AAPI Plans 41st Annual Convention in Philadelphia

(Philadelphia, PA; February 8, 2023) “It is with great pleasure that we announce that the 41st Annual Convention and Scientific Sessions organized by American Association of Physicians of Indian origin (AAPI) will be held from July 6th to 9th, 2003 in the historical city of Philadelphia, PA,” Dr. Ravi Kolli, President of AAPI announced here today.

Highlighting the importance of AAPI and the contributions of AAPI members in the United states, Dr. Kolli, a senior Psychiatrist by profession said, “Today, AAPI is strong representing over 120,000 Indian American physicians, 130 local Chapters, who make up of 10% of total physicians in the US and nearly 50% of International Medical Graduates, rooted in every corner of the nation, who serve every 7th patient in the US. We are proud of our achievements and our contributions to the healthcare industry and the millions of people we serve.”

“We invite you to the 41st Annual Convention in the historic city of Philadelphia, PA,” Dr. Sanjay Gupta Convenor of AAPI Convention 2023 said. “We have convened a fantastic group of people to meet the needs of the convention and are very excited about this great event. Please reach out to any one of the representatives from the Philadelphia Host Team with questions or comments.”

Picture : TheUNN

“The 2023 AAPI Annual Convention & Scientific Assembly offers an exciting venue to interact with leading physicians, health professionals, academicians, and scientists of Indian origin,” said Dr. V. Ranga, Chair of AAPI BOT. “Physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country will convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the coming year. We look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia.”

The Covid pandemic has impacted all aspects of human life as never been before. The past three years have been challenging to everyone, particularly to those who are assigned with the responsibility of caring for the sick, even as hundreds of millions are affected by the pandemic. Physicians and other health professionals on the front lines of COVID-19 care have experienced so many unknowns during the pandemic. They’ve also put their own health and the well-being of their families on the line to provide care.

“At this critical juncture in human history, AAPI, the largest ethnic medical organization in the country is focusing on themes such as how to take care of self and find satisfaction and happiness in the challenging situations they are in, while serving hundreds of patients everyday of their dedicated and noble profession,” Dr. Anjana Samadder, President-Elect of AAPI said.

Describing the importance of the host city, Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Vice President of AAPI pointed out, “Philadelphia is one of the most exciting, urban chic cities in the world. It is one of the leading regions for the Life Sciences, Energy, and Financial Services industries. Philly is home to the University of Pennsylvania and has 9 medical schools in the surrounding area will bring in many more participants and excellent world-class speakers.”

Pointing to the accessibility and convenience of reaching Philly, Dr. Meher Medavaram, Secretary of AAPI said, “Traveling to Philadelphia is only one hour and 20 minutes from New York City and 1 hour and 45 minutes from Washington, D.C. via Amtrak’s Acela Express line. Thirty airlines serve Philadelphia International Airport with 625 daily nonstop flights to 121 domestic destinations and will attract many attendees.”

Dr. Sumul Rawal, Treasurer of AAPI said, “Exhibitors and Corporate Partners will remain our top priority as we work together to provide a world-class forum for increased interactions between sponsors, exhibitors, and attendees. The ease with which attendees can move between the exhibit hall, conference and ballrooms, and their hotel rooms will ensure maximum attendance and visibility for Sponsors and Exhibitors.”

The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin Convention offers an exciting venue to interact with leading physicians, health professionals, academicians, and scientists of Indian origin. The physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country will convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the coming year.

While urging all AAPI members to make plans and be part of the historic Convention, Dr. Kolli said: “We have a wonderful team planning and organizing the event to make the 2023 annual convention a memorable experience. Please reach out to any one of the representatives from the Philly team for any of your queries.” Please visit www.aapiconvention.org for more details or call the AAPI office at (630) 990 2277 for further information.

Facing Economic Headwinds, AAHOA Members Urge Continued Support of Hotel Industry

Laura Lee Blake, President & CEO of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), released the following statement in response to ongoing reports that economic headwinds could force more hotel owners into serious financial challenges, including bankruptcies – such as a recent filing by a leading Burger King Franchisee – and out-of-court restructurings this year:

“Our members have taken extraordinary steps over the past three years, and, in numerous cases, counted on pandemic relief aid to weather the worst of COVID-19. Many continue to operate on thin margins with smaller workforces. The tight labor market has made it difficult to hire.

“Hotels and other small businesses are the backbone of local economies, and AAHOA Members – the vast majority of whom are first- and second-generation immigrants – are resilient. However, staffing shortages, rising interest rates, and the possibility of a recession this year, even a mild one, are creating further strain on an industry that is still struggling to recover from a devastating pandemic.

Picture : Hospitality Net

The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by TOMS King reminds us that small businesses, including restaurants and hotels, continue to suffer long-term impacts from COVID-19 and an overall uncertain economic environment with high inflation and labor shortages. As President Biden noted in his State of the Union speech this week, the entrepreneurial spirit is very much alive with a record number of Americans starting small businesses. But the outlook for many of those businesses remains cloudy.

“AAHOA Members need certainty and continued federal assistance while these economic headwinds rage. While restaurateurs received grants from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, hoteliers have not seen the same support. Many need solutions to address, among other things, the pending payments due on COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) by waiving interest and/or deferring for another year.

“Additionally, the government should lift constraints on H2-B visas by expanding eligibility to include India so there are options available for addressing employers’ needs for additional seasonal workers. Finally, for all franchisees, the Federal Trade Commission should thoughtfully review the Franchise Rule, including extending the Rule beyond the presale disclosure to protect small-business owners’ investments. AAHOA Members also support the 12 Points of Fair Franchising to promote long-term, mutually beneficial relationships between Franchisors and Franchisees that will help sustain the franchise business model and grow the hospitality sector.”

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world, with Member-owned properties representing a significant part of the U.S. economy. AAHOA’s 20,000 members own 60% of the hotels in the United States and are responsible for 1.7% of the nation’s GDP. More than one million employees work at AAHOA member-owned hotels, earning $47 billion annually, and member-owned hotels support 4.2 million U.S. jobs across all sectors of the hospitality industry. AAHOA’s mission is to advance and protect the business interests of hotel owners through advocacy, industry leadership, professional development, member benefits, and community engagement.

As COVID Claims Over 300,000 American Lives, Vaccinating People Begins, Giving Hope To Millions

The first shots were given in the American mass vaccination campaign on Monday, December 14th opening a new chapter in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more people in the United States — over 300,000 — than in any other country and has taken a particularly devastating toll on people of color.

As per reports, the new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was administered in Queens, NY, which is the first known inoculation since the vaccine was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration late last week. It was a hopeful step for New York State, which the virus has scarred profoundly, leaving more than 35,000 people dead and severely weakening the economy.

“I believe this is the weapon that will end the war,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said, shortly before the shot was given to Sandra Lindsay, a nurse and the director of patient services in the intensive care unit at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. State officials said the shot was the first to be given outside of a vaccine trial in the United States.

President Trump posted on Twitter: “First Vaccine Administered. Congratulations USA! Congratulations WORLD!” Shortly afterward, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said at a news conference: “To me, we were watching an incredibly historic moment, and the beginning of something much better for this city and this country.”

While the first dose of the vaccine was administered in New York, people across the nation began receiving it on Monday as well. There was plenty of applause and some tears as news cameras captured the mundane rituals of an injection, underscoring the pent-up hope that this was the first step in getting past the pandemic.

“Today is the first day on the long road to go back to normal,” Mona Moghareh, a 30-year-old pharmacist, said after administering the first dose at a hospital in New Orleans.

The vaccinations started after the F.D.A.’s emergency authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Friday night. On Sunday, trucks and cargo planes packed with the first of nearly three million doses of coronavirus vaccine had fanned out across the country, as hospitals in all 50 states rushed to set up injection sites and their anxious workers tracked each shipment hour by hour. But the rollout is less centralized in the United States than in other countries that are racing to distribute it.

According to Gen. Gustave F. Perna, the chief operating officer of the federal effort to develop a vaccine, 145 sites were set to receive the vaccine on Monday, 425 on Tuesday and 66 on Wednesday. There appeared to be few logistical problems, though Puerto Rico received half the number of doses it expected, and had to scramble to adjust its distribution plan. The remaining doses are expected to arrive Tuesday and Wednesday.

A majority of the first injections given on Monday went to high-risk health care workers. In many cases, this first, limited delivery would not supply nearly enough doses to inoculate all of the doctors, nurses, security guards, receptionists and other workers who risk being exposed to the virus every day. Because the vaccines can cause side effects including fevers and aches, hospitals say they will stagger vaccination schedules among workers.

Residents of nursing homes, who have suffered a disproportionate share of Covid-19 deaths, are also being prioritized and are expected to begin receiving vaccinations next week. But the vast majority of Americans will not be eligible for the vaccine until the spring or later.

In an interview with MSNBC on Monday, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, laid out a timeline for a return to normalcy that stretched well into 2021. He stressed that until then, social distancing and masks will remain crucial in the fight to stop the spread of the virus.

“A vaccine right now is not a substitute for the normal standard public health measures,” he said, adding, “Only when you get the level of infection in society so low that it’s no longer a public health threat, can you then think about the possibility of pulling back on public health measures.”

He predicted that the average person with no underlying conditions would get the vaccine by the end of March or beginning of April. If the campaign is efficient and effective in convincing people to get the vaccine, most people could be vaccinated by late spring or early summer, he said.

“I believe we can get there by then so that by the time we get into the fall, we can start approaching some degree of relief, where the level of infection will be so low in society we can start essentially approaching some form of normality,” he said.

Until then, he stressed, the standard public health measures — distancing, masks, avoiding indoor gatherings — remain necessary.

 

Cyber Vulnerability Grows Along With COVID-19 Pandemic Stresses

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages, demand for telehealth services has also grown, increasing the vulnerability that medical operations have to cyberattacks and hacks, according to Laura Hoffman, AMA assistant director of federal affairs.

Hospitals and medical practices must always take steps to protect their networks from cyberattacks on patient records and other data, but as hospitals and physician practices have adjusted to provide more care virtually, while also devoting significant resources to treating patients with COVID-19 and managing the increased number of cyberattacks on health care providers, security can become stressed, she said during a recent episode of the “AMA COVID-19 Update.”

“In the pandemic, we rightfully have a lot of resources focused on caring for patients with COVID. So, you’ve got a lot of additional personnel maybe working in different areas of the hospital that they aren’t accustomed to, maybe their access controls have had to change in terms of who’s allowed out into what portions of the electronic health records, and that can contribute to insider threats,” Hoffman said.

“We’ve got people continuing to work from home and continuing to receive treatment from home. So, the landscape of the vulnerabilities and entry points during the pandemic are increased as compared to a regular health care system where a lot of the care is delivered inside your secure clinic or hospital.”

Telehealth creates vulnerabilities

Hoffman also pointed to a growing reliance on telehealth and how more patients are receiving care from home using different telehealth platforms. The use of the technology has been “a wonderful way for us to promote social distancing and preserve” personal protective equipment (PPE), she said.

“But at the same time, what is good for the health care system and patients presents an opportunity, unfortunately, for cyber criminals. So, they see this now as an opportunity to perhaps exploit these increased use of telehealth systems and the fact that people are working in an environment that they may be less familiar with, and they are going to town in terms of trying to infiltrate different systems,” Hoffman said.

Ransomware, a long-standing problem for individual internet users, is also on the rise for institutions. “In the beginning [of the pandemic] we saw a lot of attacks via phishing and ransomware. Having people click on links for additional PPE that they might be trying to find … actually would then infect computers and systems,” she said.

Ransomware criminals then demand money from affected institutions to release infected software and locked up data. “It’s not just something that happens in a back room where the IT staff then gets busy to work and trying to fix the ransomware that has infected the system,” Hoffman noted. “It really is a system-wide impact when your systems are shut down. You can’t pull up distinct patient records to learn what medications they’re on or even what their diagnoses are.”

Beware of insider threats

One of the newest and biggest threats is called “Ryuk ransomware,” she explained, which has been released into the open internet for use by any malicious criminal.

The ransomware has created an opportunity for insider attacks by individuals who recognize an opportunity to exploit weaknesses in an institution’s technology.

“We’re seeing a lot of insider threats, unfortunately, where folks may recognize that their systems aren’t patched as strongly as they should be or completely as they should be, and they’re able to just insert this software right into some unsecured systems. One of the biggest examples we’ve actually seen recently is with the UHS [Universal Health Services Inc.] health care system where computers were infected, and many practices had to shut down. Hospital systems were without their EHR for some time,” Hoffman said.

It’s not just hospitals and large institutions that are affected. Small practices or individual physicians working from home may be storing less data, “but they may not have the same kinds of robust cybersecurity protections in place, and so it’s easier to infiltrate that network and maybe link it to a larger network,” she said.

Keep software up to date

Hoffman recommends IT staff check that software is up to date and make sure software patches for all technology are completed regularly—even personal computer operating systems and internet browsers that link to bigger data management systems.

“One thing to consider is giving all of your employees a really serious refresher about the kinds of links they should be clicking on when they review their emails inside the hospital system. Maybe have everybody change their passwords more frequently, make the requirements more complex.

“I know it just adds one more thing for everybody to remember, but you can use password managers to help with that and come up with complex passwords that you don’t need to actually remember every time,” she said

(By Len Strazewski, a Contributing News Writer at AMA)

UN Special Session on COVID-19 To Begin This Week

The UN General Assembly is holding a Special Session on the Covid-19 pandemic at the level of Heads of State and Government on 3 and 4 December.. It took more than a year of discussions to overcome the opposition of certain states, notably the United States and President Donald Trump.

BRUSSELS, Nov 30 2020 (IPS) – The holding of this Special Session (the 37th in the history of the UN) is of considerable importance. It is a unique opportunity to define and implement joint actions at the global level to fight the pandemic in order to ensure the right to life and health for all the inhabitants of the Earth. As the President of the UN General Assembly wrote in his letter of convocation: “Let us not forget that none of us are safe until we are all safe”.

This is a historic moment. The future of the UN is at stake, and above all the capacity of our societies to give life a universal value free from any subordination to market, economic and power “reasons”.

Health, life, is not a question of business, profits, national power, domination or survival of the strongest. The right to health for all is not only a question of access to care (medicines, vaccines….).

This special session is also very important because it represents a great opportunity for us citizens. It encourages us to express our priorities and wishes, to put pressure on our elected leaders so that their decisions comply with the constitutional principles of our States and with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration of the Rights of Peoples.

As the Agora of the Inhabitants of the Earth, we have already intervened in September with the UN Secretary General in defense of a health policy without private patents for profit and free of charge (under collective financial responsibility.

On 23 October, at the WTO (World Trade Organisation) level, the “rich” countries of the “North” (United States, European Union, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Australia, Japan…) rejected the request made by South Africa and India, supported by the WHO (World Health Organisation) and other countries of the South, to temporarily suspend the application of patent rules in the fight against Covid-19.

The suspension was intended to allow people in impoverished countries fair and effective access to coronavirus treatment. We deeply deplore it. With this rejection, the aforementioned countries have flouted the political and legal primacy of the right to health according to the rules and objectives set at the international level by WHO over the “logics” and market interests promoted by WTO. This is unacceptable.

Is humanity at the beginning of the end of any global common health policy inspired by justice, responsibility and solidarity?

Inequalities in the right to health have worsened as part of a general increase in impoverishment. According to the biennial Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report of the World Bank the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to push an additional 88 million to 115 million people into extreme poverty this year, with the total rising to as many as 150 million by 2021.1

The vaccine market is valued at about $29.64 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow to $43.79 billion at a CAGR of 10.3% through 2020. The sector is marked by a high degree of concentration: four major pharmaceutical groups dominated in 2019 in terms of turnover generated by the marketing of vaccines.

Leading the way is the British company GlaxoSmithKline, followed by the American Merck and Pfizer, with 7.3 and 5.9 billion euros respectively, and then the French company Sanofi with over 5.8 billion euros last year.

The concentration of vaccine production is also impressive. Europe currently accounts for three-quarters of global vaccine production. The rest of the production is divided mainly between North America (13%) and Asia (8%). In Europe, there are pharmaceutical giants such as Roche, Novartis and Bayer.

The resulting social fractures from above-mentioned trends make it more difficult to implement measures and actions in line with common, shared objectives, in the interest of all, especially the weakest who are at risk.

The spirit of survival and nationalist, racist and class divisions have been reinforced. With a few exceptions, the commodification and privatisation of health systems have contributed to the transfer of decision-making powers to private global industrial, commercial and financial subjects.

National political powers, which are responsible for the processes of commodification and privatisation, are less and less able to design and impose a global and public health policy in the interest of the world’s population.

Mainstream narratives, values, choices and regulation practices must change

The world situation is dramatic. This does not mean that it’s impossible to reverse to-day’s trends. Here below we mention the solutions that Agora of the Inhabitants has submitted to the attention of the president of the UN General Assembly in view of the Special Session on Covid-19.

Our proposals were the subject of a consultation with associations, groups, movements and citizen networks during the month of November. We have received 1,285 signed personal emails of support from 53 countries.

First, the Special Session must strongly reaffirm the principle that the health of all the inhabitants of the Earth is the greatest wealth we possess. Health matters, health is a universal right. It should not belong only to those who have the power to purchase the goods and services necessary and indispensable for life. Our States must stop spending almost 2 trillion dollars a year on armaments and wars.

The health of 8 billion human beings and other living species is more important than the power of conquest and extermination. To this end, it is necessary to change the priorities of global finance by investing in the economy of global public goods (health, water, knowledge/education.

The Special Session should: – propose the creation of a public cooperative financial fund for health, as an integral part of a Global Deposits and Consignments Fund for Global Public Goods; – commission UNIDIR or a commission of independent experts to submit a study report on immediate reductions in military expenditure and the reconversion of its allocation to the development, production and distribution of public goods and services in the health and related fields of water, agro-food and knowledge.

Second, universal rights to life imply that the goods and services indispensable for life should no longer be subject to private appropriation nor to exclusive collective appropriation. Therefore it is necessary to build the common future of all the inhabitants of the Earth by promoting and safeguarding the common public goods and services indispensable for life.

Water, health, seeds, housing and knowledge and education, are the most obvious common public goods. They cannot be dissociated from universal rights. Patents on life (and artificial intelligence) are a strong example of the dissociation between goods that are indispensable for life, such as medical care goods (infrastructure, medicines, and so on) and the right to life.

Hence, we propose:

  • to recognise that health (goods and services) is a global common public good that must be safeguarded, protected and valued by the community, under the responsibility of democratically elected public authority institutions, at the different levels of societal organisation of human communities, from the local to the global community of life on Earth;
    • approve the abandonment for the period 2021-2023 of application of the rules concerning patents on living organisms, in particular on all the tools for combating the Covid-19 pandemic (diagnostics, treatment, vaccines). The monopolies left to patent holders have no relevant social, ethical, economic and political value. To this end, the Member States of the United Nations and its specialised agencies, representatives of all the peoples and citizens of the Earth, commit themselves, for want of anything better, to use as of now existing instruments of international law such as compulsory licensing;
    • decide to set up a global Task Force, under the aegis of the UN, to revise the legal-institutional regime of intellectual property in the Anthropocene, the aim of which would be to abandon the principle of the patentability of living organisms for private and profit-making purposes and to define a new global regime on intellectual property in the light also of the experience accumulated in recent years in the field of artificial intelligence.

Third, it is of fundamental importance to abandon submission to the dictates of “In the name of money”. “You are not profitable? You are not indispensable. In any case, your life is not a priority”. It is not because a person is not profitable for the capital invested that he or she is no longer indispensable. Being without purchasing power does not mean becoming without rights. Life is not money. Living beings are not commodities, resources for profit.

To this end, the Special Session should:

  • highlight the need for the re-publicization of scientific research (basic and applied) and technological development. The pooling of knowledge and health protocols, medicines and vaccines must be part of the immediate measures to be taken. In this perspective;
    • propose the approval of a Global Compact on Science for Life and Security for all the inhabitants of the Earth;
    • to convey in 2022 a UN world conference on the global common public goods and services. The current mystifying use of the concept of ‘global public goods’ in relation to Covid-19 vaccines underlines the urgency and importance of the proposal.

Fourth, a global health policy requires a global political architecture capable, above all, of outlawing predatory finance. The “global security” of the global public goods in the interests of life for all the inhabitants of the Earth can be achieved by creating global institutions with corresponding competences and powers.

The Earth inhabitants do not need new winners, new global conquerors. They need world leaders and citizens who are convinced that the future of life on Earth requires a new and urgent Global Social Pact for Life. In 25 years’ time, the UN will celebrate the centenary of its founding.

The Special Session must make it clear that there can no longer be a debate on small adjustments to the global regulatory model known as “multilateralism”.

The Special Session should:

  • recognise Humanity as an institutional subject and key actor in the global politics of life. The opening of a Global Common House of Knowledge, based on the existing pooling of knowledge, experiences, technical tools (case of Costa Rica concerning health…) will be a significant concrete step forward;
    • propose the urgent creation of a Global Public Goods and Services Security Council, starting with health, water and knowledge.

It is time for governments and citizens to get or regain common control of health policy. The Special Session must set the record straight. The right to health for all is not only a question of (economic) access to care (medicines, vaccines…) but, more, a question of building the human, social, economic (such as employment…), environmental and political conditions that shape an individual and collective healthy state.

(By Riccardo Petrella from IPS, an Italian national living in Belgium is Emeritus Professor, Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium), with Honorary Degrees (Honoris Causa) from eight universities in Sweden, Denmark, France, Canada, Argentina and Belgium. His research and teaching fields have been regional development, poverty, science and technology policy and globalization.)

Moderna Seeking US, European Regulators To Approve Covid-19 Vaccination

Moderna Inc, which has reported its Covid-19 vaccine is 94 per cent effective, on Monday announced it is filing with US and European regulators for emergency use authorization. Moderna follows barely a week after Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech filed for US regulatory approval. By the end of 2020, Moderna expects to have approximately 20 million doses of its mRNA-1273 vaccine available in the U.S and is “on track to manufacture 500 million to 1 billion doses globally in 2021.

Moderna created its shots in collaboration with the U.S. National Institutes of Health and got a final batch of results over the weekend which show the vaccine is more than 94% effective. Moderna’s efficacy results are based on 196 Covid-19 cases in its huge U.S. study with more than 30,000 participants. Of the 196 cases, 185 were in participants who received the dummy shot and 11 who got the vaccine. Severe cases and one death were reported in participants who got the dummy shot.

Moderna expects to present its data to the US Food and Drug Administration on December 17. First up will be Pfizer and BioNTech, on December 10. Both Pfizer and Moderna are two-shot vaccines.

The US government’s vaccine management chief has said all systems are ready to deliver the vaccines to priority groups within 24 to 48 hours of FDA approval.  Government Model Suggests U.S. COVID-19 Cases Could Be Approaching 100 Million

The actual number of coronavirus infections in the U.S. reached nearly 53 million at the end of September and could be approaching 100 million now, according to a model developed by government researchers.

The model, created by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calculated that the true number of infections is about eight times the reported number, which includes only the cases confirmed by a laboratory test.

Preliminary estimates using the model found that by the end of September, 52.9 million people had been infected, while the number of laboratory-confirmed infections was just 6.9 million, the team reported in the Nov. 25 issue of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“This indicates that approximately 84% of the U.S. population has not yet been infected and thus most of the country remains at risk,” the authors wrote.

Since then, the CDC’s tally of confirmed infections has increased to 12.5 million. So if the model’s ratio still holds, the estimated total would now be greater than 95 million, leaving about 71% of the population uninfected. The model attempts to account for the fact that most cases of COVID-19 are mild or asymptomatic and go unreported.

Scientists used studies looking for people who have antibodies to the coronavirus in their blood – an indication that they were infected at some time — to estimate how many infections went undetected. Some of these antibody studies have suggested that only about one in 10 coronavirus infections is reported.

The goal in creating the model was to “better quantify the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the healthcare system and society,” the authors wrote. The model also estimated that official counts do not include more than a third of the people hospitalized with COVID-19.

NPR (11/26, Hamilton) reported “the actual number of coronavirus infections in the U.S. reached nearly 53 million at the end of September and could be approaching 100 million now, according to a model developed by” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers. The model “calculated that the true number of infections is about 8 times the reported number, which includes only the cases confirmed by a laboratory test.” NPR added, “Preliminary estimates using the model found that by the end of September, 52.9 million people had been infected, while the number of laboratory-confirmed infections was just 6.9 million, the team reported in…Clinical Infectious Diseases.”

Pope Francis Backs UN Call for Ceasefire to Deal with Covid-19 – ‘May this Security Council Resolution Become a Courageous First Step Towards a Peaceful Future’

Pope Francis has offered his support for this week’s call by the United Nations for a general ceasefire to allow humanitarian relief in combat zones hit by the Covid-19 virus. The Holy Father’s statement of support came after he prayed the noonday Angelus on July 5, 2020, with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “This week the United Nations Security Council adopted a Resolution which proposes some measures to deal with the devastating consequences of the Covid-19 virus, particularly for areas in conflict zones,” Pope Francis said. “The request for a global and immediate ceasefire, which would allow that peace and security necessary to provide the needed humanitarian assistance is commendable. I hope that this decision will be implemented effectively and promptly for the good of the many people who are suffering. May this Security Council Resolution become a courageous first step towards a peaceful future.” On July 1, members of the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution demanding “a general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations on its agenda.” The resolution calls on parties to armed conflicts to immediately in a “durable humanitarian phase” provide aid to countries to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Vatican News. In the resolution, the Council also voiced support for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who first proposed a global ceasefire on 23 March. That appeal has been echoed by world leaders, including Pope Francis, who, at the Angelus on 29 March invited everyone “to follow it up by ceasing all forms of hostilities, encouraging the creation of corridors for humanitarian aid, openness to diplomacy, and attention to those who find themselves in situations of vulnerability.”

COVID-19 Fatality Risk Is Double Earlier Estimates: Study New estimates are based on robust New York City data are underline the importance of infection prevention, particularly among older adults whose risk is significantly elevated – By Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health

Newswise — In one of the most robust studies of COVID-19 mortality risk in the United States, researchers estimate an infection fatality rate more than double estimates from other countries, with the greatest risk to older adults. Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health scientists and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene colleagues published the findings on the pre-print server medRxiv ahead of peer review.
Researchers estimate an overall infection fatality rate (IFR) of 1.45 percent in New York City, from March 1-May 16, 2020—in other words, between 1 and 2 percent of New Yorkers infected with COVID-19 including those with no or mild symptoms died during this period. The new estimate is more than double the IFR previously reported elsewhere (e.g., about 0.7 percent in both China and France where most IFR estimates have come from). So far, IFR in the U.S has been unclear.
Greatest Risk to Older People
The new study finds mortality risk was highest among older adults, with IFR of 4.67 percent for 65-74-year-olds and 13.83 percent for 75+ year-olds. Younger people had far lower chances of dying from the disease: 0.011 percent among those younger than 25 and 0.12 percent among 25-44-year-olds. However, risk to young people should not be taken lightly, especially given cases of post-infection Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, the researchers caution.
“These dire estimates highlight the severity of COVID-19 in elderly populations and the importance of infection prevention in congregate settings,” the authors write. “Thus, early detection and adherence to infection control guidance in long-term care and adult care facilities should be a priority for COVID-19 response as the pandemic continues to unfold.”
Robust Data Points to Elevated Risk
New York City has among the most complete and reliable data on COVID-19 deaths—specialists review all death certificates and rapidly record deaths into a unified electronic reporting system. For this reason, the new estimate likely more accurately reflects the true higher burden of death due to COVID-19. Further, given the likely stronger public health infrastructure and healthcare systems in New York City than many other places, the higher IFR estimated in the new study suggests that mortality risk from COVID-19 may be even higher elsewhere in the United States, and likely other countries as well. 
“It is thus crucial that officials account for and closely monitor the infection rate and population health outcomes and enact prompt public health responses accordingly as the pandemic unfolds,” the authors write. “As the pandemic continues to unfold and populations in many places worldwide largely remain susceptible, understanding the severity, in particular, the IFR, is crucial for gauging the full impact of COVID-19 in the coming months or years.”
About the Model and Its Uncertainties
During the pandemic, the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have been collaborating in generating real-time model projections in support of the city’s pandemic response. Weekly projections are posted on Github.
In the current study, researchers used a computer model to analyze mortality data, including 191,392 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases and 20,141 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths occurred among New York City residents from March 1-May 16, 2020. The model, which was developed to support the City’s pandemic response, estimated IFR based on case and mortality data combined with mobility information from cell phone data used to model changes in COVID-19 transmission rate due to social distancing. The model includes a number of uncertainties on questions such as the number of New Yorkers initially infected and the movement of people between New York City neighborhoods. 
The model’s estimates are in line with serology surveys (e.g., 19.9 percent positive in New York City, as of May 1, 2020, likely from testing of 25-64-year-olds). In addition, spatial variation estimates were in line with other reports (i.e., highest in the Bronx and lowest in Manhattan).
Estimating the IFR is challenging due to the large number of undocumented infections, fluctuating case detection rates, and inconsistent reporting of fatalities. Further, the IFR of COVID-19 could vary by location, given differences in demographics, healthcare systems, and social construct (e.g., intergenerational households are the norm in some societies whereas older adults commonly reside and congregate in long-term care and adult care facilities in others).
Study authors include Wan Yang, Sasikiran Kandula, and Jeffrey Shaman at Columbia Mailman School; and Mary Huynh, Sharon K. Greene, Gretchen Van Wye, Wenhui Li, Hiu Tai Chan, Emily McGibbon, Alice Yeung, Donald Olson, and Anne Fine at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. 
This study was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (AI145883), the National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research Program (RAPID; 2027369), and the NYC DOHMH. Jeffrey Shaman and Columbia University disclose partial ownership of SK Analytics, an infectious disease forecasting company. Shaman also discloses consulting for Business Network International.
 

First Human Trial Of Possible COVID-19 Vaccine Triggers Rapid Immune Response, Few Side-Effects

As the worldwide number of COVID-19 cases reaches five million, the search for a vaccine has taken an important step forward. Researchers say the first human trial of a possible vaccine has been found to be safe and may effectively fight the virus.

Scientists in China say 108 healthy adults were given a dose of adenovirus type 5 vectored COVID-19 (Ad5-nCoV) during the trial. The drug uses a weakened strain of the common cold (adenovirus) to deliver genetic material which codes itself to find the protein in SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19. These coded cells then head to the lymph nodes where the immune system creates antibodies that can recognize the virus and attack it.

“These results represent an important milestone. The trial demonstrates that a single dose of the new adenovirus type 5 vectored COVID-19 (Ad5-nCoV) vaccine produces virus-specific antibodies and T cells in 14 days,” Professor Wei Chen of the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology said in a statement.

Although Ad5 was found to create a rapid immune response in the body, scientists warn there’s no guarantee the drug will effectively fight the coronavirus.

“These results should be interpreted cautiously… The ability to trigger these immune responses does not necessarily indicate that the vaccine will protect humans from COVID-19. This result shows a promising vision for the development of COVID-19 vaccines, but we are still a long way from this vaccine being available to all,” Chen explained.

The test group of 18-60 year-olds was split into three groups of 36 and given either a small, medium, or large dose of Ad5. Researchers found that none of the patients suffered from serious reactions to the vaccine after four weeks. The most common side-effects included mild pain in the injection area, fever, and fatigue. The symptoms typically lasted for less than two days.

Rapid Response

The study, published in The Lancet, found that nearly every patient had more binding antibodies after 28 days. The antibodies, which learned to attach to the coronavirus, had increased by four times in 97 percent of the test group. Among the patients given the large dose of Ad5, 75 percent were found to have antibodies that can neutralize SARS-CoV-2 in their systems.

Patients also saw their T cell response increase rapidly, with nearly 93 percent seeing a rise in the body’s ability to fight off infections.

Vaccine Roadblocks

Researchers cautioned that Ad5 still has some issues. The biggest problem is that humans could be immune to adenovirus type 5. About half of the trial patients were found to have a pre-existing immunity to the cold virus which may have slowed the progress of the vaccine.

“Our study found that pre-existing Ad5 immunity could slow down the rapid immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 and also lower the peaking level of the responses,” said Professor Feng-Cai Zhu from Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The final results of the Ad5 injections will be evaluated after six months. Researchers are hoping the patients will show a continued resistance to the coronavirus.

A second trial involving 500 healthy adults is already underway in Wuhan, the alleged starting point of the worldwide pandemic. This trial will also see how the drug affects patients over the age of 60.

An experimental vaccine against the coronavirus showed encouraging results in very early testing, triggering hoped-for immune responses in eight healthy, middle-aged volunteers, its maker announced May 18.

Study volunteers given either a low or medium dose of the vaccine by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc. had antibodies similar to those seen in people who have recovered from COVID-19.

In the next phase of the study, led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, researchers will try to determine which dose is best for a definitive experiment that they aim to start in July.

In all, 45 people have received one or two shots of the vaccine, which was being tested at three different doses. The kind of detailed antibody results needed to assess responses are only available on eight volunteers so far.

The vaccine seems safe, the company said, but much more extensive testing is needed to see if it remains so. A high dose version is being dropped after spurring some short-term side effects.

The results have not been published and are only from the first of three stages of testing that vaccines and drugs normally undergo. U.S. government officials have launched a project called “Operation Warp Speed” to develop a vaccine and hopefully have 300 million doses by January.

Worldwide, about a dozen vaccine candidates are in the first stages of testing or nearing it. Health officials have said that if all goes well, studies of a potential vaccine might wrap up by very late this year or early next year.

More than 4.7 million infections and 315,000 deaths from the coronavirus have been confirmed worldwide since it emerged in China late last year. There are no specific approved treatments, although several are being used on an emergency basis after showing some promise in preliminary testing.

