10 Positive Updates on the COVID-19 Outbreaks From Around the World
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Nurse's hand holding a syringe giving a vaccination to a patient

By McKinley Corbley

It seems that your news feed has been flooded with nerve-wracking updates on the COVID-19 outbreaks, have no fear—there are also plenty of positive updates on the pandemic as well.

So without any further ado, here is a list of 10 hopeful headlines on the coronavirus response from around the world.

 

1) U.S. Researchers Deliver First COVID-19 Vaccine to Volunteers in Experimental Test Program

Scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle delivered the first rounds of a potential coronavirus vaccine to several dozen optimistic volunteers earlier this week.

43-year-old vaccine recipient Jennifer Haller, who is also a mother to two teenagers, was all smiles after she told AP reporters she was “feeling great” as she was leaving the clinic. “This is an amazing opportunity for me to do something,” she added.

2) Distilleries Across the United States Are Making Their Own Free Hand Sanitizers to Give Away for Free

Amidst national shortages of hand sanitizers, alcohol distilleries in Atlanta, Portland, rural Georgia, and North Carolina have begun using their facilities to make their own sanitation products.

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) says that cleaning your hands with an alcohol-based rub can help to kill viruses on your hands, many of the distilleries say they hope to continue producing their bootleg sanitizers until the virus has been properly contained.

3) Air Pollution Plummets in Cities With High Rates of Quarantine

Satellite readings of air pollution levels over China and Italy show that the regions hit hardest by the COVID-19 have also caused air pollution levels to decline dramatically.

Some reports estimate that China’s quarantine has saved more than 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere—which is about the equivalent of what Chile produces in a year.

Not only have similar effects been reported across Italy, the canals and waterways of Venice are reportedly cleaner than ever with the waters shining crystal clear in the absence of diesel-powered boats and gondoliers.

4) Johns Hopkins Researcher Says That Antibodies From Recovered COVID Patients Could Help Protect People At Risk

The vaccine developers in Seattle aren’t the only ones working on potential treatments and cures for the disease—an immunologist from Johns Hopkins University is reviving a century-old blood-derived treatment for use in the United States in hopes of slowing the spread of the disease.

The technique uses antibodies from the blood plasma or serum of people who have recovered from COVID-19 infection to boost the immunity of newly-infected patients and those at risk of contracting the disease.

5) South Korean Outbreak Finally Abating as Recoveries Outnumber New Infections for Three Days in a Row

According to Reuters, South Korea recorded more COVID-19 recovery cases on March 6th than new infections for the first time since the nation experienced the largest Asian outbreak outside of China.

Since the novel coronavirus outbreak was first reported in South Korea back in January, the nation reached a peak of 909 new infections on February 29th.

Now, however, Reuters reports that the declining rate of infection has continued to fall with less than 100 new cases reported for several days in a row.

6) China Celebrates Several Milestones of Recovery After Temporary Hospitals Close and Parks Reopen

Crowds of medical staffers and discharged patients were filmed celebrating the closure of all 14 temporary hospitals that opened in Wuhan to treat COVID-19 patients during the worst of the outbreak.

Authorities told the South China Morning Post this week that the virus had finally passed its peak as the nation’s mainland experienced only 11 new cases on March 13th, most of which were from international travelers.

As the outbreak is finally brought under control, parks and tourist attractions are slowly beginning to reopen to the public under careful moderation.

7) Australian Researchers Testing Two Drugs as Potential ‘Cures’ for the Virus

At the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, scientists have found that two different medications—both of which are registered and available in Australia—have completely wiped out traces of the disease in test tubes.

Not only that, the drugs were given to some of the nation’s first COVID-19 patients, which resulted in “disappearance of the virus and complete recovery from the infection,” researchers told News.com.au.

The university is now looking to conduct a nationwide trial with the drugs to evaluate the efficacy and tolerance of each drug administered separately and together.

8) Uber Eats is Supporting the North American Restaurant Industry By Waiving Delivery Fees for 100,000 Restaurants

As restaurants across Canada and the United States are forced to temporarily shut down amidst COVID-19 outbreaks, Uber Eats has announced that they will be waiving delivery fees for independent restaurants.

“We know the success of every restaurant depends on customer demand,” the company said in a statement. “That’s why we’re working urgently to drive orders towards independent restaurants on Eats, to help make up for the significant slowdown of in-restaurant dining.

“As more customers are choosing to stay indoors, we’ve waived the Delivery Fee for the more than 100,000 independent restaurants across US and Canada on Uber Eats. We will also launch daily dedicated, targeted marketing campaigns—both in-app and via email—to promote delivery from local restaurants, especially those that are new to the app.”

