“Every glittering ounce of [good news] should be cherished and hoarded and worshipped and fondled like a priceless diamond.”– Hunter S. Thompson

Coronavirus Pandemic: Hope and Progress 

Today, we are going to take a break from all the noxious news and daunting data about the Corona Crisis to give you some hopeful facts.

Yes, we know that, with shutdowns in nearly every country in the world, economies are faltering. But to provide some immediate relief, governments have pledged to support citizens and businesses with subsidies, loans, suspensions of tax and rent, and other measures.

And all over America (and the rest of the world), businesses, large and small, are stepping up to combat the virus and provide commercial and economic relief.

Across the globe, thousands of doctors, scientists, and researchers are working to find a vaccine. But they are also working hard on treatments to reduce symptoms and improve outcomes. The SARS-CoV-2 pathogen is similar to coronaviruses scientists have studied before, including the SARS virus that struck in 2002. That has given them an advantage in terms of moving in the right direction. They already know, for example, how the virus enters cells.

These early discoveries are being shared through hundreds of medical and scientific journals.

And the pace of all this work and all these actions is amazing. Almost everything listed below has happened in the last 30 days.

 Treatments, Remedies & Vaccines 

* A team of Canadian scientists has isolated and grown copies of the coronavirus. And Australian scientists have figured out how the body’s immune system fights it.

* Scientists at Israel’s Institute for Biological Research said that they have made a “significant breakthrough” in understanding the biological mechanism of the virus, including the way antibodies are produced by those who already have it.

* A team of scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine said that they are making “quick” progress in developing a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

* The first US clinical trials for a potential vaccine have begun in Seattle. Biotech company Moderna has fused a piece of the genetic code for the pathogen’s S protein – the part that’s present in other coronaviruses, like SARS – with fatty nanoparticles that can be injected into the body.

* Imperial College London is designing a similar vaccine using coronavirus RNA, its genetic code.

* Johnson & Johnson and French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi are working with the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to develop vaccines. Sanofi’s approach is to mix coronavirus DNA with genetic material from a harmless virus. Johnson & Johnson’s approach is to attempt to deactivate SARS-CoV-2 and switch off its ability to cause illness.

* Recent reports suggest that some existing antiviral drugs, including remdesivir and the Japanese flu drug favipiravir, may have an effect on the new coronavirus. Zhang Xinmin, an official at China’s science and technology ministry, said favipiravir, developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, had produced encouraging outcomes in clinical trials in Wuhan and Shenzhen involving 340 patients. “It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment,” Zhang told reporters.

* Doctors in India have reported success in treating infected patients with a mixture of drugs usually used to tackle HIV, swine flu, and malaria.

* In China and Japan, doctors have had promising results using blood plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 to treat newly infected patients. This well-established medical technique could even be used to boost the immunity of people who are at risk of catching the disease.

* On March 27, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for a new test developed by Abbott Laboratories that can deliver coronavirus results in as little as five minutes. Metro Health Medical Center in Cleveland is already using the new test.

* The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has started testing for antibodies to see if healthy people previously had the coronavirus. The tests could help the agency better understand the virus and its spread, indicating how prevalent the virus has been and whether a significant number of people have had it without actually getting sick.

* Preliminary studies in China report that the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine shows promise. “Cough, fever, and pneumonia went away faster, and the disease seemed less likely to turn severe in people who received hydroxychloroquine than in a comparison group not given the drug.”

* In hospitals in Boston, Alabama, Louisiana, Sweden, and Austria, researchers are conducting clinical trials to determine whether giving nitric oxide to patients with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 can help them. The impetus for this was a report that showed good results from earlier trials in Italy that were themselves promising.

* A San Diego biotech company is developing a vaccine with Duke University and the National University of Singapore.

* A new drug, EIDD-2801, shows promise in reducing lung damage. Results of initial tests on mice were published April 6 in the journal Science Transnational Medicine. The tests showed that, when given as a treatment 12 or 24 hours after infection, EIDD-2801 could prevent severe lung injury in infected mice. “This new drug not only has high potential for treating COVID-19 patients, but also appears effective for the treatment of other serious coronavirus infections,” said senior author Baric. What is especially hopeful about EIDD-2801 is that it is a pill.

* Erasmus Medical Center has found an antibody that can fight against the coronavirus. While not a cure, it seems to be halting the infection temporarily and giving the patient time to recover.

Companies Helping Out

 * The sports world is raising money for stadium employees, Uber Eats is providing free delivery to help independent restaurants, professional soccer players are entertaining viewers with a FIFA tournament, restaurants are doling out free food to those in need.

* Formula 1 racing engineers at Mercedes have joined forces with University College London to develop a breathing device that can be used instead of putting patients on a ventilator in intensive care.

* Distilleries across the US are using high-proof alcohol to make hand sanitizer and are giving it away for free.

* Google is digging into its massive trove of data tracking the movements of people around the world to produce a series of reports designed to help policymakers and researchers in the fight against the coronavirus.