Sen. Kamala Harris Introduces Bill to Provide Monthly $2,000 Payments During COVID-19 Crisis

U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Ed Markey (D-MA) May 8 had introduced the Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act, legislation that provides a monthly $2,000 check to those struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic. As rent comes due and bills continue to pile up, Americans desperately need assistance to financially survive this crisis, said a press release.

“The coronavirus pandemic has caused millions to struggle to pay the bills or feed their families,” said Harris. “The CARES Act gave Americans an important one-time payment, but it’s clear that wasn’t nearly enough to meet the needs of this historic crisis. Bills will continue to come in every single month during the pandemic and so should help from government. The Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act will ensure families have the resources they need to make ends meet. I am eager to continue working with Senators Sanders and Markey as we push to pass this bill immediately,” the Indian American senator said in the release.

“As a result of this horrific pandemic, tens of millions of Americans are living in economic desperation not knowing where their next meal or paycheck will come from,” said Sanders. “The one-time $1,200 check that many Americans recently received is not nearly enough to pay the rent, put food on the table and make ends meet. During this unprecedented crisis, Congress has a responsibility to make sure that every working-class household in America receives a $2,000 emergency payment a month for each family member. I am proud to be introducing legislation with Senators Harris and Markey to do exactly that. If we can bail out large corporations, we can make sure that everyone in this country has enough income to pay for the basic necessities of life.”

The Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act is endorsed by Economic Security Project Action, Humanity Forward, Community Change Action, High Ground Institute, LatinxVoice, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Income Movement, People’s Action, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Golden State Opportunity, MyPath, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Heartland Alliance, One Fair Wage, Caring Across Generations, End Child Poverty CA/The GRACE Institute, Coalition on Human Needs, Black to the Future Action Fund, ParentsTogether Action, RESULTS, and Forum for Youth Investment.

The Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act:

  • Provides up to $2,000 a month to every individual with an income below $120,000 throughout and for three months following the coronavirus pandemic.
    • Married couples who file jointly would receive $4,000.
    • $2,000 per child up to three children
    • Retroactive to March
    • Begins to phase out after $100,000
  • Ensures that every U.S. resident receives a payment, regardless of whether or not they have filed a recent tax return or have a social security number.
    • Uses the data from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income, (SSI), Medicare and housing assistance programs
  • Forbids debt collectors from seizing the rebate payments.
  • Ensures the homeless and foster youth receive payments.

Research Shows Electroceutical Fabric Eradicates Coronavirus Infectivity On Contact

By Allison Gasparini (Courtesy: FORBES)

In the fight against Covid-19, protective personal equipment has played a central and critical role for the safety of healthcare workers. However, the virus can attach to the surface of PPE where it may continue to be infectious for an extended period of time. There’s a risk that a person removing their face mask could touch viral particles latched onto the outside and further spread the virus.
A preprint paper published recently by scientists from Indiana University suggests a fabric which eradicates the infectivity of coronaviruses on contact by generating an electric field could be the answer to the problem.
Last month, a team of researchers determined a hybrid combination of one layer of cotton and two layers of chiffon is the most effective fabric for a face mask. They noted the high-efficiency of the combination is likely due to the combined effect of mechanical and electrostatic filtration of infective particles.
The new study from IU further explores the potential of electrostatic forces to act against Covid-19.
The research is a part of a still-growing field of medical devices known as “electroceuticals” — a fusion of the words “electrostatic” and “pharmaceuticals.” Electroceuticals use weak electric fields not harmful to humans to treat a variety of conditions. Pacemakers, which are used to treat arrhythmias, are one common example.
Chandan Sen, the paper’s lead author and director of the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering, previously worked on developing the current-generating fabric for antimicrobial applications. Bioelectric technology company Vomaris Inc currently commercializes the electroceutical fabric for use as a pathogen-killing wound dressing.
The fabric is polyester printed with little metal dots made of zinc and silver. The geometric, alternating pattern of zinc and silver make microcell batteries which generate an electric field upon exposure to moisture. When used in wound care, the electric field prevents biofilms from forming and reduces the risk of bacterial infection during the healing process.
Knowing viruses rely on electrostatic forces to assemble and attach to cells, the researchers suspected the electroceutical fabric could be used to destabilize the coronavirus as well.
As a control for their test, the team used a polyester fabric without the microcell batteries on the surface. They then exposed both fabrics to an aqueous solution containing cells with a respiratory coronavirus at room temperature and allowed it to absorb.
Their subsequent analysis revealed that just one minute of contact to the electroceutical fabric led to significant reduction in the electrokinetic property of the viral particles. Additionally, researchers monitored the infected cells recovered from the electroceutical fabrics and noticed an absence of the cytopathic effects expected in the presence of viral invasions.
The team reported the cells from the electroceutical fabric were as healthy as non-infected cells, indicating the virus had lost its infectivity, while cells from the control fabric didn’t receive the same protection.
Though further studies are needed to characterize the structural change of coronaviruses in exposure to electroceutical fabric, the researchers hope their findings are the first step toward receiving FDA Emergency Use Authorization which will allow the technology to be distributed widely for use as face masks.

The price of good health is eternal vigilance

By Michael Sainsbury (Courtesy: UCANews)

Second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic are beginning to emerge across the Asia-Pacific region, even though other nations have barely felt (at least officially) the impact of the disease’s first surge.

With predictions of a vaccine not being available until 2021 at the earliest, these new surges will not be the last.

A corollary of this is that the disease, like all viruses, is also random in the way that it spreads, but contagion is usually denser in urban areas where close human contact is nearly unavoidable.

This means that outbreaks have been patchy. In India, for instance, Mumbai is in all sorts of trouble while Kerala seems largely safe, at least for now.

Similarly, in Indonesia, Jakarta is the epicenter of the virus but far-flung islands like Flores and Bali have been relatively unscathed so far.

Of course, a lack of testing accounts for some of this, but not all. Yet it is a major mistake to think that any particular town, city or region will escape the coronavirus. Its contagion is such that one infected person can infect many.

In Singapore, authorities were forced to ramp up lockdowns after infections surged in the dormitories of migrant workers, the city’s largely “out of sight, out of mind” underclass.

In South Korea, bars and nightclubs were shuttered almost as quickly as they were reopened — a matter of days — when nightspots turned out to be the center of fresh clusters on infections.

And let’s not forget China where a growing number of towns and cities are being locked down as infections spike, especially in the northeast near Russia and North Korea. Chinese experts have openly spoken about future waves of the coronavirus.

“The majority of Chinese at the moment are still susceptible to Covid-19 infection because of a lack of immunity,” Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a senior medic involved in China’s top-level response, was reported as saying. “We are facing a big challenge; it’s not better than other countries, I think, at the moment.”

He also tacitly admitted that China’s infection numbers may be under-reported, a widespread problem in the region according to experts.

The message from these countries, all of whom have been held up as having responded best to the virus in terms of containment, is that this disease requires constant vigilance in the absence of any vaccine or cure.

Second waves of outbreaks are also emphasizing the discrimination through Covid-19 shaming that has emerged during the still-early stages of this pandemic and which is fast become a toxic byproduct of the virus.

In Singapore, foreign workers are being blamed for spreading the virus — a reaction that is unfortunately commonplace in the region.

In Malaysia, migrant workers from Indonesia and Myanmar have been blamed for carrying and spreading it when in fact the first recorded hotspot was at a middle-class Muslim summit.

In South Korea, many LGBTQ people are in hiding because a gay nightclub was named as a recent hotspot.

Chinese people were racially targeted initially in the region and around the globe. Then in Asia, it was the turn of Europeans who were accused of bringing the disease back to Asia after outbreaks in southern Europe.

Over time, there will be second, third and fourth waves of the virus simply because this slippery disease is so highly contagious. It is therefore imperative that we find sustainable new ways to interact, to work, to socialize and to worship.

As we do this, we must keep in mind that this disease knows no borders and does not respect race, class or ideology. Fighting and protecting ourselves against this virus should be something that brings us together, not something which tears us further apart.

Coronavirus: Trump’s ‘inconsistent and incoherent’ response’ slammed by The Lancet

Editorial calls for the president to be voted out
(Courtesy: The Independent)

One of the world’s oldest and best-known medical journals slammed Donald Trump’s “inconsistent and incoherent national response” to the novel coronavirus pandemic and accused the administration of relegating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to a “nominal” role.

The unsigned editorial from The Lancet concluded that Mr Trump should be replaced. “Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics,” said the journal, which was founded in Britain in 1823.

The strongly worded critique highlights mounting frustration with the administration’s response among some of the world’s top medical researchers. Medical journals sometimes run signed editorials that take political stances, but rarely do publications with The Lancet’s influence use the full weight of their editorial boards to call for a president to be voted out of office.

“It’s not common for a journal to do that – but the scientific community is getting increasingly concerned with the dangerous politicization of science during this pandemic crisis,” said Benjamin Corb, public affairs director for the nonprofit American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. “We watch as political leaders tout unproven medics advice, and public health and science experts are vilified as partisans – all while people continue to get sick and die.”

The Lancet published the editorial as the death toll in the United States surpassed 85,000 and many states moved to reopen businesses and ease coronavirus restrictions that experts say are necessary to contain the virus.

The journal said that while infection and death rates have declined in hard-hit states such as New York and New Jersey after two months of virus restrictions, new outbreaks in Minnesota and Iowa have raised questions about the efficacy of the Trump administration’s response.

The authors accused the administration of undermining some of the CDC’s top officials, saying the agency “has seen its role minimized and become an ineffective and nominal adviser”. They said the agency, which is supposed to be the primary contact for health authorities during crises, had been hamstrung by years of budget cuts that have made it harder to combat infectious diseases. The editorial also alleged the administration left an “intelligence vacuum” in China when it pulled the last CDC officer from the country in July.

The Lancet took the CDC to task too, criticizing its botched rollout of diagnostic testing in the critical early weeks when the virus began to spread in the United States. The country remains ill-equipped to provide basic surveillance or laboratory testing to combat the disease, the journal said.

“There is no doubt that the CDC has made mistakes, especially on testing in the early stages of the pandemic,” the editorial said. “But punishing the agency by marginalizing and hobbling it is not the solution.”

“The Administration is obsessed with magic bullets – vaccines, new medicines, or a hope that the virus will simply disappear,” it continued. “But only a steadfast reliance on basic public health principles, like test, trace, and isolate, will see the emergency brought to an end, and this requires an effective national public health agency.” A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday morning.

The Lancet editorial board has criticized the actions of government officials before, although rarely, if ever, has it waded into electoral politics. During the Obama administration, a 2015 editorial from the publication demanded an independent investigation into a US military airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in northern Afghanistan that killed 42 people. The Lancet called the attack a violation of the Geneva Conventions and dismissed then-president Barack Obama’s apology for the bombing.

Editor of The Lancet Richard Horton has decried the British government’s response to the pandemic in editorials and public statements published under his name. In a tweet earlier this week, he said Boris Johnson had “dropped the ball” in containing the virus.

Dr. Sudheer S Chauhan, Another Indian American Physician Succumbs to Deadly Corona Virus

Dr. Sudheer S Chauhan, a kind hearted physician of Indian Origin, who had dedicated his life at the service of his thousands of patients in the New York region, succumbed to the deadly corona virus on May 19th.
Dr. Chuhan, an Internal Medicine specialist in South Richmond Hill, New York, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 and battling for his life for the past few weeks, died of complications from the illness.
“Our Father, Dr. Sudheer Singh Chauhan, Internal Medicine Physician and Associate Program Director IM Residency Program at Jamaica Hospital, New York passed away on May 19 after battling with COVID  for two months. We will miss this unique, kind, gentle and caring spirit. May his soul rest in peace,” wrote his daughter, Sneh Chuhan on COVID-19 Physicians Memorial.
Dr. Chauhan, who had attended and graduated from medical school in 1972, has had nearly half a century  of diverse experience, especially in Internal Medicine. Dr. Chauhan received his graduate medical education from GSUM Medical College, University of Kanpur, India in 1972. He was chief resident in Internal Medicine at Jamaica Hospital and graduated in 1997. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine. He also received MRCP and FRCP from Royal College of Physicians and FACP from American College of Physicians.
Dr. Sudheer S Chauhan, Another Indian American Physician Succumbs to Deadly Corona VirusDr. Chauhan joined the Department of Medicine at Jamaica Hospital upon graduation in 1997 and is currently working as a faculty supervisor and attending physician. He is also the Associate Program Director in Internal Medicine Residency Program for the hospital.
Dr. Priya Khanna, 43, another Indian American nephrologist died in a New Jersey Hospital last month. The deadly virus also took the life of her father Satyendra Khanna (78), a general surgeon, after being in a critical condition in the intensive care unit in the same hospital for several days.

“We have a proud moment, it is (also) a scary moment; it is a mixed feeling, but this virus is a deadly virus” Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), describing the situation under which the physicians of Indian Origin serving people infected with the virus. “They tend to work disproportionately in areas that are medically underserved like rural and inner city areas taking on a heavier workload with patients who are more ill. We are definitely in the frontline fighting this deadly battle,” against the coronavirus, Reddy said.
Dr. Seema Arora, Chairwoman of AAPI’s Board of Trustees pointed to the fact that “The deadly Corona Covid-19 virus has has placed the entire healthcare sector, and in particular the Indian American medical fraternity at the frontlines of the fight against the pandemic.”
“Dr. Chauhan is one of the most loved and admired physicians at the Jamaica Medical Center,” Dr. Raj Bhayani, who has known Dr. Chuhan personally, informed this writer. “He was a very kind hearted person and had served his patients with passion and devotion and taught Medical Residents for several decades.  The Indian American community and the fraternity of doctors, particularly in  the New York region will miss him for ever,” said Dr. Bhayani, President of AAPI-QLI.
During a recent candle light vigil and inter-faith prayer organized by AAPI, with one minute of silence with folded hands and heads bowed, the AAPI members and spiritual leaders prayed for the speedy recovery of Drs. Ajay Lodha, Anjana Samaddar, Dr. Sunil Mehra and thousands of other healthcare professionals who are in the front line and are admitted to hospital and receiving treatment.
 “Even in the midst of scare and fear, healthcare workers including physicians report to work with or without adequate protective equipment to save the lives of others knowing that they could be the next victim,” Dr. Narendra R. Kumar, Past President of AAPI & AKMG, from Michigan, pointed out. “Hundreds of healthcare workers are under quarantine or under active treatment at home and in hospitals. Many of them are on ventilators including few of our senior AAPI leaders struggling for their lives. One thing is clear, this is a deadly disease and doesn’t discriminate anyone, anywhere.”

Dr. Sudheer S Chauhan, Another Indian American Physician Succumbs to Deadly Corona Virus “While it’s more common among elderly and with multiple comorbidities, COVID 19 infection is also common in health care workers as they get exposed during their line of duty. We have reports of several thousands of health care workers who have got COVID 19 infection and many of them are critically ill in intensive care unit. Several Indian American Healthcare professionals  have been admitted in hospitals and we have already lost one young physician to this pandemic. We want to make sure that all health care workers have proper PPE while taking care of these patients,” said Dr. Jayesh Shah, President, South Texas Wound Associates, PA and President, American College of Hyperbaric Medicine.
Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President-Elect of AAPI, said,  “The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (APPI) the largest ethnic medical organization in the country has taken several proactive steps in educating their members and the general public about the disease, the preventive steps that needs to be taken at this time and most importantly, they are using all their contacts and resources at the hospital administrative and government level to facilitate treatment protocols to be in place at the various hospitals around the country.”
Describing Indian American physicians as “the real heroes” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Vice President of AAPI said, “Several immigrant physicians work in the New York and New Jersey regions, the epic center of the pandemic. They are struggling with Green Card Backlog and on temporary Visa plans. Due to their vulnerability, they are forced to work and often they have no choice. Not having adequate PPEs while caring for the Covid patients, many have become positive in the process, some have died, some are in ICU now and some are recuperating at home. These are the true saviors and unsung heroes saving the lives of so many Americans. We are proud of the services of Indian American physicians in this country.”
Ravi Kolli, Secretary of AAPI and a Psychiatrist by profession, said, “AAPI members as a group are over represented in all the hot spot areas as well as caring for underserved populations. They are bravely leading the enormous challenge of fighting COVID 19 pandemic at their own personal risk without a second thought which speaks volumes for their compassion, commitment and sense of duty.
“Our Indian American Physicians are down in the trenches in the frontline bravely taking care of the sick,” Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Regional Director of AAPI pointed out.  “Unfortunately, we have had multiple heart-bearing incidents about our physicians that have contracted the disease while performing their duties, several who are on ventilator and in critical condition and some who have succumbed to the disease.   However, undaunted, they continue to perform their duties in this time of national crisis.”
“Indian American Physicians are bearing the brunt of this pandemic in the US,” said Dr. Joseph M. Chalil, a cardiologist and professor at several Universities in the United States. “Not a day goes by without hearing about many of them getting infected with Coronavirus, and several of them fighting for their life, because of their disproportionate share of the population in the Healthcare field. This pandemic is hitting close to home for me and my colleagues,” Dr. Chalil said.
Expressing his anguish that “There is no standardized treatment protocols available at this time but multiple trial therapies are being conducted at several institutions around the world,” Dr. Narendra Kumar is “very optimistic that Convalescent plasma therapy, anti-viral drug Remdesivir and other medications will be made available with significant promising results in the coming days and weeks. We are also working on a national level to make new treatment protocols easily available to the needy patients by eliminating the unnecessary policy and procedural delays which is costing many valuable lives.”
There have been proud moments for the Indian American Doctors. Last week,  Dr. Uma Madhusudana, who graduated from Mysore Medical College, and currently working in a New York Hospital treating Covid19 patients, saving several lives was honored. More than 200 cars with recovered patients, relatives and police passed through in front of her house to express their gratitude for her services. It was indeed a great experience.
Known around the world for their compassion, expertise, brilliance and intellect, Indian American physicians are reputed for the quality healthcare they provide to millions of their patients in the United States. In patient care, administration, leadership or academics, they have excelled in their respective fields, holding important positions across the United States and the world.
Indian-Americans constitute less than one percent of the country’s population, but they account for nine percent of the American doctors and physicians. One out of every seven doctors serving in the US is of Indian heritage, providing medical care to over 40 million of US population.
There are about 80,000 practicing Indian American physicians who are at the forefront of fighting COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. In addition, there are around 40,000 medical students, residents, and fellows of Indian origin in this country who are supporting many of the hospitals affected by the pandemic.
Expressing hope, Dr. Amit Chakrabarty says, “AAPI members continue to donate money for AAPI to provide essential personal protective equipment to areas that are in short supply. Finally, AAPI has provided through various channels, spiritual and motivational guidance to our members and their families.  We are in this together and we will emerge victorious.  That is our belief and are working hard towards it.”

Beyond Trump — US, UN & Global Health Governance

Lawrence Surendra, an environmental economist, is former staff member of UN-ESCAP and has worked with UNU and UNESCO. He advises on the UN SDGs and currently a Council Member of TSP Asia (www.tspasia.org) and lives in South India.

(IPS) – US President Donald Trump’s battle with the World Health Organization (WHO) hides two important issues. One, the long running love-hate relationship between the US and the UN, and two, a better understanding of how global public health is governed and in the overall context of global governance.

We must first recognize, that notwithstanding Trump’s disdain for multilateralism and international institutions especially the UN, his behavior is basically consistent with history of the US threatening UN institutions periodically by withholding financial contributions.

One should not therefore let the impression gain, especially among younger generations not familiar with global and international politics, that the US as a power is innocent and Trump is but a bull in the China shop of international governance and global public policy.

As for the love-hate relationship of the US with the UN, just rewind back to the days of President Reagan in the 1980s and which saw the peak of such hostility to the UN. Advised by the conservative Heritage Foundation, the US pulled out of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The latter decision though, was only a shadow play; behind the scenes the US severely undermined the work of important UN agencies like the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The UN Centre on Transnational Corporations (UNCTC) seen as opposed to US multinationals was dismantled. The resignation letter of Peter Hansen, the Danish Director of UNCTC then made him a cause celebre.

UN agencies such as UNCTC, working on a Code of Conduct for TNCs and WHO with its Drugs for All policy were viewed with suspicion by US corporate interests especially US pharmaceutical and agribusiness companies. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was not spared either.

The US made sure that the FAO was under the influence of US multinational companies especially US agribusiness and in critical areas such as the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources of the FAO and in the Codex Alimentarius to weaken and undermine regulation of US TNCs.

One cannot forget, the ignominious manner in which Dr. Gamani Corea the eminent Sri Lankan economist was asked to quit as Secretary General of UNCTAD by the US. Countries like India were singled out and the role they played at the UN monitored.

India’s independent international public policy then while seen as valuable for the international community was viewed as a threat to US domination of international institutions and attacked. India’s role at the UN was relevant to not only India’s national interests and the developing world but also to Europe and Scandinavian Countries.

India made significant contributions, for example, in the creation of the South Centre, an institution, that was relevant in contributing to the international public policy of developing countries; its relevance continues even more so in the context of issues such as global taxation regimes and how India, as well as developing countries are being deprived of taxes from TNCs.

The Reagan and Thatcher domination of the international arena in the 1980s saw the North-South dialogue being scuttled. Mrs. Gandhi, a trusted leader of developing countries and the global South, played a major role on their behalf, in trying to bring the North-South Dialogue back on track. She did this, even while India was facing the brunt of US pressure including in strategic and national security terms.

A meeting of world leaders in Cancun, Mexico, in 1981, was possibly the last of the North-South Dialogue meeting, where Mrs Gandhi met with Reagan to work out a compromise. However, what resulted was the South being thrust with the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations instead of the North-South Dialogue.

The Uruguay Round, after a decade or more of tortuous negotiations led by the US, and for US dominance in world trade though projected as promoting free trade, produced an elephant in the form of the WTO. The latter seems to have now metamorphosed to a mouse.

As for Trump and WHO, let us not make the mistake that withdrawal of US funding means any less influence of the US or its corporate interests in the WHO. More so in influencing global public health policies.

A must read and very relevant in this regard is the book by Chelsea Clinton (yes President Clinton’s only daughter) and Devi Sridhar, Professor at the University of Edinburgh’s Medical School, who holds the Chair in Global Public Health.

The book was published in 2017, as if anticipating the unique global public health crisis of today. Appropriately titled, ‘Governing Global Health’ with an even more piercing sub title, “Who Runs the World and Why?’, the book tells us as a lot about what is happening regarding how Public Health is governed globally.

In the Preface, they present a clear case as to why such a book now, and point out, that we live in the best of times as well as the worst of times and give reasons for saying so. The book deserves an in-depth review, but for now in the present conjecture of COVID 19 it is important to first bring the book to public notice.

The Covid Pandemic, has also kept social media abuzz with conspiracy theories especially around Bill Gates his Foundation and the profits to be made in the vaccines to be developed. This given the Gates Foundation’s large financial contributions to the GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization) and the Global Fund.

While there may be grains of truth as in all conspiracy theories, unfortunately their wild allegations also damage serious important initiatives such as the UN SDGs (especially SDG 3) and the 2030 Road Map by making them part of these conspiracies.

Another reason to read this book, and be informed not only who the actors in global public health governance are, but more importantly how global public health governance has shifted from UN institutions governed by Member States to Global Public Health International NGOs and private companies.

This is especially so with the rise of this nebulous and ubiquitous practice (recognised by the authors) of Public Private Partnerships (PPP) and its increasing dominance in international cooperation and governance including ironically the UN.

It might be nice to repeat the oft repeated statements of present and past UN bureaucrats about UN institutions being governed by Member States but they all miss a major reality of today’s world. A reality succinctly captured by Kofi Annan in 1999 and quoted in the book.

He has noted that, “our post War institutions were built for an international world, but we now live in a global world”. Negotiating this “global world” is not easy for nation states and more so for international and UN institutions. In this world crisis we need the UN more than ever before.

At this moment of deep crisis for global public health and global governance, we are fortunate that like the late Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon of the past, we now have a Secretary General, in the person of Antonio Guterres who commands both respect and legitimacy. Even before the pandemic, he was faced with the unenviable task of steering the UN through massive financial constraints that it was already in”

The challenge for the UN and its agencies including the WHO is far greater now including establishing their legitimacy. The implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals which is in its fifth year of its launch will be seriously affected.

The role of the UN as a global public goods organization can be reclaimed by using the SDGs and thus also gain greater legitimacy for the work of the UN. This is the route to be taken for the UN’s own survival, not the narrow public-private partnerships that excludes wider partnership with other actors and will make a big difference.

UN staff, in an age of ‘ultra-nationalism’ should keeping with their allegiance to the UN and its Charter, vaccinate themselves from such toxic nationalism, and remind themselves that they are International Civil Servants serving the needs of global public goods.

They should reassure themselves that the shrinking budget of the UN for a global institution needed in a crisis, is no more than that of a small European City Municipality and the budget of the WHO is perhaps as much as a medium sized New York hospital and rededicate themselves with a new sense of ethics and purpose and work on synergy, coherence and partnership as the core thrust of their work.

Psychiatrists fear increase in mental illness after lockdown

During the lockdown, the question on everyone’s mind is what will happen next? When will the world  open up again? There are debates about the economic cost of keeping a country of 1.2 billion locked down. But what about the mental cost?
Psychiatrists are warning of a “tsunami” of mental illness from problems stored up during lockdown.
They are particularly concerned that children and older adults are not getting the support they need because of school closures, self-isolation and fear of hospitals.
From the toll that the lockdown has taken on people suffering from alcohol addiction and severe mental illness like schizophrenia to the problems being faced by the elderly and the stigma associated with the disease.
In a survey, psychiatrists reported rises in emergency cases and a drop in routine appointments.
They emphasized that mental-health services were still open for business.

‘Patients have evaporated’

“We are already seeing the devastating impact of Covid-19 on mental health, with more people in crisis,” said Prof Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
“But we are just as worried about the people who need help now but aren’t getting it. Our fear is that the lockdown is storing up problems which could then lead to a tsunami of referrals.”
A survey of 1,300 mental-health doctors from across the UK found that 43% had seen a rise in urgent cases while 45% reported a reduction in routine appointments.
One psychiatrist said: “In old-age psychiatry our patients appear to have evaporated, I think people are too fearful to seek help.”
Another wrote: “Many of our patients have developed mental disorders as a direct result of the coronavirus disruption – eg social isolation, increased stress, running out of meds.”
Dr Bernadka Dubicka, who chairs the faculty of child and adolescent psychiatry at the RCP, said: “We are worried that children and young people with mental illness who may be struggling are not getting the support that they need.
“We need to get the message out that services are still open for business.”
Dr Amanda Thompsell, an expert in old-age psychiatry, said using technology to call a doctor during lockdown was difficult for some older people.
They were often “reluctant” to seek help, and their need for mental-health support was likely to be greater than ever, she added.

‘Clear priority’

Mental-health charity Rethink Mental Illness said the concerns raised were supported by evidence from people living with mental illness.
In a survey of 1,000 people, many said their mental health had got worse since the pandemic had started, due to the disruption to routines that keep them safe and well.
“The NHS is doing an incredible job in the most difficult of circumstances, but mental health must be a clear priority, with investment to ensure services can cope with this anticipated surge in demand,” said the charity’s Danielle Hamm.
She said it could take years for some people to recover from the setbacks.

The pandemic and our ecological sins – Nature’s return to Venice and Cox’s Bazar is a reminder that we must change

(By Rock Ronald Rozario, Dhaka (Courtesy, THE UCANews)

In mid-April, a biologist filmed a heartwarming video of a jellyfish gliding through clean waterways with reflections of the grand places of Venice, the Italian city that used to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

Venice has been deserted since pandemic-stricken Italy went into lockdown on March 9. The jellyfish video went viral on social media and some were elated that nature was taking back the city.

Venice, a world heritage site, is fondly called one of the most romantic cities in Europe thanks to its environmental, architectural and cultural attractions. Its heritage has also become a burden given that an estimated 30 million tourists visit every year.

Venice gasped as the water in its canals became turbid through the endless movement of speeding boats and cruise ships. In addition to pollution by tourism, petrochemical discharges from nearby Porto Marghera industrial zone were also blamed for damaging its ecology.
Thousands of miles away, Bangladesh’s beach city of Cox’s Bazar has also experienced a natural revival since the country went into a nationwide Covid-19 shutdown on March 26.

After many years, dolphins were spotted playing in the Bay of Bengal near empty beaches in April. Sagorlota (beach morning glory), a key component of beach ecology, returned and flourished. The herb, also known as railroad vine, was thought to be have become extinct in Cox’s Bazar due to unrestrained movement of tourists, pollution and the construction of buildings along the beaches.

While Cox’s Bazar does not attract many foreign tourists, it is the most popular destination for Bangladeshi tourists, who care too little for the world’s longest unbroken stretch of sandy beaches and leave them covered in litter.

The natural reset in Venice, Cox’s Bazar and other parts of the world might be one of the few positive aspects in this time of great difficulties for the world.

Coronavirus and environmental degradation

Who do we blame for a crisis that we had not even seen in our worst nightmares?

Fingers have been pointed at China because the virus is believed to have originated from a wet market in Wuhan city of Hubei province.
Maybe one day we will come to know what really caused this international disaster, or it may remain unresolved like the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle.

Even if the Wuhan wet market is to blame, the world cannot deny its role in failing to stop the widespread killing of wild animals and birds for food and medicine for years in China and elsewhere in the world.

For too many years, mankind’s assault has not only been limited to wildlife but has targeted almost every aspect of nature. We continue to pay the price. Extensive pollution of air, land and water is blamed for nine million deaths each year, about 16 percent of total deaths.
But we have not changed and continue to cling to our obsession with a consumerist culture and ruthless economic development at the expense of ecology.

It is hard to disagree with those experts who suggest there might be a direct link between pandemics such as Covid-19 and environmental degradation. For decades, we have destroyed forests and engaged in illegal wildlife trade that brought humans in close contact with wild animals and slowly created conditions for a massive disaster.

In many third world countries like Bangladesh, only a handful of people believe development and natural conservation can go hand in hand. Thus, deforestation, encroachment of rivers and plundering of wildlife are very common.

Brushing aside protests at home and abroad, Bangladesh has moved ahead with two coal-fired plants near the famous Sundarbans mangrove forest, a move that poses enormous threats to the environment and wildlife.

The ghosts of our ecological misdeeds have come back to haunt us. The World Health Organization recently warned that the novel coronavirus may not disappear fully from the world, which means we are not likely to be pardoned for our sins against nature anytime soon.
To be or not to be

In 2015, Pope Francis’ groundbreaking environmental encyclical Laudato si’ called pollution “a sin” and hit out at “irresponsible developments” that cause irreparable damage to the environment.

The pope also reminded us of what we often forget: “When we speak of the environment, what we really mean is a relationship existing between nature and the society which lives in it. Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live” (Chapter 4, Integral Ecology).

Too often we don’t realize we are also part of nature and harming nature means we are destroying ourselves and our relationship with nature.

Even before Covid-19 reared its ugly head, Pope Francis discussed “ecological sins” during the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon last October. He even hinted at updating the catechism of the Catholic Church to include a definition of “ecological sin.”

His strong and passionate calls for an end to the throwaway culture and love for nature have resonated around the world, but a question remains about how much the world has paid heed or changed.

For years, the United Nations has failed to do enough to save our planet from pollution and degradation despite a series of climate change conferences, and it was unable to get on board the two biggest polluters, the United States and China.

Former US vice president Al Gore’s pioneering work on climate change has been appreciated globally. The international community has not adequately addressed the increasing “planetary emergency” he warned about.

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s appeal inspired millions around the world to stand up for climate justice, but it remains to be seen how much impact her efforts can yield.

Nothing — no great book, documentary, speech or conference — can suffice to save the environment unless we change our hearts and view ourselves as parts of nature.

One day the coronavirus pandemic will be over. The question is whether we will get back to normal life as changed human beings with love for nature and wildlife. If not, the jellyfish of Venice will die away and the beach morning glory of Cox’s Bazar will disappear again.

History and future generations will not forgive us for leaving behind a worse planet plagued by pandemics and climate change.

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place – many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world – Asia – where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can’t or won’t go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Akshaya Patra Foundation USA Hosts First Virtual Gala and Raises $1 Million to Provide COVID-19 Relief to Migrant Workers and Children in India

The Akshaya Patra Foundation held its Boston Virtual Gala   on Sunday, May 3, to raise funds for feeding migrant families in India. The organization has served 40 million meals to migrant workers since India’s lockdown began and feeds 1.8 million Indian children every day during the school year. Over 1,000 businesses, non-profits, government officials, and philanthropic leaders from around the world attended and supported the organization’s dual mission of addressing childhood hunger and promoting education for underserved children in India.
The gala keynote speaker Prof. Ashish Jha from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, a much sought-after global expert on COVID-19, spoke about the short- and long-term implications of COVID-19 and how the world can mitigate some of those devastating effects. Prof. Jha pointed to the underestimation of people infected and deaths globally, noting that the pandemic will continue until the world has a vaccine, estimated to be in about 12-18 months, or develops herd immunity. Prof. Jha spoke eloquently about the power everyone has in creating a future that will help children and families in India and urged attendees to support Akshaya Patra as it continues to meet two essential needs for children: food and education.
Prof. Kash Rangan, who teaches social enterprise and business at Harvard Business School and is a long-time supporter of Akshaya Patra, shared his views on the current COVID-19 pandemic as well as the invisible pandemics that afflict humans globally. These pandemics have a ripple effect and cause devastation to basic needs. Organizations like Akshaya Patra are working hard to meet those basic needs, particularly food needs. Prof. Rangan stressed the necessity for humanity to collaborate in uncertain times and empower Akshaya Patra to scale up to serving five million meals every day.
The gala also showcased Paresh Rawal, a celebrated Indian actor who is a proud supporter of Akshaya Patra, with a surprise visit from his wife Swaroop Sampat. Rawal presented a beautiful poem by prominent Indian Hindi and Urdu poet Nida Fazli that portrayed the simple joys of a child going to school each morning.
The Bollywood-themed evening celebrated the beneficiaries, chapter teams, and volunteers who continue to work to alleviate classroom hunger. The evening was made possible by sponsors and supporters who donated their time and funds to help the cause and can be found  online. Additionally, donors are graciously matching donations up to $150,000 for COVID-19 relief and alleviating classroom hunger. Further information can be found on the  website.
Established in 2000, Akshaya Patra is the largest NGO-run school meal program in the world, according to Time Magazine, and serves 1.8 million children daily in over 19,257 schools through 55 kitchens in 12 states and two Union Territories in India. It costs only $20 to feed a child for an entire school year.
Contact: Ankita Narula, [email protected]
Press Release Service by Newswire.com

Telework may save U.S. jobs in COVID-19 downturn, especially among college graduates

By Rakesh Kochhar and Jeffrey S. Passel

The option to perform a job remotely – to telework – may prove to be a financial lifeline for many workers during the COVID-19 downturn, which has shut down large segments of the U.S. economy and caused about 30 million American workers to file unemployment insurance claims since the middle of March 2020.

