More than 20 states have now issued orders requiring people to wear face masks in public as the rate of new coronavirus cases surges to record heights in parts of the United States.
The U.S. has recorded more than 1 million coronavirus infections over the past month alone, pushing the number of confirmed cases past the 3 million mark this week.
If more Americans cover their faces to prevent spreading the coronavirus, tens of thousands of COVID-19 deaths could be prevented in the coming months, according to recent research based on predictive models.
The list of states with mask mandates includes California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.
Similar mandates in Texas and Ohio are limited to counties where the coronavirus case rate surpasses government thresholds. Hawaii also has a statewide mask mandate, which applies to customers and staff at businesses.
Two of the worst-hit states — Florida and Arizona — still don’t have statewide mandates, leaving the matter up to cities and counties. It wasn’t until last month that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey rescinded his ban that had prevented local officials from requiring face coverings.
Some of the statewide mandates are the target of legal challenges. Face masks are a divisive topic in the U.S., where politicians and interest groups are using the issue to attack their rivals. Opponents of the mandates have filed lawsuits in several states, trying to prevent them from taking effect.
A Kentucky judge issued a ruling Thursday that would limit Gov. Andy Beshear’s ability to use emergency orders to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor said he will appeal – and he issued a new order requiring face masks in public later that same day.
“Beshear said the ruling would not prevent him from proceeding with the mask order,” NPR member station WFPL reported.
Beshear and other governors who have issued such orders said face coverings are the best way to avoid a second round of near-total shutdowns that have already closed many businesses and put millions of people out of work.
The staggering rise in new cases began after states reopened their economies in May. Since early June, nine states have ordered new mandates or strengthened existing rules requiring face masks.
“It is important that we wear face coverings as people begin to interact more and more,” Maine Gov. Janet Mills said this week. “Doing so can slow the spread of COVID-19, protect the health and safety of those around us, support businesses and allow us to safely reopen our economy.”
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak – who recently apologized for being photographed maskless while out at dinner – sought to persuade Nevadans to follow his mask order by presenting a hypothetical:
“If back in March, before we shut down the vast majority of our economy, I said to you: We can keep our economy open if everyone agrees to wear masks and maintain 6 feet in person-to-person distance. Who would have not accepted that offer?”
In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday that the virus has been “unleashed” in part because people aren’t wearing masks.
“The virus has been unleashed: Too many of us are still not wearing masks,” she said. “Too many of us are still congregating in groups, taking risks with our own lives and endangering the health of our family members, our neighbors and our state.”
All of the statewide face-covering orders include exceptions for young children, and for people with medical conditions that could make wearing a mask dangerous. But there are some key differences – chiefly, whether masks are required only indoors or in all public settings.
Several states that initially required people to wear masks indoors recently expanded their rules to include any outdoor public area where physical distancing isn’t possible. New Jersey, for example, took that step this week.
“The hot spots we’re seeing across the nation and certain worrisome transmission trends in New Jersey require us to do more,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. “In the absence of a national strategy on face coverings, we’re taking this step to ensure that we can continue on our road back as one New Jersey family.”
The U.S. is not among the dozens of countries that have instituted face mask mandates to protect people during the pandemic. The Trump administration has encouraged people to wear masks — but President Trump has frequently refused to wear one.
Several high-profile Republicans have urged the White House to provide more clarity and support for wearing masks.
“Unfortunately, this simple, lifesaving practice has become part of a political debate that says: If you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask. If you’re against Trump, you do,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said last month, calling on the president to set an example by wearing a mask.
In many states, enforcement of the face-covering mandates is an open question. A number of law enforcement agencies in Ohio, for instance, said they don’t want their officers to enforce the mandates. When West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced his indoor mask mandate earlier this week, he did not include any formal enforcement mechanism, relying instead on businesses to make sure customers comply.
Opponents of the mask mandates call them an infringement on basic rights. But supporters say that while masks might be inconvenient, they’re vital to stopping the coronavirus.
When she strengthened Maine’s mask rules, the governor said, “This simple gesture is a small price to pay for knowing you could save someone’s life.”
Singapore Organizations Adopt AI, ML Amid COVID-19 Induced Uncertainties
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore businesses are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to manage consumer credit risk and deal with economic uncertainties, according to a new research by information services company Experian.