* Several major health insurers have promised to cover COVID-19 costs.

 * When the coronavirus outbreak spread through Microsoft’s home state of Washington, Bill Gates teamed up with Amazon, another Seattle-based tech giant, to provide at-home test kits to residents in the area.

* Bill Gates is also funding the construction of seven factories to manufacture vaccines rapidly when they are approved, instead of wasting time by waiting to find out which vaccines work… and then building the factories.

Economic Support 

* The US has passed legislation to give $1200 to most American adults and $500 to most children as part of a stimulus package that also includes loans to businesses and local and state governments, funds for hospitals, and more unemployment insurance.

 * Australia is paying AU$750 (around $445 or £380) to all lower-income citizens, and is offering loans to small and medium-sized businesses.

* Denmark is subsidizing 75% of workers’ salaries.

* France has promised that no company will be allowed to fail as a result of the pandemic. It is freezing tax and rent payments for small businesses and expanding the welfare system for workers.

* Germany has pledged at least 500 billion euros ($550 billion) in loan guarantees.

* Italy has promised help for families and one-off 500-euro payments to people who are self-employed.

* Spain has announced a 200-billion-euro rescue package in loans for small businesses, and is freezing mortgages and utility bills for individuals.

* Sweden is subsidizing 90% of workers’ salaries if they’re affected by coronavirus.

* The UK is guaranteeing 80% of workers’ salaries and providing limited sick pay to those who are self-employed.

 People Helping Out 

 * Many people have joined volunteer mutual aid groups to support the vulnerable in their own communities. When the UK government called for volunteers, more than a quarter of a million people signed up in a single day.

* People and businesses are creating online resources to help ease the tension and inconvenience of quarantine, many of them free or discounted.

* Kind gestures are everywhere, from thank-you signs for garbage collectors to asocially distanced “welcome home” parade for a young cancer patient.

* In the UK, people around the country simultaneously took to their windows, balconies, and gardens to cheer and applaud the health workers of the NHS.

* Apple, Facebook, and other companies are donating millions of face masks.

* Cuban doctors traveled to Italy to help deal with the spread of the disease.

* Celebrities are doing their bit, whether it’s James McAvoy donating £275,000 to health care workers, Amy Adams and Josh Gad reading stories for children, or John Krasinski starting a YouTube channel dedicated to good news.

A Growing Number of “Good News” Sources 

Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to keep up with the “good news” – and, thankfully, there’s plenty of it. I found the following online in less than 5 minutes:

 * “John Krasinski launches ‘good news’ network from quarantine”

* “The Good News Dashboard” LINK

 * “A look at some ‘good news’ across the US” LINK

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On March 25, Waffle House declared a “Waffle House Index Red” in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Waffle House Index, an informal metric used by FEMA for nearly a decade, refers to the measure of destruction caused by a natural disaster based on how many Waffle Houses have closed. As of that date, the chain had shuttered 418 stores, more than a fifth of its locations. (Source: NBC News)

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Words in the News From Dictionary.com 

* Sedentation (seh-den-TAY-shun) – defined as “the adoption of a sedentary mode of life” – has been in use since the first half of the 20thcentury… but never the way we’re using it today.

* Supplicant (SUH-plih-kunt) – “humbly imploring, entreating” – had a rare moment in the sun after President Trump declared that the US would never merit this adjective.

* Cordon sanitaire (kor-dohn sah-nee-TARE) – “a protective barrier” – is a term that is usually applied to situations in which a state wishes to repel a dangerous influence, but is often found in reference to infectious diseases.

* Scourge (SKURJ) – “a cause of affliction or calamity” – had a spike in lookups on Dictionary.com after President Trump rhymed it with “gorge” and people rushed to see if they’d been saying it wrong all this time.

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Looking for some comfort books to read? The New York Times asked some well-known writers  for suggestions. Here are some of them…

* From Celeste Ng: The Princess Bride by William Goldman – “This has always been a comfort read for me: a fairy tale that acknowledges that life isn’t fair… yet still manages to make you feel that the good guys might win, that justice will be served, that there’s a point to it all.”

* From Elizabeth Gilbert: The Summer Book by Tove Jansson – “Absent of sentimentality, full of love and humor and wisdom, this is a tale about how much fun two people can have in the middle of nowhere, when they are practicing social isolation in earnest.”

* From Kiley Reid: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – “It’s funny and honest and comforting, and it’s a wonderful reminder of the glory in terrible first efforts, and the beauty that comes in taking it day by day.”

* From Ruth Ware: Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford – “[For] sheer comfort reading it has to be Nancy Mitford – who laughed and wept her way through love, loss, crippling bereavement and two world wars.”

* From Ann Patchett: Writers & Lovers by Lily King – “Even as the narrator grieves the loss of her mother and struggles to make art and keep a roof over her head, the novel is suffused with hopefulness and kindness.”

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