from the lots-of-bots-went-into-the-making-of-this-story dept.
This story is a merge of 26 story submissions.[* See Note] Given that it was well over 18,000 words of original source material (excluding HTML markup!), a great deal of pruning was performed to get it to a manageable size. We strongly encourage folks to read the linked articles for more information.
For latest statistics, and finer granularity, see https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ or https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6.
Coronavirus Cases: 1,182,827
874,679 Currently Infected Patients
832,714 (95%) in Mild Condition
41,965 (5%) Serious or Critical
308,148 Cases which had an outcome:
244,224 (79%) Recovered / Discharged
63,924 (21%) Deaths
[*] NOTE: We had an issue with the site's story-merging interface. It apparently was not ever used all that much, and certainly not for merging more than a couple stories or so. Further, we have repurposed the submissions classification feature to gather all COVID-19 stories into the "Hold" classification. That gives us a clean view of all virus stories in one view. And, even more usefully, a clean view of all the non-virus submissions exactly where we would normally see them.
The story submissions list page we use tries to be helpful (or maybe just fails to notice and uses a hard-coded value?) Anyway, there are times when one's view of the "Hold" stories is automatically changed to the "Unclassified" (normal) view. During the processing of this story, we clicked the button to "Select all stories in the submission queue, and then clicked "Merge". There was some surprise, when it was realized we accidentally got a new story containing a merge of all of the non-virus stories.
The error was corrected by a manual re-submission of each of the 26 accidentally-merged, non-virus stories. If you had a story submission pending at the time, you may find that your story is marked as "Accepted" as a result of this mistake. We regret the confusion if your story submission was one of these. --martyb
Stories appear below the fold.
Instacart Workers Go on Strike After Rejecting Mild Concessions
Instacart hasn't had success trying to avert a strike over a lack of COVID-19 protections. The Gig Workers Collective has declared that a shopper strike is "still on" after asserting that Instacart's concessions were inadequate. A change that sets the tip default to a customer's previous amount will likely offer "no meaningful benefit," the shoppers said, as that previous amount will frequently come from the pre-outbreak era. There's still no sick pay for workers who have to stay home due to health conditions that put them at high risk. The company also left hazard pay "completely unaddressed," according to the objectors -- an average pay per order of less than $10 still leaves shoppers "risking their lives for pocket change."
The service did say it had sourced hand sanitizer that would ship next week, but workers saw this as indicative of Instacart dragging its heels. Shoppers said they had been asking for sanitizer for "many, many weeks," but the company was only now conceding to this demand.
We've asked Instacart for comment on the decision to continue with the strike.
Coronavirus Cases are Growing Exponentially: Here's What That Means
In the U.S., scientists stress that the number of coronavirus cases has been growing exponentially. In ordinary speech, the term "exponential" usually means "really fast."
To mathematicians like myself, and to scientists and public health officials, the term has a precise and subtly different meaning: A quantity is "exponential" if its rate of change at each point is proportional to the current size.
Let's explore why the difference matters, and how exponential processes can mislead our perception of risk.
When an exponential quantity is small, its change is slight; when the quantity is large, the change is rapid. Thanks to exponential growth, epidemics start slowly, then balloon with surprising speed.
This pattern presents a distinctive challenge. People intuitively underestimate exponential growth. By the time individuals sense their peril and act, the damage has been multiplied many-fold.
In an epidemic, numerical data and mathematical models are like night-vision goggles, illuminating what cannot be directly perceived.
Dodgy Protective Equipment from China Seized at Australian Border
Authorities have begun seizing Chinese-made faulty face masks and other protective clothing that is being exported to Australia. It is stressed that not all Chinese products were considered faulty, and other imports of PPE from China were still passing Australian regulations.
How at Risk are You of Getting a Virus on an Airplane? New 'CALM' Model on Passenger Movement Develo
"How *much* of a Risk do you have of Getting a Virus on a Plane?" (Otherwise, Betteridge says no)
Historic research based on group movements of humans and animals suggest three simple rules:
- move away from those that are too close.
- move toward those that are far away.
- match the direction of the movement of their neighbors.
This research is especially used for air travel where there is an increased risk for contagious infection or disease, such as the recent worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 disease.