During the early stages of the outbreak’s economic fallout, 90% of the decrease in employment – or 2.6 million of the total loss of 2.9 million between February and March – arose from positions that could not be teleworked, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of federal government data.

While many workers could no longer wait tables or give haircuts, others – especially those with college degrees – could go online and continue to teach, deliver sermons or trade stocks.

This pattern in jobs lost may change as the economic crisis deepens and spreads across broader swaths of the economy. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the number of employed workers will decrease by nearly 27 million in the coming months, nine times the loss from February to March. Also, signs have emerged that the jobs of many white-collar workers are increasingly at risk. It is possible that being able to work remotely will offer less protection as the COVID-19 downturn nears its trough.

In February, before the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak truly took hold, 40% of American workers, or 63 million, were employed in occupations that potentially could be performed remotely, such as computer programmers, economists and human resource managers. Jobs that could not be performed remotely accounted for 60% of U.S. employment, or 95 million workers. These include jobs such as dentists, carpenters, machinists and other occupations that typically involve interactions with people, working outdoors or handling machinery or equipment, according to a classification system recently developed by researchers at the University of Chicago and adapted for this analysis by Pew Research Center.

Workers’ education level is a key determinant of whether they hold jobs that may be teleworked. In February, 62% of workers with a bachelor’s degree or more education had jobs that could be performed remotely. That is nearly double the share among workers who had completed some college education (33%), including an associate degree, and almost triple the share among high school graduates who did not go to college (22%). Few workers who did not graduate from high school (9%) had the option to telework.

Women were notably more likely than men to have the opportunity to telework, 46% vs. 35%. In part, this is because employed women have higher levels of education – 42% had at least a bachelor’s degree in February, compared with 37% of employed men. But it is also because women were more concentrated in occupations that could be done remotely. For instance, 23% of employed women held jobs in education and administrative support, compared with only 7% of employed men.

Among racial and ethnic groups, 48% of Asian workers and 44% of white workers could potentially telework, compared with 34% of black workers and 26% of Hispanic workers. Differences in education levels are again a factor. In February, about two-thirds (66%) of Asian workers had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 44% of white, 33% of black and 21% of Hispanic workers.

Even so, Hispanic workers across all education levels have somewhat less of an opportunity than U.S. workers overall. In February, 55% of Hispanic workers with a college degree could telework, compared with 62% of all college graduate workers. Differences in occupations also contribute to the telework gap. In February, 18% of Hispanic workers were in either construction or production jobs, compared with 10% of workers overall. Conversely, only 24% of Hispanic workers held management, professional and related jobs, compared with 42% of U.S. workers overall.

Among all the nation’s workers, immigrants lag the U.S. born in the potential to telework. While 31% of foreign-born workers could do their jobs remotely in February, 42% of U.S.-born workers could do the same. This gap is largely driven by the large number of Hispanic immigrant workers, who make up 46% of all foreign-born workers. Of 12.2 million Hispanic immigrant workers in February, only 18% held jobs in which teleworking was feasible, compared with 31% of all immigrant workers. In a coronavirus-driven economic climate, education plays a key role in the endangered job prospects of Hispanic immigrants. Only 18% of Hispanic immigrant workers had a bachelor’s degree or more.

While the ability to work remotely is no guarantee of continued employment, it has become a realistic option for many workers in the internet age. Some 73% of American adults reported having broadband access at home in 2019, and 25% of workers did work at home at least occasionally in 2017-18. The share who work from home may increase for good as workplaces adapt to the post-COVID-19 environment.

There is evidence that teleworking is currently more prevalent than before the COVID-19 outbreak. In a Pew Research Center survey conducted in late March 2020, 40% of adults ages 18 to 64 reported they had worked from home as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. This is the same as the share of American workers who, in this analysis, are estimated to hold jobs that could be teleworked. The potential for the labor market to dampen job losses by turning to telework may already be stretched to capacity. And for some – especially black, Hispanic and lower-income workers – the ability to telework may be affected by access to broadband at home.

Workers who could telework were generally less likely to lose their jobs

As noted, job losses in the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak have been concentrated among workers unable to telework. From February to March, U.S. employment decreased by 2.9 million, a loss of 1.8%. This was driven almost entirely by employment falling by 2.6 million (‑2.7%) in jobs that could not be teleworked. Employment in occupations that could be teleworked was essentially unchanged, edging down by 300,000 (‑0.5%).

The safety net offered by jobs that could be teleworked held for most groups of workers. Among women, for example, employment decreased by 3.6% in occupations that could not be teleworked, compared with a decrease of 0.4% in occupations that could be teleworked. Men had a similar experience, except that their losses in jobs that could not be teleworked (‑2.0%) were less than for women.

But employment outcomes varied notably by race and ethnicity. Black workers who could telework saw their employment decrease more sharply (‑4.3%) than black workers who could not telework (‑1.4%). The reasons for this are not clear. One contributing factor may be that the sizable losses for black workers in sales and related occupations, health care and technical jobs were partially offset by gains in architecture and engineering, as well as construction and extraction.

Hispanic workers without the possibility of teleworking saw some of the sharpest decreases in employment (‑5.0%) from February to March. This is traceable to the outcomes for foreign-born Hispanic workers, whose employment fell by 7.5% in these occupations, compared with a loss of 2.4% among U.S.-born Hispanic workers. Meanwhile, the overall employment of Hispanic workers in jobs that could be teleworked increased 3.7%. This reflects the experience of U.S.-born Hispanic workers, whose employment rose by 5.3% in jobs amenable to teleworking.

The favorable outcomes for U.S.-born Hispanic workers relative to foreign-born Hispanic workers and other groups largely reflects a demographic reality. Recent growth in the U.S. working-age population is almost entirely due to growth in the U.S.-born Hispanic working-age population. From March 2019 to March 2020, the U.S. working-age population increased by 1.2 million. Over this period, the growth in the U.S.-born Hispanic working-age population was 1.5 million. As a result, U.S.-born Hispanic workers also accounted for much of the employment growth in the U.S.

Like most other groups, workers at all levels of education appear to have experienced greater losses in employment if they could not telework. But the differences are not always statistically significant. The employment of workers with a college degree was essentially unchanged whether they could work remotely or not. Workers with a high school diploma experienced sizable losses in employment, whether they could telework or not. Foreign-born workers – with Hispanic workers alone accounting for 46% of the immigrant workforce – saw sharper losses than U.S.-born workers, especially in jobs that could not be teleworked.

During National Nurses Week, Honoring Indian American Nurses Who Are At The Fore-Front of Corona Fight

This is Nurses Week. National Nurses Day is observed annually on May 6. On this day, we raise awareness of all nurse contributions and commitments and acknowledge the vital role nurses play in society. This day is also the first day of National Nurses Week and is sometimes known as National RN Recognition Day.

National Nurses Week begins May 6 and ends on May 12, which is the birthday of Florence Nightingale (May 12, 1820 – August 13, 1910).  Florence Nightingale was a celebrated English, social reformer, statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. She became well-known while taking care of the wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. Nightingale was dubbed The Lady with the Lamp because of her habit of making rounds at night.

In special week, we honor all Nurses who work in the forefront day in day out saving lives. They dedicate their skills, passion and commitment to saving lives. During this period of COVOI-19 pandemic, the role of Nurses has become more challenging and they risk their own livs at the service of serving humanity.

I want to dedicate this feature honoring some of the wonderful friends of mine, who are Nurses and have put their service to their patients, and risking their own lives.

“On a rainy Sunday morning last weekend, we had just finished breakfast. I was happy that I was able to make Appam and egg curry (a traditional south Indian delicacy) for breakfast after many months. I sat on the couch and was checking the messages on my phone,” Mary (name changed for the report), who is an RN at a large Hospital in the state of Connecticut recalls. “I was shocked to learn that a 41 year old male patient I had admitted and had taken care of for over a week has come positive for Covid-19, the deadly virus that has affected over a million people in the United States alone.”

During National Nurses Week, Honoring Indian American Nurses Who Are At The Fore-Front of Corona FightThis is not the first patient Mary had worked with for weeks/days, not knowing that the patient had hidden symptoms of Covid-19 since the pandemic broke out over two months ago. The fear of being exposed to the symptoms while serving patients who are not diagnosed with but carry the virus, has been devastating.

Mary does not work on a Unit assigned to work with Covid positive patients, but has been unknowingly caring for many such patients, risking her own life and that of her family. Mini was called to work on the Corona Units, which have now come to be occupying entire five Floors in addition to the ICU/EDs in her hospital because of an overwhelming flow of people diagnosed with the deadly virus.

The lack of adequate Tests for corona virus leads to the healthcare professionals, who are the heart and soul of healthcare delivery system, being exposed to and being infected themselves and endangering the safety of their loved ones at home. “It’s a nightmare going to work,” Mary says. “Seeing my colleagues one by one falling victim to this virus has made me nervous about going to hospital every morning.”

 “A vast majority of the nearly two dozen clinical staff on my Unit have become positive for the virus,” Mary reports with anxiety and fear. “One of my colleagues, with whom I have worked for over a decade has been in the ICU for over two weeks now, struggling for her life. Another colleague, and everyone in her family have been positive for the virus. Many others from my Unit are still recovering or struggling recover from the deadly virus that has taken away nearly 60,000 lives in the country.”

Mary herself had shown symptoms that go with people diagnosed with Corona virus, and has been self-quarantining for the past six weeks, mostly isolating in her room after work and with minimum contact with her husband and their three daughters.

The experiences of Nurses who are in the front line caring for patients have been traumatic to say the least. Sumana Gaddam, President of IANA-North Carolina, says, “Nurses are the life and soul of the healthcare profession, providing comfort, kindness, and care to patient’s every day. It’s indeed a challenging job that requires hard work, dedication, and a very thick skin. Nurses are the ultimate healthcare monitors – vigilant observers and problem solvers, poised to take action whatever the challenge. Our mindset is one of preserving the unique attributes of our roles while embracing the progress that helps us excel.”

During this pandemic affecting the entire world, the role of Nurses has become even more challenging in every possible way. Ciji, an ER Nurse at a local hospital in the state of Connecticut says, “When I first heard about Covid-19, I never in my wildest dreams thought it would be this bad.”

Challenges of working with the Covid patients is not limited to work alone. “Since the first day of caring for Covid patients, I had isolated myself at home. I am very concerned about the safety of my family as I could bring this virus home any day with me. I have my kids, husband and more importantly my elderly parents who are vulnerable to this virus. I want to keep them safe.”

Describing her work and the challenges at work, Ciji says, “The stress level at work is unprecedented. We work hard to keep people alive. It’s painful and traumatic to watch my patients die without being allowed to see their loved ones even at death bed. Working in ICU wearing N95 mask for 13 hours gives me terrible headaches. I get home and cry in the shower because I don’t want my family to see it.”

Experiencing this self isolation for weeks takes a toll on Ciji and the entire family. “I wish to hug my kids but I can’t. My 3 year old daughter knocks at my bedroom door but I can’t open the door to let her in. You will only be able to understand this pain when you go through it,” Liji says with tears rolling down her eyes.

During National Nurses Week, Honoring Indian American Nurses Who Are At The Fore-Front of Corona Fight

Ciji’s experience is shared by numerous colleagues around the nation and world. Shyla who works in the Medical ICU at a leading healthcare facility in Connecticut says, “In the past few weeks, the entire unit is filled with only COVID patients now. The large ICU has been turned into exclusively for treating COVID patients, calling it now Covid-ICU.”

Describing that all the patients with are “extremely sick, and most of them are on the Ventilator for weeks now, it is very depressing to work with patients during this pandemic,” Shyla says,  “We are working hard all day and night, don’t see the progress in several patients.”

“It’s even more stressful when I return home after serving the patients in the hospital. My kids, particularly, my 2 year old Jace is always waiting at the door and wants to come to me, but I am running away from him to my room for fear of infecting my precisions children and husband with the virus. It’s heart breaking, when my little Jace knocks on my door and asks, “Where are you?” My life has turned upside down. After working in ICU at the hospital, I am isolating myself in my room in the house.”

Kavya from Long Island, New York who works in a Rehabilitation Unit at a local hospital says, “Now we are treating only post Covid patients on my Unit. Among all the patients and negative news about the losses, I was glad to discharge a 68yrs old patient home last week. He had come to the hospital for kidney transplant, and had subsequently developed Covid and was faced with several complications.

There are several Nurses who have sacrificed their lives while caring for the patients with Covid 19. Aleyamma John, 65, a registered nurse at a New York City Queens Hospital Center, passed away on Tuesday, April 7. She began her career at Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation, before moving on to the NYC Health + Hospitals system in 2003.

“We honor Aleyamma’s record of service to the patients of New York, and her career spanning record of National Association of Indian Nurses of America (NAINA) membership and participation,” Agnes Therady, RN, and currently serving as the President of NAINA, the foremost organization for all professional nurses of Asian Indian heritage in the US since 2006, said.

These Nurses are among the thousands of Registered Nurses of Indian Origin in the New York Tri-state area and around the nation who have been in the forefront providing professional nursing care to thousands and thousands of COVID-19 patients.

Nursing has an incredible journey, from where nurses used the second hand of a wristwatch to calculate IV drip rates, universal precautions didn’t exist and nurse lived by the kardex, a roadmap to all things for the patient care to present time where it is highly specialized in every aspect of health care delivery, education, research, and policy formation.

Nursing is a much broader career now and plays a key role at all levels of health care. Today, we are more likely to find an RN teaching at a university, conducting research or occupying hospital administrative positions than we were a decade ago. At the same time, preserving and practicing the time-honored skills of listening, therapeutic conversation, and personal touch in caring for patients and families.

Sumana Gaddam rightly points out, “Nurses aspire to create a kind of culture that “Everyone Matters”, a culture that puts people first and where true success is measured by the way we touch the lives of people in which all members can realize their professional and personal gifts matters and share those gifts with others. Everyone matters is about everybody’s value, that we all count, that we all should stand tall for who we are, as we are. At the end, it is about truly caring for every precious human being whose life we touch. It’s all about bringing our deepest sense of right authentic caring and high ideas to this association.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2016-2026, Registered Nursing (RN) is listed among the top occupations in terms of job growth through 2026. The RN workforce is expected to grow from 2.9 million in 2016 to 3.4 million in 2026, an increase of 438,100 or 15%. The Bureau also projects the need for an additional 203,700 new RNs each year through 2026 to fill newly created positions and to replace retiring nurses.

During National Nurses Week, Honoring Indian American Nurses Who Are At The Fore-Front of Corona FightIn the July 2017 Journal of Nursing Regulation, Dr. Peter Buerhaus and colleagues project an accelerating rate of RN retirements with one million RNs expected to retire by 2030 and that “the departure of such a large cohort of experienced RNs means that patient care settings and other organizations that depend on RNs will face a significant loss of nursing knowledge and expertise that will be felt for years to come.”

As U.S. health care facilities struggle to fill current registered nurse staffing vacancies, a more critical nurse undersupply has been foreseen over the next few decades. In response, many institutions are doubling their efforts to attract and retain nurses, and many more Nursing Schools are opening up and the existing schools are expanding their programs accommodating more students. In the interim, foreign nurses are increasingly being sought, creating a lucrative business for new recruiting agencies both at home and abroad.

Nurses who migrate from India to the US undergo both socio-cultural and workplace adjustments. They deal with loss, change and sacrifice. Workplace adjustments include communication issues, dealing with a new healthcare system and adapting to an expanded role of nurses. However, in a very short time, they adapt and master the skills and shine as the best among the Nursing community.

The United States, while not the world’s largest recruiter of foreign nurses, is recruiting greater numbers than it ever did in the past and is poised to greatly increase those efforts. During the past fifty years the United States has regularly imported nurses to ease its nurse shortages. Although the proportion of foreign nurses has never exceeded 5 percent of the U.S. nurse workforce, that figure is now slowly rising.

After slowing in the second half of the 1990s, nurse migration to the United States increased, with the Philippines still leading the way for an even larger group of countries. After 1998 the foreign nurse proportion steadily grew, topping 14 percent in 2003. The growth since 2001 is particularly noteworthy because it occurred as the number of U.S.-trained RNs rose, reversing declines since 1995.

Although foreign-trained nurses now account for around 5 percent of the total U.S. nursing workforce, they represent a growing percentage of newly licensed nurses.  However, as jobs have become harder to find in the US market, the immigration process has been put on hold. With this, the Nursing professionals from India and many other nations around the world have begun to face an uncertain future but by driving toward the changes in future in a proactive strategy, they can be better prepared to meet the challenges.

Nurses from India and those of Indian origin have made an impact on the patients they care for.  In recent decades, the US has been looking to India to alleviate its shortage for nurses as Indian schools are churning out professionals matching American standards. “India is now being recognized as an area which offers bachelor-degree nurses and a good health care system with an abundance of nurses,” Mary Prascher, HRD manager at Texas- based Triad Hospitals was quoted as saying by the Dallas Morning News. . ”It is the next revolution,” said Sujana Chakravarty, secretary general of the Trained Nurses Association of India, a trade group in New Delhi. ”And nurses are already outwitting software programmers by getting paid a lot better.”

Indian American Nurses like the physicians serving millions of patients in the US, have come to be known for their compassion, dedication and clinical skills, touching thousands of lives daily. Nurses educated in India make up one of the largest groups of internationally educated nurses in the United States. Internationally educated nurses from India is the third largest group of internationally educated RNs serving patients in the country.

Johns Hopkins University nursing ethics expert Cynda Rushton, interviewed on the hub.jhu.edu website, correctly said, “It’s a time of great stress and uncertainty, and nurses are rising to the challenge.” A few weeks ago, she helped create the Frontline Nurses Wikiwisdom Forum, a virtual safe space where nurses can share their challenges and experiences during COVID-19, the news report said.

Rushton sums up the role of today’s nurses in these words in her interview -“Nurses are often the last thread of compassion for patients. They’re the ones doing the screenings, taking care of the critically ill, implementing triage protocols, communicating to families, and attending to the dying.   Nurses in every role are impacted. They’re being asked to work in areas of the hospital that aren’t their normal specialty.”

While expressing deep sorrow for the loss of Asian American Nurses and several others, who have been diagnosed with Covid positive, Agnes Therady says, “As we look to the future, I am confident that we can work together to improve our lives and that of others, innovate our practice, and rise to the top as authentic leaders and exceptional nurses. The success of NAINA is largely driven by the dedication and commitment of its members, their countless hours of selfless service and hard work.”

Nurses such as Mary, Shyla, Ciji and Kavaya continue to play a critical role in alleviating patients of their illnesses, especially during this time of pandemic. They are showing the way for many others from Indian and other nations to come and continue to provide critical care to the patients in this country. While they are in the forefront treating patients and impacted by the struggles of the patients, and being isolated in their own homes, away from their loved ones, for fear of bringing home the virus from the hospitals they are committed to serve, they are hopeful and are satisfied that they touch so many lives daily, giving them health and hope.

Paul, a Nursing Administrator from Long Island says, “Nervousness, anxiety and fear initially overwhelmed those who were called upon to respond to those fighting for life. As they provided care and comfort, many of them themselves became ill and recovered.  They became more resilient, proud and altruistic.”

Shyla says, “It was very stressful in the beginning, and now we have come around to accept the reality.” A devout believer in God and in her Faith, Shyla believes, “When I help and do the services for these most vulnerable people during this pandemic, God will protect Me and My Family.”

During these testing times, it’s a challenge to stay positive at work and at home. Kavaya and her husband who also works in the healthcare field were both positive for Covid. They have now recovered from the deadly virus and have returned to work. Kavya says, “I hope we have some antibodies at home. My two daughters are doing their on-line classes, which they are not excited about. But this is the new reality we have to live with day in day out.”

Ciji is proud that she has been able to help patients, especially in this critical time. “Nursing is my calling. When my duty calls I can’t fail. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I wish and pray for this situation to get better so that the people can be safe and I can be with my family.”

Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Healthcare in the United States: Where will Healthcare be Post-Pandemic?

Medicare will pay for telehealth services at the same rates as in-person services, Seema Verma, Keynote Speaker announces during Webinar organized by AAPI

Physicians across the globe are faced with several challenges during the COVOD pandemic that has affected the lives of billions of people around the world. The way they provide care to the patients, the risks associated with changes in patient care practices, liability issues and shortage of physicians to provide much needed care to patients are only some of them. Physicians are called upon to care for patients across the state boundaries and Medical students are graduating early to meet the ever growing needs of providing care for patients with multiple needs. There are several unanswered questions as to the need, the scope, protection and payment issues physicians are faced with in this new era of providing quality care.
In this context, a very timely and relevant panel discussion covering a wide range of topics of importance to the Doctors and the larger community was organized by American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI). A panel of esteemed speakers, including Seema Verma from the CMS and White House Coronavirus Task Force; Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, AMA Board of Trustees; Dr. Sheila Rege, AMA Council on CMS, and, Dr. Humayun J Chaudhry from the Federation of State Medical Board and Mike Stinson from the Medical Physician Liability Association addressed the nearly 300 Physicians on Saturday night, May 2nd.
“Thank you for your tireless work battling the Corona virus,” Seema Verma, the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, who oversees a $1 trillion dollar federal budget, representing 26% of the total federal budget, and administers health coverage programs for more than 140 million Americans,  told the Physicians who had joined the weekend Webinar via Zoom.
Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Healthcare in the United States: Where will Healthcare be Post-Pandemic?Administrator Seema Verma addressed the AAPI members on “the emergence of Telehealth, which we have come to embrace, and has brought joy in our face. Federal Health has made it easier with equal pay for in person and tele-health services. “ Cautioning that “the war is far from over. There is a decline in the number of cases, Verma said, “CMS has acted swiftly to help 340 million people.” Administrator Seema Verma praised the “Sacrifices of the healthcare professionals across the nation who have helped to reduce the trend.”
Telehealth is a critical response to the need and the Administration has taken it to unprecedented levels, Administrator Seema Verma told the Doctors. “Accelerated telehealth services have pushed us to new heights. Medicare recently expanded its coverage of telehealth services. Telehealth enables beneficiaries to receive a wider range of healthcare services from doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility. It also helps frontline clinicians stay safe themselves while treating people, she said.
“I have fond memories of AAPI growing up,” Dr. Humayun J. Chaudhry, President and CEO, Federation of State Medical Boards said. “AMA is very active during this pandemic. AMA is very engaged in how to integrate scientific data into practice and enable them to get the payment for services.”  He shared about FSMB Pandemic Preparedness Task Force, established on February 25, 2020 and the several initiatives. “The states and territories have shown extraordinary flexibility by temporarily waiving or modifying licensure requirements,” he said. “All the states and territories declared a public health emergency,” responding to the needs of the larger community, and have implemented Temporary Licensure Changes for International Medical Graduates (IMGs) allowing them to serve the people affected by the pandemic.
Dr. Michael C. Stinson, the Vice President of Government Relations and Public Policy for the Medical Professional Liability Association addressed the AAPI members on Medical Professional Liability issue. He said, the state of New York is ahead on this issue, offering healthcare protection on Good Samaritan Provision, allowing all Physicians practicing within the state to have protection against liability. State allows everyone gets protection. We hope it expands to the whole nation. While these emergency proclamations could expire after the pandemic is over, we are hoping to have it expanded beyond Covid.
Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Healthcare in the United States: Where will Healthcare be Post-Pandemic?Dr. Sheila Rege in her address said, “We have truly witnessed a modern-day transformation – both patients and doctors embraced telehealth so we were able to maintain access to medical care while keeping ourselves and our patients safe. A big shout out to Seema Verma and her agency for being so nimble. For me, Telehealth may have restored that intangible personal element. I see outpatients in their homes, surrounded by their families. So maybe telehealth is the secret sauce to restoring the joy of medicine! Four key events helped make this rapid change possible.”
AMA worked with CMS to instantaneously create new COVID 19 payment codes. This was truly a herculean team effort. DURING COVID, Medicare patients can have office visits, mental health counseling and preventive healthcare screenings and 85 additional services through telehealth. This was and IS a great idea, as health care is rarely about a single health issue especially in older patients, Sheila Rege pointed out. “This needs to be made permanent AFTER COVID. It will reduce unnecessary emergency room visits.”
Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, President of the Michigan State Medical society and in 2017 was elected to the AMA Board of Trustees which is responsible for implementing AMA policy. He said, Medicare will pay for telehealth services at the same rates as in-person services, giving doctors and other medical professionals the opportunity to reserve their offices to treat those who truly require in-person care, she said. “We know many Medicare beneficiaries are concerned about the spread of coronavirus and the threat it poses to their well-being. That’s why we’ve taken these rapid steps to ensure that the Medicare program continues to protect our beneficiaries while maintaining trusted access to care in these uncertain times.”
Dr. Jayesh Shah, Past President of AAPI, moderator of the Q&A session, said, “COVID has changed our lives and the medical profession for ever.” Dr. Jayesh Shah introduced each of the panelist to the audience and facilitated the Q7A. Dr. Deepak Kumar pointed out that one out of every four physicians is IMG. They are the fabric of US Health Care and provides quality and necessary care in eve ry corner of this great country. In 2018 AMA wrote a letter to UCICS asking for a legal status green card for IMG’s it is very important that AMA follows through on that letter as at present we feel that it is very important that we do not lose any of the physicians who are servicing underserved rural area or critical access hospital.
Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Healthcare in the United States: Where will Healthcare be Post-Pandemic?Dr. Harbhajan Ajrawat asked of Mike Stinson to describe some of the drastic protection NYS has offered to facilitate doctors who have stepped forward to possibly sacrifice their life to treat the pandemic. He wanted to know of the liability protections should doctors anticipate these will stay after the pandemic.  Dr. Bhushan Pandya inquired about how have different states accommodated volunteer physicians? Has this Pandemic changed the outlook towards Interstate Medical Licensure Compact? What role has FSMB played during this pandemic? Dr. Roshan Shah wanted to know the short term and long term plans to monitor how NP and other level providers have received parity during pandemic in several states, while physicians have lost battles with Scope of practice issues in several states.
Dr. Vidya Kora wanted help to understand what AMA is doing to help physicians in incorporating Augmented Intelligence in their practices. Dr. Sampat Shivangi wanted to know about impact of sweeping scope of practice changes allowing physician extenders to practice on their one to help with the dire need of healthcare workers in some areas hard hit and what we can expect in the future to repeal this and also if the NP and PA will have higher malpractice cost given the responsibility of practicing not under a physicians license.
“It is going to be a robust and dynamic collaboration amongst our AAPI community and leaders from various organization including HHS, the AMA, Federation of state medical licensing board and Medical Professional Liability Association,” said Dr. Ami Shah, who was instrumental in organizing the webinar. Setting the theme for the nearly two hours long webinar, Dr. Ami Shah said, “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to assemble our distinguished panel of speakers and welcome them here tonight.”
Dr. Ami Shah, who has served on the AMA Women Physicians Section Governing Council-representing nearly 90,000 female in the USA and as the current American College of Radiology AMA Delegate, representing 40,000 radiologists, and has served taking on various roles as a leader in the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, as Chair of the Women’s Committee and now Academic Affairs Committee, said, “Our Focus this evening is the Impact of the COVID 19 Pandemic on Health Care in the United States: Where we think health care will be post-pandemic?”
Earlier, Dr. Seema Arora, Chair, AAPI BOT, welcomed the panelists and speakers and the audience to the webinar. In his vote of thanks,  Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI, while expressing gratitude to the panelists and speakers and those who had put together the webinar on behalf of AAPI, said, “As a result of COVID-19, Telehealth was rapidly implemented and has been utilized now more than ever before. There have been sweeping effects and much needed changes to HIPAA guidelines and relaxing interstate medical licensing requirements, broader legal liability coverage in some states, CMS has addressed Telehealth reimbursement, and much more. Health care in the USA was transformed almost overnight as we faced this existential threat to our health.” For more details on AAPI and its many initiatives, please visit: www.aapisa.org

200,000 Indians register to be repatriated from UAE

Indian Embassy in US calls for registration of Indian Citizens to be transported back to India

Almost 200,000 Indians have registered with the country’s missions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for repatriation flights that will begin operating from May 7, with officials saying priority would be given to workers who have lost jobs and people with medical emergencies.

The Indian government had on Monday announced it would begin repatriating Indians stranded around the world because of the Covid-19 crisis from May 7 and authorities said naval ships and chartered flights would bring back hundreds of thousands of people in phases.

“Given that the Embassy/Consulate have received almost 200,000 registrations for travelling back, it will take time for all people to be accommodated on these flights,” said a statement issued by the Indian consulate in Dubai late on Monday.

The first two special flights from the UAE to India will operate from Abu Dhabi to Kochi and from Dubai to Kozhikode on Thursday, the statement said. “The passenger lists for both these flights will be finalised by the Embassy of India, Abu Dhabi, and the Consulate General of India, Dubai, on the basis of registrations in the…database for this purpose launched a few days back,” it added.

The statement said priority would be given to “workers in distress, elderly people, urgent medical cases, pregnant women as well as to other people who are stranded in difficult situations”.

The cost of tickets and other facilities, such as quarantine after reaching India, would be “conveyed in due course and will have to be accepted by each passenger”, the statement said.

However, experts from the UAE’s aviation and travel industries indicated to Gulf News that the cost of a ticket on the special flights would be almost double the price of a normal ticket for this time of the year.

 “A one-way repatriation ticket to Delhi will cost approximately Dh 1,400-Dh 1,650 – this would earlier have cost between Dh 600-Dh 700 [during these months],” said Jamal Abdulnazar, CEO of Cozmo Travel.

“A one-way repatriation flight ticket to Kerala would cost approximately Dh 1,900-Dh 2,300,” he said.

Gulf News reported that price could be a burden for a majority of people taking these flights because they had “either lost their jobs or are sending back their families because of uncertainty on the work front”. The aviation and travel industry experts said the higher rates couldn’t be avoided because social distancing norms would limit the number of passengers on each flight.

Indian ambassador Pavan Kapoor told the daily that the missions in the UAE had “prioritised the list of passengers and given it to Air India”. He added, “We would call and email each passenger to contact Air India to get their tickets issued. The first two flights on Thursday would be to Kerala, considering the high number of applicants from the state.”

One of the three Indian Navy ships that set off on Monday night to evacuate stranded Indians – INS Shardul – will go to Dubai to bring back expatriates, the defence ministry said. The other two warships – INS Jalashwa and INS Magar – were sent to the Maldives. All three warships will return to Kochi.

Kapoor also said there would be flights almost on a daily basis to various destinations in India. Other officials said Indians stranded in the UAE with visit and tourist visas and those with cancelled visas would also be given preference for returning home.

The Indian missions in the UAE will convey details of further flights to different destinations in India in the coming days. “We seek patience and cooperation from everyone as the Government of India undertakes this massive task of repatriation of Indian nationals,” the statement said.

The UAE is home to more than two million Indian expatriates. Their welfare figured in a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed on March 26.

Transport from USA

As per the press release issued by Ministry of Home Affairs on 4 May 2020, Government of India will be facilitating the return of Indian nationals stranded abroad on compelling grounds in phased a manner. Details may be seen at Click Here

The purpose of this form is only to collect relevant information for planning purposes by the Government of India. The Embassy/Consulate will inform you about the commencement of flights from US to India. Incomplete forms will not be considered.

In case of any flights arranged from the U.S. to India, one must agree to:

  • Undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine, either in a hospital or in an institutional quarantine on payment-basis, on my arrival in India as per the protocols framed by the Government of India;
  • Bear the expenditure of travel and mandatory quarantine for self and family members;
  • Abide by the instructions and requirements as detailed by the crew of the flight/Embassy or Consulate/Government of India/ medical personnel before, during and after boarding of the flight, and also after disembarkation at the designated airport in India; and
  • Submit the undertaking as provided at (Download Undertaking Form), to authorized Embassy/ Consulate staff before boarding the flight.
  • Register on the Aarogya Setu App on reaching destination

In order to register online, please apply online at: https://indianembassyusa.gov.in/reg_indian_nationals

Indian American Nurses At The Fore-Front of Corona Fight – Challenges At Work And Impact On Family Life

“On a rainy Sunday morning last weekend, we had just finished breakfast. I was happy that I was able to make Appam and egg curry (a traditional south Indian delicacy) for breakfast after many months. I sat on the couch and was checking the messages on my phone,” Mary (name changed for the report), who is an RN at a large Hospital in the state of Connecticut recalls. “I was shocked to learn that a 41 year old male patient I had admitted and had taken care of for over a week has come positive for Covid-19, the deadly virus that has affected over a million people in the United States alone.”

