactions," she said.</p><p>Face masks also affect individuals with hearing disabilities, who often rely on lip reading to some extent to effectively communicate with others.</p><p>However, for those who are simply struggling with embarrassment over wearing a mask when others are not, she pointed out, "There is nothing awkward or embarrassing about protecting your health or the health of those around you. Find a mask that fits and wear it proudly."</p><p>Bell agrees. "The good thing about everyone wearing a cloth face cover when they're out in public is that it sends the message that we're all in this together, and there's no reason to be embarrassed about wearing one," she said.</p><p>In other words, the more people who take that step, the more united we will be.</p><p>But there's one more complaint about face masks that may present a bigger challenge: For some people, breathing behind the mask has proven to be difficult. And for those with anxiety or other respiratory conditions, restricted breathing can become a quality of life issue.</p><p>If you're having a hard time breathing behind your mask, Kennedy said, "The size or style of the mask may be the issue."</p><p>She encourages people to try different types of face coverings to find what works for them.</p><p>"The ideal mask is snug enough to fit close to the face (no gaps) to prevent droplets from entering or exiting around the sides, but large enough that it is not restrictive or negatively impacting your ability to breathe," Kennedy said.</p><p>As part of Ivanitskaya's work, she's actually been experimenting with different materials and varying numbers of layers required to help people be comfortable in their masks while providing the most amount or protection possible.</p><p>Her team has even produced <a href="https://cutt.ly/EN-MyMaskSavesLives" target="_blank">science-based resources</a> regarding best practices for sewing washable face masks, for those interested in achieving the balance between comfort and protection.</p><p>"It's a very real issue," Ivanitskaya said. "I'm with a group of researchers who have been developing mask construction advice, and we are suggesting materials and mask designs. One of the masks we made that seemed very reasonable, I pretested on myself, wearing the mask uphill as I rode my bike."</p><p>But the same mask Ivanitskaya was able to wear without issue turned out to be impossible for her 88-year-old neighbor to keep on.</p><p>In fact, he told her he was choking inside of it. After another older neighbor reported the same experience, Ivanitskaya turned to the research and discovered evidence of diminished lung capacity among older adults.</p><p>That was when she started experimenting with finding the sweet spot between protection and tolerability for those who may not be able to breathe as easily from behind a mask.</p><p>What she discovered is that different people have different levels of tolerability when it comes to mask wear — and factors like outside temperatures, whether the wearer also uses glasses, and even nose size can all play a role.</p><p>Finding a mask you can comfortably keep on should be the ultimate goal, even if it doesn't provide exactly the same level of protection as someone who may be able to tolerate more layers and a tighter seal.</p>
Functional — and Fashionable<p>But it's not just improving comfort that face mask designers are now focusing on. Many are also trying to create masks people actually want to wear — masks others might find as an aesthetically pleasing and fun way to accessorize.</p><p>If you think that sounds crazy, just remember: Sunglasses and hats once started out as items meant to simply protect the wearer from the sun.</p><p>They've now evolved into fashion accessories providing countless options to choose from.</p><p>"Many businesses, small and large, have taken the opportunity to make and sell cloth face covers. A wide variety of styles and designs are already available," Bell said. "We're already seeing a lot of people not only wearing cloth face coverings, but making a design or fashion statement with their choice of cover."</p><p>Whether it's the design you choose or the way you fasten your mask to your face (with a popular debate now ensuing over whether ear loops or clasps behind the head are better), you have an opportunity to make a statement with the mask you wear — and protect others in style.</p>
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By Eoin Higgins
Sen. Bernie Sanders was among critics outraged that the fossil fuel industry is using tax breaks in the CARES Act meant to help businesses keep workers employed to avoid paying millions of dollars in taxes — and then delivering that money to executives.
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By Zulfikar Abbany
First it looked like we were in for a very long haul under lockdown measures, perhaps until the end of the summer holidays. That was until about two weeks ago. Then, all of a sudden, the weather changed — atmospherically and metaphorically, and perhaps freakishly so.
Germany: A controlled experiment?<p>When the coronavirus reproduction rate R fell from a threshold of 1 down to 0.76 at the end of April, the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-germany-eases-covid-19-restrictions-on-playgrounds-churches/a-53286702" target="_blank">German government and health authorities</a> agreed to partially reopen schools for those sitting major exams or moving from primary to secondary schools in the autumn.</p><p>The schools set about redesigning classrooms and segmenting concrete playgrounds into safe zones, to ensure they met physical distancing and hygiene guidelines.</p><p>But before schools and their pupils had a chance to return to class and test those ad hoc safety designs, the government decided to lift restrictions further. Now, even younger children were to return to school, for a day at a time.</p>
No international standard<p>But it would appear that there is no agreed standard for what constitutes a second wave of an epidemic or pandemic — either at a global or national, regional level. So, the 50 cases per 100,000 people may be nothing more than a nice round figure.</p>
Viruses always mutate and come back<p>The <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-what-we-can-learn-from-the-spanish-flu/a-53261596" target="_blank">influenza pandemic of 1918</a> had three major waves. Starting in March 1918, its peak came during a second wave late that same year.</p><p>That second wave was a stronger mutation than the first version of the virus.</p><p>In fact, the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/three-waves.htm" target="_blank">U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)</a> has said the second wave was responsible for the majority of the deaths in the U.S. — the flu's likely country of origin.</p><p>A third wave came in early 1919 and lasted until mid-year when, according to the CDC, the Spanish flu "subsided." But it probably never fully went away.</p><p>Some virologists suggest that a virus weakens with subsequent mutations. It becomes less fatal for humans, not only because people develop an immunity or resilience to the virus, but also because the virus needs living hosts to reproduce and survive itself. And so, it lives on in the community.</p><p>A <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3291398/pdf/05-0979.pdf" target="_blank">2006 study</a> suggested that almost all cases of influenza A — an <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influenza_A_virus" target="_blank">influenza</a> that affects birds and mammals — since the Spanish flu were "caused by descendants of the 1918 virus."</p><p>We're already seeing what may become, officially, a second wave of the novel coronavirus. There are new cases in China, Russia and even South Korea, which has been praised for its containment of the first wave.</p><p>As the Northern Hemisphere heads into summer and with Greece and Spain banking on a tourist season despite the virus, we may see that second wave sooner than later, as predicted by a study published in <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736%2820%2930845-X" target="_blank">British medical journal The Lancet</a> in April.</p><p>"The question is, can we reach a point where we have strong public health measures in place, where we can [detect] clusters of cases and suppress those clusters without going back to the intense transmission patterns of before," said Ryan.</p><p>A major wave of new infections would bring a second wave of lockdowns.</p><p>"That's what we're trying to avoid," said Ryan. "So, we hope, and we have faith that Germany, Korea and other countries will be able to suppress the clusters they're having and, in some cases, maybe at a subnational level, they may have to impose some specific measures targeted at reducing particular types of transmission."</p><p>Or we'll all be rebooking our holidays yet again.</p>
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