"Airlines use several zones in boarding," said Ashok Srinivasan, a professor in the Department of Computer Science University of West Florida. "When boarding a plane, people are blocked and forced to stand near the person putting luggage in the bin -- people are very close to each other. This problem is exacerbated when many zones are used. Deplaning is much smoother and quicker -- there isn't as much time to get infected."
Srinivasan is the principal investigator of new research on pedestrian dynamics models that has recently been used in the analysis of procedures to reduce the risk of disease spread in airplanes. The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE in March 2020.
A Ventilator Stockpile, With One Hitch: Thousands Do Not Work
President Trump has repeatedly assured Americans that the federal government is holding 10,000 ventilators in reserve to ship to the hardest-hit hospitals around the nation as they struggle to keep the most critically ill patients alive.
But what federal officials have neglected to mention is that an additional 2,109 lifesaving devices are unavailable after the contract to maintain the government's stockpile lapsed late last summer, and a contracting dispute meant that a new firm did not begin its work until late January. By then, the coronavirus crisis was already underway.
The revelation came in response to inquiries to the Department of Health and Human Services after state officials reported that some of the ventilators they received were not operational, stoking speculation that the administration had not kept up with the task of maintaining the stockpile.
In fact, the contract with a company that was maintaining the machines expired at the end of last summer, and a contract protest delayed handing the job to Agiliti, a Minneapolis-based provider of medical equipment services and maintenance. Agiliti was not given the $38 million task until late January, when the scope of the global coronavirus crisis was first becoming clear.
It is not known whether problems with the ventilators predated the contract lapse, but maintenance of the machines did halt. That delay may become a potentially deadly lapse.
"We were given a stop-work order before we'd even started," said Tom Leonard, the chief executive of Agiliti, which had won the contract to service the ventilators in the stockpile. "Between the time of the original and the time of this contract award, I don't know who was responsible or if anybody was responsible for those devices. But it was not us."
Mr. Leonard said confidentiality agreements with the government over the stockpile prohibited him from giving specific figures on the number of ventilators the company was now working on.
Common Antiparasitic Drug Found to Kill Coronavirus
Ivermectim has been shown to be effective for killing COVID-19 within 48 hours. This cheap drug is available in large quantities in many countries. The only question to answer is what dose is needed for this virus.
Florida Bucks Social Distancing Trend as COVID-19 Cases Skyrocket
As more and more states issue stay-at-home orders, Florida is taking a different—some say dangerous—approach to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though the state's confirmed case counts have rapidly risen in step with increased testing, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has rejected the idea of a state-wide order to keep people at home. Instead, the governor has opted to address coronavirus responses on a county-by-county basis, in hopes of sparing local economies.
On Monday, DeSantis signed an executive order urging residents in just four counties in Southeast Florida to stay in. The counties—Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe—include some of the hardest hit in the state. Together, they have reported around 60 percent of the state's 5,704 cases as of Tuesday, March 31. Many people in the four counties had already been limiting outings.
The true number of cases in the counties and state overall are likely to be much higher due to slow and limited testing.
"This codifies a set of rules regarding 'Safer at Home' in Southeast Florida," DeSantis said Monday. "It gets all four counties operating on the same sheet of music."
Experts say that such a patchwork approach of county-by-county restrictions, in which residents can easily move between areas with different levels of restrictions, is ineffective at preventing disease transmission. Moreover, DeSantis drew heavy criticism for allowing Floridians and college students on spring break to flood beaches in the state.
Many public health experts as well as other lawmakers have urged DeSantis to stop delaying state-wide measures that would curb disease spread.
"It is past time to intervene to slow transmission [in Florida]," Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told reporters on a call March 23.
Virgin Orbit Plans to Mass-produce New Medical Breathing Device to Help Fight Coronavirus Pandemic
Richard Branson's aerospace company Virgin Orbit, which is primarily focused on developing rockets to launch small satellites into space, is shifting gears during the coronavirus pandemic and has created a new medical device to help health care workers treat patients with COVID-19. The company is hoping to mass-produce the new device after receiving the necessary approvals from the FDA.