Experian, which surveyed 3,000 consumers and 900 executives working in retail banking, e-commerce, consumer technology and telecommunications, found that COVID-19 has accelerated adoption of digital solutions.
Singapore organizations in particular are embracing AI and ML at a much faster pace than their international peers, with 78% of organizations already using AI to cope with today’s marketplace unpredictability while 79% are leveraging ML. These are higher than the global figure of 69%.
S&P Global Ratings estimates that Asia Pacific (APAC) financial institutions will be hit with US$1.4 trillion in additional nonperforming assets and additional credit costs of about US$440 million as risks associated with COVID-19 and market volatility take hold.
Against this backdrop, 25% of Singapore-based respondents are planning to use on-demand cloud-based decisioning applications, policy rules (25%) and automated decision management (24%) to help them effectively determine which consumers can be safely given extended credit. Over the next 12 months, 69% will be allocating resources towards building their analytics capabilities to assess customer creditworthiness, the survey found.
Online shopping and e-commerce on the rise
Singaporean businesses’ willingness to invest in and adopt digital solutions comes at a time when consumers are demanding better digital-first experiences. A research conducted in June by market research consultancy Blackbox and survey firm Toluna found that while consumers spent more online during the pandemic, about four in ten Singaporeans said they were not satisfied with their e-commerce experience, noting that delivery costs, product prices and delivery time could be better improved.
That being said, global marketing research firm Nielsen expects the penetration of users venturing into e-commerce to continue to rise. Nielsen’s COVID-19 dipstick in March 2020 found that 69% of Singaporean people surveyed who bought household goods online for the first time during COVID-19 will do so again in the next 12 months.
Similarly, Standard Chartered, which polled 12,000 consumers across 12 markets in August 2020, found that, amid COVID-19, Singaporean consumers that prefer online purchases to in-person card or cash payments increased to 50%, up from 35% before the pandemic.
Changing spending habits
Globally, the COVID-19 crisis and its ramifications have disrupted markets and deteriorated the health and economic welfare of consumers. In Singapore, 23% of respondents still face challenges in paying credit card bills, while 20% are encountering difficulties paying their utility bills, the Experian research found. This has prompted many consumers to rethink their spending habits, shifting to essentials and cutting back on most discretionary categories.
In Singapore, consumers are taking steps to manage these financial challenges by reducing their expenditure on non-essentials (22%), saving more (22%), and starting a personal budget (17%), the study found.
According to the Standard Chartered survey, consumers in the city-state are spending about 15-52% more on groceries, digital devices and healthcare, but spend less on clothes, experiences and travel or holidays.
Almost eight in ten respondents in Singapore said they would like to be better at managing their finances, and six in ten said the pandemic has made them more likely to track their spending. Most of the respondents are either user or interested in using budgeting as well as finance tracking tools.
Jeremy Soo, head of consumer banking at DBS Bank, told Fintech News Singapore in September, that, amid COVID-19, people were starting financial planning earlier. Since the bank launched its new digital financial planning tool, NAV Planner, back in April, over one million customers had used it, Soo said.
Featured Image: Pexels
Nitric oxide as a potential treatment for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus
Researchers explore the potential antiviral effects of nitric oxide against the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, scientists all over the world are racing to find a safe and effective vaccine or treatment. The speed and severity of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus’s spread around the world has placed an urgent need for an effective therapy. Unfortunately, to date, there are still no effective therapies for preventing an infection with the virus infection or for treating COVID-19.
Nitric oxide (NO) is a naturally occurring compound that is also produced in the body known to have a wide range of antimicrobial activity against bacteria, fungi, and viruses among other things. Previously, nitric oxide has been shown as an effective agent against SARS-CoV (the coronavirus responsible for the 2003 epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome – SARS) in lab cell studies and in a small clinical trial involving inhalation of the compound. During the SARS outbreak, nitric oxide was given as an inhaled gas to treat SARS patients with success, particularly because of nitric oxide’s ability to decrease lung inflammation in these patients. The success seen in previous studies with nitric oxide against the SARS coronavirus suggests the potential for similar success against SARS-CoV-2.