This is not the first patient Mary had worked with for weeks/days, not knowing that the patient had hidden symptoms of Covid-19 since the pandemic broke out over two months ago. The fear of being exposed to the symptoms while serving patients who are not diagnosed with but carry the virus, has been devastating.

Mary does not work on a Unit assigned to work with Covid positive patients, but has been unknowingly caring for many such patients, risking her own life and that of her family. Mini was called to work on the Corona Units, which have now come to be occupying entire five Floors in addition to the ICU/EDs in her hospital because of an overwhelming flow of people diagnosed with the deadly virus.

The lack of adequate Tests for corona virus leads to the healthcare professionals, who are the heart and soul of healthcare delivery system, being exposed to and being infected themselves and endangering the safety of their loved ones at home. “It’s a nightmare going to work,” Mini says. “Seeing my colleagues one by one falling victim to this virus has made me nervous about going to hospital every morning.”

Indian American Nurses At The Fore-Front of Corona Fight - Challenges At Work And Impact On Family Life“A vast majority of the nearly two dozen clinical staff on my Unit have become positive for the virus,” Mary reports with anxiety and fear. “One of my colleagues, with whom I have worked for over a decade has been in the ICU for over two weeks now, struggling for her life. Another colleague, and everyone in her family have been positive for the virus. Many others from my Unit are still recovering or struggling recover from the deadly virus that has taken away nearly 60,000 lives in the country.”

Mary herself had shown symptoms that go with people diagnosed with Corona virus, and has been self-quarantining for the past six weeks, mostly isolating in her room after work and with minimum contact with her husband and their three daughters.

The experiences of Nurses who are in the front line caring for patients have been traumatic to say the least. Sumana Gaddam, President of IANA-North Carolina, says, “Nurses are the life and soul of the healthcare profession, providing comfort, kindness, and care to patient’s every day. It’s indeed a challenging job that requires hard work, dedication, and a very thick skin. Nurses are the ultimate healthcare monitors – vigilant observers and problem solvers, poised to take action whatever the challenge. Our mindset is one of preserving the unique attributes of our roles while embracing the progress that helps us excel.”

During this pandemic affecting the entire world, the role of Nurses has become even more challenging in every possible way. Ciji, an ER Nurse at a local hospital in the state of Connecticut says, “When I first heard about Covid-19, I never in my wildest dreams thought it would be this bad.”

Challenges of working with the Covid patients is not limited to work alone. “Since the first day of caring for Covid patients, I had isolated myself at home. I am very concerned about the safety of my family as I could bring this virus home any day with me. I have my kids, husband and more importantly my elderly parents who are vulnerable to this virus. I want to keep them safe.”

Describing her work and the challenges at work, Ciji says, “The stress level at work is unprecedented. We work hard to keep people alive. It’s painful and traumatic to watch my patients die without being allowed to see their loved ones even at death bed. Working in ICU wearing N95 mask for 13 hours gives me terrible headaches. I get home and cry in the shower because I don’t want my family to see it.”

Experiencing this self isolation for weeks takes a toll on Ciji and the entire family. “I wish to hug my kids but I can’t. My 3 year old daughter knocks at my bedroom door but I can’t open the door to let her in. You will only be able to understand this pain when you go through it,” Liji says with tears rolling down her eyes.

Ciji’s experience is shared by numerous colleagues around the nation and world. Shyla who works in the Medical ICU at a leading healthcare facility in Connecticut says, “In the past few weeks, the entire unit is filled with only COVID patients now. The large ICU has been turned into exclusively for treating COVID patients, calling it now Covid-ICU.”

Describing that all the patients with are “extremely sick, and most of them are on the Ventilator for weeks now, it is very depressing to work with patients during this pandemic,” Shyla says,  “We are working hard all day and night, don’t see the progress in several patients.”

Indian American Nurses At The Fore-Front of Corona Fight - Challenges At Work And Impact On Family Life“It’s even more stressful when I return home after serving the patients in the hospital. My kids, particularly, my 2 year old Jace is always waiting at the door and wants to come to me, but I am running away from him to my room for fear of infecting my precisions children and husband with the virus. It’s heart breaking, when my little Jace knocks on my door and asks, “Where are you?” My life has turned upside down. After working in ICU at the hospital, I am isolating myself in my room in the house.”

Kavya from Long Island, New York who works in a Rehabilitation Unit at a local hospital says, “Now we are treating only post Covid patients on my Unit. Among all the patients and negative news about the losses, I was glad to discharge a 68yrs old patient home last week. He had come to the hospital for kidney transplant, and had subsequently developed Covid and was faced with several complications.

There are several Nurses who have sacrificed their lives while caring for the patients with Covid 19. Aleyamma John, 65, a registered nurse at a New York City Queens Hospital Center, passed away on Tuesday, April 7. She began her career at Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation, before moving on to the NYC Health + Hospitals system in 2003.

“We honor Aleyamma’s record of service to the patients of New York, and her career spanning record of National Association of Indian Nurses of America (NAINA) membership and participation,” Agnes Therady, RN, and currently serving as the President of NAINA, the foremost organization for all professional nurses of Asian Indian heritage in the US since 2006, said.

These Nurses are among the thousands of Registered Nurses of Indian Origin in the New York Tri-state area and around the nation who have been in the forefront providing professional nursing care to thousands and thousands of COVID-19 patients.

Nursing has an incredible journey, from where nurses used the second hand of a wristwatch to calculate IV drip rates, universal precautions didn’t exist and nurse lived by the kardex, a roadmap to all things for the patient care to present time where it is highly specialized in every aspect of health care delivery, education, research, and policy formation.

Nursing is a much broader career now and plays a key role at all levels of health care. Today, we are more likely to find an RN teaching at a university, conducting research or occupying hospital administrative positions than we were a decade ago. At the same time, preserving and practicing the time-honored skills of listening, therapeutic conversation, and personal touch in caring for patients and families.

Indian American Nurses At The Fore-Front of Corona Fight - Challenges At Work And Impact On Family LifeSumana Gaddam rightly points out, “Nurses aspire to create a kind of culture that “Everyone Matters”, a culture that puts people first and where true success is measured by the way we touch the lives of people in which all members can realize their professional and personal gifts matters and share those gifts with others. Everyone matters is about everybody’s value, that we all count, that we all should stand tall for who we are, as we are. At the end, it is about truly caring for every precious human being whose life we touch. It’s all about bringing our deepest sense of right authentic caring and high ideas to this association.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2016-2026, Registered Nursing (RN) is listed among the top occupations in terms of job growth through 2026. The RN workforce is expected to grow from 2.9 million in 2016 to 3.4 million in 2026, an increase of 438,100 or 15%. The Bureau also projects the need for an additional 203,700 new RNs each year through 2026 to fill newly created positions and to replace retiring nurses.

In the July 2017 Journal of Nursing Regulation, Dr. Peter Buerhaus and colleagues project an accelerating rate of RN retirements with one million RNs expected to retire by 2030 and that “the departure of such a large cohort of experienced RNs means that patient care settings and other organizations that depend on RNs will face a significant loss of nursing knowledge and expertise that will be felt for years to come.”

As U.S. health care facilities struggle to fill current registered nurse staffing vacancies, a more critical nurse undersupply has been foreseen over the next few decades. In response, many institutions are doubling their efforts to attract and retain nurses, and many more Nursing Schools are opening up and the existing schools are expanding their programs accommodating more students. In the interim, foreign nurses are increasingly being sought, creating a lucrative business for new recruiting agencies both at home and abroad.

Nurses who migrate from India to the US undergo both socio-cultural and workplace adjustments. They deal with loss, change and sacrifice. Workplace adjustments include communication issues, dealing with a new healthcare system and adapting to an expanded role of nurses. However, in a very short time, they adapt and master the skills and shine as the best among the Nursing community.

The United States, while not the world’s largest recruiter of foreign nurses, is recruiting greater numbers than it ever did in the past and is poised to greatly increase those efforts. During the past fifty years the United States has regularly imported nurses to ease its nurse shortages. Although the proportion of foreign nurses has never exceeded 5 percent of the U.S. nurse workforce, that figure is now slowly rising.

After slowing in the second half of the 1990s, nurse migration to the United States increased, with the Philippines still leading the way for an even larger group of countries. After 1998 the foreign nurse proportion steadily grew, topping 14 percent in 2003. The growth since 2001 is particularly noteworthy because it occurred as the number of U.S.-trained RNs rose, reversing declines since 1995.

Although foreign-trained nurses now account for around 5 percent of the total U.S. nursing workforce, they represent a growing percentage of newly licensed nurses.  However, as jobs have become harder to find in the US market, the immigration process has been put on hold. With this, the Nursing professionals from India and many other nations around the world have begun to face an uncertain future but by driving toward the changes in future in a proactive strategy, they can be better prepared to meet the challenges.

Nurses from India and those of Indian origin have made an impact on the patients they care for.  In recent decades, the US has been looking to India to alleviate its shortage for nurses as Indian schools are churning out professionals matching American standards. “India is now being recognized as an area which offers bachelor-degree nurses and a good health care system with an abundance of nurses,” Mary Prascher, HRD manager at Texas- based Triad Hospitals was quoted as saying by the Dallas Morning News. . ”It is the next revolution,” said Sujana Chakravarty, secretary general of the Trained Nurses Association of India, a trade group in New Delhi. ”And nurses are already outwitting software programmers by getting paid a lot better.”

Indian American Nurses like the physicians serving millions of patients in the US, have come to be known for their compassion, dedication and clinical skills, touching thousands of lives daily. Nurses educated in India make up one of the largest groups of internationally educated nurses in the United States. Internationally educated nurses from India is the third largest group of internationally educated RNs serving patients in the country.

Johns Hopkins University nursing ethics expert Cynda Rushton, interviewed on the hub.jhu.edu website, correctly said, “It’s a time of great stress and uncertainty, and nurses are rising to the challenge.” A few weeks ago, she helped create the Frontline Nurses Wikiwisdom Forum, a virtual safe space where nurses can share their challenges and experiences during COVID-19, the news report said.

Rushton sums up the role of today’s nurses in these words in her interview -“Nurses are often the last thread of compassion for patients. They’re the ones doing the screenings, taking care of the critically ill, implementing triage protocols, communicating to families, and attending to the dying.   Nurses in every role are impacted. They’re being asked to work in areas of the hospital that aren’t their normal specialty.”

While expressing deep sorrow for the loss of Asian American Nurses and several others, who have been diagnosed with Covid positive, Agnes Therady says, “As we look to the future, I am confident that we can work together to improve our lives and that of others, innovate our practice, and rise to the top as authentic leaders and exceptional nurses. The success of NAINA is largely driven by the dedication and commitment of its members, their countless hours of selfless service and hard work.”

Nurses such as Mary, Shyla, Ciji and Kavaya continue to play a critical role in alleviating patients of their illnesses, especially during this time of pandemic. They are showing the way for many others from Indian and other nations to come and continue to provide critical care to the patients in this country. While they are in the forefront treating patients and impacted by the struggles of the patients, and being isolated in their own homes, away from their loved ones, for fear of bringing home the virus from the hospitals they are committed to serve, they are hopeful and are satisfied that they touch so many lives daily, giving them health and hope.

Paul, a Nursing Administrator from Long Island says, “Nervousness, anxiety and fear initially overwhelmed those who were called upon to respond to those fighting for life. As they provided care and comfort, many of them themselves became ill and recovered.  They became more resilient, proud and altruistic.”

Shyla says, “It was very stressful in the beginning, and now we have come around to accept the reality.” A devout believer in God and in her Faith, Shyla believes, “When I help and do the services for these most vulnerable people during this pandemic, God will protect Me and My Family.”

During these testing times, it’s a challenge to stay positive at work and at home. Kavaya and her husband who also works in the healthcare field were both positive for Covid. They have now recovered from the deadly virus and have returned to work. Kavya says, “I hope we have some antibodies at home. My two daughters are doing their on-line classes, which they are not excited about. But this is the new reality we have to live with day in day out.”

Ciji is proud that she has been able to help patients, especially in this critical time. “Nursing is my calling. When my duty calls I can’t fail. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I wish and pray for this situation to get better so that the people can be safe and I can be with my family.”

Study finds Gilead drug remdesivir works against coronavirus

For the first time, a major study suggests that an experimental drug works against the new coronavirus, and U.S. government officials said Wednesday that they would work to make it available to appropriate patients as quickly as possible.

In a study of 1,063 patients sick enough to be hospitalized, Gilead Sciences’s remdesivir shortened the time to recovery by 31% – 11 days on average versus 15 days for those just given usual care, officials said. The drug also might be reducing deaths, although that’s not certain from the partial results revealed so far.

“What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus,” the National Institutes of Health’s Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

“This will be the standard of care,” and any other potential treatments will now have to be tested against or in combination with remdesivir, he said.

A possible treatment for the coronavirus that set off a rally on Wall Street powerful enough to override data showing the U.S. economy had logged its worst quarterly performance since 2009.

No drugs are approved now for treating the coronavirus, which has killed about 226,000 people worldwide since it emerged late last year in China. An effective treatment for COVID-19 could have a profound effect on the pandemic’s impact, especially because a vaccine is likely to be a year or more away.

Fauci revealed the results while speaking from the White House. Remdesivir was being evaluated in at least seven major studies, but this one, led by the NIH, was the strictest test. Independent monitors notified study leaders just days ago that the drug was working, so it was no longer ethical to continue with a placebo group.

Dr. Elizabeth Hohmann, who enrolled 49 patients in the experiment at Massachusetts General Hospital, said study leaders were told Tuesday night that the results are based on “the first cut of 460 patients.”

“There’s over 1,000 in the study so there’s a lot more information to come” and full results need to be seen, she said. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Dr. Babafemi Taiwo, chief of infectious diseases at Northwestern Medicine, which also participated in the study, called the results “really exciting.”

“For the first time we have a large, well-conducted trial” showing a treatment helps, he said. “This is not a miracle drug … but it’s definitely better than anything we have.”

AAPI-QLI Joins Community Groups to Deliver 5,000 Lunches tor Healthcare Workers across New York State Hospitals, Nursing Homes

Health workers are being celebrated all over the world for fighting on the frontline of the battle against coronavirus. Throughout the global crisis, health workers have been bearing the brunt of the effort to save the lives of victims, often at great personal risk of catching the virus themselves.

Health workers are being celebrated all over the world for fighting on the frontline of the battle against coronavirus. Throughout the global crisis, health workers have been bearing the brunt of the effort to save the lives of victims, often at great personal risk of catching the virus themselves. In order to express their appreciation and gratitude of good will towards the thousands of healthcare workers in the state of New York, in a “Leap of Faith and Goodwill of Heart, One Good Team launched a Massive Operation” on April 27th delivering 5,000 lunches to 15 hospitals and 6 Nursing Homes across the state, said Dr. Raj Bhayani, President of AAPI-QLI. AAPIQLI was joined by BAPS, World Sikh council, Rajbhog Sweets, local Restaurants, Caterers and dozens of Volunteers, in their efforts to deliver food to healthcare workers to Interfaith hospital, Brookdale Hospital, Kingsbrook Hospital, Flushing Hospital, Woodhall Hospital, Nassau University Hospital, North shore LIJ Hospital, North Shore Forest Hill Hospital, St Francis Hospital, Franklin Hospital Flushing Hospital, Beth Israel Medical Center, Maimonides Hospital, WYCKOFF Hospital, Hopkins Nursing Home, Dry Harbor Nursing Home, Hillside Manor Nursing Home, Windsor Park Nursing Home, Rego Park Nursing Home, and, Hollis Park Nursing Home.  “Let us all help whatever way we can and appreciate frontline workers,” said Anu Jain, who was part of the group organized and delivered the food. “Thank you to the efforts of our president AAPIQLI Raj Bhayani. Outstanding coordination by the entire machinery you have created. I was there to gladly receive for St. Francis Emergency Room staff,” said a member of the medical staff at the hospital. AAPIQLI represents more than 2,000 Physicians residing in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk serving the community of New York and its Counties. These practicing physicians are dedicated to provide highest quality of care to their patients and are also serving in most prominent positons at their medical institutions, including Administrative, Program Directors, Heads of Department, and Teaching. These leaders are making decisions about medical and Pharmaceutical Products, devices and equipment and practice related services at multiple levels in hospitals, medical school, outpatient centers, and health care facilities. For information, please visit: http://aapiqli.org/about-aapiqli/In order to express their appreciation and gratitude of good will towards the thousands of healthcare workers in the state of New York, in a “Leap of Faith and Goodwill of Heart, One Good Team launched a Massive Operation” on April 27th delivering 5,000 lunches to 15 hospitals and 6 Nursing Homes across the state, said Dr. Raj Bhayani, President of AAPI-QLI.

AAPIQLI was joined by BAPS, World Sikh council, Rajbhog Sweets, local Restaurants, Caterers and dozens of Volunteers, in their efforts to deliver food to healthcare workers to Interfaith hospital, Brookdale Hospital, Kingsbrook Hospital, Flushing Hospital, Woodhall Hospital, Nassau University Hospital, North shore LIJ Hospital, North Shore Forest Hill Hospital, St Francis Hospital, Franklin Hospital
Health workers are being celebrated all over the world for fighting on the frontline of the battle against coronavirus. Throughout the global crisis, health workers have been bearing the brunt of the effort to save the lives of victims, often at great personal risk of catching the virus themselves. In order to express their appreciation and gratitude of good will towards the thousands of healthcare workers in the state of New York, in a “Leap of Faith and Goodwill of Heart, One Good Team launched a Massive Operation” on April 27th delivering 5,000 lunches to 15 hospitals and 6 Nursing Homes across the state, said Dr. Raj Bhayani, President of AAPI-QLI. AAPIQLI was joined by BAPS, World Sikh council, Rajbhog Sweets, local Restaurants, Caterers and dozens of Volunteers, in their efforts to deliver food to healthcare workers to Interfaith hospital, Brookdale Hospital, Kingsbrook Hospital, Flushing Hospital, Woodhall Hospital, Nassau University Hospital, North shore LIJ Hospital, North Shore Forest Hill Hospital, St Francis Hospital, Franklin Hospital Flushing Hospital, Beth Israel Medical Center, Maimonides Hospital, WYCKOFF Hospital, Hopkins Nursing Home, Dry Harbor Nursing Home, Hillside Manor Nursing Home, Windsor Park Nursing Home, Rego Park Nursing Home, and, Hollis Park Nursing Home.  “Let us all help whatever way we can and appreciate frontline workers,” said Anu Jain, who was part of the group organized and delivered the food. “Thank you to the efforts of our president AAPIQLI Raj Bhayani. Outstanding coordination by the entire machinery you have created. I was there to gladly receive for St. Francis Emergency Room staff,” said a member of the medical staff at the hospital. AAPIQLI represents more than 2,000 Physicians residing in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk serving the community of New York and its Counties. These practicing physicians are dedicated to provide highest quality of care to their patients and are also serving in most prominent positons at their medical institutions, including Administrative, Program Directors, Heads of Department, and Teaching. These leaders are making decisions about medical and Pharmaceutical Products, devices and equipment and practice related services at multiple levels in hospitals, medical school, outpatient centers, and health care facilities. For information, please visit: http://aapiqli.org/about-aapiqli/Flushing Hospital, Beth Israel Medical Center, Maimonides Hospital, WYCKOFF Hospital, Hopkins Nursing Home, Dry Harbor Nursing Home, Hillside Manor Nursing Home, Windsor Park Nursing Home, Rego Park Nursing Home, and, Hollis Park Nursing Home.

Health workers are being celebrated all over the world for fighting on the frontline of the battle against coronavirus. Throughout the global crisis, health workers have been bearing the brunt of the effort to save the lives of victims, often at great personal risk of catching the virus themselves. In order to express their appreciation and gratitude of good will towards the thousands of healthcare workers in the state of New York, in a “Leap of Faith and Goodwill of Heart, One Good Team launched a Massive Operation” on April 27th delivering 5,000 lunches to 15 hospitals and 6 Nursing Homes across the state, said Dr. Raj Bhayani, President of AAPI-QLI. AAPIQLI was joined by BAPS, World Sikh council, Rajbhog Sweets, local Restaurants, Caterers and dozens of Volunteers, in their efforts to deliver food to healthcare workers to Interfaith hospital, Brookdale Hospital, Kingsbrook Hospital, Flushing Hospital, Woodhall Hospital, Nassau University Hospital, North shore LIJ Hospital, North Shore Forest Hill Hospital, St Francis Hospital, Franklin Hospital Flushing Hospital, Beth Israel Medical Center, Maimonides Hospital, WYCKOFF Hospital, Hopkins Nursing Home, Dry Harbor Nursing Home, Hillside Manor Nursing Home, Windsor Park Nursing Home, Rego Park Nursing Home, and, Hollis Park Nursing Home.  “Let us all help whatever way we can and appreciate frontline workers,” said Anu Jain, who was part of the group organized and delivered the food. “Thank you to the efforts of our president AAPIQLI Raj Bhayani. Outstanding coordination by the entire machinery you have created. I was there to gladly receive for St. Francis Emergency Room staff,” said a member of the medical staff at the hospital. AAPIQLI represents more than 2,000 Physicians residing in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk serving the community of New York and its Counties. These practicing physicians are dedicated to provide highest quality of care to their patients and are also serving in most prominent positons at their medical institutions, including Administrative, Program Directors, Heads of Department, and Teaching. These leaders are making decisions about medical and Pharmaceutical Products, devices and equipment and practice related services at multiple levels in hospitals, medical school, outpatient centers, and health care facilities. For information, please visit: http://aapiqli.org/about-aapiqli/“Let us all help whatever way we can and appreciate frontline workers,” said Anu Jain, who was part of the group organized and delivered the food. “Thank you to the efforts of our president AAPIQLI Raj Bhayani. Outstanding coordination by the entire machinery you have created. I was there to gladly receive for St. Francis Emergency Room staff,” said a member of the medical staff at the hospital.

AAPIQLI represents more than 2,000 Physicians residing in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk serving the community of New York and its Counties. These practicing physicians are dedicated to provide highest quality of care to their patients and are also serving in most prominent positons at their medical institutions, including Administrative, Program Directors, Heads of Department, and Teaching. These leaders are making decisions about medical and Pharmaceutical Products, devices and equipment and practice related services at multiple levels in hospitals, medical school, outpatient centers, and health care facilities. For information, please visit: http://aapiqli.org/about-aapiqli/

India’s global stature has gone up; Modi has shown the world in successfully fighting coronavirus

Thanks to the legendary administrative acumen of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his visionary leadership, at their best display during the current coronavirus pandemic crisis, India’s global stature has gone up.

The deadly coronavirus pandemic, which was first spotted in Wuhan city of China in November, has so far killed more than 183,000 people globally and infected another 2.6 million, has emerged as the deadliest public health challenge in more than a century.

In the past few months, economies of countries, which have the world’s best health care facilities, have per capita income much more than India are falling apart like a pack of cards. The number of people to have died due to coronavirus in these countries is shocking, to say the least, and not been seen since the Spanish flu of 1918-1920.

The United States which is the global leader in health care facilities, medical research and availability of resources, has emerged as the global hotspot of COVID-19. The number of Americans to have died because of coronavirus is fast approaching 50,000; an unbelievable figure for us till a few months ago. More than 8.5 lakh people have been tested positive with coronavirus.

 And notably, New York, which is global financial capital and is the best in America’s health care facilities is its epicenter. More than 17,000 people have lost their lives and 2.5 lakhs have been tested positive. Let’s look at numbers of some of the other top five countries hit by coronavirus.

In Italy, more than 25,000 people have died and 187,000 infected; in Spain over 21,000 have died and more than two lakhs infected; and France over 21,000 have died and 119,000 have been infected. In United Kingdom, where its Prime Minister Borris Johnson had to be taken to ICU, more than 18,000 have died and 1.3 lakhs have been infected.

Well, it’s for these countries to ponder upon their fight against coronavirus, and review post-COVID 19 as to what went wrong and how this shocking loss of lives could have been prevented.

No doubt, we are in the middle of this pandemic and we still have a long way to go, before this could be brought under control, India by any standard, so far, has performed much better than others. A country of 130 billion people living in one of the highest densely populated areas of the world, with a poor basic health care infrastructure and facilities including a low number of per capita availability of beds and doctors, the thus far low infection rate (a little over 20,000 by April 23) and 652 deaths, is nothing but remarkable.

Sitting thousands of miles away in New York, under stay-at-home order for the past several weeks, I feel proud of my country and the leadership that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his “Team India” has shown in this fight against invisible coronavirus. One of the key reasons for this, I believe is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team acted early and decisively.

Team India, under Prime Minister Modi has been acting at a lightning speed. It was on January 7 that China identified coronavirus as the causative agent. A day later on January 8, the Union Ministry of Health held its first joint monitoring mission meeting and within 10 days on January 17, India started screening of all passengers coming from China.

By the end of the month, the government had identified and activated to test for coronavirus and established quarantine centers. Remember, at this point the rest of the world was very unfamiliar with the dangers that COVID 19 poses to humanity. In the first week of February, India started evacuation of its citizens from other countries and on February 3, Prime Minister constituted and chaired a meeting of empowered group of Ministers on COVID-19, which issued the travel advisory against China. States were taken into confidence and a strong monitoring mechanism was established. The list goes on.

India’s relatively low figure is basically attributable to the very basic principle that the Prime Minister acted on: prevention is better than cure. Being part of New York, where I have been witness to deaths of more than 17,000 people, I wish the authorities here would have thought on those lines. I wish, both the State Government and the City Mayor would have enforced a strong locked-down, as India has enforced nationwide. If India a country of 130 million people can do it, why cannot New York. The difference here is leadership and preventive action.

In the crucial first few weeks in New York, the leaders here were busy in war of words because of their political differences.

In India, Prime Minister Modi brought the entire country together. For the first time probably in decades, or seen normally under war like situations, Chief Ministers from opposition parties joined his call of action. He successfully formed “Team India.” As the first phase of three-week nationwide lockdown was about to end, it was the opposition ruled State Government which started talking about its extension.

And at the regional and global level too, Prime Minister Modi took the initiative and leadership role in this fight against humanity. He convened a video conference of SAARC leaders and took the initiative of setting op a regional fund with an initial contribution of USD 10 million to help South Asian countries. He encouraged the same within the G-20 group. Soon Saudi Arabia, which holds the current presidency of the group, organized the video conferencing.

And as word spread that hydroxychloroquine is effective in treatment in early COVID-19 patients, India under Modi started flying plane loads of this malaria drug to countries across the world. So far more than 80 countries, including the United States have received this key India made drug. India is in the forefront of this wart against humanity.

Today, India is seen as a country, which not only takes cares of its citizens, its neighbors but also the rest of the humanity to the best of its ability. This is what “Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam” is all about, which is the guiding philosophy for Prime Minister’s foreign policy.

(Jagdish Sewhani is President of The American India Public Affairs Committee. He is a resident of New York for past several decades)

AAPI writes to President of US, Governors and Lawmakers urging for Plasma Drive

The Corona virus COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time and the greatest challenge we have faced since World War II. Since its emergence in Asia late last year, the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica. Cases are rising daily around the globe with no effective remedy or vaccination found to deal with this deadly virus.
“There is enormous anxiety and numerous questions among general public about the pandemic and the havoc it’s creating.  In the past few week, AAPI has taken several initiatives to educate its members and the public, and to provide much needed help and support through helping obtain much needed PPEs and distributing them to medical institutions around the country,” said Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI.
As Convalescent Plasma appears to be the promising treatment for Covid patients, AAPI has launched the Plasma Drive from patients who have been cured of COVID-19 and are now without Corona-virus related symptoms for at least the past two weeks. AAPI has created three separate committees on Convalescent Plasma treatment.
 “An official letter of recommendation on Convalescent Plasma Therapy from AAPI has been sent the President of the United states, state Governors and to all members of US Congress and Senators. Thank you all your efforts to reach our goal,” said Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President-Elect of AAPI.
Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI in PPE
Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI in PPE

AAPI’s Covid Plasma Government Policies Committee is being headed by Dr.  Dalsukh Madia with the task of “Writing Letters to the President, Governors and Senators and other Government officials urging them to encourage individuals and medical facilities to harness this much needed resource.


AAPI’s Covid Plasma Local Hospital Administrators committee is being chaired by Dr. Binod Sinha, who will contact the hospital administrators for the policy implementation in all the hospitals in the country.

AAPI’s Covid Plasma Collection committee is led by Dr. Madhavi Gorusu, who is responsible for coordinating with the Red Cross and other agencies to work with Plasma Donations and donors.

“Following the recommendations for disbursements of AAPI Covid 19 funds. approved by the  fund committee, comprising of Dr. Jayesh Shah (chair), Dr. Suresh Reddy, Dr. Seema Arora, Dr. Sajani Shah, Dr. Sudhakar Johnlaggada, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Dr. Chander Kapasi, Dr. Surendra Purohit, AAPI has distributed funds to the locations based on local needs,” Dr. Seema Arora, Chair of AAPI’s BOT, announced here.
Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President-Elect of AAPI
Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President-Elect of AAPI

All applications have to come through Regional Directors or Chapter Presidents who would be responsible for fair disbursement of funds to each chapter and will provide proof of disbursement with all receipts. There is no matching contribution needed by chapters. Individual member can fill out the form too but it is recommended that they work with regional director. This very transparent process will be closely monitored by the fund committee, Dr. Arora stated.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank our physicians for responding to late-night phone calls, working long hours and providing unswerving care. Today, more than ever, we know the sacrifices they make to put the health of their communities first,” said Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Vice President of AAPI.
“We do acknowledge that these are challenging times, more than ever for us, physicians, who are on the frontline to assess, diagnose and treat people who are affected by this deadly pandemic, COVID-19. Many of our colleagues have sacrificed their lives in order to save those impacted by this pandemic around the world,” Dr. Ravi Kolli, Secretary of AAPi, added.
“At AAPI, the largest ethnic medical association in the nation, we are proud, we have been able to serve every 7th patient in the country. We serve in large cities, smaller towns and rural areas, sharing our skills, knowledges, compassion and expertise with the millions of people are called to serve,” Dr. Raj Bhayani, Treasurer of AAPI said.
Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Vice President of AAPI
Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Vice President of AAPI

Responding to the national/world-wide shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment, American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, has raised funds, donated money, purchased and donated masks to several Medical Institutions across the United States.

AAPI is requesting physicians to participate and run COVID helpline. We are asking physicians including primary care physicians, ER, critical care and ID physicians, who see these patients on a constant basis, to help during this crisis. Questions will be sent by email and please answer them at your earliest convenience. We are trying to post as many FAQs as possible on our website. Those who are Interested, please contact Dr. Jayesh Shah, Chair of COVID online helpline. Email: covidhelpline@aapiusa.org
“We urge the authorities to provide the much needed Equipment, Testing and Facilities enabling patients with COVID 19 to be isolated and treated, which will reduce our healthcare workforce at precisely the time we need them to be healthy and treating patients,” Dr. Reddy added.
For more information on AAPI and its several initiatives to combat Corona Virus and help Fellow Physicians and the larger community, please visit: www.aapiusa.org,  or email to: [email protected]

Indian American Physicians are bearing the brunt of this pandemic in the US

Known around the world for their compassion, expertise, brilliance and intellect, Indian American physicians are reputed for the quality healthcare they provide to millions of their patients in the United States. In patient care, administration, leadership or academics, they have excelled in their respective fields, holding important positions across the United States and the world.
Indian-Americans constitute less than one percent of the country’s population, but they account for nine percent of the American doctors and physicians. One out of every seven doctors serving in the US is of Indian heritage, providing medical care to over 40 million of US population.
Dr. Seema Arora, Chairwoman of AAPI’s Board of Trustees pointed to the fact that “The deadly Corona Covid-19 virus has claimed more than 171.000 deaths around the world with the US leading the chart with nearly 43,000 deaths. The pandemic has placed the entire healthcare sector, and in particular the Indian American medical fraternity at the frontlines of the fight against the pandemic. “
AAPI leaders at the virtual prayer vigil held on April 12th, praying for those in the front line serviving patients with COVID-19 pandemic
AAPI leaders at the virtual prayer vigil held on April 12th, praying for those in the front line serviving patients with COVID-19 pandemic

There are about 80,000 practicing Indian American physicians who are at the forefront of fighting COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. In addition, there are around 40,000 medical students, residents, and fellows of Indian origin in this country who are supporting many of the hospitals affected by the pandemic.

“We have a proud moment, it is (also) a scary moment; it is a mixed feeling, but this virus is a deadly virus” Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), describing the situation under which the physicians of Indian Origin serving people infected with the virus. “They tend to work disproportionately in areas that are medically underserved like rural and inner city areas taking on a heavier workload with patients who are more ill. We are definitely in the frontline fighting this deadly battle,” against the coronavirus, Reddy said.

Dr. Priya Khanna, 43, an Indian American nephrologist died in a New Jersey Hospital. Her father Satyendra Khanna (78), a general surgeon, has tested positive and is said to be in a critical condition in the intensive care unit in the same hospital.

During a recent candle light vigil and inter-faith prayer organized by AAPI, with one minute of silence with folded hands and heads bowed, the AAPI members and spiritual leaders prayed for the speedy recovery of Drs. Ajay Lodha, Anjana Samaddar, Dr. Sunil Mehra and thousands of other healthcare professionals who are in the front line and are admitted to hospital and receiving treatment.

 “Even in the midst of scare and fear, healthcare workers including physicians report to work with or without adequate protective equipment to save the lives of others knowing that they could be the next victim,” Dr. Narendra R. Kumar, Past President of AAPI & AKMG, from Michigan, pointed out. “Hundreds of healthcare workers are under quarantine or under active treatment at home and in hospitals. Many of them are on ventilators including few of our senior AAPI leaders struggling for their lives. One thing is clear, this is a deadly disease and doesn’t discriminate anyone, anywhere.”