The device that Virgin Orbit has created is one that can help people get much-needed oxygen when they're short of breath. The machine automatically pumps what are known as ambulatory bags, which emergency responders squeeze manually to pump air into a patient's lungs. The idea is that these machines will pump the bags on their own for patients who need oxygen but don't need to be hooked up to a ventilator. That will then free up ventilators for people who need them most, as well as free up the time of responders and health care workers to treat patients who are in critical need.
The idea for the device came after Virgin Orbit employees started looking for ways to help with the COVID-19 response. "[We] said hey, we're not doctors, and we're not medical device manufacturers; that's not the background we come from, and we have enormous respect for those people," Will Pomerantz, vice president of special projects at Virgin Orbit, tells The Verge. "But on the other hand, we've got a lot of engineers; we've got a great factory; and we've got a great fabrication facility machine shop. There must be something we can try."
The company reached out to California governor Gavin Newsom, who put the team in touch with the California Emergency Medical Services Authority. The organization turned Virgin Orbit over to the Bridge Ventilator Consortium, which includes researchers at the University of California, Irvine and the University of Texas, Austin. They provided guidance on what kinds of devices would most benefit the medical community right now. After consulting with them, Virgin Orbit employees started to home in on ideas for devices that could be made as simply as possible, as quickly as possible, and as cheaply as possible to fill in the gaps in the health care system. They ultimately came up with this automatic pump and started building it with materials and tools already located at the company's factory in Long Beach, California.
"We largely started from scratch on the simple device that goes and squeezes that bag in a reliable pattern," says Pomerantz. The device provides a similar function to one created by MIT, but Pomerantz says the Virgin Orbit machine is largely original to the company.
Arrests for Sending Medical Supplies out of Australia
Following on from previous news about a Chinese company, Greenland, sending its workers out to buy up tonnes of medical supplies then sending them to China, Australia will now heavily penalise Australians exporting face masks and hand sanitiser to China as Greenland prepares more shipments. A penalty of up to five years in prison can apply to offenders. Meanwhile, a Chinese firm claims to have lots of face masks in stock to sell however doubts have been raised as to whether the products would meet Australian customs regulations.
Hopes for Pandemic Respite This Spring May Depend Upon What Happens Indoors
The cold, dry air of winter clearly helps SARS-CoV2 -- the virus that causes COVID-19 -- spread among people, Yale research has shown. But as humidity increases during spring and summer, the risk of transmission of the virus through airborne particles decreases both outside and indoors in places such as offices.
While viruses can still be transmitted through direct contact or through contaminated surfaces as humidity rises, researchers suggest that, in addition to social distancing and handwashing, the seasonal moderation of relative humidity -- the difference between outside humidity and temperatures and indoor humidity -- could be an ally in slowing rates of viral transmission.
The review was published online the week of March 23 in the Annual Review of Virology.
"Ninety percent of our lives in the developed world are spent indoors in close proximity to each other," said Yale immunobiologist and senior author Akiko Iwasaki. "What has not been talked about is the relationship of temperature and humidity in the air indoors and outdoors and aerial transmission of the virus."
Iwasaki is the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology and professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at Yale, and an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Iwasaki said the seasonal nature of respiratory illnesses have been chronicled since the times of the ancient Greeks, who noted such illnesses rose in winter and fell during spring and summer. Modern science has been able to identify cold, dry air as a factor in spread of viruses such as the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19. Research by Iwasaki's lab and others explains why.
UK Broadband Data Caps Removed During Pandemic
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
The UK’s main internet providers have agreed to remove data caps on fixed-line broadband during the coronavirus pandemic.
The move is part of a range of new measures agreed between telecoms companies and the government.
Other commitments include “fairly and appropriately” supporting customers who have trouble paying their bills.
Providers have also agreed to offer “generous” new mobile and landline packages, the government said.
The initiative supplements measures the individual companies had already announced themselves.
'I Love Rock 'N' Roll' Songwriter Alan Merrill Dies of Coronavirus; Joan Jett Mourns
Alan Merrill, who penned the anthem "I Love Rock 'N' Roll" that became an era-defining hit for fellow rocker Joan Jett, has died of complications from coronavirus at age 69.
Daughter Laura Merrill announced her father's death on Facebook Sunday, hours after leaving his New York City hospital room.
Airbnb to Pay Hosts $250 Million to Cover Coronavirus Cancellations
Airbnb said Monday it will pay hosts $250 million to help offset losses due to guest bookings canceled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The payments apply to canceled reservations made before March 14 with check-in dates between March 14 and May 31.
