Andrew Brooks, Who Developed a Coronavirus Spit Test, Dies at 51

Andrew Brooks holding a vial wearing protective gear and a mask

Andrew Brooks’s breakthrough helped millions get their results quickly in the early days of the pandemic when tests were scarce and lines were long.

Andrew Brooks, a research professor at Rutgers University who developed the first saliva test for the coronavirus, died on Jan. 23 in Manhattan. He was 51.

The cause was a heart attack, his sister, Janet Green, said.

In April 2020, when coronavirus tests were scarce and lines to get them long, Dr. Brooks made worldwide news when the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency approval to his technique, which promised to radically increase the speed and safety of the testing process.

“Instead of having a naso- or oropharyngeal swab that’s placed in your nose or the back of your throat, you simply have to spit in a tube,” he told Bill Hemmer of Fox News, adding, “It doesn’t require a health care worker to collect it, six inches away from an infected person.”

In the 10 months since Dr. Brooks received approval, health care workers have performed more than four million tests using his approach, and it remains one of the most reliable means of determining whether someone has the coronavirus.

In a statement, Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey called Dr. Brooks “one of the state’s unsung heroes” who had “undoubtedly saved lives.”

Andrew Ira Brooks was born on Feb. 10, 1969, in Bronxville, N.Y. His father, Perry H. Brooks, was a diamond setter. His mother, Phyllis (Heitner) Brooks, was a schoolteacher.

In addition to his sister, he is survived by his mother; his wife, Jil (Larsen) Brooks; and three daughters, Lauren, Hannah and Danielle. His first two marriages ended in divorce.

Dr. Brooks grew up in Old Bridge, N.J., where he earned spending money by performing magic shows at birthday parties. Though he was adept at tricks involving doves and rabbits, his real forte was close-up handwork, especially card tricks.

He played varsity golf at Cornell, where he majored in animal sciences, having initially planned to become a veterinarian. But after a summer internship at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, he grew fascinated with the study of human disease. He received a doctorate in microbiology and immunology from the University of Rochester in 2000.

Curly taught us how to dribble, and his Globetrotters made us dance
Pat Williams aka Curly wearing HArlem Globetrotter uniform, smiling, spinning basketball on fingertips

ORLANDO, FLA.—Pat Williams, when he was starting the Orlando Magic franchise from scratch all those years ago, was looking for a fun, friendly, famous face to get people excited about the push for an expansion basketball team in football-fanatical Central Florida.

Little did he know at the time that one of the most legendary basketball players on the planet — the great Curly Neal of the iconic Harlem Globetrotters — had retired and was living in Orlando.

“We were just getting the expansion effort started in June of 1986 when Curly approached me and said, ‘Anything I can do to help, just give me a call,’ ” Williams said Friday. “Well, we sure took advantage of that. Whenever we would have a public gathering or announcement, we’d roll out Curly. We eventually hired him as our first community ambassador.

“Curly was one of a kind. He could light up any room. Just hand him a basketball and he would go to work. He would put on an abbreviated show, a la what he had done for years as a Globetrotter. And it would absolutely delight people, get kids excited and he always left the place with people feeling good about themselves and feeling good about the Magic.”

Curly Neal, whose bald head and ball-handling artistry, made him one of the most famous members of the Harlem Globetrotters during their barnstorming heyday, died at his home near Houston earlier this week at the age of 77.

It was sad news for those of us who grew up in the 1970s when Curly Neal and Meadowlark Lemon, the clown prince of basketball, were bigger celebrities than the NBA stars of the day. When you heard their upbeat theme song — “Sweet Georgia Brown” — we kids would whistle along, snap our fingers and giddily dance around the living room.

It was appointment television when the Globetrotters made their annual appearance on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” and entire families would sit in front of the TV and laugh and laugh and laugh some more at their basketball slapstick. Even though we knew what was going to happen when the Globetrotters played their designated-stooge opponents, the Washington Generals, we howled every time they performed their fake water-bucket gag.