9) Dutch and Canadian Researchers Are Reporting Additional Breakthrough Research on Treating the Virus

Scientists from Canada and the Netherlands have also made medical breakthroughs of their own. In Toronto, a team of researchers managed to isolate the agent responsible for the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, which will help researchers around the world develop better diagnostic testing, treatments, and vaccines.

“Researchers from these world-class institutions came together in a grassroots way to successfully isolate the virus in just a few short weeks,” said Dr. Rob Kozak, clinical microbiologist at Sunnybrook University. “It demonstrates the amazing things that can happen when we collaborate.”

Meanwhile, Dutch researchers have submitted a scientific paper for publishing on how they have identified an anti-body for the virus—and it could be a world-first.

10) Here Are a Bunch of Other Ways That People and Businesses Are Supporting Each Other Throughout the US Outbreak

Dollar General has announced that they will be devoting their opening hour of shopping time to elderly customers. Athletes and sports teams are pledging to pay the wages of arena employees during the shutdown. Utility companies, landlords, automakers, and internet providers are waiving a number of late fees and payments to ease the financial burden of the shutdown. School districts across the country are still opening their doors to serve meals to kids and families.

Continue on to the Good News Network to read the complete article.

Leading the Way: Dr. Sean P.J. Whelan, Scientist of the Year
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Dr. Sean P.J. Whelan in a suit and tie in an office setting

In February, NOGLSTP was pleased to announce its 2020 Recognition Awards for LGBTQ+ Scientist, Engineer, Educator, and Organization of the Year. Dr. Sean P.J. Whelan was awarded Scientist of the Year for his outstanding research and groundbreaking discoveries in the field of virology.

Little did we know at the time how important Dr. Whelan would be to the times that we are all living in.  In July of 2019 Dr. Whelan was named head of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and the Marvin A. Brennecke Distinguished Professor of Microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Previously he was the head of the virology program and professor of microbiology and immunobiology at the Harvard Medical School where he still directs a virology Center for Excellence in Translational Research working to find small molecules that prevent viruses form entering or replicating inside cells.

Whelan is thus a significant global leader in advancing the understanding of emerging viral infections. His virology research provides crucial insights into the function and structure of emerging diseases. “Since 1980, there has been a new, emerging infectious disease of humans on average every six months. Almost two-thirds of those agents are enveloped viruses, and the techniques we apply can rapidly provide insight into them,” Whelan said.

His studies focus on how viruses attach to cells, slip inside and hijack our bodies. Dr. Whelan identified the protein that the Ebola virus uses to latch onto cells and also the molecular process that rabies virus uses to invade cells. His research framework especially applies to the recent emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Most approved antiviral drugs target the molecular machinery that viruses use to replicate, but such drugs do not exist for negative-sense RNA viruses, the category to which our current viral nemesis belongs. Understanding the molecular underpinnings of viral invasion and replication provides new targets for the development of antiviral therapeutics.

Whelan is a gay man whose openness has created opportunities to connect, network, and work with other LGBTQ+ scientists. He wants to encourages colleagues to be open and provide examples for students and young scientists. “It is important for LGBTQ students to understand that they may encounter some barriers, but those barriers are not insurmountable, and they can progress and succeed,” Whelan said. We have a hero in our midst who can potentially lead us out of this pandemic. Thank you, Dr. Sean Whelan, for your insights and service in bringing health and safety closer for all of our communities.

About NOGLSTP: The National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP) is a membership-based professional society managed by volunteers and a nonprofit educational organization under IRS section 501(c)(3). It was established in 1980 and incorporated in the State of California in 1991. Its mission is to educate the scientific and general communities about the presence and accomplishments of LGBT individuals in STEM professions. NOGLSTP presents educational symposia and workshops nationwide, and fosters dialog with other professional societies, academia and industry to facilitate diversity and inclusion in the workplace. For more information, visit https://www.noglstp.org/. NOGLSTP’s Recognition Awards were established in 2005 as a means to document and honor the contributions of outstanding LGBTQ+ science, engineering, technology, and mathematics professionals. The awards also honor corporations, academic institutions, and businesses that support LGBTQ+ professionals so that their achievements may be known and recognized as role models. The 2020 Recognition Awards were announced during the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Seattle, WA on February 14, 2020. Additional information on past awards are available at:  noglstp.org/programsprojects/recognition-awards

The Man Behind America’s New Spacesuit: Jose Fernandez
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This weekend, and for a while now, new dad of the entertainingly-named little boy, X Æ A-12 Musk, and footloose Twitter aficionado Elon Musk is having one of what he hopes will be a long future of space moments. It’s no small accomplishment to get the nod from NASA bigs that you can carry the most precious asset, their astronauts, up to the big game on the International Space Station, and kudos to Daddy Musk, and to NASA, for that.