The company had previously said that guests would receive a full refund for reservations canceled by March 14 for check-in between March 14 and April 14.
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky made the announcement in a letter to hosts that apologized for making the decision to offer refunds without consulting hosts.
"If we allowed guests to cancel and receive a refund, we knew it could have significant consequences on your livelihood," Chesky wrote. "But, we couldn't have guests and hosts feel pressured to put themselves into unsafe situations and create an additional public health hazard.
"While I believe we did the right thing in prioritizing health and safety, I'm sorry that we communicated this decision to guests without consulting you -- like partners should," he wrote.
CDC Says We All Should Wear Face Coverings to Avoid Spreading Virus
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday shifted course on its guidance for masks, saying all Americans should wear a cloth face covering when out in public to avoid spreading the coronavirus. But medical masks, including surgical masks and N95 masks, should still be reserved for health care workers. And the recommendation to wear a mask isn't mandatory.
According to the CDC's new guidelines, members of the general public should wear cloth masks outside their homes, whether or not they're sick. They can be washed and reused. Some infected people don't have symptoms and can unknowingly spread the virus to others; homemade and other cloth face coverings can help prevent that. At the same time, people wearing cloth masks should take the same precautions as before, including social distancing and hand washing.
Previously, the CDC said members of the general public didn't need to wear face masks unless they were sick or caring for someone who was ill.
The new CDC guidelines don't mean you should rush to find an N95 mask -- those medical-grade masks are in short supply and are needed by health workers on the front lines of the pandemic. Instead, people should use other cloth masks or homemade face coverings. For a homemade mask, some health centers have recommended using four layers of fabric to better block out particulates. You can click the links in this sentence for more information on homemade face masks and how they differ from N95 masks.
Even if you're wearing a face covering, though, you should exercise the same caution as if you weren't wearing one: Stay at least 6 feet away from other people, avoid group gatherings, go outside only for exercise and essential errands, and wash your hands when you return home.
America's COVID-19 Testing Has Stalled, and That's a Big Problem
One of America's biggest fumbles in the early weeks of the coronavirus crisis was inadequate testing. Thanks to a series of poor decisions by federal officials, the United States had far too little capacity to test for COVID-19 throughout the month of February, hampering our ability to contain the spread of the virus.
In early March, things seemed to be turning around. According to data from COVID Tracking Project, daily testing grew exponentially from a few hundred tests on March 5 to 107,000 tests last Friday, March 27.
But since then, progress has stalled. The US has been testing a bit over 100,000 people a day for the last six days—including 101,000 yesterday. And that's a cause for concern because the US will need to do considerably more testing to get its coronavirus outbreak under control.
The most urgent need for testing is when a patient shows up at the hospital with coronavirus symptoms. Knowing if a patient actually has coronavirus or some other disease with similar symptoms determines what kinds of treatment are most appropriate. It also lets health care workers know whether they need to take precautions to avoid catching the coronavirus themselves.
Testing is also crucial for slowing the spread of coronavirus in the wider world. Ideally, when a patient is diagnosed with COVID-19, health officials would test everyone who has had close contact with that person. If someone else tested positive, officials would test all of their close contacts too. This process is known as contact tracing. Doing it on a wide-enough scale should allow officials to quickly identify and isolate almost everyone who has the disease.
You might not think that would matter now with so many people staying at home. But there are a fair number of people still working in essential industries who are at risk for catching COVID-19.
Trump Extends Federal Social Distancing Guidelines to April 30
The 15-day guidelines Trump announced two weeks ago were set to expire on Monday, and the President had suggested over the past week that he was looking to relax them, at least in some parts of the country. He even floated Easter, on April 12, as a potential date by which the country could return to normal.
But on Sunday he said he'd decided to extend the guidelines -- which include suggested limits on large gatherings -- to April 30, a sign his earlier predictions were overly rosy.
[...] The announcement marked an abrupt turnaround from a week ago when Trump said he was convinced the distancing restrictions were causing irreparable damage to the economy.
Tokyo 2020 Olympics Will Now Take Place in July 2021, Due to Coronavirus
Almost all major sporting events have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Olympic Games, originally set for this summer in Tokyo, was also postponed. But has now been officially rescheduled, with new dates just announced.
