How Iceland Conquered COVID-19

Covid-19 Transmission graphic

Iceland’s size helped it grabble the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that other nations couldn’t. The country was able to test half its population and keep a close eye on how the virus spread due to really good contact tracing. Like other countries which have successfully dealt with the pandemic, a robust response proved to be the solution. Iceland even went a step further and has collected their data not only for current protection and safety but also to make it easier for researchers to look back on 2020 to understand how the virus spread.

If the test is negative, the person receives an all-clear text. If the test is positive, it triggers two chains of action: one at the hospital and one at the lab.

At the hospital, the individual is registered in a centralized database and enrolled in a tele-health monitoring service at a COVID outpatient clinic for a 14-day isolation period. They will receive frequent phone calls from a nurse or physician who documents their medical and social history, and runs through a standardized checklist of 19 symptoms. All the data are logged in a national electronic medical record system. A team of clinician-scientists at the hospital created the collection system in mid-March with science in mind. “We decided to document clinical findings in a structured way that would be useful for research purposes,” says Palsson.

In the lab, each sample is tested for the amount of virus it contains, which has been used as an indicator for contagiousness and severity of illness. And the full RNA genome of the virus is sequenced to determine the strain of the virus and track its origin.

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A Torrent of Good News About Our Understanding of COVID-19

Dr. John Campbell has been the most levelheaded individual providing regular updates on the state of COVID-19 that I’ve been able to find (other than government and academic reports). Since February he’s been tracking the development of COVID-19 and our response to it. Along the way he’s been doing an excellent job of educating viewers on all he’s learned. A really great thing about Dr. Campbell is that he readily admits what he doesn’t know and if he’s wrong about something he provides an update, thankfully he rarely speculates (unlike other YouTubers who benefit from fear mongering).

Here’s his latest video and it’s all about how we’re getting better at fighting COVID-19 and understanding how our bodies respond to the virus.

New Zealand is COVID-19 Free

After a very well managed shutdown of the country, New Zealand is free of COVID-19 and people are able to live as they did before. The country had a strict, vast, and quick reaction to COVID-19 showing up in the nation and it’s paid off. Starting today New Zealanders are able to go gyms, work, parks, or wherever thanks to the efforts in following the government’s public safety rules. It’s great to see another nation get through the pandemic.

Ardern has drawn global headlines and praise from the World Health Organization for her government’s approach to the virus, with a strict and cautious approach that appears to have paid off. On 25 March she locked down the country for four weeks – requiring that most New Zealanders remained at home most of the time – before gradually easing restrictions.

“Our collective results I think speak for ourselves,” Ardern said. “This was what the sacrifice of our team of five million was for – to keep one another safe and to keep one another well.” She has regularly referred to New Zealanders as a “team of five million” in an effort to unite people and encourage them to follow her government’s rules to curb the virus’ spread

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Understanding the Anti-Reality Narrative in America

Those of us who have been arguing for sustainable growth and a carbon neutral economy for years know that people don’t listen; in fact people argue against the very concept to their own detriment. The response to these climate change deniers and malicious actors was to ty to change their mind by showing the science, it didn’t work. The same thing is now happening with reactions to the necessity to stay at home to stop the spread of COVID-19. So what do we do when people are actively arguing against what reality has made plain? Over at The New Republic they have some ideas.

Coronavirus denialism and climate denialism aren’t the product of skeptical masses but disingenuous elites. Investigative journalist Lisa Graves pointed out recently in The New York Times that the anti-shutdown protests—like the Tea Party, and like much of the Koch-funded climate denialism—embody a mix of genuine outrage and dark money astroturf funneling that rages toward politically advantageous targets. The protests’ benefactors are dutifully social distancing for fear of getting sick themselves but want everyone else back to work to appease the stock market. Fossil fuel companies lobbied Congress and paid climate deniers in places like the Heartland Institute and Heritage Foundation to spew junk science on cable news, clouding the conversation enough to delay any meaningful action. It’s a similar tactic to that deployed by the Koch brothers in 2009, fearing that a climate bill would be passed: To head it off, they trained Americans for Prosperity’s guns on so-called RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) who thought about supporting it, clouding town halls, congressional offices, and airwaves with doubts about whether the earth was warming at all. If you were a Republican politician at some point in the last decade, it very literally paid to be a climate denier.

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It’s OK to Just Stay Home

Covid-19 Transmission graphic

Just stay home, that’s all you need to do to help. There’s no need to give yourself anxiety about what else you could be doing to help. Take this at home time to relax, and forget about the all the bizarre social pressure to be always performing. It’s ok to just be yourself. You can do it!

I’ve seen this happen to a lot of people. The best thing that 99% of us can do is to stay home. Yet, that can feel like doing nothing, because we see other people out there actively doing something. Yet, passively doing nothing, in this case, is actively doing something: You are taking the best action for our collective safety and health. My student also pointed out that the best thing to do — stay at home — is oddly uncomfortable. I think many of us can relate to this. The discomfort of feeling stuck or trapped inside can heighten the desire to be active in general, creating an even bigger contrast between staying put and helping outside of the home.

What’s going on here and how do we work with these feelings?

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