But, talk about a cool flight suit: Musk and his deeply pedigreed Hollywood costume designer Jose Fernandez took a couple of years to design the new NASA super-skinny pressure suits. The spacesuits certainly look snazzy, with their close-to-the-body cut, their elegant dark silver (fireproof!) piping over the white Teflon fabric, their highly articulate gloves and neck, and the black knee-high boots that seem to quote the Duke of Wellington’s own below-the-knee cavalry boots, albeit ready for the wear and tear of outer space rather than that of Napoleon’s cannon at Waterloo.

Mr. Fernandez is no stranger to durable, tight-fitting clothes for heroes, having worked on costumes for Batman V Superman: Dawn of JusticeTronIronman 2The Amazing Spiderman, and Captain America: Civil War, to name just a few of his impressive credits. He was first approached by SpaceX in 2016 to participate in a design competition and freely recounts that he didn’t, at first, understand that it was for a real space effort, not a movie production about a space effort, to which he would be submitting his work. “I didn’t know what SpaceX was, and I thought it was a film,” the modest Fernandez says.

Not so the light, ovoid, and very open-to-the-cosmos Fernandez helmet. Fernandez has not simply given his astronauts a better, less obstructed field of vision. The helmet tops a flexible and, for a spacesuit, very extended and articulate neck piece, best seen above on astronaut Doug Hurley, left, as he boards the Tesla on May 27 en route to the spacecraft before the first launch was scrubbed. In fact, some of the old NASA helmets would wholly prevent the astronaut from even contemplating getting his head low enough to get into a car as astronaut Hurley is doing. We’ll get to see Hurley and his partner Bob Behnken do it again on Saturday, and again with the excellent product placement of the Musk-enterprise-friendly Tesla as the new and very cushy official NASA launch-tender ride.

With the visor up, the Fernandez helmet resembles that of a Parisian pompeur , a fireman’s helmet, jaunty and protective at once. Visor down, the sleek ovoid quotes some of Kier Dullea’s very, very cool space headgear that Stanley Kubrick had commissioned for his masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. In addition, close viewers of the Grammys and all fans of disco/electronic/dance/trance will notice a strong connection in the NASA helmet to the helmets sported by the ultra-shy French pop duo Daft Punk.

This is no accident: It should be noted that Daft Punk has in fact commissioned the brilliant Fernandez for several pieces of their trademark weird-oh disco-robot headgear. But as a deeply schooled “extreme couture” tailor to all sorts of cinematic superheros and heroines embroiled in narratives whose origins stretch back to the early 20th century, Mr. Fernandez would be well aware of Kubrick’s earlier camera-friendly helmet innovations.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article

Photo: Getty Images

Meet the Woman Behind Space X, President and Engineer Gwynne Shotwell
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Gwynne Shotwell smiling for the camera

This past weekend, the United States made history when Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the Dragon Crew capsule into space, the first U.S. mission from U.S. soil since 2011. SpaceX is primarily associated with Musk, as he was the founder of the company, but many people don’t know about the company’s president and chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell.

Now responsible for SpaceX’s operations and growth, Shotwell has been working with SpaceX since the company was founded in 2002 and was immediately put on the board of directors. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mathematics from Northwestern University and previously worked with The Aerospace Corporation and Microcosm Inc. in El Segundo, California. Wanting to apply her skills in engineering in a hands-on environment, Shotwell worked with The Aerospace Corporation in military space research, technical work, spacecraft design and thermal analysis. She spent much of her time specifically studying small spacecraft design and how to navigate such a spacecraft in and out of the cosmos. She later went on to work Microcosm Inc, a rocket building company, where she oversaw business development.

Having both the skills and knowing the ins and outs of spacecraft and business, Shotwell’s expertise at SpaceX still stands. Under her supervision, SpaceX has launched five billion dollars’ worth of crafts with the Falcon vehicle family and has now become the first privately owned business to send astronauts into space. Additionally, Shotwell recently became a member on the board of directors for Polaris, an automotive vehicle manufacturing company, and serves in many STEM-related programs. Her work in these areas have earned her several awards, including a spot in the 2012 Women in Technology Hall of Fame and as one of Forbes’ Magazine’s Top 50 Women in Tech.

Through all of her successes, it seems as if Shotwell has more large-scale accomplishments to come. As part of a multi-billion dollar deal with NASA, SpaceX will continue to work on a transportation system to take the first humans to Mars.