The Olympic Games will now start on July 23, 2021 and run until August 8. The games were originally supposed to take place July 24 until August 9 in 2020.
As a result the Paralympic Games has also shifted dates. It will now run from August 24 until September 5, 2021.
"It is fantastic news that we could find new dates so quickly for the Tokyo 2020 Games," said Andrew Parsons, the President of the International Paralympic Committee. "The new dates provide certainty for the athletes, reassurance for the stakeholders and something to look forward to for the whole world."
The Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games will now take place in the same year, within weeks of one another.
"When the Paralympic Games do take place in Tokyo next year, they will be an extra-special display of humanity uniting as one, a global celebration of human resilience and a sensational showcase of sport," said Parsons.
Thomas Bach, the IOC President believes that the Olympics Games now represent a "light at the end of this tunnel".
Government Uses Location Data to Track Coronavirus Outbreak
Using data from the mobile advertising industry, government officials including those at the federal and state level, as well as those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have been tracking the public's movements to better understand how coronavirus is spread. One person involved said that there was a plan to create a portal through which officials could easily track location data for up to 500 U.S. cities, which could be used to check whether people are complying with shelter-in-place orders and staying at home.
The data collected does not include any individually identifying information, such as the name of the person or their phone number. Still, there are privacy concerns about whether the government should have access to so much data revealing the exact movements of people within its borders. Some privacy advocates have argued that even if the data is anonymized, it could be used in combination with other data to identify individuals. And while using the data for the purpose of containing a deadly virus is something most people would support, there's no way of knowing if government officials will continue to use this data for other purposes once the outbreak is more contained.
On the other hand, the data could be invaluable in slowing the spread of coronavirus by showing areas where large numbers of people are still congregating, such as parks or other public spaces. As an example, the data was used to show that large numbers of people in New York were congregating in Prospect Park in Brooklyn; information which was handed over to the local authorities.
Some COVID-19 Patients Still Have Coronavirus After Symptoms Disappear
In "Time Kinetics of Viral Clearance and Resolution of Symptoms in Novel Coronavirus Infection," Lixin Xie, MD, Lokesh Sharma, PhD, and co-authors report on a study of 16 patients with COVID-19, who were treated and released from the Treatment Center of PLA General Hospital in Beijing between January 28 and Feb. 9, 2020. Patients studied had a median age of 35.5 years.
Researchers collected samples from throat swabs taken from all patients on alternate days and analyzed. Patients were discharged after their recovery and confirmation of negative viral status by at least two consecutive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
"The most significant finding from our study is that half of the patients kept shedding the virus even after resolution of their symptoms," said co-lead author Dr. Sharma, instructor of medicine, Section of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, Department of Medicine, Yale School of Medicine. "More severe infections may have even longer shedding times."
[...] "If you had mild respiratory symptoms from COVID-19 and were staying at home so as not to infect people, extend your quarantine for another two weeks after recovery to ensure that you don't infect other people," recommended corresponding author Lixin Xie, MD, professor, College of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Chinese PLA General Hospital, Beijing.
The authors had a special message for the medical community: "COVID-19 patients can be infectious even after their symptomatic recovery, so treat the asymptomatic/recently recovered patients as carefully as symptomatic patients."
The researchers emphasized that all of these patients had milder infections and recovered from the disease, and that the study looked at a small number of patients. They noted that it is unclear whether similar results would hold true for more vulnerable patients such as the elderly, those with suppressed immune systems and patients on immunosuppressive therapies.
"Further studies are needed to investigate if the real-time PCR-detected virus is capable of transmission in the later stages of COVID-19 infection," Dr. Xie added.
FCC Outlines $200 Million COVID-19 Telehealth Plan
Today, the FCC announced a few additional measures to help the US during the coronavirus pandemic. Chairman Ajit Pai shared plans for a $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which would equip healthcare providers with the broadband connectivity and devices they need to provide telehealth services. The FCC also eased off its ongoing crackdown on cell phone subsidy abuse, saying that it won't de-enroll participants until at least May 29th.