Indian American Physicians are bearing the brunt of this pandemic in the US
AAPI leaders at the virtual prayer vigil held on April 12th, praying for those in the front line serviving patients with COVID-19 pandemic

“While it’s more common among elderly and with multiple comorbidities, COVID 19 infection is also common in health care workers as they get exposed during their line of duty. We have reports of several thousands of health care workers who have got COVID 19 infection and many of them are critically ill in intensive care unit. Several Indian American Healthcare professionals  have been admitted in hospitals and we have already lost one young physician to this pandemic. We want to make sure that all health care workers have proper PPE while taking care of these patients,” said Dr. Jayesh Shah, President, South Texas Wound Associates, PA and President, American College of Hyperbaric Medicine.

Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President-Elect of AAPI, said,  “The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (APPI) the largest ethnic medical organization in the country has taken several proactive steps in educating their members and the general public about the disease, the preventive steps that needs to be taken at this time and most importantly, they are using all their contacts and resources at the hospital administrative and government level to facilitate treatment protocols to be in place at the various hospitals around the country.”
Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President-Elect of AAPI with PPE serving patients
Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President-Elect of AAPI with PPE serving patients

Describing Indian American physicians as “the real heroes” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Vice President of AAPI said, “Several immigrant physicians work in the New York and New Jersey regions, the epic center of the pandemic. They are struggling  with Green Card Backlog and on temporary Visa plans. Due to their vulnerability, they are forced to work and often they have no choice. Not having adequate PPEs while caring for the Covid patients, many have become positive in the process, some have died, some are in ICU now and some are recuperating at home. These are the true saviors and unsung heroes saving the lives of so many Americans. We are proud of the services of Indian American physicians in this country.”

Ravi Kolli, Secretary of AAPI and a Psychiatrist by profession, said, “AAPI members as a group are over represented in all the hot spot areas as well as caring for underserved populations. They are bravely leading the enormous challenge of fighting COVID 19 pandemic at their own personal risk without a second thought which speaks volumes for their compassion, commitment and sense of duty.
“Our Indian American Physicians are down in the trenches in the frontline bravely taking care of the sick,” Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Regional Director of AAPI pointed out.  “Unfortunately, we have had multiple heart-bearing incidents about our physicians that have contracted the disease while performing their duties, several who are on ventilator and in critical condition and some who have succumbed to the disease.   However, undaunted, they continue to perform their duties in this time of national crisis.”
Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPi, serving patients during COVID crisis
Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPi, serving patients during COVID crisis

“Indian American Physicians are bearing the brunt of this pandemic in the US,” said Dr. Joseph M. Chalil, a cardiologist and professor at several Universities in the United States. “Not a day goes by without hearing about many of them getting infected with Coronavirus, and several of them fighting for their life, because of their disproportionate share of the population in the Healthcare field. This pandemic is hitting close to home for me and my colleagues,” Dr. Chalil said.

Expressing his anguish that “There is no standardized treatment protocols available at this time but multiple trial therapies are being conducted at several institutions around the world,” Dr. Kumar is “Very optimistic that Convalescent plasma therapy, anti-viral drug Remdesivir and other medications will be made available with significant promising results in the coming days and weeks. We are also working on a national level to make new treatment protocols easily available to the needy patients by eliminating the unnecessary policy and procedural delays which is costing many valuable lives.”
Dr. Uma Madhusudana, receiving the salute from patients and family in front of her house
Dr. Uma Madhusudana, receiving the salute from patients and family in front of her house

There have been proud moments for the Indian American Doctors. Last week,  Dr. Uma Madhusudana, who graduated from Mysore Medical College, and currently working in a New York Hospital treating Covid19 patients, saving several lives was honored. More than 200 cars with recovered patients, relatives and police passed through in front of her house to express their gratitude for her services. It was indeed a great experience.

Expressing hope, Dr. Amit Chakrabarty says, “AAPI members continue to donate money for AAPI to provide essential personal protective equipment to areas that are in short supply. Finally, AAPI has provided through various channels, spiritual and motivational guidance to our members and their families.  We are in this together and we will emerge victorious.  That is our belief and are working hard towards it.”

In the frontline against an invisible enemy

The sizeable Malayalee healthcare community is visible in all healthcare facilities in the New York metro area as professional or ancillary staff. Here is an insider’s account of how they have contributed valiantly in the war against the deadly coronavirus.

As a Registered Nurse, Johnson went to bed last Saturday with mixed feelings of fear, anxiety and uncertainty. He was aware that returning from work the previous evening, after seeing the sights in the hospital, was traumatic for him. Johnson (name changed to protect identity) does not work with the critically ill patients in the ICU or patients arriving in the Emergency Room. But he did witness his colleagues desperately trying to help men and women of all ages to breathe or to get some oxygen in their body system as the highly contagious coronavirus invades and disables the lungs. Some patients were conscious, some unconscious and some in conscious sedation. Their lives were in the hands of doctors and nurses, who, however, know they are not tooled or equipped to contain the killer virus. Johnson saw his colleagues helplessly calling the doctors to see if they could still instill some beats in the patients’ still hearts. As many body bags were moved to the refrigerated trucks, the healthcare workers had no time for a sigh of grief, frustration, or sadness as more and more critically ill patients were being wheeled in.
Working with moderately or severely ill COVID-19 patients, Johnson feared that he might have contracted the virus himself despite using personal protective equipment (PPE). So, returning from work, he went directly to the basement, put all clothes in the washer and took a shower. He still maintained a physical distance from his wife and children and used the basement as his bedroom. He lay tossing and turning for several hours in bed, thinking about his colleagues, the patients and their families.

As he woke up from a brief nightmarish sleep, Johnson opened his social media pages on his mobile and learnt that four people he personally knew from the Malayalee community had died from the complications of COVID. They died in the hospital after being put on ventilators; none of their loved ones was with them in their last moments.

Next morning, Johnson was back to work on a 24-bed medical floor with three other RNs. Their nurse manager told him that the situation in the hospital had changed rapidly. Due to the influx of patients, additional hospital beds were laid out in the parking lot and even in the cafeteria. The same team will have to tend to the added capacity also. Johnson told the nurse manager, “I understand. It is that time. We are made for this. We will do it to the best of our ability. We will comfort our patients as best as we can”. The nurse manager nodded with a painful smile.
Most of the patients on the unit were receiving oxygen treatment, I V antibiotics and some were on medications under study to test their efficacy. Most of the patients were elderly and needed assistance in getting out of their beds and to use bathrooms. Call bells sounded constantly. In some rooms IV fluid or IV medication ran out. The three nurses moved from room to room, to electronic medical records to electronic medication bins or to the utility rooms or attending phone calls. They prioritized the severity of the needs and met critical needs while being vigilant of every patient and their medical conditions. The patient care associate relentlessly moved around, assisted patients, took vital signs, communicated with the nurse manager and Johnson. The unit clerk was on the phone dealing with anxious and desperate families, being careful not to violate privacy laws and transferring the lines to the RN or the MD for further assistance.

Johnson later learned that the surge of COVID patients at his hospital was three times its capacity. (The condition in other hospitals was no different.) Even while emergently augmenting its resources including ventilators and PPE, his hospital was doing everything possible to save the lives of patients brought in. During the day, doctors, nurses, patient care associates, respiratory therapists, unit clerk, and housekeepers lived amid pain and despair, grief and death, comfort and pleasant discharge.

Johnson is one of the hundreds of Kerala origin Registered Nurses in New York who have been proudly, painstakingly, and resiliently providing professional nursing care to thousands and thousands of COVID-19 patients. Queens, the hardest hit epicenter in New York City, which in turn is the epicenter of COVID spread in the world, is also home to a large Indian community, a major group of which is Malayalees with a considerable number being healthcare professionals. Thanks to the cultural, social and religious activities and initiatives, most of them share extensive social relationships among the community.

Sadly,Within a period of two weeks, the Malayalee community has lost 17 people to the complications of COVID-19. They included an RN who was working in a city hospital.
Anni John, an ICU RN from Queens General Hospital, shared her experience: “It is still a challenge providing support to save lives while protecting myself from getting infected and from transmitting the virus to my family.” She insisted that all healthcare professionals do everything humanly possible to save people’s lives. But, Anni sighed, “With COVID we do not know what would work to help patients suffering from its complications”.

CP, a physician working in ER was leading the team to intubate a patient at a time when the coronavirus was not yet a pandemic. When she learned later that the patient had COVID, “I immediately went in quarantine”. On getting fever and flu symptoms, she asked for a test, but was told that she did not meet the criteria. She was relieved that her symptoms were not serious, so she is back in the Emergency Room doing her job.

Nisha John, another ICU RN from Lenox Hill Hospital, was also emphatic on her mission as a nurse. She has been self-quarantining and even after testing negative for the deadly virus, she avoids close contact with her children. Annie George, a nurse educator and administrator at HHC, was appreciative and impressed as to how quickly our strong healthcare system mobilized the resources to fight the invisible enemy. She was proud to praise “the attributes of readiness and determination of the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and the dietitians that came from the army reserve were like the frontline forces in a real war!”

Among those the community lost was the 21-year-old son of a community leader. The saddest part is families’ inability to cope with the shock and grief caused by the unanticipated, lonely death of a loved one. The families found it difficult to even get the bodies released to funeral homes, which were stretched beyond their capacity just like the hospitals.
“We can’t point fingers or find fault with what has been happening,” says Tara Shajan, a nurse administrator and President of Indian Nurses Association of New York. She is appreciative of how New York has managed the attack of the virus that came like wildfire. “We lost a lot of precious lives but considering the number of COVID positive cases, the death rate has been low. Most of the people who lost their life had had serious comorbidities. Our doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers have been helping to save thousands of precious lives”.
Gisha Jose, a nurse manager who recovered from COVID, recalls that she was having the symptoms of seasonal allergy that she gets at this time of the year. “But when I lost my sense of smell, I decided to get tested. The result was positive, and it caused lot of anxiety. Having to quarantine myself away from my loved ones only made that worse. I had to remind myself that it was the best thing to do for everyone”.

The sizeable Malayalee healthcare community is visible in all healthcare facilities as professional or ancillary staff throughout the New York metro area. As reports emerged of the COVID outbreak, no one imagined that it would hit as rapidly as this crisis and overwhelm the emergency and critical resources including protective equipment, causing panic. While a majority of the COVID positive individuals remained home with symptoms that were not life threatening, cases that came to hospital emergency rooms were critical. Nervousness, anxiety and fear initially overwhelmed those who were called upon to respond to those fighting for life. As they provided care and comfort, many of them themselves became ill and recovered. They became more resilient, proud and altruistic.

Life in the era of COVID-19

Chicago IL: It has been a topsy-turvy start to the third decade of this century. COVID-19 has brought with it many disruptions. Coronavirus has significantly changed the contours of professional life. These days, home is the new office. The Internet is the new meeting room.

For the time being, office breaks with colleagues are history. I have also been adapting to these changes. Most meetings, be it with minister colleagues, officials and world leaders, are now via video conferencing.

In order to get ground level feedback from various stakeholders, there have been videoconference meetings with several sections of society. There were extensive interactions with NGOs, civil society groups and community organisations. There was an interaction with Radio Jockeys too. Besides that, I have been making numerous phone calls daily, taking feedback from different sections of society.

One is seeing the ways through which people are continuing their work in these times. There are a few creative videos by our film stars conveying a relevant message of staying home. Our singers did an online concert. Chess players played chess digitally and through that contributed to the fight against COVID-19. Quite innovative!

The work place is getting Digital First. And, why not?
After all, the most transformational impact of Technology often happens in the lives of the poor. It is technology that demolishes bureaucratic hierarchies, eliminates middlemen and accelerates welfare measures.

Let me give you an example.

Life in the era of COVID-19When we got the opportunity to serve in 2014, we started connecting Indians, especially the poor with their Jan Dhan Account, Aadhar & Mobile number. This seemingly simple connection has not only stopped corruption and rent seeking that was going on for decades, but has also enabled the Government to transfer money at the click of a button. This click of a button has replaced multiple levels of hierarchies on the file and also weeks of delay.

India has perhaps the largest such infrastructure in the world. This infrastructure has helped us tremendously in transferring money directly and immediately to the poor and needy, benefiting crores of families, during the COVID-19 situation.

Another case in point is the education sector. There are many outstanding professionals already innovating in this sector. Invigorating technology in this sector has its benefits. The Government of India has also undertaken efforts such as the DIKSHA Portal, to help teachers and boost e-learning. There is SWAYAM, aimed at improving access, equity and quality of education. E-Pathshala, which is available in many languages, enables access to various e-books and such learning material.

Today, the world is in pursuit of new business models. India, a youthful nation known for its innovative zeal can take the lead in providing a new work culture. I envision this new business and work culture being redefined on the following vowels. I call them- vowels of the new normal- because like vowels in the English language, these would become essential ingredients of any business model in the post-COVID world.

Adaptability:

The need of the hour is to think of business and lifestyle models that are easily adaptable.
Doing so would mean that even in a time of crisis, our offices, businesses and commerce could get moving faster, ensuring loss of life does not occur.

Embracing digital payments is a prime example of adaptability. Shop owners big and small should invest in digital tools that keep commerce connected, especially in times of crisis. India is already witnessing an encouraging surge in digital transactions.
Another example is telemedicine. We are already seeing several consultations without actually going to the clinic or hospital. Again, this is a positive sign. Can we think of business models to help further telemedicine across the world?

Efficiency:

Perhaps, this is the time to think of reimagining what we refer to as being efficient.
Efficiency cannot only be about- how much time was spent in the office.
We should perhaps think of models where productivity and efficiency matter more than appearance of effort.
The emphasis should be on completing a task in the specified time frame.

Inclusivity:

Life in the era of COVID-19Let us develop business models that attach primacy to care for the poor, the most vulnerable as well as our planet.
We have made major progress in combating climate change. Mother Nature has demonstrated to us her magnificence, showing us how quickly it can flourish when human activity is slower. There is a significant future in developing technologies and practices that reduce our impact on the planet. Do more with less.
COVID-19 has made us realise the need to work on health solutions at low cost and large scale. We can become a guiding light for global efforts to ensure the health and well being of humanity.
We should invest in innovations to make sure our farmers have access to information, machinery, and markets no matter what the situation, that our citizens have access to essential goods.

Opportunity:

Every crisis brings with it an opportunity. COVID-19 is no different.
Let us evaluate what might be the new opportunities/growth areas that would emerge now.
Rather than playing catch up, India must be ahead of the curve in the post-COVID world. Let us think about how our people, our skills sets, our core capabilities can be used in doing so.

Universalism:

COVID-19 does not see race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or border before striking.
Our response and conduct thereafter should attach primacy to unity and brotherhood.
We are in this together.

Unlike previous moments in history, when countries or societies faced off against each other, today we are together facing a common challenge. The future will be about togetherness and resilience.

The next big ideas from India should find global relevance and application. They should have the ability to drive a positive change not merely for India but for the entire humankind.
Logistics was previously only seen through the prism of physical infrastructure – roads, warehouses, ports. But logistical experts these days can control global supply chains through the comfort of their own homes.

India, with the right blend of the physical and the virtual can emerge as the global nerve centre of complex modern multinational supply chains in the post COVID-19 world. Let us rise to that occasion and seize this opportunity.

I urge you all to think about this and contribute to the discourse.
he shift from BYOD to WFH brings new challenges to balance the official and personal. Whatever be the case, devote time to fitness and exercising.

Try Yoga as a means to improve physical and mental wellbeing.
Traditional medicine systems of India are known to help keep the body fit. The Ayush Ministry has come out with a protocol that would help in staying healthy. Have a look at these as well.

Lastly, and importantly, please download Aarogya Setu Mobile App. This is a futuristic App that leverages technology to help contain the possible spread of COVID-19.

Photographs and Press release by: Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi

Children Ages 5 to 18 Create Hundreds of 3D Printed PPE and Donate Them to Local Hospitals

Newswise — Florida Atlantic University’s Cane Institute for Advanced Technologies at A.D. Henderson University School (ADHUS) and FAU High School is doing its part to help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) by creating 3D printed personal protective equipment (PPE).

Over the last month, students ranging from ages 5 to 18, along with two faculty members, have worked tirelessly to create 3D printed face shields, intubation chambers and ear savers for several local hospitals in Palm Beach County. So far, they have produced more than 650 face shields, more than 500 ear savers and 36 intubation chambers and expect to collect another 350 face shields by the end of the week.

The intubation chambers are a unique form of PPE for hospitals. They provide an extra layer of protection for doctors and nurses when they are intubating patients who need to be put on respirators.

Allan Phipps, district science coordinator at ADHUS and FAU High School, was contacted by Giovana Jaen, a former FAU High student/current third year FAU Schmidt College of Medicine student, about doing this for a local hospital and he agreed without hesitation. He relocated the school’s 3D printing equipment to his personal garage and has been coordinating the Institute’s efforts, as well as manufacturing face shields and intubation chambers with his own children who attend ADHUS.

Phipps along with James Nance, middle school science teacher at ADHUS, host social distancing drive-throughs in front of the school where students can drop off 3D printed face shields and ear savers they created at home. Students are also able to check out 3D printers from the school and get their own personal 3D printers serviced. Local hospital representatives are able to pick up the PPE and ear savers at this location.

“I am so proud of our students for helping our community during this global pandemic,” said Phipps. “This has been a team effort from the start, and we are doing everything we can to support the medical professionals and our local hospitals during this crisis.”

The Cane Institute for Advanced Technologies serves as the school’s epicenter for research, education and technology transfer. It was established in 2018 after a $1 million gift from Daniel and Debra Cane. The Institute’s integrated approach allows students and faculty at all grade levels to explore today’s most complex challenges in areas such as cybersecurity, autonomous vehicles, robotics, virtual reality, augmented reality, automation and artificial intelligence.

FAU has been able to donate this lifesaving PPE as a result of public, private and industry support. For more information or to make a contribution, contact Mickey Zitzmann at [email protected].

B-Roll and photos link: http://pubweb.fau.edu/media/CaneInstitute3DPrintedPPE/

Mount Sinai Researchers Collaborate with GenScript to Develop a COVID-19 Antibody to Treat Sick Patients

Newswise — (New York, NY – April 23, 2020) – A team of researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in collaboration with GenScript, is developing a synthetic antibody to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This antibody is intended to block the virus from entering human lung cells, and would be another potential treatment option for COVID-19.

The efforts are being led by Mone Zaidi, MD, PhD, MACP, Director of the Mount Sinai Bone Program and Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology, Diabetes and Bone Disease) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Tony Yuen, PhD, Associate Director for Research for the Mount Sinai Bone Program and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, have many protein “spikes” protruding from their outer surface. A specific region of the “spike” called the S1 protein binds to a molecule called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 or ACE2, which is found on the surface of many human cells, including those in the lungs. This is the entry point by which the virus infects a person.

In hopes of developing a treatment that could block the viral entry into cells, Dr. Zaidi and his team, including Sakshi Gera, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, are creating an antibody targeted to a peptide sequence of the S1 spike protein that should interfere with, and thereby block, the virus and prevent its initial attachment and entry into human cells.

The artificial blocking antibody then could be given to people with COVID-19 to stop the virus from infecting additional cells, much as doctors are already doing with natural antibodies harvested from people who have survived COVID-19, in what is known as convalescent plasma therapy.

“Given that convalescent plasma is showing promise and potential in treating this novel virus, the same strategy should be adopted for treatment in sick patients by creating a targeted antibody, which we hope will have the ability to disengage and block COVID-19 from entering our cells. Having experience with antibody development, my lab has embarked on this task together with the generous support of GenScript,” said Dr. Zaidi.

The first step, now underway, is to create a custom version of the S1 spike’s peptide sequence, which will be used to generate the antibody. Once the peptide sequence is available, Dr. Zaidi’s team will collaborate with GenScript to generate a human antibody which will be tested for efficacy in human cells in culture and animal models. Dr. Zaidi and his team hope to then collaborate with Mount Sinai’s Department of Microbiology for further antibody testing. “It’s hard to project how long it will take to have something we can test in patients, but my aim is to have a targeted antibody for first human trials within the next 12 months if all goes as planned, but it could be earlier,” said Dr. Zaidi.

“GenScript’s collaboration with Dr. Zaidi’s lab to co-develop a COVID-19 antibody program signifies GenScript’s ongoing commitment to work with scientific communities to annihilate and prevent COVID-19 beyond its business model. We expect that GenScript’s antibody discovery and development expertise, especially in the field of COVID-19, will fuel Mount Sinai’s first-rate research and development capabilities to bring this important medication to patients,” said Kenneth Lee, Head of US Commercial Division at GenScript ProBio.

For more information about Mount Sinai’s COVID-19 research and response effort, visit https://www.mountsinai.org/covid19.

About GenScript

GenScript is the world leader in biotechnology reagent services and biologics. Established in 2002 in New Jersey, United States, the company was the first to commercialize gene synthesis and successfully establish fully integrated capabilities for custom peptide synthesis, protein expression and engineering, custom antibody development and engineering, in vitro/in vivo pharmacology as well as a variety of catalogue products. GenScript has now expanded its business into immunotherapy, CDMO, laboratory equipment, and microbial industry to further fulfill its mission in making people and nature healthier through biotechnology. GenScript has also established open and innovative technology-driven platforms and GMP facilities for pre-clinical drug discovery and pharmaceutical products development.

About the Mount Sinai Health System

The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City’s largest academic medical system, encompassing eight hospitals, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. Mount Sinai is a national and international source of unrivaled education, translational research and discovery, and collaborative clinical leadership ensuring that we deliver the highest quality care—from prevention to treatment of the most serious and complex human diseases. The Health System includes more than 7,200 physicians and features a robust and continually expanding network of multispecialty services, including more than 400 ambulatory practice locations throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, and Long Island. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked No. 14 on U.S. News & World Report‘s “Honor Roll” of the Top 20 Best Hospitals in the country and the Icahn School of Medicine as one of the Top 20 Best Medical Schools in the country. Mount Sinai Health System hospitals are consistently ranked regionally by specialty by U.S. News & World Report.

The Dalai Lama on Why We Need to Fight Coronavirus With Compassion

Revered by the Tibetans as a ‘living god’ and idolised in the Orient and the West, the Dalai Lama said prayer is not enough to fight coronavirus. Also it is high time to extend a helping hand to those who have been affected.

“This pandemic serves as a warning that only by coming together with a coordinated, global response will we meet the unprecedented magnitude of the challenges we face,” the Nobel Peace Prize winner said in a post on his official website on Wednesday.

“Sometimes friends ask me to help with some problem in the world, using some ‘magical powers’. I always tell them that the Dalai Lama has no magical powers. If I did, I would not feel pain in my legs or a sore throat. We are all the same as human beings, and we experience the same fears, the same hopes, the same uncertainties,” said the elderly monk known for wearing his trademark maroon robes.

“From the Buddhist perspective, every sentient being is acquainted with suffering and the truths of sickness, old age and death. But as human beings, we have the capacity to use our minds to conquer anger and panic and greed.

“In recent years I have been stressing ’emotional disarmament’: to try to see things realistically and clearly, without the confusion of fear or rage. If a problem has a solution, we must work to find it; if it does not, we need not waste time thinking about it,” the Dalai Lama wrote in an article published in Time Magazine on Tuesday.

“We Buddhists believe that the entire world is interdependent. That is why I often speak about universal responsibility. The outbreak of this terrible coronavirus has shown that what happens to one person can soon affect every other being. But it also reminds us that a compassionate or constructive act — whether working in hospitals or just observing social distancing — has the potential to help many.

“Ever since news emerged about the coronavirus in Wuhan, I have been praying for my brothers and sisters in China and everywhere else. Now we can see that nobody is immune to this virus. We are all worried about loved ones and the future, of both the global economy and our own individual homes. But prayer is not enough,” the Dalai Lama said.

“This crisis shows that we must all take responsibility where we can. We must combine the courage doctors and nurses are showing with empirical science to begin to turn this situation around and protect our future from more such threats.

“In this time of great fear, it is important that we think of the long-term challenges — and possibilities — of the entire globe. Photographs of our world from space clearly show that there are no real boundaries on our blue planet.

“Therefore, all of us must take care of it and work to prevent climate change and other destructive forces. This pandemic serves as a warning that only by coming together with a coordinated, global response will we meet the unprecedented magnitude of the challenges we face.

“We must also remember that nobody is free of suffering, and extend our hands to others who lack homes, resources or family to protect them. This crisis shows us that we are not separate from one another — even when we are living apart. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to exercise compassion and help.

“As a Buddhist, I believe in the principle of impermanence. Eventually, this virus will pass, as I have seen wars and other terrible threats pass in my lifetime, and we will have the opportunity to rebuild our global community as we have done many times before.

“I sincerely hope that everyone can stay safe and stay calm. At this time of uncertainty, it is important that we do not lose hope and confidence in the constructive efforts so many are making,” an optimistic Dalai Lama added. (IANS)

More than 70 vaccines are being developed globally for Covid-19 – Oxford University to begin human trials of Covid-19 vaccine next week

There are now more than 70 vaccines currently being developed globally, including here in North America, as research teams race to find a successful vaccine against the novel coronavirus and help countries escape lockdowns.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that more than 70 vaccines are being developed globally for Covid-19, which has infected more than two million people and killed 128,886 across the world.

However, experts say there is still a long road ahead to find out if they work. Timelines for when a vaccine becomes widely available remain at 12 to 18 months.

Meanwhile, Oxford University scientists are to begin human trials of a potential coronavirus vaccine next week. Researchers said the jab could be ready to be rolled out for emergency use by the autumn following significant progress in the early stages of development.

The Oxford team has tested the vaccine successfully on several animal species.

Researchers at the University of Oxford are aiming to get efficacy results of a clinical trial and be able to produce a million doses by September. The researchers have recruited 500 volunteers from the age group of 18 to 55 for early and mid-stage randomised controlled trials, reports Bloomberg. It will then be extended to older adults and to a final stage trial of 5,000 people, Sarah Gilbert, the lead researcher developing the vaccine, said.

The team at the University of Oxford had been preparing for an event like the Covid-19 pandemic before the current global outbreak, reports BBC. They had already created a genetically engineered chimpanzee virus that would form the basis for the new vaccine. They then combined it with parts of the new coronavirus, it reports.

The Oxford team join three other groups of researchers – two in the United States and one in China – in beginning trials on humans.

At the University of Western Ontario, Chil-Yong Kang, a professor of virology, and his team have been working 12 hours a day, seven days a week to find a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Their work is being built on research done for a vaccine candidate Kang previously produced for Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), caused by a coronavirus similar to the one that causes COVID-19.

Coronaviruses invade human cells through so-called “spike proteins” — the crowns or corona on the virus — which bind to cell receptors and then begin infection. “If you make an antibody against that spike protein, it will cover up the spike and it will not be able to attach to the cell,” Kang said. “There you have a prevention of infection.”

Kang said his team is working to make six different versions of the vaccine candidate and hopes to have human trials underway by July or August. “We come in every day, and lab workers are here sometimes 12 or 13 hours a day,” he said. “We have both a responsibility and a deep sense of duty to end this COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Oxford University project has recruited 510 people, ranging from 18 to 55 years old, to take part in the trials, said lead researcher Professor Adrian Hill.

“We are going into human trials next week. We have tested the vaccine in several different animal species,” he added. “We have taken a fairly cautious approach, but a rapid one to assess the vaccine that we are developing.”

Professor Sarah Gilbert, a vaccinologist at Oxford, has said she is “80 per cent” confident it will be a success. There is now hope that the jab, developed by the clinical teams at the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group, could be ready from as early as September.

“We’re a university, we have a very small in house manufacturing facility that can do dozens of doses. That’s not good enough to supply the world, obviously,” he told the BBC World Service.

“We are working with manufacturing organizations and paying them to start the process now.

 “So by the time July, August, September comes – whenever this is looking good – we should have the vaccine to start deploying under emergency use recommendations.

“That’s a different approval process to commercial supply, which often takes many more years.

“There is no point in making a vaccine that you can’t scale up and may only get 100,000 doses for after a huge amount of investment. “You need a technology that allows you to make not millions but ideally billions of doses over a year.”

The UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has said it would be “very lucky” if a coronavirus vaccine was widely available within a year. Sir Patrick told ITV: ”A vaccine that can be used generally – we’d be very lucky to get one within a year.”

Coronavirus: Could Donald Trump delay the presidential election?

As the coronavirus pandemic grinds much of the US economy to a halt, it is also playing havoc with the American democratic process during a national election year.

Primary contests have been delayed or disrupted, with in-person polling places closed and absentee balloting processes thrown into doubt. Politicians have engaged in contentious fights over the electoral process in legislatures and the courts.

In November voters are scheduled to head to the polls to select the next president, much of Congress and thousands of state-government candidates. But what could Election Day look like – or if it will even be held on schedule – is very much the subject of debate.

Here are answers to some key questions.

Could President Trump postpone the election?

A total of 15 states have delayed their presidential primaries at this point, with most pushing them back until at least June. That presents the pressing question of whether the presidential election in November itself could be delayed.

Under a law dating back to 1845, the US presidential election is slated for the Tuesday after the first Monday of November every four years – 3 November in 2020. It would take an act of Congress – approved by majorities in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and the Republican-controlled Senate – to change that.

The prospect of a bipartisan legislative consensus signing off on any delay is unlikely in the extreme.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The pandemic did not stop South Korea holding parliamentary elections

What’s more, even if the voting day were changed, the US Constitution mandates that a presidential administration only last four years. In other words, Donald Trump’s first term will expire at noon on 20 January, 2021, one way or another.

He might get another four years if he’s re-elected. He could be replaced by Democrat Joe Biden if he’s defeated. But the clock is ticking down, and a postponed vote won’t stop it.

South Koreans vote in masks and at virus clinics

What happens if the election is delayed?

If there hasn’t been an election before the scheduled inauguration day, the presidential line of succession kicks in. Second up is Vice-President Mike Pence, and given that his term in office also ends on that day, he’s in the same boat as the president.

Next in line is the Speaker of the House – currently Democrat Nancy Pelosi – but her two-year term is up at the end of December. The senior-most official eligible for the presidency in such a doomsday scenario would be 86-year-old Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the president pro tem of the Senate. That’s assuming Republicans still control the Senate after a third of its 100 seats are vacated because of their own term expirations.

All in all, this is much more in the realm of political suspense novels than political reality.

But could the virus disrupt the election?

While an outright change of the presidential election date is unlikely, that doesn’t mean the process isn’t at risk of significant disruption.

According to University of California Irvine Professor Richard L Hasen, an election-law expert, Trump or state governments could use their emergency powers to drastically curtail in-person voting locations.

In the recently concluded Wisconsin primary, for instance, concerns about exposure to the virus, along with a shortage of volunteer poll-workers and election supplies, led to the closure of 175 of the 180 polling places in Milwaukee, the state’s largest city.

If such a move were done with political interests in mind – perhaps by targeting an opponent’s electoral strongholds – it could have an impact on the results of an election.

All you need to know about US election

Could states contest the results?

Hasen also suggests another more extraordinary, albeit unlikely, scenario. Legislatures, citing concerns about the virus, could take back the power to determine which candidate wins their state in the general election. There is no constitutional obligation that a state support the presidential candidate who wins a plurality of its vote – or that the state hold a vote for president at all.

It’s all about the Electoral College, that archaic US institution in which each state has “electors” who cast their ballots for president. In normal times, those electors (almost always) support whoever wins the popular vote in their respective states.

It doesn’t necessarily have to work that way, however. In the 1800 election, for example, several state legislatures told their electors how to vote, popular will be damned.

If a state made such a “hardball” move today, Hasen admits, it would probably lead to mass demonstrations in the streets. That is, if mass demonstrations are permitted given quarantines and social-distancing edicts.

Will there be legal challenges?

The recent experience in the Wisconsin primary could serve as an ominous warning for electoral disruption to come – and not just because of the long lines for in-person voting at limited polling places, staffed by volunteers and national guard soldiers in protective clothing.

Prior to primary day, Democratic governor Tony Evers and Republicans who control the state legislature engaged in high-stakes legal battles, one of which was ultimately decided by the US Supreme Court, over whether the governor had the legal power to postpone the vote until June or extend the absentee balloting deadline.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Hand sanitiser before voting in Wisconsin

In March Republican Ohio Governor Mike DeWine had a similar court battle before his successful move to delay his state’s primary.

A federal judge in Texas on Wednesday issued an order that made fear of contracting the coronavirus a valid reason to request an absentee ballot in November. The state’s requirements for mail-in voting had been some of the most stringent in the nation.

What changes could reduce the risk?

In a recent opinion survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 66% of Americans said they wouldn’t be comfortable going to a polling place to cast their ballot during the current public-health crisis.

Such concerns have increased pressure on states to expand the availability of mail-in ballots for all voters in order to minimise the risk of viral exposure from in-person voting.

While every state provides for some form of remote voting, the requirements to qualify vary greatly.

“We have a very decentralised system,” Hasen says. “The states have a lot of leeway in terms of how they do these things.”

Five states in the western US, including Washington, Oregon and Colorado, conduct their elections entirely via mail-in ballot. Others, like California, provide a postal ballot to anyone who requests it.

Why don’t some states like postal-voting?

On the other end of the spectrum, 17 states require voters to provide a valid reason why they are unable to vote in-person in order to qualify for an absentee ballot. These states have faced calls to relax their requirements to make absentee ballots easier to obtain – although some leaders are resisting.

Mike Parson, the Republican governor of Missouri, said on Tuesday that expanding absentee ballot access was a “political issue” and suggested that fear of contracting the virus is not, by itself, a reason to qualify for an absentee ballot.

Why are US election campaigns never-ending? Republicans in other states, including North Carolina and Georgia, have expressed similar sentiments.

Congress could step in and mandate that states provide some minimum level of absentee balloting or mail-voting system in national elections, but given the existing partisan gridlock at the US Capitol, chances of that are slim.