In a recent study published in Redox Biology, scientists in Sweden explored nitric oxide’s potential as a treatment against the coronavirus in laboratory cell studies. The scientists specifically focused on examining the antiviral effects nitric oxide had on cells infected with SARS-CoV-2. They found that nitric oxide inhibited the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in infected cells in a dose dependent manner, proving that nitric oxide possesses antiviral effects on the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, in a manner likely similar to its antiviral effects against SARS-CoV. The scientists also identified a potential target – SARS-CoV-2 main protease – for future therapeutic developments, including nitric oxide.
While this present study highlights the antiviral potential of nitric oxide on the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, there is much more research to be investigated and studied before any recommendations on the clinical use of nitric oxide in patients diagnosed with COVID-19 can be made. The researchers’ next steps are to study whether the antiviral benefits of nitric oxide as seen in this present study are the same when it is inhaled as a gas.
Written by Maggie Leung, PharmD
Akaberi, D., Krambrich, J., Ling, J., Luni, C., Hedenstierna, G., Järhult, J. D., . . . Lundkvist, Å. (2020). Mitigation of the replication of SARS-CoV-2 by nitric oxide in vitro. Redox Biology, 37, 101734. doi:10.1016/j.redox.2020.101734
Nitric oxide a possible treatment for COVID-19. (2020, October 2). Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/uu-noa100220.php
Image by visuals3Dde from Pixabay
Air Travel High: TSA Screens 1 Million For First Time Since March
How’s this for an October surprise? Despite a significant rise in COVID-19 cases in many parts of the country, it appears that more people are flying on commercial jetliners than at any time over the last seven months.
More than one million people were screened by the Transportation Security Administration at airport security checkpoints Sunday. It’s the first time the TSA’s daily traveler count has topped the one million mark since March 16.
And this wasn’t just a one-day surge in air travel. The TSA’s daily throughput figure has topped 900,000 eight times already this month, and the TSA reports that the 6.1 million people passing through U.S. airport checkpoints between Oct. 12 and Oct. 18 was the greatest weekly traveler volume measured since the start of the pandemic.
But experts say there is a lot of pent-up demand for air travel and it’s important to note that despite the modest increase, the number of people flying is still down more than 60% from the 2.6 million who flew on the same October Sunday last year.
Still, it’s a bit of good news at a time the nation’s airlines are burning through tens of millions of dollars a day and reporting huge financial losses due to the coronavirus pandemic. Delta and United both reported last week that they lost billions in the third quarter, as fewer people than expected dared to get onto airplanes in July, August and September. American and Southwest report their third-quarter results later this week, but are also expected to show billions in losses after many would be passengers canceled summer travel plans or drove to their destinations instead of flying.
The industry group Airlines for America says airlines are in desperate need for additional federal coronavirus relief, as they are collectively losing $5 billion a month.
Last year and into January and February of this year, airlines were setting passenger volume records. The TSA reported screening between 2.5 and 2.7 million people on the busiest travel days, which are usually Fridays and Sundays. But as the coronavirus outbreak spiked last March, companies halted business travel and millions canceled vacations and weekend getaways.
By mid-April, the number of travelers passing through security checkpoints plummeted to under 100,000, a decline of 96%. Other than the days after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the group Airlines for America says there hadn’t been that few people flying since the dawn of the jet airplane age in the 1950s.
There were short-lived upticks in air travel demand in early summer, especially around the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holiday weekends. But the number of COVID-19 cases spiked after each holiday, especially in parts of the country that rushed to reopen bars, restaurants and other gathering places. Lingering concerns about spreading the viral illness dampened demand for air travel during the later summer months.
As welcome as this month’s surprising rise in air travel is, there is still a lot of uncertainty over whether the trend will continue, especially heading into the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, which is usually a busy air travel period.
Most airlines have significantly reduced their schedules as demand remains weak, and some have suspended service to smaller cities. In late September, bookings for travel in November were just a fraction of last year’s level, according to the airline data firm OAG.
And with what appears to be a new wave of COVID-19 cases surging, especially in the Midwest, several states are setting records for the daily number of infections being reported. Public health officials in many states are urging residents to stay home to celebrate the holidays in small family groups.
“COVID-19 has changed the way we work, live, and play, and will now change how we plan to celebrate the holidays,” said Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, who added that “the safest way to celebrate is with members of your household and connecting with others virtually.”
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