The COVID-19 Telehealth Program would use funds allocated for the FCC in the CARES Act. If approved, it would provide select applicants with full funding for eligible telehealth services and devices. Pai also presented plans for a longer-term Connected Care Pilot Program, which would make $100 million available over three years to help health care providers implement telehealth services, with an emphasis on serving low-income Americans and veterans.
The FCC also said that, during the pandemic, it won't kick users out of its Lifeline program, which provides monthly discounts on broadband and voice services to low-income customers. Lifeline providers are normally required to de-enroll subscribers who they believe are no longer eligible, but the FCC says it will suspend that requirement until at least May 29th.
Would the US be Behind in Testing if it Didn't Arrest People Doing the Tests?
FBI agents arrested a Georgia man Monday on charges that he accepted kickbacks from medical testing companies by referring people for COVID-19 testing who didn't need it to fraudulently get Medicare reimbursement.
Shouldn't we be testing everyone? No wonder the U.S. is behind in testing, the FBI is arresting people who are testing asymptomatic citizens. News flash FBI, you can have the virus, and have no symptoms. Everyone should be tested for it.
AT&T Will Give Users an Extra 15GB of Mobile Hotspot Data
AT&T is still expanding its offerings to keep people online during the COVID-19 outbreak. Between April 2nd and May 13t, it&aposs adding an extra 15GB of mobile hotspot data to every line on unlimited plans that have a monthly tethering allowance. If you have the Unlimited Extra plan, for instance, that will effectively double the amount of data you get. That's still not enough data to completely rely on your phone's connection if you're used to landline data allotments, but it could be helpful if your wired service goes down or becomes oversaturated.
At the same time, AT&T will provide more contact-free delivery options that include curbside pickup (if there&aposs an AT&T store still open near you) and doorstep delivery with virtual setup if you need help.
Astroboffin Gets Magnets Stuck Up His Nose Trying And Failing To Invent Anti-Face-Touching Gizmo
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
We're all told from a tender age not to shove things up our noses – Lego, chickpeas, pencils, fingers – but it seems even grown-up astrophysicists can have difficulty grasping these most basic recommendations when it's in the name of science.
Unfortunately for 27-year-old Dr Daniel Reardon, the items that became wedged up his schnozz were neodymium magnets.
Reardon, however, was taking a break from his regular jam of pulsars and gravitational waves "trying to liven up the boredom of self-isolation" by attempting to build a necklace that sounds an alarm when the wearer touches their face – handy while everyone should be trying to reduce the spread of COVID-19 – so maybe we can give him a free pass for this extreme silliness.
He told the paper: "I have some electronic equipment but really no experience or expertise in building circuits or things.
[...] At this point, Reardon should have probably dug into a box set or video game to alleviate the tedium of self-isolation and put this idea to rest. Instead, he put two magnets inside his nostrils and two outside. When he removed the ones on the exterior, the two inside... well, to quote the Insane Clown Posse: "Fuckin' magnets, how do they work?"
Of course they snapped together with his septum in the middle. "After struggling for 20 minutes, I decided to Google the problem and found an article about an 11-year-old boy who had the same problem." The solution? More magnets.
"As I was pulling downwards to try and remove the magnets, they clipped on to each other and I lost my grip. And those two magnets ended up in my left nostril while the other one was in my right. At this point I ran out of magnets."
The academic then tried to shift them with pliers – which became magnetised in the effort. "Every time I brought the pliers close to my nose, my entire nose would shift towards the pliers and then the pliers would stick to the magnet." His partner took him to the hospital – her workplace – where amused doctors were able to remove the magnets manually with the help of an anaesthetic spray.
We're assuming that the astrophysicist will cease to dabble in fields away from his area of expertise.
Amazon Fires Warehouse Worker Who Organized Staten Island Protest
Workers at Amazon's Staten Island warehouse took part in a walkout on Monday afternoon to protest what they say are unsafe working conditions. The demonstration came after at least one worker at that facility has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Amazon said later Monday that the protest brought out 15 employees, out of 5,000 workers at the facility. It also said Christian Smalls, who became a vocal organizer for the protest, was fired Monday for violating "multiple safety issues," including instructions from the company to stay home with pay for 14 days because he had been in close contact with an infected employee. He instead came to the warehouse Monday, the company said.