And, oh my God, how we would marvel at Curly’s ball-handling virtuosity. Part of every Globetrotters’ show featured Curly dribbling around and through the entire Washington Generals’ team; acrobatically sliding on his knees, never losing control of the ball or picking up his dribble even when he was on his back.

Continue on to The Star to read the complete article.

Pioneering black NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson dies
Katherine Johnson and the stars from the movie Hidden Figures are on stage

NASA: Katherine Johnson, a mathematician on early space missions who was portrayed in film “Hidden Figures,” has died.

Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who calculated rocket trajectories and earth orbits for NASA’s early space missions and was later portrayed in the 2016 hit film “Hidden Figures,” about pioneering black female aerospace workers, has died. She was 101.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on Twitter that she died Monday morning. No cause was given.

Bridenstine tweeted that the NASA family “will never forget Katherine Johnson’s courage and the milestones we could not have reached without her. Her story and her grace continue to inspire the world.”

Johnson was one of the “computers” who solved equations by hand during NASA’s early years and those of its precursor organization, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.

Johnson and other black women initially worked in a racially segregated computing unit in Hampton, Virginia, that wasn’t officially dissolved until NACA became NASA in 1958. Signs had dictated which bathrooms the women could use.

Johnson focused on airplanes and other research at first. But her work at NASA’s Langley Research Center eventually shifted to Project Mercury, the nation’s first human space program.

“Our office computed all the (rocket) trajectories,” Johnson told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in 2012. “You tell me when and where you want it to come down, and I will tell you where and when and how to launch it.”

In 1961, Johnson did trajectory analysis for Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 Mission, the first to carry an American into space. The next year, she manually verified the calculations of a nascent NASA computer, an IBM 7090, which plotted John Glenn’s orbits around the planet.

“Get the girl to check the numbers,” a computer-skeptical Glenn had insisted in the days before the launch.

“Katherine organized herself immediately at her desk, growing phone-book-thick stacks of data sheets a number at a time, blocking out everything except the labyrinth of trajectory equations,” Margot Lee Shetterly wrote in her 2016 book “Hidden Figures,” on which the film is based.

“It took a day and a half of watching the tiny digits pile up: eye-numbing, disorienting work,” Shetterly wrote.

Shetterly told The Associated Press on Monday that Johnson was “exceptional in every way.”

“The wonderful gift that Katherine Johnson gave us is that her story shined a light on the stories of so many other people,” Shetterly said. “She gave us a new way to look at black history, women’s history and American history.”

Shetterly noted that Johnson died during Black History Month and a few days after the anniversary of Glenn’s orbits of the earth on Feb. 20, 1962, for which she played an important role.

Continue on to WTOP to read the complete article.

NBA Legend Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna Among Victims of Calabasas Helicopter Tragedy
Kobe-daughter Gianna

NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter were among nine people killed Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California according to ESPN . Bryant was 41.

Bryant was on his way to a travel basketball game with his daughter Gianna Bryant, who was 13, when the helicopter crashed, sources said. Those aboard the helicopter included another player and parent. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a news conference that there were no survivors, and according to the flight manifest, there were nine people on board the helicopter.

Los Angeles County fire chief Daryl Osby said the Federal Aviation Administration is on the scene and will work with the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the crash. He said authorities will not release the names of victims until they are identified and next of kin are notified.

Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli was among the victims, his assistant, Ron La Ruffa, told the Orange County Register. Altobelli won four California community college titles in his 24 years at the school.

A source told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk that the Lakers found out about Bryant’s death while on the team plane flying home from Philadelphia.

“Everyone is in shock,” a team source said.

The crash comes one day after Bryant was passed by Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. As late as 10:39 p.m. ET Saturday, Bryant was active on social media, congratulating James on Twitter during the Lakers’ 108-91 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

James inscribed his sneakers with “Mamba 4 Life” and “8/24 KB” in gold marker before the game, showing respect for Bryant, an 18-time All-Star with the Lakers who is eligible for the Basketball Hall of Fame this year.

All week, in the lead-up to the milestone, James was quick to laud Bryant.


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