This New COVID-19 Test is Bringing Us Closer to the Cure
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African-american scientist or graduate student in lab coat and protective wear works in modern laboratory

The University of Washington’s Virology Lab has been working tirelessly since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It was one of the first labs to formulate a test for the presence of the virus and has processed thousands of these tests at its facilities. In fact, the university’s virology lab is currently processing its newest success in partnership with Abbott Labs’ antibody test for COVID-19.

The University has been running trials of Abbott Labs’ antibody blood tests, designed to find out who has natural or built-up immunity to COVID-19. The trials have proved to be incredibly successful.

Though showing immunity isn’t a cure, it is a major step to getting to that point. Knowing who is immune and who has had the virus before helps track the origins of the disease, knowing the components that can be used in a vaccine, and helps ensure the safety of bringing people back into the workforce. It is unclear how the antibodies of the novel coronavirus work or if you could get infected with the virus a second time, but Keith Jerome, the leader of the University of Washington’s virology program, assured that people with the antibodies will have more protection than those who do not. Receiving the virus a second time could result in more cold-like symptoms and not require the extreme hospitalization methods in place now.

The work being done in the study of antibodies through the University of Washington would not be possible without Abbott’s partnership. The antibody test produced by Abbott is not the first of its kind to be produced, but it is said to be the most reliable and the most sensitive in analyzation. In fact, Abbott’s test has correctly identified COVID-19 99.6% of the time against other viruses and has a 100% sensitivity to the coronavirus antibodies. Best of all, the test only takes about ten to fifteen minutes to retrieve the results.

“This starts to get us to the point that we can make a difference for the population of our area, get people back to work and give them back the lives that they were hoping for,” Jerome said.

Richard Tapia: Excellence Comes in All Flavors
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Richard Tapia standing at a podium, giving a speech

Diversity in STEAM Magazine was proud to attend last year’s ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference, a premier event that brought together students, faculty, researchers and professionals from all backgrounds and ethnicities in computing.

The theme of last year’s conference in San Diego – “Diversity: Building a Stronger Future.”

The event, sponsored by the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and presented by the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT (CMD-IT), is named in honor of renowned computational and mathematical scientist Dr. Richard Tapia, an esteemed mathematician and professor in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Among his many honors, Tapia was the first Hispanic elected to the National Academy of Engineering. In 2011, he received the National Medal of Science from former U.S. President Barack Obama for his pioneering and fundamental contributions in optimization theory and numerical analysis.

“I get a lot of awards and I appreciate them all,” Tapia said. “But I want people to know I have a professional life in science. I want to be known as a scientist.”

The aim of the Tapia Conference is to promote diversity among undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, researchers and professionals in computing from all backgrounds and ethnicities. Last year’s panel of impressive keynote speakers included Stephanie Lampkin, founder and CEO, Blendor, Hector Ruiz, founder and chairman, Advanced Nanotechnology, Inc. and Jennifer Mankoff, Richard E. Ladner professor, Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington.

Tapia said he gets great satisfaction from seeing students who attend the conference inspired by others who, “look just like themselves.”

“My legacy has historically been to bring black, brown, all people together,” he said. “To show people that excellence comes in all flavors.”

Each year, the Richard A. Tapia Award is given annually to an individual who is a distinguished computational or computer scientist or engineer who is making significant contributions in civic areas such as teaching, mentoring, advising, and building and serving communities. The individual is also one who demonstrates extraordinary leadership in increasing the participation of groups who are underrepresented in the sciences.

Last year’s award went to Cristina Villalobos, a Myles and Sylvia Aaronson professor in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, as well as the founding director of the Center of Excellence in STEM Education.

“Cristina Villalobos is a leading mathematician in the fields of optimization, optimal control and modelling,” said Valerie Taylor, CMD-IT CEO and president. “Throughout her career, she has significantly impacted different application areas through her research in optimization–impacting areas such as the treatment of eye disease and the design of antennas.

In addition, Villalobos has strengthened STEM academic programs and been a leader in student mentoring–increasing the number of Hispanic students pursuing PhD’s in mathematics.”

Deeply honored to receive the award, Villalobos said, “It recognizes my efforts in working with students over the years to prepare them for graduate studies in STEM, and especially in contributing to increasing the numbers of women and underrepresented minorities in graduate programs and in academia.”

During his time at Rice University, Tapia has directed or co-directed more underrepresented minority and women doctoral recipients in science and engineering than anyone in the country. He insists he was just able to help where help was needed. “My mother always used to say, ‘One step at a time will take you to a good place underneath the rainbow.’”

Source: CMD-IT, utrgv.edu/newsroom