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Category: #CoronaVirus (Page 2 of 5)

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The staying power of the stay-at-home economy


The pandemic proved a large swath of the population can produce services and consume goods without leaving their homes — if supported by other workers.

Why it matters: We risk becoming an even more divided society — with Peloton-riding, Amazon Prime-ordering office workers living within a convenient, luxurious stay-at-home economy and essential workers servicing that lifestyle while scraping by themselves.

The big picture: Income inequality was a huge — and growing — issue before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, but the last year widened the chasm between rich and poor.

  • In Q1 of 2020, the top 1% of Americans held 29.9% of the wealth and the bottom 50% held 1.9%. The gap grew to 31.4% for the top and 2.0% for the bottom by the end of the year, per Fed data.
  • “Let’s not kid ourselves that this is a new problem,” says Richard Reeves, the director of the Future of the Middle Class Initiative at the Brookings Institution. “The pandemic was just a flash of an X-ray bulb exposing these fractures.”

What’s happening: Remote work has become the ultimate privilege, giving those who can work from home sovereignty over time and place, Reeves says. Going to work every day used to be something of an equalizer. The pandemic dismantled that.

  • Remote office workers can come and go as they please, spend more time with family, or even work from exotic locations. In-person workers, who tend to be lower-skilled and lower-income, still have to deal with the rigidity of clocking in and clocking out — and juggling child care, health care and life around it.
  • For example, the Ford Motor Company recently announced all of its office workers can telework as often as they like. But all of the workers in production don’t have that option.

“We’re going to keep seeing this growth of home being the epicenter of life,” says Zara Ingilizian, an expert on the future of consumption at the World Economic Forum. “And not everyone will have access to this at-home future we’re discussing. That has tremendous implications.”

We’re already seeing the far-reaching effects of telework on businesses and individuals alike.

  • As the stay-at-home economy pushes independent restaurants and shops to shutter in droves, retail behemoths who can offer delivery, like Amazon, Walmart and Kroger, have had blockbuster years.
  • Jobs in hospitality and tourism are still down 25% compared with February 2020, while jobs in software development and finance are up 13% and 12%, respectively, according to the jobs site Indeed.

Yes, but: There are silver linings.

  • Flexibility was always an option for workers at the top, Reeves says. At least now it’s spreading to all workers who can telework. “I’d rather leaders have to justify that inequality rather than it being unspoken that managers can come in later than everyone else,” he says.
  • And we could see companies offer new perks to their essential workers to hold onto them. “One implication is companies feel pressure to compensate people who work in-person higher because that is now seen as a detriment,” says Jonathan Rothwell, chief economist at Gallup.

What to watch: Workers in jobs being created by the stay-at-home economy — in food delivery, warehousing and trucking — face a double whammy, says Ingilizian.

  • Many of these roles are gig jobs, without stability and with low pay. And they’re also on the automation chopping block. Per a recent WEF report, 40% of retail job activities and 54% of consumer goods production job tasks are subject to automation.
  • Automation is poised to make the inequality induced by the stay-at-home future even worse, Ingilizian says.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Erica Pandey

COVID-19 vaccines are $500 on the dark web

No surprise that there’s apparently a brisk business in COVID-19 vaccines happening on dark web marketplaces. Apparently there are more than 1,000 listings right now covering all the vaccine flavors: Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Sputnik, and Sinopharm. Send $500 in Bitcoin and you could get your dose tomorrow. — Read the rest

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The Article Was Written/Published By: David Pescovitz

Exclusive: YouTube removed 30,000 videos with COVID misinformation


YouTube has taken down more than 30,000 videos that made misleading or false claims about COVID-19 vaccines over the last six months, YouTube spokesperson Elena Hernandez said, offering the company’s first release of numbers for such content.

Why it matters: Multiple polls show that roughly 30% of Americans remain hesitant or suspicious of the vaccines, and many of those doubts have been stoked by online falsehoods and conspiracy theories.

What’s happening: Videos spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines are continuing to appear online as more and more Americans get vaccinated.

  • Platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, have rolled out policies to reduce the spread and reach of such content, but it’s an ongoing challenge.

Background: YouTube first started including vaccination misinformation in its COVID-19 medical misinformation policy in October 2020.

  • Since February 2020, YouTube has taken down more than 800,000 videos containing coronavirus misinformation. The videos are first flagged by either the company’s AI systems or human reviewers, then receive another level of review.
  • Videos that violate the vaccine policy, according to YouTube’s rules, are those that contradict expert consensus on the vaccines from health authorities or the World Health Organization.
  • Accounts that violate YouTube’s rules are subject to a “strike” system, which can result in accounts being permanently banned.

Our thought bubble: Platforms are eager to share data about the volume of misinformation they catch, and that transparency is valuable. But the most valuable data would tell us the extent of misinformation that isn’t caught.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Ashley Gold

Scientists open arena for dance party to study COVID-19 exposure risk

Pent-up clubgoers descended on Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome on Sturday for a dance party enabling scientists to study how large events could be held as COVID-19 begins to subside. Around 1,300 people—all who tested negative for COVID-19—hit the dancefloor wearing electronic tags to track their interactions. — Read the rest

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The Article Was Written/Published By: David Pescovitz

Why it’s so hard to sign up for vaccinations online


The verdict from Americans trying to get the COVID vaccine is in: the sign-up websites are awful.