Do the parties agree on how to protect the election?

No. Given the intense polarisation of modern politics, it shouldn’t be surprising that whether – and how – to alter the way elections are conducted during a pandemic have become an increasingly contentious debate.

Donald Trump himself has weighed in against expanded mail-in voting, saying that it is more susceptible to fraud. He also has suggested that increased turnout from easing balloting restrictions could harm Republican candidates,

“They had levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” he said in a recent Fox News interview.

But the evidence that conservatives are hurt more by mail-in voting is mixed, as Republicans frequently cast absentee ballots in greater numbers than Democrats.

Is US democracy at risk?

The coronavirus outbreak is affecting every aspect of American life. While Trump and other politicians are pushing for life to return to some semblance of normalcy, there’s no guarantee all will be well by June, when many states have rescheduled their primary votes, the August party conventions, the October scheduled presidential debates or even November’s election day.

In normal times, the months ahead would mark a drumbeat of national political interest and activity that grows to an election day crescendo. At this point, everything is in doubt – including, for some, the foundations of American democracy itself.

“Even before the virus hit, I was quite worried about people accepting the results of the 2020 election because we are very hyperpolarized and clogged with disinformation,” says Hasen, who wrote a recent book titled Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy.  “The virus adds much more to this concern.”

AAPI’s Donate a Mask Program Provides Masks to Several Hospitals Across the Nation

(Chicago, IL: April 19th, 2020) Responding to the national/world-wide shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment, American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, has raised funds, donated money, purchased and donated Masks to several Medical Institutions across the United States.

Recognizing the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE), and that millions of healthcare professionals, including physicians and nurses, who are in the forefront diagnosing and treating patients diagnosed with COVID-19, are experiencing shortages of much needed Masks and PPEs. AAPI under the leadership of Dr. Suresh Reddy launched a Fund Raising to support their fellow professionals, providing them with Masks that are so vital to prevent them from getting transmitted with this deadly virus.

Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI, said, “As we are not prepared well, our frontline soldiers (physicians) are working under suboptimal conditions with severe shortage of masks and other protective gear. As a result, some of the foot soldiers have succumbed to this deadly virus. To protect our fraternity, we have established a donation box on AAPI website under the banner “DONATE A MASK.”

A Task Force consisting of Dr. Jayesh Shah, Chair; Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda. Co-Chair; Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI; Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Vice President; Dr. Seema Arora, Chair, BOT; Dr. Sajani Shah, Chair, BOT-Elect; Dr. Chander Kapasi,  Chair, AAPI Charitable Foundation; and Dr. Surendra Purohit, Vice Chair of AAPi Charitable Foundation, has been constituted to identify the hospitals and sending the supply of Masks/PPE directly.

AAPI’s Donate a Mask Program Provides Masks to Several Hospitals Across the NationIn our efforts to contain and prevent this pandemic, we are recommending that the Authorities across the nation “Implement and enforce a total lockdown of the nation, social distancing, and enforce self-quarantine of the total population, as has been practiced in other countries in order to flatten the infection curve,” Dr. Jayesh Shah, Past President of AAPI, said.

While thinking generous donors who provided cash and, masks to AAPI Task Force, Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President-Elect of AAPI and Chairman of the AAPI’s Task Force on Donate a Mask initiative, announced: “Last week, Dr. Suresh Reddy, Dr. Sreenivas Reddy and Member of Illinois Medical Board donated Masks on behalf of AAPI to Deb Carey, CEO of Cook County Health Care Systems. ISCOPI donated masks to 3 local hospitals last week. And Flushing Hospital in Queens was another beneficiary from AAPI’s Mask Drive. In addition, funds raised locally by several AAPI Chapters and masks were bought by AAPI, and were donated to dozens of smaller health care institutes and private practices as per the local needs.”

Dr. Seema Arora, Chairwoman of AAPI BOT, said, “We are experiencing an extraordinary and unprecedented time. Never before in the modern history have we experienced this kind of health-related calamity. Covid-19 is playing havoc on our streets and isolating family members at home. The results are catastrophic. As the disease is new, we are not able to treat it properly. We don’t have vaccines or anti-viral agents to effectively treat the patients with this strange disease. As of now, we are only providing supportive treatment.”

Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Vice President, AAPI, said, “AAPI is urging the Government to expand testing on a wholesale level and make freely available across the United States; Quarantine and Isolation: Enact quarantine and isolation rules like we have seen in other countries to prevent the spread of the virus; and, Off Site Treatment Areas- Create treatment areas outside of hospitals and healthcare facilities to test and treat patients who are potentially exhibiting symptoms and need additional guidance.”

“While applauding our fellow healthcare workers, including physicians, nurses, EMS, paramedics, medical assistants, and healthcare professionals, we are saddened that many of these heroes are being infected with COVID-19 while treating patients and often without Personal protection Equipment, endangering their safety and that of their families,” Dr. Ravi Kolli, Secretary of AAPI, said.

Dr. Kolli also cautioned of significant mental health impact of the pandemic due to disruption of social and  economic life from isolation and job loss. He encouraged everyone to stay socially connected with their loved ones via smart technology, and avoiding over consumption negative media and alternative news sources.

Dr. Raj Bhayani, Treasurer of AAPI, while acknowledging the significant impact and the cost of these policies on our fellow citizens and our society as a whole, said,  “We have witnessed rapid growth in the spread of the virus that have led us to believe that further action is needed.”

“To protect our medical fraternity, AAPI has established a donation box on AAPI website under the banner “DONATE a MASK”. We request all the members to donate generously to fight this ferocious virus, which has put the basic existence of entire human race at stake,” Dr. Chander Kapasi, announced here.

“Our special thanks to all the AAPI members who are already working at “ground zero” risking their own lives. We are extremely grateful for these “foot soldiers” working under suboptimal conditions. Let’s kill this “rakshas” virus together and let’s our next Diwali be a really special one,” Dr. Reddy said.

As concerned physicians witnessing the growing COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on our society, healthcare system and economy, we are writing to you, our local, state, and federal policy leaders to advocate more immediate and severe action to prevent the crisis from becoming unmanageable.

In view of the rising number of positive cases of COVID-19 in USA, Dr. Lokesh Edara, Chair of AAPI International Medical Education, AAPI has urged the President of USA and all State Governors to mandate people that:

  • EVERYONE SHOULD WEAR A MASK when going outside in public and interacting with any person similar to the mandatory rule made by Czech Republic
  • Along with hand washing and 6 feet social distance, the sick should be ISOLATED
  • Every patient must wear a mask when seen by a Physician and a Healthcare worker

Quoting evidence from Japan and Czech Republic that this could be an effective measure to flatten the COVID-19 spread curve, AAPI has pointed out that Japan has very low COVID-19 spread: 13 cases per million vs USA 374 per million; Japanese have a cultural habit of wearing a mask for several reasons, and the mask is mutually beneficial for the person wearing it and to the people adjacent to them.

Dr. Lokesh Edara, Chair of AAPI International Medical Education, said, “The recommendations that we have put forth above are based on the increasingly worsening data and trends that we are witnessing get reported on a daily basis. We hope that you seriously consider them as our goals of defeating the virus and minimizing loss of life, pain and suffering are one and the same.”

 “We urge the Authorities to provide the much needed equipment, testing and facilities enabling them to be isolated and treated, which will reduce the sickness of our healthcare workforce at precisely the time we need them to be healthy and treating patients,” Dr. Reddy added.

For more information about AAPI and its several initiatives, including to address the global pandemic, please visit: www.appiusa.org

Anuradha Palakurthi Dedicates a Song for Doctors Combating Coronavirus

Indian American Singer Anuradha Palakurthi released a video song to pay tribute to doctors who are combating Coronavirus and putting their lives on the line to save lives of people during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Titled “Rukta Hi Naheen Tu Kahin Haar Ke”, the song was produced by Boston-based Juju Productions within a week—from idea to its final release. Sung by Ms. Palakurthi, the lyric was composed by Boston poet and script writer Sunayana Kachroo.  Music was composed by Kamlesh Bhadkamkar, Mixed and Mastered by Vijay Dayal in Mumbai. Nikhil Joshi made the Video.

“I don’t think they have worked so fast on any project so far. The urgency and gravity was significant enough for the entire team,” Ms. Palakurthi told INDIA New England News.

Given the urgency of the Covid-19 pandemic and so many doctors of Indian-origin on the frontline, Palakurthi got inspired by their dedication and service.

 “So many Indian families in United states have at least one doctor in them. I had to bring their contribution to the forefront in USA. They are the ones who are in close quarters with real danger. They are the first responders who are putting their lives on the line to save lives,” said Ms. Palakurthi.  “Some have sadly lost their lives too in this battle. Only true heroes in war do that.  Coming from a gold star family, I feel strongly about soldiers and their sacrifices.”

As of April 9, more than 200 doctors and nurses have died battling Coronavirus worldwide, according to news reports.

Ms. Palakurthi said that the idea about the music video formed in her head on April 3rd.

“I contacted Sunayana to brainstorm a bit about lyrics etc. We wanted to write and make something new, but I decided to pick an existing song and change the lyrics,” said Ms. Palakurthi. “Sunayana did an exceptional job. Next step was to contact my trusted musicians Kamlesh Bhadkamkar and Vijay Dayal in Mumbai and we were good to go from then on.”

Ms. Palakurthi said that Nikhil Joshi in Mumbai compiled all the photos that were sent him from Boston and worked non-stop 12 straight hours on it.

“It was quite a task to explain my vision to him in 36 hours. But the real help came from some friends who are doctors.  They did their best under the circumstances. I wish I had more faces, but I guess asking them to send photos of themselves in these pressing times was a bit much,” said Ms. Palakurthi.

Ms. Palakurthi said that she is very humbled to dedicate this song to doctors, nurses and healthcare workers in the United States and around the world.

“I think it’s a humble tribute compared to what they are doing every day. There should have been at least a hundred more faces in the music video. We personally know 100 such families and could not get their pictures.”

Ms. Kachroo said that Ms. Palakurthi had given her a brief on the purpose of the song and the reference song as well.

“While the purpose of the original song is to inspire people to reach to a goal,” Ms. Kachroo said. “This song is to honor the resilience and the unwavering commitment of the medics and researchers to go beyond their job profiles and stand-up to this disease with their relentless service.”

Earlier this year, Ms.  Palakurthi’s “Jaan Meri” song from her Jaan Meri album won the prestigious Independent Music Category’s best Song of the Year Award at the Radio Mirchi Music Awards, the Indian equivalent of the Grammys. Two of the top five nominees for the best song of the year for the Radio Mirchi Music Awards in the Non-Film/ Independent category were from Jaan Meri Album.

Ms. Palakurthi has been recognized as the top-rated singer of Indian origin by industry legends. She has performed live with Bollywood singers like Kumar Sanu, Suresh Wadkar, Deepak Pandit and Bappi Lahiri across the United States. Anuradha has recorded a duet with Hariharan for Ekal Vidyalaya – composed by guitarist Prasanna with drummer Sivamani and a group of 14 multiple-Grammy winning musicians from across the globe. She sings in six Indian languages and has recorded playback for South Indian films.

Trump’s approval ticks downward as economic worry mounts

A new CNN Poll of Polls finds President Donald Trump’s approval rating continuing to trend downward after he reached positive territory last month.

In the new average, 45% approve of the way Trump is handling his job nationwide and 51% disapprove.

The poll of polls includes the five most recent national telephone polls measuring the views of adults or registered voters. His downturn comes with political turmoil over the state of the economy, according to new polling.

Last week, 46% approved of how Trump was handling his job and 49% disapproved, ticking down from late March when he held at 47% approval.

Trump — whose approval rating has been relatively steady throughout his presidency — has seen higher-than-average ratings as the coronavirus pandemic swept through the US.

However, after a month of stay-at-home orders and an economic crash, Trump’s approval rating has gone from almost net even (-1 in late March), to leaning net negative (-3 last week), and down further in mid-April (-6 now).

A new Gallup poll out on Friday found a record drop in confidence on economic conditions, down from 54% who described the country’s economic conditions as being excellent or good in March to 27% in April. Gallup reported this is the largest drop in economic confidence dating back to 1992.

The percentage who call the economy “poor” has more than tripled, rising from 11% to 39%.

About three-quarters (74%) say they think the economy is getting worse right now, up from 47% who felt that way in March and just 33% in February. Only 22% say the economy is getting better right now, and the gap between those who think things are improving vs. those who say it is worsening is the largest it has been since the Great Recession.

And there’s been a massive decline in the percentage who say now is a good time to find a quality job. While 68% in January said it was a good time to find a quality job, just 22% feel that way now, the worst read since 2013.

The CNN Poll of Polls is an average of the five most recent non-partisan, live operator, national telephone surveys on Trump’s approval rating. All polls were conducted among either adults or registered voters. The Poll of Polls includes: The Gallup poll conducted April 1-14; the Fox News poll conducted April 4-7; the Quinnipiac University poll conducted April 2-6; the CNN poll conducted by SSRS April 3-6; and the Monmouth University poll conducted April 3-7. The poll of polls does not have a margin of sampling error.

The Gallup poll was conducted April 1-14 by telephone among a random sample of 1,017 adults. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is 4 percentage points.

Roivant Doses First Patient in Pivotal BREATHE Clinical Trial

Evaluating Gimsilumab in COVID-19 Patients for the Prevention and Treatment of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

  • BREATHE is an adaptive, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial expected to enroll up to 270 patients, with a planned interim analysis
  • FDA has agreed that this study could support registration if successful
  • This is the first pivotal study for an anti-GM-CSF therapy known to initiate dosing in COVID-19 patients
  • GM-CSF is a pro-inflammatory cytokine up-regulated in COVID-19 patients at risk of developing Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

NEW YORK and BASEL, Switzerland, April 15, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Roivant Sciences announced today that the first patient was dosed at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia in an adaptive, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multi-center pivotal trial evaluating the impact of intravenous (IV) treatment with gimsilumab on mortality in COVID-19 patients with lung injury or ARDS. Dosing will commence at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and other trial sites imminently.

COVID-19 is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Many hospitalized COVID-19 patients experience an overactive immune response consisting of cytokine dysregulation and increased inflammatory myeloid cells that infiltrate the lung, leading to lung injury, ARDS, and ultimately death.1 Granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF), a myelopoietic growth factor and pro-inflammatory cytokine, is believed to be a key driver of lung hyper-inflammation and to operate upstream of other pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Previous evidence from SARS-CoV-1 animal models and emerging data from COVID-19 patients suggest that GM-CSF contributes to the immunopathology caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection in patients with or at risk of developing ARDS.2-5

Gimsilumab is a fully human monoclonal antibody targeting GM-CSF. Gimsilumab has been tested in numerous non-clinical studies and two prior clinical studies, including a 4-week Phase 1 study in healthy volunteers conducted by Roivant which completed dosing in February. Gimsilumab has demonstrated a favorable safety and tolerability profile based on data collected to date.

“GM-CSF-targeted immunomodulation to address the aberrant host immune response in COVID-19 appears promising for reducing lung injury and death in this aggressive illness,” said Dr. Mandeep Mehra, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and William Harvey Distinguished Chair in Advanced Cardiovascular Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “The rapid initiation of this pivotal trial with gimsilumab is impressive given the pressing need for effective therapies that reduce the morbidity encountered with COVID-19.”

“Emerging evidence suggests that GM-CSF may contribute to clinical worsening in COVID-19,” said Dr. Gerard Criner, Professor and Chair of the Department of Thoracic Medicine and Surgery at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University and Principal Investigator for the BREATHE Study at Temple University Hospital. “We are proud to participate in this clinical trial testing gimsilumab in this vulnerable patient population.”

About the BREATHE Study
Roivant’s clinical trial is expected to enroll up to 270 patients with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and clinical evidence of acute lung injury or ARDS. Subjects will be randomized 1:1 to receive either gimsilumab or placebo. The primary endpoint of the study is incidence of mortality by Day 43. Key secondary endpoints include the incidence and duration of mechanical ventilation use during the study, number of days in the ICU, and number of days of inpatient hospitalization. The study is being conducted with an adaptive design and includes a planned interim analysis.

About GM-CSF and COVID-19
COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. COVID-19 has become a global pandemic, with over 2 million confirmed cases and over 125,000 deaths reported to date. Patients with severe cases of COVID-19 experience severe viral pneumonia that often persists despite a decrease in viral load and can progress to lung injury, ARDS, and death.

GM-CSF is a cytokine implicated in many autoimmune disorders that acts as a pro-inflammatory signal, prompting macrophages to launch an immune cascade that ultimately results in tissue damage. GM-CSF has been found to be up-regulated in the serum of COVID-19 patients according to recent data from patients in China.2 The percentages of GM-CSF-expressing CD4+ T cells (Th1), CD8+ T cells, NK cells, and B cells have been observed to be significantly higher in the blood of ICU-admitted COVID-19 patients when compared with healthy controls.3 These reported immunological changes also appear to be more pronounced in ICU-admitted COVID-19 patients versus non-ICU patients.3

GM-CSF boosts the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNF, IL-6, and IL-23 in addition to promoting the differentiation of Th1/17 cells and the polarization of macrophages to a M1-like phenotype.4 Increased levels of GM-CSF result in positive feedback which further elevates these inflammatory mediators. In severe COVID-19 patients, it has been suggested that GM-CSF could be the key link between the ‘pulmonary syndrome-initiating capacity’ of pathogenic Th1 cells and the feedback loop of inflammatory monocytes – which in turn secrete additional GM-CSF and IL-6.3 Taken together with the differentially elevated levels of GM-CSF observed in seriously ill COVID-19 patients, GM-CSF’s breadth of activity and its potential role as a central driver of pathology make it a promising target for clinical research.

About ARDS
ARDS is an acute, life-threatening inflammatory lung injury characterized by hypoxia – a lack of oxygen to the tissue – and stiff lungs due to increased pulmonary vascular permeability. ARDS necessitates hospitalization and mechanical ventilation. A rapid increase in patients with ARDS presents a major challenge for the global public health system given limited hospital beds and ventilators. When implementing standard of care, including mechanical ventilation, ARDS has an overall mortality rate of 41%.6

About Roivant Sciences
Roivant Sciences aims to improve health by rapidly delivering innovative medicines and technologies to patients. Roivant does this by building Vants – nimble, entrepreneurial biotech and healthcare technology companies with a unique approach to sourcing talent, aligning incentives, and deploying technology to drive greater efficiency in R&D and commercialization. For more information, please visit www.roivant.com.

Estimating COVID-19 Prevalence in Symptomatic Americans

Efforts to accurately track the outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S. have been hampered by a lack of access to testing. While the number of tests performed in the U.S. has scaled up rapidly in the past two weeks, so has the underlying number of infected individuals in need of testing. New data from Gallup suggest that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases measured March 31 would more than double (or more precisely increase by a factor of 2.5) if people who requested a test, were symptomatic, and visited with a healthcare provider were actually tested.

As of the three-day polling period ending March 31, I estimate that at least 266,000 Americans would test positive for COVID-19 if all symptomatic people who wanted a test got one. That compares to an estimated 106,000 Americans who have tested positive, according to survey data from the Gallup Panel, and 165,000 reported cases through March 31, according to data published from official sources.

Estimated Disease Prevalence of COVID-19 for Symptomatic Cases If Everyone Who Requested a Test Through a Health Provider Received One

Share of U.S. population Estimate for U.S.
% #
Has had fever in past 30 days 6.40 20,532,662
Has had fever in past 30 days, saw health professional 2.23 7,166,809
Has had fever in past 30 days, saw health professional, received COVID test 0.11 344,053
Has had fever in past 30 days, saw health professional, received COVID test, tested positive 0.03 106,092
Has had fever in past 30 days, saw health professional, denied COVID test 0.28 886,903
Has had fever in past 30 days, saw health professional, denied COVID test, likely positive 0.05 159,643
Estimated symptomatic COVID-19 cases 0.08 265,735
Ratio of estimated COVID-19 symptomatic cases to confirmed cases 2.50 2.50
Sample size equals 3,234 U.S. adults. The population estimates above assume that symptomatic cases are just as likely in children. Assumes that 18% of people who request a test will test positive, which is the current positive test rate reported from cumulative data tracked on The COVID Tracking Project, https://covidtracking.com, and is very close to the positive testing rate (17%) in the Gallup Panel. Standard error for positive COVID test results is 0.06%. Standard error for share denied COVID test is 0.09%.

The implication of this research is that the number of cases reported at any given time (239,279, as of April 3) should be multiplied by 2.5 to account for lack of access to testing for symptomatic people who seek treatment. That suggests a current caseload of roughly 600,000 through April 3. This is a conservative estimate for several reasons. First, it ignores nonresponse error, which may be an issue for people too sick to respond to the survey or already hospitalized. In fact, we estimate that an additional 198,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases could be present within the households of surveyed respondents. Second, this analysis assumes that only people who are symptomatic and seek treatment are COVID-19 positive, which we know is not the case. One recent study found that 18% of people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, which, if applied to the most recent estimate, would bring the April 3 case total estimate to 730,000 Americans with COVID-19. We cannot know with current information how many people with symptoms who do not seek treatment are COVID-19 positive, but that is another reason to believe these are conservative estimates.

The 2.5 factor is likely to respond to the rate of testing. As testing capacity expands, it will likely fall. Our data show the ratio would have been 13.7 for the three-day period ending on March 23. Gallup will monitor dynamics in this rate.

The survey includes two screening questions before people are asked if they have been tested for COVID-19. First, people are asked whether they have been ill with a fever within the past 30 days. If they answer yes, which 6.4% of people did, they are then asked whether they saw a health professional for the illness, which applies to 2.2%. Among those who said they have had a fever in the past 30 days, two-thirds (65%) said they did not seek treatment.

Those who report having had a fever and visiting a health professional are then asked whether they received a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) test: 95% did not receive one. Among those who did not receive a COVID-19 test, a test was requested in 13% of cases — either by the individual or their attending healthcare professional.

The COVID Tracking Project, which collects data from state health departments, shows that 18% of all U.S. tests for COVID-19 are positive, which nearly matches the rate found in Gallup survey data over most of March (17%, from March 13 to March 31). Applying the 18% positive testing rate number to the symptomatic population who sought treatment but were denied a test upon request suggests that 0.05% of the U.S. population would test positive if given full access. That compares to 0.03% of Americans who have been tested. This translates into an additional 159,643 cases that are currently going undetected despite the patient seeking treatment and having symptoms.

These results are sensitive to the dates used in the analysis, but recent dates consistently show that the number of undetected symptomatic cases is at least equal to the detected symptomatic cases. The figure above plots the results for both of these estimates and the total number of cases by day using a three-day moving average to smooth out daily variation. This longer analysis was conducted from a representative survey of 22,709 U.S. adults conducted by Gallup March 13-March 31 through the Gallup Panel, a group of people who were previously randomly selected for Gallup surveys and agreed to be recontacted.

These results shed light on one aspect of this pandemic that has been difficult to measure, as testing access remains a problem. When asked if they were confident they could get a coronavirus test if they thought they had the disease, 27% of the population said no. Data on the percentage of tests yielding positive results has been increasing, according to data from state sources compiled by The COVID Tracking Project. This suggests that testing capacity may be under strain as the disease spreads.

Beyond obtaining more accurate estimates for symptomatic cases, expanded testing capacity would also shed light on the large number of people thought to be asymptomatic carriers and potential transmitters of the disease. In a recent interview, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that “a significant number of individuals that are infected actually remain asymptomatic.” Whether asymptomatic or not, failing to identify people with the disease will make quarantine and suppression much more difficult.

Most Americans Say Trump Was Too Slow in Initial Response to Coronavirus Threat – Wide concern that states will lift COVID-19 restrictions too quickly

As the death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to spiral, most Americans do not foresee a quick end to the crisis. In fact, 73% of U.S. adults say that in thinking about the problems the country is facing from the coronavirus outbreak, the worst is still to come.

With the Trump administration and many state governors actively considering ways to revive the stalled U.S. economy, the public strikes a decidedly cautious note on easing strict limits on public activity. About twice as many Americans say their greater concern is that state governments will lift restrictions on public activity too quickly (66%) as say it will not happen quickly enough (32%).

President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak – especially his response to initial reports of coronavirus cases overseas – is widely criticized. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) say Trump was too slow to take major steps to address the threat to the United States when cases of the disease were first reported in other countries.

Opinions about Trump’s initial response to the coronavirus – as well as concerns about whether state governments will act too quickly or slowly in easing restrictions – are deeply divided along partisan lines. These attitudes stand in stark contrast to the assessments of how officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and at the state and local level are addressing the outbreak, which are largely positive among members of both parties.

Democrats are largely united in their concerns over state governments easing bans on public activity; 81% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say their greater concern is that governments will lift these restrictions too quickly. Yet Republicans and Republican leaners are evenly divided. About half (51%) say their bigger concern is that state governments will act too quickly while slightly fewer (46%) worry more that restrictions on public movement will not be lifted quickly enough.

The new national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted April 7 to 12 among 4,917 U.S. adults on the American Trends Panel, finds that Republicans also are divided in opinions about whether it is acceptable for elected officials to criticize the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Nearly half of Republicans (47%) say it is acceptable for officials to fault the administration’s response, while slightly more (52%) find this unacceptable. Democrats overwhelmingly think it is acceptable for elected officials to criticize how the administration has addressed the outbreak (85% say this).

The survey finds that while Trump is widely viewed as having acted too slowly in the initial phase of the crisis, Americans have more positive views of how he is currently handling some aspects of the coronavirus outbreak. About half (51%) say he is doing an excellent or good job in addressing the economic needs of businesses facing financial difficulties.

However, fewer Americans say Trump has done well in addressing the financial needs of ordinary people who have lost jobs or income (46%), working with governors and meeting the needs of hospitals, doctors and nurses (45%). And 42% say Trump has done well providing the public with accurate information about the coronavirus. Public opinion about the coronavirus outbreak can be explored further by using the Election News Pathways data tool.

Trump’s overall job rating has changed little since late March (March 19-24); it remains among the highest ratings of his presidency. Currently, 44% approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, while 53% disapprove.

The survey – most of which took place after Bernie Sanders announced April 8 that he was suspending his presidential campaign, but before he endorsed Biden on April 13 – finds that early preferences for the general election are closely divided: 47% of registered voters say if the presidential election were held today, they would vote for Biden or lean toward supporting Biden, while 45% support or lean toward Trump; 8% favor neither Biden nor Trump or prefer another candidate.

With Biden now the party’s presumptive nominee, Democrats generally think that the party will unite around the former vice president. About six-in-ten Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters (63%) say the party will unite around Biden as the nominee, while 36% say differences and disagreements will keep many Democrats from supporting Biden.

Notably, Democrats who supported Sanders for the party’s nomination in January are the most skeptical that the party will unite around Biden. Nearly half of Democratic voters who supported Sanders for the nomination (47%) say that differences will keep many in the party from backing Biden.

Here are the other major findings from the new survey:

Fewer than half of Americans say Trump portrays coronavirus situation “about as it really is.” Just 39% say in his public comments on the coronavirus outbreak, Trump is presenting the situation about as it really is. About half (52%) say he is making the situation seem better than it really is, while 8% say he is making things seem worse than they really are.

Negative job ratings for Pelosi and McConnell. Just 36% of Americans approve of the way Nancy Pelosi is handling her job as speaker of the House, while an identical percentage approves of Mitch McConnell’s performance as Senate majority leader. Majorities disapprove of the job performance of Pelosi (61%) and McConnell (59%). Job ratings for both congressional leaders are deeply partisan.

Majority sees increased partisan divisions, but fewer do so than last fall. The public has long believed that the nation’s partisan divisions have widened. But the share saying divisions between Republicans and Democrats, while large, has declined since last September. Currently, 65% say divisions between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. are growing, compared with 78% who said this last fall.

World Hindu Council of America’s initiative: Food for the Front liners

Volunteers from Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) of America contributed to the fight against the Corona virus in their own way – by feeding the Fighters on the frontlines of the fight. Called “Food for the Front Liners”, this effort is raising funds to buy food and deliver to the doctors and nurses who are directly treating the Covid-19 patients in Emergency rooms and tents outside the hospitals across Massachusetts.

The idea came from one of the volunteers talking casually with one of her friends, who was a doctor who was directly involved. She said she got so hungry during the day, because the line of patients needing attention was so long, there was not even time during the day to stop to get food. It was not only her, all the people in these “Covid Tents” as they are called, do not have time to stop for anything. As a result, they keep working, sometimes late into the afternoon, until someone stops and buys food for them.

From this casual conversation was born this idea of buying food for these brave doctors and nurses and delivering it to them. A flyer was created and circulated amongst the community. Various restaurants and sandwich shops were approached, and sandwiches, chips were bought and delivered to area hospitals, starting with UMass Memorial Hospital in Worcester. Apeksha Tripathi M.D, from UMass Worcester says, “I was touched by their humility and by the efforts they took to express their gratitude and support for Health care workers.”

Three days after this was started, we are already starting to see the results of this initiative. Food has been delivered by dedicated volunteers to UMass Memorial Hospital in Worcester, and Lowell General Hospital. Anit Gupta, one of the first volunteers to deliver the food, said, “it was a very satisfying feeling to think that I could do something for our doctors and nurses, who are putting their lives at risk for us during this Covid-19 pandemic.”

Katherine Fredette, R.N from UMass Hospital Emergency room, expressed her appreciation to the volunteers. She said, “We can’t express enough gratitude to the organization and its members.”

Abhishek Singh, volunteer, thought it was “very rewarding to be able to help someone who was helping so many people stay healthy during these tough times.”

Food delivered to Lowell General Hospital

Sangeeta Singh also echoed other volunteers. She said, “It was a great feeling knowing that I could help someone who is doing so much for the community.”

This is an ongoing effort to provide much-needed nourishment to the weary healthcare workers who are risking their own safety and health to keep the public safe. Please donate generously to this initiative, so that the work can continue as long as it is needed. This is also an opportunity to do your part by volunteering to deliver the food to the various area hospitals.  To Donate please visit: https://www.vhp-america.org/donation/

India Center Foundation Launches Arts Resiliency Fund for South Asian Artists Affected by COVID-19

The non-profit arts organization India Center Foundation (ICF), in partnership with MELA Arts Connect (MAC), has announced the formation of The South Asian Arts Resiliency Fund, a grant program for South Asian artists and arts workers in the U.S. in the fields of performing arts, film, visual arts or literature who have been impacted by the economic fallout of COVID-19 due to postponed or canceled performances, events or exhibitions.

ICF will provide launch funding of $20,000 towards this important initiative. The fund will be co-managed by MAC and supported by a crowdfunding campaign and multiple live streaming experiences and more. With the community’s support to reach the targeted goal of $500,000, the fund will be able to provide grants to hundreds of arts workers around the country. The expectation is that this milestone will be outmatched because of generous support from arts patrons and philanthropic communities, who can donate funds through this Go Fund Me Page.

In an ongoing survey about the economic impact of the coronavirus on the arts sector, Americans for the Arts has captured a crippling loss of more than $114 million as of April 4, 2020. “And the situation is only going to get worse, before it gets better,” said Raoul Bhavnani, ICF Co-Founder. “Communities count on the arts to rally around, to gather and to find connection, especially in times of crisis, and the South Asian community is no different. With necessary physical distancing in place for the foreseeable future, the arts community — artists, producers, agents, managers, administrators, technicians — are unable to perform or produce their work for audiences and are losing their livelihoods.  Losses will only continue to mount unless we choose to support artists NOW, and we hope individuals, corporations and other arts organizations will join us in this critical endeavor.”

“We want to encourage South Asian voices in the arts at all levels and make sure that our growing representation in all sectors of creative fields does not diminish because of this pandemic,” said ICF Co-Founder Priya Giri Desai. “The Resiliency Fund can ensure that our South Asian voices continue to be heard and that South Asian artists can feel secure in their choice to pursue a life in the arts.”

WHAT THE FUND WILL SUPPORT:

The development, creation and presentation of work requires the time and expertise of a multitude of people, not just the artist. As such, the fund will provide support for artists and arts personnel in the U.S. through project grants on a rolling basis for the development of work, particularly during the ongoing pandemic.
Examples of Projects:

Creation of music, dance, theater, film, visual arts or literature projects (ongoing or new)

Research for development of music, dance, theater, film or visual arts projects (ongoing or new)

Strategic planning by a manager or agent for an artist

Content creation for project deployment

Creation of resources for artists to support careers in the arts

WHO IS ELIGIBLE:

Eligible applicants are United States-based, South Asian arts workers in the performing arts, film, visual arts or literature who can demonstrate loss of income because of canceled or postponed engagements due to COVID-19.
Arts Workers are defined as:

Artists such as: dancers, choreographers, musicians, poets, actors, comedians, playwrights, directors, filmmakers, writers, composers, visual artists, etc.

Arts personnel such as: technicians (lighting, sound, costume, stage management, production, editor), independent curators / presenters, producers, agents, managers, etc.