"Amazon would rather fire workers than face up to its total failure to do what it should to keep us, our families, and our communities safe," Smalls said in an emailed statement released by protest organizers. "I am outraged and disappointed, but I'm not shocked. As usual, Amazon would rather sweep a problem under the rug than act to keep workers and working communities safe."
In addition to Monday's strike, Whole Worker, a grassroots group of Whole Foods employees, is planning a "sick out" on Tuesday to protest conditions in the grocery stores. Amazon bought Whole Foods in 2017. Separately, workers for the Instacart delivery service put together their own national strike on Monday.
[...] The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, another organization that's worked with Amazon employees to hold public protests, sent out a statement Monday night to decry Smalls' firing. Amazon employees in the US aren't unionized.
"Workers should be protected when speaking out about safety conditions during this crisis," union president Stuart Appelbaum said. "They are performing a public service. It is unacceptable that Amazon has terminated Chris Smalls for doing that today rather than addressing their serious COVID-19 safety problems."
Amazon Stops Selling N95 and Surgical Masks to Public
Amazon has stopped selling N95 respirators, paper surgical masks, face shields, surgical gowns and gloves, and large-volume containers of sanitizer to general consumers, according to Recode. The company will instead prioritize the sale of these products to hospitals and governments, which can sign up to make purchases through a new portal on Amazon's business site.
Amazon says it will waive the commission fee it typically takes from sellers "to encourage our selling partners to make additional inventory of these products available at competitive prices to these customers with the greatest need."
Many other products like small-volume sanitizers and wipes will still be available for the general public to buy, Amazon told CNBC.
Trying to get them to "customers with the greatest need"
Online Grocery Deliveries are Facing an Unprecedented Stress Test
In the past few weeks, cities and states across the country have instructed people to stay home in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Going out for essentials like food is allowed, but that can be a risky proposition. Not only can grocery stores get crowded, social distancing protocol often means long lines just to get inside. The obvious alternative to all this is to shop online, but as several shoppers can attest, that experience can sometimes be even more frustrating. The state of online grocery deliveries is apparently a lot more fragile than anyone had anticipated.
One of the biggest problems is that delivery time slots are seemingly impossible to come by. After filling out their carts, customers would attempt to check out, only to find that all of the delivery options are suddenly unavailable. We spoke to a few shoppers, who told us of the various issues they encountered.
Mark Gerolimatos, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, said he's been unable to order groceries from Amazon Fresh for three to four days. "I found that using Fresh has become 'reFresh constantly,' not unlike trying to get tickets to some stupid concert," he said. After constant reloading, he was able to get a delivery time slot, but by then the cart was empty, as all the goods were gone. He also tried the Safeway app, but all slots were reserved as well.
Keenan from Los Angeles reported similar issues. "I've literally been trying to order Amazon Fresh for the past week or longer," he said. "I kept on top of it, and just kept trying day after day, multiple times per day and hour, which was exhausting to say the least [...] If you go through that entire process over and over as items continue to sell out, let me tell you that isn't fun." After trying for over a week, Keenan did eventually chance upon an open window for delivery and had his groceries delivered.
Both Keenan and Gerolimatos were not frequent users of online groceries prior to the coronavirus lockdown, as they are both able-bodied enough to shop for them in-person. But for many others, like the elderly or the disabled, online groceries are a valuable alternative to in-store shopping. Yasmin, a San Antonio attorney with AMC (Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita), a disorder that restricts her movements, was a frequent user of Instacart, Favor (a delivery service for HEB, a Texas-based grocery chain) as well as Amazon Fresh. But the coronavirus has changed that.
[...] At first glance, it might seem like big companies like these would be able to handle online deliveries on a large scale; after all, these are huge multimillion-dollar corporations. Plus, there's the fact that companies like Amazon have spent years building a reputation of bold promises like same-day deliveries, two-hour delivery windows and being the one-stop-shop of your everyday life. Clearly, however, even with such a wealth of resources, the coronavirus pandemic has proven to be too much to handle.
Of course, the extent of the coronavirus pandemic hasn't affected just online grocery deliveries; every aspect of the economy has been hit hard. The fact that online grocery deliveries have failed to keep up with the increased demand due to the coronavirus is not surprising. But you can't blame consumers from feeling disappointed when, after all those grand promises, the service fails them when they need it most.
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