Why it matters: Appointment systems are a vital part of getting Americans vaccinated, but a series of missed opportunities, at every level, left local governments scrambling. And the frustrating, confusing process now carries the risk that some people will simply give up.

What’s happening: During the Trump administration, the federal government focused on vaccine production, but left it to the states to figure out how to actually get shots in arms.

  • Local governments — dealing with significant budget and staff shortages — generally lack digital teams that can quickly stand up technology infrastructure.
  • Tech-savvy public interest groups have offered assistance, but the services they can provide — and the government’s willingness to accept them — has been limited.
  • Government IT procurement processes failed to anticipate the needs for vaccine distribution or effectively vet vendors, leaving a fractured system.

The big picture: “Actually delivering services means being tech-savvy today. And that piece is missing,” Hana Schank, director of strategy for Public Interest Technology at New America, told Axios.

Early on in the pandemic, it was clear that vaccines would eventually arrive and that technology infrastructure would be needed for mass distribution. But local jurisdictions were preoccupied with contact tracing and securing personal protective equipment — two other areas where tech solutions fell short.

  • “Contact tracing was the first big massive red flag for vaccines,” said DJ Patil, former U.S. chief data scientist who is now Chief Technology Officer of Devoted Health, and worked directly on state COVID-19 response efforts in California. “People didn’t see the opportunity that was coming and the chance to get it right.”
  • “You can have unbelievable amounts of technologists willing to show up, but we still don’t know how to plug them in” to government processes, he said. “So they go with a vendor instead.”

Even when governments turned to tried-and-true vendors, problems arose.

  • Washington, D.C. retooled its sign-up process after widespread trouble with its clunky site.
  • New Jersey experienced glitches with its Microsoft systems, as did other jurisdictions. A Microsoft spokesperson said, “We continue to work diligently with governments, healthcare providers and technology partners to ensure vaccine management systems are operational at all levels.”
  • At the federal level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paid Deloitte $44 million in no-bid contracts to build a system that was supposed to handle appointments, data and records for vaccines across the country.
  • But it’s been plagued with so many problems that many states and counties have abandoned it altogether, MIT Tech Review reported.

Public health officials instead cobbled together their own systems or, in some cases in Florida, turned to third-party platforms like Eventbrite to schedule shots.

What to watch: The U.S. Digital Service, which works to modernize how the government delivers services, is already assisting states and plans to offer help to more states in collaboration with other federal agencies, an administration official told Axios.

  • USDS helped HHS and the CDC launch to aid in finding locations where the vaccine is being administered, the official said. 

Third parties have also tried to step into the void.

  • U.S. Digital Response, which connects technologists with local governments and is not affiliated with the federal government, has worked with 36 states and territories on pandemic response, Raphael Lee, a co-founder of USDR who leads the health program, told Axios.
  • “We are best suited to government needs when the need is somewhat bounded by time, when we’re sure it’s a tech problem, or when we can provide a low code or no code solution,” Lee said.
  • Code for America told Axios that members in Boston worked with local volunteers on a website to help people find and schedule vaccine appointments after problems plagued the government site.

“I must say, it shouldn’t be volunteer organizations that are stepping in to do this,” Amanda Renteria, CEO of Code for America, told Axios. “As a matter of process, we should have systems that work.”

The other side: Some cities successfully stood up a centralized vaccine appointment system. For example, officials in New Orleans quickly repurposed a software tool they’d created several years ago to register people that need help evacuating for a hurricane.

  • A tech-savvy city employee used the software to create a new app to allow citizens to call 311 to get on a wait list, and it connects with local distribution points to serve as a central, citywide vaccine registry.
  • About 4,000 people signed up the first week. As of Friday, there are more than 11,000 on the wait list.
  • “If it’s a tool you already have, and it can be reconfigured and repurposed, and have good data sharing agreements in place, that is gold in being able to respond quickly,” said Liana Elliott, deputy chief of staff to New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

Reality check: County health departments are often responsible for distributing vaccines — but their budgets have been gutted during the pandemic.

  • In a survey conducted last June by the National Association of County and City Health Departments, more than 89% of local health departments said general COVID-19 response efforts had diverted resources away from immunizations.

The bottom line: Obtaining a vaccine will get easier, but that’s mainly because vaccine supplies will continue to increase.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Margaret Harding McGill

Watch how TV news reporters go on camera from home, including bloopers

CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter looks at how the pandemic has changed news television and resulted in a slew of delightful bloopers live from reporters’ remote studios, aka their living rooms, bedrooms, and closets. (Goofs begin around 2:12 in the video above.)

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The Article Was Written/Published By: David Pescovitz

After Texas lifts mask mandate, ‘I hate it here’ trends on Twitter

Yesterday, in the name of “freedom,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced he was lifting the mask mandate and opening Texas “100%.” In his press release he said, “With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny.” — Read the rest

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Carla Sinclair

FDA Authorizes J&J Covid-19 Shot, Adding Millions of Doses to Total Vaccine Supply


Yet another vaccine is now part of our arsenal of weapons against the covid-19 pandemic. On Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) to the one-dose shot developed by Johnson & Johnson. It joins the two-dose mRNA vaccines developed by Modern and Pfizer/BioNTech.

Read more…

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Ed Cara

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