*Grants will be targeted to at least $1,000, depending on eligibility and financial need. The arts community can apply starting April 13th at the organization’s website, www.theindiacenter.us

AAPI Organizes Candle Light Vigil and Inter-Faith Spiritual Session and Prayer

AAPI organised a solemn Candle Light Vigil and Inter-Faith Spiritual Session on Sunday, April 12th, 2020 in support of physicians and healthcare workers who have fallen victim for Covid-19. In his welcome note, Dr. Suresh Reddy stressed the importance of healthcare workers in fighting the deadly disease and introduced the moderators, Dr. Rajam Ramamurthy, past BOT Chair of AAPI and Dr. Jayesh Shah, Dr. Past President of AAPI.
The ceremony was led by spiritual leaders from almost all major religions and nearly 200 physicians from across the United States. Dr. Ramamurthy opened the Prayer Vigil by describing the significance of lighting the lamp, in each spiritual tradition. She led the participants by lighting a lamp in one’s own house as she chanted a Sanskrit Mantra and a Urdu poem. She asked the AAPI leaders to fold hands before the light that destroys darkness and evil. “We begin this auspicious moment, by the lighting of the lamp. Every participant in the meeting is welcome a light the lamp in one’s own tradition,” she said. Dr. Suresh Reddy lit the lamp on behalf of AAPI.  Dr. Devraj Nayak opened the session with a prayer seeking God’s blessings.
AAPI Organizes Candle Light Vigil and Inter-Faith Spiritual Session and PrayerCongressman Raja Krishnamurthy, in opening remarks expressed hope that everyone is doing well. Acknowledging the twin challenges the nation is facing today, namely the health crisis and economic crisis, he expressed his gratitude to the physicians and other healthcare professionals for their “dedication to the nation, for helping all to cope with the situation, guaranteeing the wellbeing of all. I am here for you and support in any ways regarding policy or economic assistance”.
Panelists on the Inter-faith meeting included Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President-Elect of AAPI, Dr. Seema Arora, Chairwoman of AAPI’s Board of Trustees (BOT), Dr. Sajani Shah, Chairwoman-Elect of AAPI’s BOT, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Vice president of AAPI, Dr. Yasmeen Ansari, Regional Director, Osmania Medical Alumni Association, Dr. Birinder Marwah, Past Chair of AAPI Convention in Chicago.
Nissim Rueben, Indian Jewish Association of USA, stressed the importance of interfaith cooperation and compassion and shared about his work in supporting peoples of all faiths around the world. Lama Sean Jones, a Buddhist Priest, shared about the Buddhist tradition, and in this time of crisis how he is using online prayers from the host monetary, offering teaching and poojas and prayers, which needed more than ever now.  “We take a lot for granted in our lives and now is the time to appreciate the blessing of life and for the need to help discover oneself and support each other in this journey. We need to be grounded in our own faith. To listen to them and be compassionate We need to have self-care and keep our spirits high, have a positive attitude and we can overcome this.”
Rev. Fr. Abi Chacko, Vicar, St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, Oak Lawn, IL, stressed the  importance to stay connected and visible by using social media and offer help in reaching meds and groceries to the needy. He pointed out how the pandemic has become a unifier and the need is to instil hope and deepening our faith in God who helps us move forward positively. “It’s the Spirit of Humanity in our hearts that gives us the faith and courage to move forward.” He emphasised the need “for compassion and the tone that expresses our understanding of the feelings of the people who suffer. This is our calling and vocation not a job to be in the healthcare sector,” he said.
Mufti Hafiz Ahmed Rabbani, Islamic Association of Greater Detroit shared about the community out-reach to the members of the Masjid, and offering lectures online and distributing food and supplies to people and to health care providers in front line. Swami Ishatmanada, Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago, through a chanting from the Upanishad, led the group to pray to Goddess Durga to remove this pandemic and seeking forgiveness from God and praying. He pointed out to the two approaches the world is looking at, to heal the world off this pandemic: Scientific and Spiritual approaches.
“We should be strong in order to overcome and fight the pandemic. Life has changed so much. The role of religion is to teach us that this is a passing phase and we will overcome this one too. Prayer, meditation and enhancing spiritual power, developing  common brotherhood of all, thus and we will all together overcome. Humanity is going to win,” Swami Ishatmanada said.
David Levy, Rabbi, American Jewish Committee, while sharing of the social media to keep the community together and strong in faith, said, “The corona virus cuts across all faiths. We are in all together experiencing and facing it and supporting and helping each other.” He referred to the Hindu-Jewish Coalition, formed first time in the US and about the amazing work with people of all faiths, addressing hate crimes around the country. “This has become a Coalition of Conscience to unite the world when there are people trying to divide us.”
Bhai Mohinder Singh pointed to how we are all guests on earth and how our life will change after this pandemic, and how all faiths can work together rather than fight with each other. He said, “All life is from one seed, one source, the same God. Recognising this truth will help us all work together and for all from all religions.”
With one minute of silence with folded hands and heads bowed, the AAPI members and spiritual leaders prayed for the speedy recovery of Drs. Ajay Lodha, Anjana Samaddar, Dr. Sunil Mehra and thousands of other healthcare professionals who are in the front line and are admitted to hospital and receiving treatment.
Dr. Jayesh Shah in his concluding remarks, said, “The Healthcare workers have been feeling vulnerable as the disease can affect them and their family members and sense of duty to serve at the same time. Today’s AAPI Inter-Faith Candlelight Vigil helped to put lot of healthcare workers to ease by spiritual leaders from various faith in these unprecedented times of COVID 19 Pandemic. Spiritual leaders also stressed importance of interfaith cooperation and compassion in the face of pandemic.”
For more information on AAPI and its several initiatives to combat Corona Virus and help Fellow Physicians and the larger community, please visit: www.aapiusa.org,  or email to: aapicovidplasmadonor@gmail.com

Time to encourage people to wear face masks as a precaution, say experts

Despite limited evidence, they could have a substantial impact on transmission with a relatively small impact on social and economic life

Newswise — It’s time to encourage people to wear face masks as a precautionary measure on the grounds that we have little to lose and potentially something to gain, say experts in The BMJ today.

Professor Trisha Greenhalgh at the University of Oxford and colleagues say despite limited evidence, masks “could have a substantial impact on transmission with a relatively small impact on social and economic life.”

The question of whether masks will reduce transmission of covid-19 in the general public is contested.

Although clinical trial evidence on the widespread use of facemasks as a protective measure against covid-19 is lacking, at the time of writing increasing numbers of agencies and governments, including the US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, are now advocating that the general population wears masks, but others, such as the World Health Organization and Public Health England are not.

Some researchers argue that people are unlikely to wear masks properly or consistently, and may ignore wider infection control measures like handwashing. Others say the public should not wear them since healthcare workers need them more.

But Greenhalgh and colleagues challenge these arguments and suggest that in the context of covid-19, many people could be taught to use masks properly and may well do this consistently without abandoning other important anti-contagion measures.

What’s more, they say if political will is there, mask shortages can be quickly overcome by repurposing manufacturing capacity – something that is already happening informally.

They conclude that it is time to act without waiting for randomised controlled trial evidence.

“Masks are simple, cheap, and potentially effective,” they write. “We believe that, worn both in the home (particularly by the person showing symptoms) and also outside the home in situations where meeting others is likely (for example, shopping, public transport), they could have a substantial impact on transmission with a relatively small impact on social and economic life.”

In a linked editorial, Babak Javid at Tsinghua University in Beijing and colleagues agree that the public should wear face masks because the benefits are plausible and harms unlikely. And they say cloth masks are likely to be better than wearing no mask at all.

As we prepare to enter a “new normal,” wearing a mask in public may become the face of our unified action in the fight against this common threat and reinforce the importance of social distancing measures, they conclude.

In an opinion piece, researchers recommend that health care workers should not be caring for covid-19 patients without proper respiratory protection, and that cloth masks are not a suitable alternative for health care workers.

18 musical icons unite for virtual concerts

Musical icons including Asha Bhosle, SP Balasubramaniam, Udit Narayan, Pankaj Udhas, Talat Aziz, Alka Yagnik, Sonu Nigam, Shaan and Kailash Kher, will get together for virtual concerts to show solidarity to the people who are at the frontline in the battle against COVID 19.

A series of virtual concerts “Sangeet Setu” have been announced by the Indian Singers Rights Association (ISRA). The concerts will be held between 8pm and 9pm on April 10, 11 and 12.

The concerts, which will also be attended by Lata Mangeshkar, will also include performances by KJ Yesudas, Anoop Jalota, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Sudesh Bhosale, Suresh Wadkar, Kumar Shanu, Hariharan, Shankar Mahadevan, and Salim Merchant.

Talking about the initiative, Manish Baradia, Creative Director of Moving Pixels Company, said: “This is not just a concert series, it’s a national movement. We want to take this concert to 1 billion screens.”

Sonu Nigam said: “Every Indian be it an official, a health worker, an essential services provider or citizen at home – is contributing in this battle. Especially mothers, home makers and sisters at home who are bearing the burden. As artists salute you through our music.”

To this, Kher added: “From the birth to the infinity, from the darkness to the light, music fills all emptiness of life. Medication is limited to heal the body but music heals the soul. On behalf of ISRA, we come together as a family to sing for you all to spread positivity amongst all of us in this dark phase bringing entertainment for enlightenment and cheer.”

Shaan urged “everyone to stay at home”.

“With this initiative, we will be able to come to your homes and sing for the country. I urge everyone to donate generously to the PM Cares fund, as every single rupee counts,” Shaan said

On behalf of ISRA, Sanjay Tandon, CEO, said: “ISRA decided that leading singers of the country will entertain the masses and try to lighten their stress, strain and depression in these tough times. I thank all the artists who have made themselves available for this national service.”

The concert will be available on MX Player, Hotstar, Vodafone Play, Flipkart, Jio Tv and Sony Liv. (IANS)

Record 16.8 Million People Have Sought U.S. Jobless Aid Since Coronavirus Outbreak Began

With a startling 6.6 million people seeking unemployment benefits last week, the United States has reached a grim landmark: More than one in 10 workers have lost their jobs in just the past three weeks to the coronavirus outbreak.

The figures collectively constitute the largest and fastest string of job losses in records dating to 1948. By contrast, during the Great Recession it took 44 weeks — roughly 10 months — for unemployment claims to go as high as they now have in less than a month.

The damage to job markets is extending across the world. The equivalent of 195 million full-time jobs could be lost in the second quarter to business shutdowns caused by the viral outbreak, according to the United Nations’ labor organization. It estimates that global unemployment will rise by 25 million this year. And that doesn’t even count workers on reduced hours and pay. Lockdown measures are affecting nearly 2.7 billion workers — about 81 percent of the global workforce — the agency said.

Around half a billion people could sink into poverty as a result of the economic fallout from the coronavirus unless richer countries act to help developing nations, Oxfam, a leading aid organization, warned Thursday.

In the United States, the job market is quickly unraveling as businesses have shut down across the country. All told, in the past three weeks, 16.8 million Americans have filed for unemployment aid. The surge of jobless claims has overwhelmed state unemployment offices around the country. And still more job cuts are expected.

More than 20 million people may lose jobs this month. The unemployment rate could hit 15% when the April employment report is released in early May.

 “The carnage in the American labor market continued unabated,” said Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist for RSM, a tax advisory firm.

The viral outbreak is believed to have erased nearly one-third of the U.S. economy’s output in the current quarter. Forty-eight states have closed non-essential businesses.

A nation of normally free-spending shoppers and travelers is mainly hunkered down at home, bringing entire gears of the economy to a near-halt. Non-grocery retail business plunged 97% in the last week of March compared with a year earlier, according to Morgan Stanley. The number of airline passengers screened by the Transportation Security Administration has plunged 95% from a year ago. U.S. hotel revenue has tumbled 80%.

Applications for unemployment benefits are a rough proxy for layoffs because only people who have lost a job through no fault of their own are eligible.

The wave of layoffs may be cresting in some states even while still surging in others. Last week, applications for jobless aid declined in 19 states. In California, they dropped nearly 13% to 925,000 — still a shockingly high figure. In Pennsylvania, they dropped by nearly one-third to 284,000. That’s still more than the entire nation experienced just four weeks ago.

By contrast, in Georgia, which issued shutdown orders later than most other states, filings for unemployment claims nearly tripled last week to 388,000. In Arkansas, they more than doubled. In Arizona, they jumped by nearly 50%.

On Thursday, the Federal Reserve intensified its efforts to bolster the economy with a series of lending programs that could inject up to $2.3 trillion into the economy. Chairman Jerome Powell said that the economy’s strength before the viral outbreak means it could rebound quickly in the second half of the year.

“There is every reason to believe that the economic rebound, when it comes, will be robust,” Powell said.

In many European countries, government programs are keeping people on payrolls, though typically with fewer hours and lower pay. In France, 5.8 million people — about a quarter of the private sector workforce — are now on a “partial unemployment” plan: With government help, they receive part of their wages while temporarily laid off or while working shorter hours.

AAPI Urges President Trump to enhance the existing national registry of COVID-19 recovered patients to collect their convalescent plasma

In its efforts to help patients and medical professionals across the nation to receive the required support, training and supplies to protect and heal those infected with the deadly COVID-19 virus that continues to impact the entire nation, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, is urging President Donald Trump and his Administration “to enhance the existing national registry of COVID-19 recovered patients to collect their convalescent plasma, support the creation of supply chain and implementation process in the EARLY treatment of patients infected with Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) presenting with hypoxia.”

The U.S. has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic after reported cases surpassed those officially reported by China. Since the novel coronavirus called SARSCoV-2 was first detected in the U.S. on Jan. 20, it has spread to at least half a million people in the U.S., across all 50 states, and taking the lives of over 16,000 people.

In a letter dated April 9th and signed by Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI and Dr. Lokesh Edara, Chairman on AAPI’s Adhoc Committee, representing the nearly 100,000 Physicians of Indian Origin in the United States. AAPI leaders while thanking President Trump “for guiding the FDA in launching a national effort to bring blood-related therapies for COVID-19 patients in the most expedited manner,” they reiterated the studies done on COVID-19 cases that have shown benefits of using convalescent plasma from recovered patients in combating viral infections.

In addition to the entire AAPI Executive  Team, others who are signatory to the Letter included, Dr. Anith Guduri, Sub Editor; Dr. Madhavi Gorusu, Chair on AAPI Covid Plasma Donation Task Force; Dr. Rupak Parikh, CO-Chair of AAPI Covid Plasma Drive; Dr. Purvi Parikh, CO-Chair of AAPI Covid Plasma Drive; Dr. Amit Charkrabarty, CO-Chair of AAPI Covid Plasma Drive; and,  Dr. Deeptha Nedunchezian, Chair, AAPI’s Education Committee.

“While COVID-19 continues to disrupt life around the globe, AAPI is committed to helping its tens of thousands of members across the US and others across the globe, as concerned physicians witnessing the growing COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on our society, healthcare system and economy, AAPI has launched the Plasma Drive from patients who have been cured of COVID-19 and are now with no Corona-virus related symptoms for at least the past two weeks,” Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI, announced here.

“AAPI, would like to join your efforts in helping patients recover from this deadly illness. We would like to emphasize the benefit of giving convalescent plasma to COVID-19 patients at an EARLY stage before the onset of hypoxia and potentially before intubation at the approval of doctor and the patient being treated,” Dr. Reddy said.

“This could be a lifesaving measure as well as prevent many patients in going to need ventilator support. In Ohio on April 8, 2020 we have to take permission of the Governor to get Convalescent plasma therapy for a physician suffering from COVID -19,” Dr. Edara pointed added.

Currently in USA Comprehensive Care Partnership (CCP) requires an FDA approved Investigational New Drug Application (IND) for administration to a patient but does not require an IND for collection, manufacturing and distribution of plasma as per FDA’s April 3rd press release.

However, obtaining approval takes time and time is of essence here for saving lives in this national emergency. Blood donation centers across the U.S. are ramping up efforts to collect plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the hope it could be used to save the lives of others infected with the pandemic disease.

Some of the other effective initiatives by AAPI that include: Offering regular tele-conference calls which have been attended by over 4,000 physicians from across the United States. AAPI has also collaborated with other national international and government organizations such as, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Indian Embassy in Washington, DC, National Council of Asian Indian Americans (NCAIA), GAPIO, BAPIO and Australian Indian Medical Graduates Association, in its efforts to educate and inform physicians and the public about the virus, to prevent and treat people with the affected by corona virus.

Another major initiative of AAPI has been the “Donate a Mask” program, under the leadership of Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President-Elect of AAPI, Dr. Sajani Shah, Chairwoman-Elect of AAPI’s BOD, and Dr. Ami Baxi. AAPI is planning a Virtual Candle Vigil on April 12th honoring  all the Physicians and others who have lost their lives to the deadly virus.

“We would like to request you to endorse the wide implementation of plasma donation from recovering patients, enhance support to the Blood donation centers and facilitate the shortening of the time required for patient to receive the required supportive treatment,” AAPI wrote in the Letter to President Trump.

AAPI expressed confidence that the Administration will take required steps to facilitate this therapy to be widely available as a viable option in saving American lives. “Under your leadership, we can all fight this invisible enemy, COVID-19, and beat this pandemic. Thank you for your continued leadership and service to the United States of America,” Dr. Reddy said.

For more information on AAPI and its several initiatives to combat Corona Virus and help Fellow Physicians and the larger community, please visit: www.aapiusa.org,  or email to: [email protected]

Coronavirus: ‘Deadly resurgence’ if curbs lifted too early, WHO warns

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said countries should be cautious about easing restrictions, even as some struggle with the economic impact. Europe’s worst hit countries, Spain and Italy, are both relaxing some measures, while their lockdowns continue.

Globally there are 1.6 million cases of coronavirus and 101,000 deaths. Speaking at a virtual news conference in Geneva, Dr Tedros said there had been a “welcome slowing” of the epidemics in some European countries.

He said the WHO was working with governments to form strategies for easing restrictions, but that this should not be done too soon.

“Lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence,” he said.

“The way down can be as dangerous as the way up if not managed properly.”

How are Spain and Italy easing curbs?

The government in Spain is preparing to allow some non-essential workers in sectors including construction and factory production to return to their jobs on Monday.

Spain recorded its lowest daily death toll in 17 days on Friday, with 605 people dying. According to the latest figures, Spain has now registered 15,843 deaths related to the virus.

However, the government has urged people to continue to uphold social distancing rules over the Easter long weekend.

In Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte extended the national lockdown until 3 May, warning that the gains made so far should not be lost. However, a small proportion of businesses that have been shut since 12 March will be permitted to reopen on Tuesday.

Conte specifically mentioned bookshops and children’s clothing shops, but media reports suggest laundrettes and other services may also be included

Only grocery stores and pharmacies have been allowed to operate since the lockdown started.

The number of deaths in Italy rose by 570 on Friday, down from a daily figure of 610 the day before, and the number of new cases also slowed slightly to 3,951 from 4,204.

Elsewhere:

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has announced his country’s lockdown measures will be extended until 5 May

Turkey has ordered a 48-hour curfew in 31 cities – including Istanbul and Ankara – to start at midnight. The announcement, made just two hours before the curfew was due to start, sparked panic buying and crowds of shoppers

Portugal’s state of emergency is set to stay in place until 1 May, according to President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa

The UK government is under pressure to explain how curbs could eventually be lifted but says lockdown restrictions will remain until evidence shows the peak has passed

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said late on Thursday that the country’s 21-day lockdown would be extended for a further 2 weeks – a move the main opposition party said would cause economic disaster

The number of people who have died with Covid-19 in France went up by nearly 1,000 to 13,197 on Friday. However, the number of people in intensive care units fell slightly for the second day in a row.  “We seem to be reaching a plateau, albeit a high level,” Director of Health Jérôme Salomon said.

Is the spread of the virus slowing?

WHO head Dr Tedros welcomed the apparent slowdown in infections in some European countries on Friday.  US officials also say the coronavirus outbreak may be starting to level off there. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said on Friday that while there were encouraging signs, the epidemic had not yet reached its peak.

Media captionThe Surgeon General showed his inhaler while discussing the impact of coronavirus on people of colour

Meanwhile, Dr Tedros has warned that the virus is now spreading rapidly in other countries. He highlighted Africa, where he said the virus had reached rural areas.

“We are now seeing clusters of cases and community spread in more than 16 countries” on the continent, he said.

“We anticipate severe hardship for already overstretched health systems, particularly in rural areas, which normally lack the resources of those in cities.”

Speaking on Wednesday, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus defended the WHO’s work and called for an end to the politicisation of Covid-19.

The Ethiopian also said that he had received deaths threats and has been subjected to racist abuse.

Trump said he would consider ending US funding for the UN agency. He accused the WHO of being “very China-centric” and said they “really blew” their pandemic response.

Dr Tedros has now dismissed the comments, insisting: “We are close to every nation, we are colour-blind.”

After first attacking the WHO the previous day, President Trump renewed his criticism at his news briefing on Wednesday, saying the organisation must “get its priorities right”. He said the US would conduct a study to decide whether it would continue paying contributions,

Also answering questions at the briefing on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration was “re-evaluating our funding” of the WHO, adding; “Organisations have to work. They have to deliver the outcomes for which they were intended”.

Covid-19 first emerged last December in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which has just ended an 11-week lockdown. An advisor to the WHO chief earlier said their close work with China had been “absolutely essential” in understanding the disease in its early stages.

Trump’s attacks on the WHO come in the context of criticism of his own administration’s handling of the pandemic, especially early problems with testing.

The WHO approved a coronavirus test in January – but the US decided against using it, developing its own test instead. However, in February, when the testing kits were despatched, some of them didn’t work properly and led to inconclusive results.  Public health experts say the delay enabled the virus to spread further within the US.

32 Million Livelihoods at Risk, Indian Economy Will Shrink 20 Percent if Lockdown Continues to Mid-May

If the India lockdown continues till mid-May along with moderate relaxation after the end of 21-day lockdown on April 14, it could put 32 million livelihoods at risk and swell non-performing loans by seven percentage points, resulting in the economy contracting sharply by around 20 per cent in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021, with –2 to –3 percent growth for fiscal year 2021, a new report warned April 10.

According to the report by leading management consulting firm McKinsey and Company, the cost of stabilizing and protecting households, companies and lenders could exceed Rs 10 lakh crore, or more than 5 per cent of GDP in such a scenario.

The report, titled ‘Getting ahead of coronavirus: Saving lives and livelihoods in India,’ said that restarting supply chains and normalizing production and consumption can take three–four months if the lockdown goes till mid-May as the virus lingers on.

If the lockdown continues for additional two–three weeks in Q2 and Q4 FY 2021 because of virus resurgence, it could mean an even deeper economic contraction of around 8 to 10 per cent for fiscal year 2021.

“This could occur if the virus flares up a few times over the rest of the year, necessitating more lock-downs, causing even greater reluctance among migrants to resume work, and ensuring a much slower rate of recovery,” the report suggested.

To understand probable economic outcomes and possible interventions related to COVID-19, McKinsey spoke with some 600 business leaders, economists, financial-market analysts and policy makers.

According to the findings, in case the lockdown period is extended till mid-May, the potential economic loss in India would vary by sector, with current-quarter output drops that are large in sectors such as aviation and lower in sectors such as IT-enabled services and pharmaceuticals.

“Current-quarter consumption could drop by more than 30 percent in discretionary categories, such as clothing and furnishings, and by up to 10 per cent in areas such as food and utilities,” said the report.

Strained debt- service-coverage ratios would be anticipated in the travel, transport, and logistics, textiles, power and hotel and entertainment sectors.

There could be solvency risk within the Indian financial system, as almost 25 percent of MSME and small- and medium-size-enterprise loans could slip into default, compared with 6 percent in the corporate sector (although the rate could be much higher in aviation, textiles, power and construction) and 3 percent in the retail segment (mainly in personal loans for self-employed workers and small businesses).

“Liquidity risk would also need urgent attention as payments begin freezing in the corporate and SME supply chains. Attention will need to be given to the liquidity needs of banks and non-banks with stretched liquidity-coverage ratios to ensure depositor confidence,’ the report mentioned.

Given the magnitude of potential unemployment, business failure and financial-system risk, a comprehensive package of fiscal and monetary interventions may need to be planned.

“Consideration could be given to an income-support program in which the government both pays for a share of the payroll for the 60 million informal contractual and permanent workers linked to companies and provides direct income support for the 135 million informal workers who are not on any form of company payroll,’ the report further suggested.

Since last week, the Health Ministry has observed a staggering rise daily in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the country — nearly 500-plus cases daily with a few exceptions where the number has gone below 400 cases — a pattern which indicates a worrying trend after solid implementation of the nationwide lockdown and sealing of hotspots.

On April 10, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 6,412, an addition of 669 cases in a day.

Punjab and Odisha have already extended lockdown till May 1 and April 30, respectively.

According to the report, countries that are experiencing COVID-19 have adopted different approaches to slow the spread of the virus.

Some have tested extensively, carried out contact tracing, limited travel and large gatherings, encouraged physical distancing, and quarantined citizens.

Others have implemented full lock-downs in cities with high infection rates and partial lock-downs in other regions, with strict protocols in place to prevent infections.

“The pace and scale of opening up from lockdown for India may depend on the availability of the crucial testing capabilities that will be required to get a better handle on the spread of the virus, granular data and technology to track and trace infections, and the build-up of health care facilities to treat patients (such as hospital beds by district),” said the report.

Since there is a very real possibility of the virus lingering on through the year, a micro-targeting approach could help decelerate its spread while keeping livelihoods going.

“It is imperative that society preserve both lives and livelihoods. To do so, India can consider a concerted set of fiscal, monetary, and structural measures and explore ways to return from the lockdown that reflect its situation and respect that most important of tenets: the sanctity of human life,” the report noted.

Apple and Google Team Up to ‘Contact Trace’ the Coronavirus

The technology giants said they would embed a feature in iPhones and Android devices to enable users to track infected people they’d come close to.

In one of the most far-ranging attempts to halt the spread of the coronavirus, Apple and Google said they were building software into smartphones that would tell people if they were recently in contact with someone who was infected with it.

The technology giants said they were teaming up to release the tool within several months, building it into the operating systems of the billions of iPhones and Android devices around the world. That would enable the smartphones to constantly log other devices they come near, enabling what is known as “contact tracing” of the disease. People would opt in to use the tool and voluntarily report if they became infected.

The unlikely partnership between Google and Apple, fierce rivals who rarely pass up an opportunity to criticize each other, underscores the seriousness of the health crisis and the power of the two companies whose software runs almost every smartphone in the world. Apple and Google said their joint effort came together in just the last two weeks.

Their work could prove to be significant in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Public-health authorities have said that improved tracking of infected people and their contacts could slow the pandemic, especially at the start of an outbreak, and such measures have been effective in places like South Korea that also conducted mass virus testing.

Yet two of the world’s largest tech companies harnessing virtually all of the smartphones on the planet to trace people’s connections raises questions about the reach these behemoths have into individuals’ lives and society.

“It could be a useful tool but it raises privacy issues,” said Dr. Mike Reid, an assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco, who is helping San Francisco officials with contact tracing. “It’s not going to be the sole solution, but as part of a robust sophisticated response, it has a role to play.”

Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said on Twitter that the tool would help curb the virus’s spread “in a way that also respects transparency & consent.” Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief, also posted on Twitter that the tool has “strong controls and protections for user privacy.”

With the tool, people infected with the coronavirus would notify a public health app that they have it, which would then alert phones that had recently come into proximity with that person’s device. The companies would need to get public-health authorities to agree to link their app to the tool.

Privacy is a concern given that Google, in particular, has a checkered history of collecting people’s data for its online advertising business. The internet search company came under fire in 2018 after it said that disabling people’s location history on Android phones would not stop it from collecting location data.

Apple, which has been one of the biggest critics of Google’s collection of user data, has not built a significant business around using data to sell online advertising. Still, the company has access to a wealth of information about its users, from their location to their health.

There are already third-party tools for contact tracing, including from public health authorities and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In March, the government of Singapore introduced a similar coronavirus contact-tracing app, called TraceTogether, that detects mobile phones that are nearby.

But given the number of iPhones and Android devices in use worldwide, Apple and Google said they were hoping to make tracing efforts by public health authorities more effective by reaching more people. They also said they would provide their underlying technology to the third-party apps to make them more reliable.

Daniel Weitzner, a principal research scientist at M.I.T.’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and who was one of those behind the school’s contract tracing app, said Google and Apple’s partnership will help health officials save time and resources in developing their own applications to track the virus’ spread.

One challenge for third-party apps is that they must run constantly — 24 hours a day, seven days a week — to be effective. Google said some Android smartphone manufacturers shut down those applications to save battery life.

Apple and Google said their tool would also constantly run in the background if people opt to use it, logging nearby devices through the short-range wireless technology Bluetooth. But it would eat up less battery life and be more reliable than third-party apps, they said.

Indiaspora launches a ChaloGive for COVID-19 online giving campaign

The non-profit organization, Indiaspora, announced the launch of an online initiative to raise funds for helping fight hunger among vulneratble populations in the United States and India.

The ChaloGive for COVID-19 online giving campaign has already raised $500,000  from leaders in the organization, according to a press release April 10, 2020, from the organization.

Organizers described it as a “grassroots” initiative through Indiaspora’s online giving platform ChaloGive.org. Contributions to ChaloGive.org will meet demand on the ground through beneficiary nonprofits Feeding America and Goonj in the United States and India, respectively, the organization announced.

Former Pepsi Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi, and former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who serve on Feeding America’s Food Security Council and Board of Directors, respectively, have endorsed the fund drive, the press release said.

“We are facing an unprecedented situation due to Covid-19,” Indiaspora founder member Anand Rajaraman, a Silicon Valley-based serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist, is quoted saying in the press release. He and his wife Kaushie Adiseshan are the lead donors for the campaign.

“The drastic measures necessary to control this pandemic have created special challenges for vulnerable sections of society across the world, particularly in India and the US,” Rajaraman said.

Noting the “outpouring of support” from the Indian diaspora during this pandemic, Indiaspora said one of the most pressing and urgent challenges facing both the U.S. and India right now is hunger. It estimates some 37 million in the U.S. face food insecurity and in India some 140 million migrant workers have been displaced.

“While all eyes are on frontline hospitals, millions in America and across the globe suffer silently from a growing and equally alarming epidemic of food insecurity as the COVID-19 crisis threatens to push already struggling families deeper into poverty,” said Sejal Hathi, an Indiaspora Board member and physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Now more than ever is the time for communities like Indiaspora’s to come together and rise to this call to feed people in need. I’m so proud to witness exactly this commitment to seva.”

“Given the increasingly global world we are living in, India and its diaspora are in a unique and powerful position to help each other,” said Kris Gopalakrishnan, chairman of Axilor Ventures and a founder of IT services company Infosys, and also a founder member of Indiaspora.

“This crisis has made it even harder for those who were already struggling to survive,” said Kris Gopalakrishnan, Chairman of Axilor Ventures and a founder of IT services company Infosys, who is also an Indiaspora Founders Circle member. “Given the increasingly global world we are living in, India and its diaspora are in a unique and powerful position to help each other.”

Contributions to ChaloGive.org will meet demand on the ground through beneficiary nonprofits Feeding America and Goonj in the United States and India, respectively.

Feeding America, which has been providing emergency food assistance to people facing hunger through its nationwide network of 200 food banks in America for more than 40 years, is responding to the new hunger crisis in the U.S.  Every dollar to Feeding America secures 10 meals through the food bank network.

“The nation and our food bank network are facing challenges unlike anything we’ve seen in our organization’s history,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America. “We are truly grateful to Indiaspora for its support of Feeding America through the ChaloGive for COVID-19 campaign. During this time of uncertainty, the generous donations derived from this effort will help bring much-needed food and hope to countless families facing hunger across the U.S.”

In India, Goonj provides disaster relief, rehabilitation and community development with dignity. Through their Rahat Covid-19 initiative, given their already pan-India network and presence, Goonj has already initiated relief work of reaching food, dry ration and hygiene kits to displaced migrants in parts of fourteen states of India.

“Despite our extensive experience of working in disasters, the scale and still unfolding nature of this long-tailed disaster calls for massive resource mobilization for short-, mid- and long-term work,” said Anshu Gupta, Founder of Goonj and a Magsaysay Awardee.  We are delighted to partner with Indiaspora on this campaign as an opportunity to engage the Indian-American community and our well wishers from across the world in supporting their fellow citizens in this difficult hour.”

Contributions given at ChaloGive.org will go directly toward these charities’ relief funds, and are fully tax-deductible for U.S. taxpayers.

An additional USD $100,000 donated online by April 15 will be matched by Indiaspora’s members; thus, donors who give through the platform will have the opportunity to have their impact doubled.

Aggressive testing, contact tracing, cooked meals: How the Indian state of Kerala flattened its coronavirus curve

(From Washington Post)

For hours, the health worker ticked through a list of questions: How is your health? What is your state of mind? Are you running out of any food supplies? By the end of the afternoon, she had reached more than 50 people under coronavirus quarantine. Weeks earlier, that number was 200.

Sheeba K.M. was just one of more than 30,000 health workers in the Indian state of Kerala, part of the Communist state government’s robust response to the coronavirus pandemic. Other efforts include aggressive testing, intense contact tracing, instituting a longer quarantine, building thousands of shelters for migrant workers stranded by the sudden nationwide shutdown and distributing millions of cooked meals to those in need.

The measures appear to be paying off. Even though Kerala was the first state to report a coronavirus case in late January, the number of new cases in the first week of April dropped 30% from the previous week. With just two deaths, 34% of positive patients have recovered in the state, higher than elsewhere in India.

The success in Kerala could prove instructive for the Indian government, which has largely shut down the country to stop the spread of the contagion but continues to see the curve trend upward, with more than 6,700 confirmed cases and more than 200 deaths. Its challenges are plenty – from high population density to poor health care facilities – but experts say Kerala’s proactive measures like early detection and broad social support measures could serve as a model for the rest of the country.

“We hoped for the best but planned for the worst,” said K.K. Shailaja, the state’s health minister, while cautioning that the pandemic is not yet over in Kerala. “Now, the curve has flattened, but we cannot predict what will happen next week.”

Kerala’s approach was effective because it was “both strict and humane,” said Shahid Jameel, a virologist and infectious disease expert.

“Aggressive testing, isolating, tracing and treating – those are ways of containing an outbreak,” said Jameel, who is also the CEO of Wellcome Trust, a health research foundation.

Henk Bekedam, the World Health Organization’s representative in India, attributed Kerala’s “prompt response” to its past “experience and investment” in emergency preparedness and pointed to measures such as district monitoring, risk communication and community engagement.

The state faced a potentially disastrous challenge: a disproportionately high number of foreign arrivals. Popular for its tranquil backwaters and health retreats, the coastal state receives more than 1 million foreign tourists a year. One-sixth of its 33 million citizens are expatriates, and hundreds of its students study in China.

Screening at airports was tightened, and travelers from nine countries – including coronavirus hotspots such as Iran and South Korea – were required to quarantine at home starting on Feb. 10, two weeks before India put similar restrictions into place. In one instance, more than a dozen foreign nationals were removed from a flight before takeoff because they had not completed their isolation period. Temporary quarantine shelters were established to accommodate tourists and other nonresidents.

Still, some slipped through. The arrival of a local couple from Italy in the last week of February who did not report to health officials caused an alarm. By the time they were detected, the couple had attended several social gatherings and traveled widely. Nearly 900 primary and secondary contacts were traced and isolated.

Robin Thomas, 34, the son-in-law of the couple who returned from Italy, tested positive for coronavirus, as did his wife and his wife’s grandparents. He said apart from the “excellent treatment” he received, the medical staff also helped them overcome stigma.

“People were blaming us on Facebook and WhatsApp,” he said. “The counselors called us over the phone regularly and gave us confidence.

Shailaja, the health minister, said six states had reached out to Kerala for advice. But it may not be easy to replicate Kerala’s lessons elsewhere in India.

In more than 30 years of Communist rule, the state has invested heavily in public education and universal health care. Kerala has the highest literacy rate and benefits from the best-performing public health system in the country. It tops India’s rankings on neonatal mortality, birth immunizations and the availability of specialists at primary care facilities.

The strength of its health care system allowed it to follow the World Health Organization’s recommendation on aggressive testing, even as central agencies maintained that mass testing was not feasible in a country like India. Through the first week of April, Kerala had conducted more than 13,000 tests, accounting for 10% of all tests done across India. By comparison, Andhra Pradesh, a larger state with a similar number of cases, had carried out nearly 6,000 tests while Tamil Nadu, with more than double the number of cases, had done more than 8,000 tests.

The state took the lead in deploying rapid testing kits, which officials say they continue to use in hotspots to check community spread. This week, Kerala began walk-in testing facilities, which reduce the need for protective gears for health workers.

Kerala also announced an economic package worth $2.6 billion to fight the pandemic days before the central government instituted a harsh lockdown that left many states scrambling. It delivered uncooked lunches to schoolchildren, liaised with service providers to increase network capacity for Internet at homes and promised two months of advance pension.

But there have also been some blips. The state was criticized for going ahead with a local festival in early March that drew thousands of people. Amar Fettle, the state officer responsible for health emergencies, said there was still room for improvement on aspects like social distancing in markets, cough hygiene and lockdown implementation.

Thomas and his wife have recovered, as have his wife’s elderly grandparents – 88 and 93 – who were discharged this week.

“We were very worried about them and thought they may not survive,” Thomas said. “Even when grandfather had a heart attack, the doctors told us they will keep trying.”

Fascinating story of the connection between Hydroxychloroquine, British India, Srirangapatna and Gin & Tonic

As most of us are already aware, Hydroxychloroquine has taken the world by storm. Every newspaper is talking about it, and all countries are requesting India to supply it.

Now, a curious person might wonder why and how this chemical composition is so deeply entrenched in India, and is there any history behind it.

Well, there is an interesting history behind it which goes all the way to Tipu Sultan’s defeat. In 1799, when Tipu was defeated by the British, the whole of Mysore Kingdom with Srirangapatnam as Tipu’s capital, came under British control. For the next few days, the British soldiers had a great time celebrating their victory, but within weeks, many started feeling sick due to Malaria, because Srirangapatnam was a highly marshy area with severe mosquito trouble.

The local Indian population had over the centuries, developed self immunity, and also all the spicy food habits helped to an extent. Whereas the British soldiers and officers who were suddenly exposed to harsh Indian conditions, started bearing the brunt.

To quickly overcome the mosquito menace, the British Army immediately shifted their station from Srirangapatnam to Bangalore (by establishing the Bangalore Cantonment region), which was a welcome change, especially due to cool weather, which the Brits were gavely missing ever since they had left their shores. But the malaria problem still persisted because Bangalore was also no exception to mosquitoes.

Around the same time, European scientists had discovered a chemical composition called “Quinine” which could be used to treat malaria, and was slowly gaining prominence, but it was yet to be extensively tested at large scale. This malaria crisis among British Army came at an opportune time, and thus Quinine was imported in bulk by the Army and distributed to all their soldiers, who were instructed to take regular dosages (even to healthy soldiers) so that they could build immunity. This was followed up in all other British stations throughout India, because every region in India had malaria problem to some extent.

But there was a small problem. Although sick soldiers quickly recovered, many more soldiers who were exposed to harsh conditions of tropical India continued to become sick, because it was later found that they were not taking dosages of Quinine. Why? Because it was very bitter!! So, by avoiding the bitter Quinine, British soldiers stationed in India were lagging behind on their immunity, thereby making themselves vulnerable to Malaria in the tropical regions of India.

That’s when all the top British officers and scientists started experimenting ways to persuade their soldiers to strictly take these dosages, and during their experiments,  they found that the bitter Quinine mixed with Juniper based liquor, actually turned somewhat into a sweet flavor. That’s because the molecular structure of the final solution was such that it would almost completely curtail the bitterness of Quinine.

That juniper based liquor was Gin. And the Gin mixed with Quinine was called “Gin & Tonic”, which immediately became an instant hit among British soldiers.

The same British soldiers who were ready to even risk their lives but couldn’t stand the bitterness of Quinine,  started swearing by it daily when they mixed it with Gin. In fact, the Army even started issuing few bottles of Gin along with “tonic water” (Quinine) as part of their monthly ration, so that soldiers could themselves prepare Gin & Tonic and consume them everyday to build immunity.

To cater to the growing demand of gin & other forms of liquor among British soldiers, the British East India company built several local breweries in and around Bengaluru, which could then be transported to all other parts of India. And that’s how, due to innumerable breweries and liquor distillation factories, Bengaluru had already become the pub capital of India way back during British times itself.  Eventually, most of these breweries were purchased from British organizations after Indian independence, by none other than Vittal Mallya (Vijay Mallya’s father), who then led the consortium under the group named United Breweries headquartered in Bengaluru.

Coming back to the topic, that’s how Gin & Tonic became a popular cocktail and is still a popular drink even today. The Quinine, which was called Tonic (without gin), was widely prescribed by Doctors as well, for patients who needed cure for fever or any infection. Whenever someone in a typical Indian village fell sick, the most common advice given by his neighbors was “Visit the doctor and get some tonic”. Over time, the tonic word was so overused that  became a reference to any medicine in general. So, that’s how the word “Tonic”, became a colloquial word  for “Western medicine” in India.

Over the years, Quinine was developed further into many of its variants and derivatives and widely prescribed by Indian doctors. One such descendent of Quinine, called Hydroxychloroquine, eventually became the standardized cure for malaria because it has relatively lesser side effects compared to its predecessors, and is now suddenly the most sought after drug in the world today.

And that’s how, a simple peek into the history of Hydroxychloroquine takes us all the way back to Tipu’s defeat, mosquito menace, liquor rationing, colorful cocktails, tonics and medicinal cures.]

If HCQ Is Really A ‘Gamechanger’, India Musn’t Export It

Winston Churchill once said that “gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.” Now, Churchill himself mostly drank whisky – 3-4 ounces at 11 am, teatime and bedtime. This strict health regimen was accompanied by some champagne, wine and brandy to wash down lunch and dinner. So, what made Churchill speak so glowingly about G&T?

The answer lies in what tonic used to contain in those days – it was a powder extracted from the bark of the cinchona tree called quinine. The powder not only treated malaria – that great scourge of the Indian colony – but also helped prevent it. But it was so bitter that the British officials began mixing it with soda and sugar, giving birth to ‘tonic’. Embellished with an ounce or two of gin, it prevented malaria and saved thousands of lives.

Now, an advanced synthetic version of the same malaria drug, called hydroxychloroquine or HCQ, could end up saving thousands of lives in the time of COVID-19. A few small studies done in France and China where coronavirus patients were given HCQ showed a significant improvement in a large number of them. Although two recent studies have challenged these claims, HCQ is being used widely by doctors across the world to fight the coronavirus. France allowed it for very sick patients, while the US FDA has allowed doctors to give it to hospitalised patients if they think it is needed.

The hydroxychloroquine drug is being tested on at least 1,500 coronavirus patients in New York

Since the world and their uncle has been googling furiously ever since COVID-19 became a global pandemic, HCQ has disappeared from most markets. The drug is used not just for malaria but also as regular treatment for auto-immune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. India usually consumes 20 lakh pills every month to treat these three diseases. Ever since people got to know that HCQ might help fight the novel coronavirus, they began hoarding the drug, leading to shortages for people who need it right now.

That is one reason why India banned the export of HCQ on March 25. This came as a big blow to US President Donald Trump, who has been championing the drug as a ‘gamechanger’. India produces 70 percent of the world’s HCQ and accounts for 47 percent of what is sold in the USA. So when Trump learned that India had stopped all HCQ exports, he threatened to ‘retaliate’. The very next day, India lifted the ban, allowing the drug to be sold to our neighbours and to a few badly affected countries. The US, with the highest number of COVID-positive cases in the world, clearly makes it to that list.

The US has already stockpiled 31 million doses of HCQ of 200 mg each. But how many people will that cover? The early trials in France used three pills a day for 10 days for each patient, or a total of 30 pills per person. A randomized control trial in Wuhan involved giving 2 pills a day for 5 days, or 10 pills per patient. China’s multicentre collaboration group recommends a higher dose of a total of a 100 pill-equivalents to COVID-19 patients with pneumonia. Other trials recommend 14 pills to be give over two weeks.

Although there is no clear consensus on what the dosage should be, if one takes as the average required dose the relatively conservative 14 pills per patient regimen, the US can cover about 2.2 million people with the HCQ it currently has in its stockpile. That is just 0.7 percent of its population, which is hardly anything considering that various models suggest that over 150 million Americans, or nearly half of the country’s population, could catch the virus this year. So the US needs to import a whole lot more of HCQ from India.

How much can we export? Indian companies – IPCA labs, Zydus Cadila, Wallace Pharma among others – have the capacity to produce 20 crore pills every month. Although these companies say they can ramp up their capacities to 35 crore pills by end of May, it is easier said than done in the time of such supply-chain disruptions.

News reports suggest that the Modi government intends to keep a stock of 10-crore pills, and allow the rest to be exported. If we take a 14-pill regimen per person, India will be able to cover 71 lakh people with the pills in its stock. That is just about 0.5 percent of our population. If the US were to import 40 percent of the remaining 10 crore pills, it would end up with 71 million doses in its stock. That will help it cover 1.5 percent of its population. That means Americans could end up with three times the coverage with a drug that is mostly manufactured in our country.

One could argue that India doesn’t have that many coronavirus patients and therefore, we don’t need to keep so much HCQ with us. One could also argue that the idea that HCQ could prevent and cure COVID-19 is more about hope than real scientific evidence. So if Indian companies can make good money from Trump’s idiosyncratic optimism about HCQ and a few test studies, then why stop it?

The point is that the entire game of fighting the coronavirus is about anticipating the future and being prepared for it. HCQ could well turn out to be the gamechanger Trump believes it to be. For a country like India, which is short of hospital beds, ICU facilities and ventilators, there is no conscionable ground to export HCQ till we have built a stockpile that can cover a significant part of our population. The US wouldn’t have thought twice before banning HCQ exports if it were the world’s largest producer of the drug. After all, one’s own citizens must come first before we start talking about cooperation between nations.

India asks US to extend H-1B, other visas of citizens stranded over Covid-19

Following the sharp economic downturn and suspension of business operations triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of US firms employing H-1B visa holders have laid off numerous employees.

If an employer terminates the contract of H-1B visa holders, the employees need to find new employment within 60 days to retain the H-1B status or face the prospect of being deported to their home countries. This existing rule has exacerbated the problems of H-1B visa holders who have been laid off.

Several reports in the US media have cited Indian H-1B visa holders as expressing concerns that it will be virtually impossible for them to find new jobs if they are laid off, given the rapidly slowing economy.

The Indian government has asked the US to extend the validity of visas, including H-1B and other types of visas, held by Indian nationals who have been hit by the Covid-19-related economic slump, people familiar with developments said on Friday.

A petition on the White House website is requesting the US administration to extend the 60-day period to 180 days to protect H-1B workers in these difficult times. The petition further states: “Most H-1B workers are from India and cannot travel home with children who are US citizens as many nations [have] announced an entry ban, including India.”

It adds: “The Covid-19 situation is getting worse with massive lay-offs expected. The economic conditions may have a significant impact on H-1B workers.”

The petition has nearly 49,000 signatures but will get a response from the White House only if it reaches 100,000 signatures by April 18.

The Indian side is hopeful the US administration will step in to help H-1B visa holders.

The H-1B programme is a non-immigrant work visa that allows American employers to hire foreign workers for specialist jobs, and Indians are the largest beneficiary of the programme.

Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla took up the matter during his telephone conversation with US deputy secretary of state Stephen Biegun on Wednesday, when the two sides also discussed ways to enhance cooperation to counter the pandemic and ensure the availability of essential medicines and equipment.

“We have been in touch with the US government, requesting them to extend the validity of visas of Indian nationals – H-1B and other types of visas – who are stranded in the US due to the pandemic,” said one of the people cited above, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We are closely monitoring related developments,” the person added, without giving details.

India Center Foundation Launches Arts Resiliency Fund for South Asian Artists Affected by COVID-19

The Indian American non-profit arts organization India Center Foundation, in partnership with MELA Arts Connect, April 6 announced the formation of The South Asian Arts Resiliency Fund, a grant program for South Asian artists and arts workers in the U.S. in the fields of the performing arts, film, visual arts or literature who have been impacted by the economic fallout of COVID-19 due to postponed or canceled performances, events or exhibitions.

ICF will provide launch funding of $20,000 towards this initiative, according to a press release. The fund will be co-managed by MAC and supported by a crowdfunding campaign, via a GoFundMe page, as well as multiple live streaming experiences. With the community’s support to reach the targeted goal of $500,000, the fund will be able to provide grants to hundreds of arts workers around the country.

In an ongoing survey about the economic impact of the coronavirus on the arts sector, Americans for the Arts has captured a crippling loss of more than $114 million as of April 4, 2020. “And the situation is only going to get worse, before it gets better,” said Raoul Bhavnani, Indian American co-founder of ICF. “Communities count on the arts to rally around, to gather and to find connection, especially in times of crisis, and the South Asian community is no different,” he said. “With necessary physical distancing in place for the foreseeable future, the arts community — artists, producers, agents, managers, administrators, technicians — are unable to perform or produce their work for audiences and are losing their livelihoods. Losses will only continue to mount unless we choose to support artists NOW, and we hope individuals, corporations and other arts organizations will join us in this critical endeavor.”

The fund will provide support for artists and arts personnel in the U.S. through project grants on a rolling basis for the development of work, particularly during the ongoing pandemic, the release said.

Examples of such projects are:

  • Creation of music, dance, theater, film, visual arts or literature projects (ongoing or new)
  • Research for development of music, dance, theater, film or visual arts projects (ongoing or new)
  • Strategic planning by a manager or agent for an artist
  • Content creation for project deployment
  • Creation of resources for artists to support careers in the arts.

Eligible applicants are United States-based South Asian arts workers in the performing arts, film, visual arts or literature who can demonstrate loss of income because of canceled or postponed engagements due to COVID-19.

AAPI Urges President Trump to enhance the existing national registry of COVID-19 recovered patients to collect their convalescent plasma

In its efforts to help patients and medical professionals across the nation to receive the required support, training and supplies to protect and heal those infected with the deadly COVID-19 virus that continues to impact the entire nation, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, is urging President Donald Trump and his Administration “to enhance the existing national registry of COVID-19 recovered patients to collect their convalescent plasma, support the creation of supply chain and implementation process in the EARLY treatment of patients infected with Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) presenting with hypoxia.”
The U.S. has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic after reported cases surpassed those officially reported by China. Since the novel coronavirus called SARSCoV-2 was first detected in the U.S. on Jan. 20, it has spread to at least half a million people in the U.S., across all 50 states, and taking the lives of over 16,000 people.
In a letter dated April 9th and signed by Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI and Dr. Lokesh Edara, Chairman on AAPI’s Adhoc Committee, representing the nearly 100,000 Physicians of Indian Origin in the United States. AAPI leaders while thanking President Trump “for guiding the FDA in launching a national effort to bring blood-related therapies for COVID-19 patients in the most expedited manner,” they reiterated the studies done on COVID-19 cases that have shown benefits of using convalescent plasma from recovered patients in combating viral infections.
In addition to the entire AAPI Executive  Team, others who are signatory to the Letter included, Dr. Anith Guduri, Sub Editor; Dr. Madhavi Gorusu, Chair on AAPI Covid Plasma Donation Task Force; Dr. Rupak Parikh, CO-Chair of AAPI Covid Plasma Drive; Dr. Purvi Parikh, CO-Chair of AAPI Covid Plasma Drive; Dr. Amit Charkrabarty, CO-Chair of AAPI Covid Plasma Drive; and,  Dr. Deeptha Nedunchezian, Chair, AAPI’s Education Committee.

Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI, who led AAPI's Expedition to Antarctica“While COVID-19 continues to disrupt life around the globe, AAPI is committed to helping its tens of thousands of members across the US and others across the globe, as concerned physicians witnessing the growing COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on our society, healthcare system and economy, AAPI has launched the Plasma Drive from patients who have been cured of COVID-19 and are now with no Corona-virus related symptoms for at least the past two weeks,” Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI, announced here.
“AAPI, would like to join your efforts in helping patients recover from this deadly illness. We would like to emphasize the benefit of giving convalescent plasma to COVID-19 patients at an EARLY stage before the onset of hypoxia and potentially before intubation at the approval of doctor and the patient being treated,” Dr. Reddy said.
“This could be a lifesaving measure as well as prevent many patients in going to need ventilator support. In Ohio on April 8, 2020 we have to take permission of the Governor to get Convalescent plasma therapy for a physician suffering from COVID -19,” Dr. Edara pointed added.
Currently in USA Comprehensive Care Partnership (CCP) requires an FDA approved Investigational New Drug Application (IND) for administration to a patient but does not require an IND for collection, manufacturing and distribution of plasma as per FDA’s April 3rd press release.
However, obtaining approval takes time and time is of essence here for saving lives in this national emergency. Blood donation centers across the U.S. are ramping up efforts to collect plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the hope it could be used to save the lives of others infected with the pandemic disease.
Some of the other effective initiatives by AAPI that include: Offering regular tele-conference calls which have been attended by over 4,000 physicians from across the United States. AAPI has also collaborated with other national international and government organizations such as, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Indian Embassy in Washington, DC, National Council of Asian Indian Americans (NCAIA), GAPIO, BAPIO and Australian Indian Medical Graduates Association, in its efforts to educate and inform physicians and the public about the virus, to prevent and treat people with the affected by corona virus.
Another major initiative of AAPI has been the “Donate a Mask” program, under the leadership of Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President-Elect of AAPI, Dr. Sajani Shah, Chairwoman-Elect of AAPI’s BOD, and Dr. Ami Baxi. AAPI is planning a Virtual Candle Vigil on April 12th honoring  all the Physicians and others who have lost their lives to the deadly virus.
“We would like to request you to endorse the wide implementation of plasma donation from recovering patients, enhance support to the Blood donation centers and facilitate the shortening of the time required for patient to receive the required supportive treatment,” AAPI wrote in the Letter to President Trump.
AAPI expressed confidence that the Administration will take required steps to facilitate this therapy to be widely available as a viable option in saving American lives. “Under your leadership, we can all fight this invisible enemy, COVID-19, and beat this pandemic. Thank you for your continued leadership and service to the United States of America,” Dr. Reddy said.
For more information on AAPI and its several initiatives to combat Corona Virus and help Fellow Physicians and the larger community, please visit: www.aapiusa.org,  or email to: [email protected]

Coronavirus, Tax Relief, and Recovery Rebates: What You Need to Know

By University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)

Like Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, and the Fourth of July, Tax Day in America is associated with the same calendar date each year.

But as everything around us has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, so, too, has the deadline for filing federal income tax returns.

The deadline has been extended for three months to July 15, and Americans don’t have to do anything to qualify for the postponement. While that might seem like a relief, UNLV tax law expert Francine Lipman says taxpayers who are expecting a refund shouldn’t wait that long.

“People are strapped for money right now, and if there’s a tax refund waiting for you, file!” Lipman said.

A majority of Americans are also now waiting for the 2020 Recovery Rebate, which is being made available through the federal coronavirus relief bill, to ease some financial burdens due to loss of income and employment.

We caught up with Lipman — a lawyer and a certified public accountant — who provided several tips for how to navigate these uncertain financial times.

With the new federal tax deadline, why shouldn’t I wait to file my taxes?

If you are expecting a refund, file as soon as possible because you likely need the money now and you will not receive even one penny increase for delaying receiving your refund until July 15. Procrastination does not pay! Moreover, you can use it to help your community. The empirical data is compelling that income tax refunds are spent locally, and as a result, there is a significant multiplier effect for communities, businesses and federal, state, and local governments through consumption, and taxes paid including job creation — or maybe given the current shutdown we can mitigate job losses.

What about state income taxes?

Not all states have extended their tax filing deadlines through July 15. Some states, like Nevada, do not have an individual income tax. Most Nevada residents with only Nevada-source income, for example, have no state income tax filing obligation.

For taxpayers with out-of-state source income, here is a helpful link regarding state tax filing deadlines and other issues.

Where should I go to file my taxes?

Unfortunately, most Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites are temporarily shuttered in Nevada and elsewhere (for updates visit https://www.nvfreetaxes.org).

FreeFile, however, which is available online only through the IRS website, is up and running for taxpayers with a household income of $69,000 or less, or FreeFileFillableForms for households with any amount of income. Both of these sites provide free preparation and electronic filing.

What if I’ve already filed my taxes and I owe the IRS money?

Federal income tax payments and self-employment tax payments for 2019 that were due on April 15 have been postponed until July 15. This includes first-quarter estimated tax payments and IRA contributions for 2019, but does not include refund claims for tax year 2016 that are due on April 15, 2020. The postponement does not apply to second-quarter estimated tax payments (due June 15). Any applicable interest and penalties on payments due on April 15 will begin to accrue on July 16 if not paid by July 15.

Where can I go for assistance if I have questions about my taxes, including my refund?

The IRS has temporarily shut down number of taxpayer assistance resources including its Taxpayer Assistance Centers nationwide. As a result, phone call on-hold wait times are even longer than usual during this tax season, which are usually very long in a normal year.

The IRS website has great, accessible information available at irs.gov, including a quick and easy way to determine when you will receive your refund. You can also access your tax transcripts on the IRS website. Another website that might be helpful is for the Taxpayer Advocate Service if you are suffering a financial hardship and need immediate tax relief.

Who qualifies for the 2020 Recovery Rebate Tax Credit?

All adults who have a valid Social Security number authorizing work and who are not claimed as a dependent on another’s tax return (for 2020). One exception to this general rule is for married couple filing jointly where one of the spouses is a member of the Armed Forces, then only one of the spouses has to have a valid Social Security number that authorizes work.

How much will I receive?

Adults will receive $1,200 per qualifying individual ($2,400 for married filing jointly). Adults who have “qualifying children” will receive an additional $500 each, without limitation on the number of “qualifying children.”

A “qualifying child” for this purpose includes children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, stepbrothers, stepsisters, nieces, and nephews who live with the adult as a member of their household in the U.S. for more than one-half of the year and who are under age 17 with a valid Social Security number authorizing work.

Adults (anyone 17 or older) who are claimed as a dependent on another’s tax return will not receive a Recovery Rebate.

Even if you owe the IRS back tax liabilities, your recovery rebate will not be reduced by any outstanding debts other than past due child support. The Recovery Rebate is a refundable tax credit against 2020 federal income taxes, so it is not gross income/taxable income for 2020.

However, the 2020 recovery rebate amount is reduced by $5 for every $100 above the following adjusted gross income thresholds: $75,000 for single (or married filing separately) taxpayers, $150,000 for married filing jointly taxpayers, and $112,500 for head of household taxpayers. Therefore, households with filing statuses and adjusted gross income levels as follows will be phased out of their $1,200 (or $2,400) Recovery Rebate as follows:

$99,000 single (or married filing separately),

$198,000 married filing jointly, and

$136,500 head of household

But households at these income levels may receive the additional “qualifying child” $500 (also subject to phase-out at $5 per $100 above these thresholds, or an additional $10,000 of income above these amounts for each “qualifying child” ($500/5 = $100 x $100 = $10,000 additional adjusted gross income).

As I tell my law students, math matters!

When will I receive my Recovery Rebate?

The federal government wants to push out these payments as soon as possible. Therefore, they plan to deposit monies into bank accounts per 2019 (or 2018) automatic refund deposit authorizations. The Secretary of the Treasury has indicated that these payments would start sometime around April 13. If they do not have this information from your tax filings, they will mail you a paper check to your last known address.

Paper checks are scheduled to be mailed out on or about early May and will take 20 weeks to distribute given the federal government’s check writing limitations and the significant underfunding of the IRS. It is also the middle of tax season and many, if not all, of the IRS’ face-to-face services have been suspended due to COVID-19. The law does not permit the U.S. Treasury to send out any advance Recovery Rebates after December 31, 2020.

What amount will I receive since my 2020 income and other information is not yet complete?

The US Treasury is going to estimate your Recovery Rebate amount based upon your last tax return on record (e.g., 2019 or if not then, 2018). Accordingly, your advance Recovery Rebate payment will be based upon the information from your 2019 (or 2018) tax return on file including how much your adjusted gross income was and how many “qualifying children” (as defined above) you claimed.

When you file your 2020 federal income tax return in 2021, you will reconcile the estimated Recovery Rebate received with your actual Recovery Rebate based upon your 2020 tax return information. If you should have received a higher Recovery Rebate because for example you had a child in 2020, or your 2020 adjusted gross income is lower than it was in 2019 (or 2018) (e.g., due to unemployment, but remember unemployment compensation is included in adjusted gross income), you will get any amount not previously received. If you received a greater Recovery Rebate based upon your 2019 (or 2018) information as compared to your 2020 actual information you do not have to pay any excess amount received back.

Adults who have not filed tax returns for 2018 or 2019, but who receive Social Security benefits will receive their Recovery Rebate based upon the information the Social Security Administration has on file.

What should I do now?

If your address has changed since you last filed a tax return you should submit an address change online with the US Postal Service and as soon as possible mail a change of address using Form 8822 to the IRS. Unfortunately, the IRS is not presently sorting mail so this address update is likely going to be significantly delayed. Alternatively, if you have not filed a 2019 income tax return and your address or bank account information has changed from your 2018 tax return, you might consider filing your 2019 federal income tax return electronically as soon as possible to update this information as well as any additional “qualifying children.”

If your 2019 adjusted gross income is higher compared to your 2018 adjusted gross income amount, you should consider how the phase-out will impact your estimated Recovery Rebate based upon your 2019 information as compared to your 2018 information.

What other individual tax provisions might be relevant to me as I try to navigate economic challenges now?

Congress has abated the 10% early withdrawal penalties on up to $100,000 withdrawn from certain retirement accounts for COVID-19 financial hardships. However, you will have to include any pre-tax amount withdrawn as income, but Congress will allow you to do this over three years instead of the year of withdrawal.

Seniors who are subject to “mandatory required minimum distributions” from certain retirement accounts because they are over 70.5 (or 72 under the recently passed Tax Cut and Jobs Act) will not be subject to penalties for not withdrawing those amounts for 2020. Therefore, seniors may consider not withdrawing monies from these retirement account.

Unemployment compensation is taxable income so consider electing to withhold federal income taxes on any unemployment payments.

Where do I go for updates on any and all things taxes?

Everything is dynamic and subject to change. Watch the IRS’ website at IRS.gov/coronavirus.

For hourly updates on Twitter follow @irsnews, @yourvoiceatIRS, @taxnotes, Kelly Phillips Erb of Forbes @taxgirl, and of course, Professor Francine J. Lipman @narfnampil.

How religions around the world are keeping the faith during COVID-19

From Michigan State University

COVID-19 has rocked everyday life for people around the world, requiring religious communities to shift worship at a time that many consider the most holiest of the year.

Daily and weekly services at churches, synagogues, mosques and temples have transitioned to take place in the home with family members as many places of prayer are closed for the first time in their history.

Experts from Michigan State University’s Department of Religious Studies discuss how different religions have adapted centuries-long traditions to adhere to social distancing, and how they’ve adopted technology to allow people to continue worshipping.

Mohammad Khalil, professor of religious studies and director of MSU’s Muslim Studies program:

“Friday prayers have been canceled at mosques throughout the United States and the world; and this is the first time that many mosques have canceled Friday prayer services.

“Mosques are typically open for five daily prayers and now that many are closed, people who are used to praying daily congregational prayers are now praying individually or with their families.

“As an alternative, some mosques are streaming devotional lectures/lessons during the time of Friday prayer, but most are careful not to call it Friday, or Jum’ah, prayer since the assumption is that people will come together physically to perform this particular weekly prayer.

“Beyond virtual lectures, Muslim communities are utilizing online technology in other ways. Some, for instance, are using social media to raise funds and provide services for those in need.”

Laura Yares, assistant professor of religious studies:

“American Jews have been adapting to the current health crisis by taking different kinds of religious practice and community gathering online, from song sessions for young children to Talmud learning for adults.

“Traditional Jewish law requires 10 adult males to be physically present in a room for daily prayer services. This health crisis has compelled a unique reframing of Jewish law to think about technology as a new modality of physical presence. This has enabled prayer services to be conducted by counting 10 people in a ‘Zoom room’ as a reinterpretation of Jewish laws about physical presence.

“Passover begins on April 8, which typically is marked by gathering together with friends and family for the Passover Seder. Traditional Jews maintain strict prohibitions around technology on Jewish holidays, but this current crisis has led rabbis to reconsider the Jewish law in this area too. The highest value in Judaism is the value of preserving human life, and recognizing that being alone for this holiday could pose a threat to both physical and mental health, many Jews are choosing to adapt their typical practice and conduct virtual Seders using technology like Zoom and Google hangouts.”

Arthur Versluis, professor and chair, Department of Religious Studies:

“American Buddhism tended to already be highly technologically savvy before the novel coronavirus, so many groups or organizations transitioned swiftly to online meditation workshops and seminars.

“Group or organizational events that in the past would have been hosted in a particular Buddhist center sometimes were both in-person and streamed online before the current health crisis, hence the swift transition was not that surprising. There is a Tibetan Buddhist center in Ann Arbor, for instance, whose events were shifted to online almost immediately after the virus became an issue. While early to be certain, this shift may well have longer-term implications for American Buddhist practitioners.”

Amy DeRogatis, professor of religion and American culture:
In partnership with The Ohio State University, Derogatis is leading the American Religious Sounds Project. The ARSP educates the public on American religious diversity by listening to its sounds. It includes hundreds of recordings of formal and informal sounds of religious institutions, including prayer, chanting and hymns sourced from places of all kinds – from churches to mosques, interfaith chapels to college football games.

“We are currently crowd-sourcing religious sounds of COVID-19 and expect to hear innovative ways that religious communities are responding to the health crisis – especially with major holidays coming up soon. We would love to have contributions from anyone who is participating in a religious community virtually or would like to share reflections on how the pandemic has impacted their religious or spiritual practices.”

Coronavirus model revises its estimates downward

(Courtesy: The Washington Post)

A leading forecasting model used by the White House to chart the coronavirus pandemic predicted Monday that the United States may need fewer hospital beds, ventilators and other equipment than previously projected and that some states may reach their peak of covid-19 deaths sooner than expected.

That glimmer of potential good news came on the same day New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said his state may already be experiencing a “flattening of the curve.” New York reported 599 new deaths Monday, on par with Sunday’s count of 594 and down from 630 on Saturday.

Experts and state leaders, however, continued to steel themselves for grim weeks ahead, noting that the revised model created by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington conflicts with many other models showing higher equipment shortages, deaths and projected peaks.

Some state leaders have also grown increasingly concerned about how the federal government is using IHME’s lower estimates to deny states’ increasingly desperate requests for equipment and help in preparations. The stark differences between the IHME model and dozens of others being created by states exposes the glaring lack of national models provided publicly by the White House or agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for local leaders to use in planning or preparation.

“It’s unclear exactly what the White House is doing on this front,” said Dylan George, who helped the Obama White House develop models to guide its Ebola response in 2014. “As a result, you have every state trying to create their own models to anticipate their needs. And you have one model like IHME being adopted as the national guide.”

The danger of relying so heavily on one model is that model could be wrong or overly optimistic.

“When you plan, you want to plan for the worst-case, not for the average or best-case,” said Natalie Dean, an assistant professor of biostatistics at University of Florida. “Because the risk is not proportional.”

Big differences

This is how starkly models can differ.

Local leaders in the District said on Friday that their model estimates the outbreak in the nation’s capital will peak June 28. The IHME model predicts the peak is coming in just days, on April 16. The District’s model predicts hospitals will need 1,453 ventilators at the peak. IHME predicts a need for only 107. The District is using the IHME model as a best-case scenario and the more dire model to prepare for a likely surge.

D.C. mayor says peak in possible coronavirus hospitalizations will be in mid-summer

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said on April 2 that data projections reveal the peak in possible covid-19 infections will come in late-June or early July. (D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser)

“While we hope that our experience will follow a curve closer to the IHME model, we cannot use a single model for our preparation and risk being underprepared. We continue to refine our models and assumptions and are tailoring them to the DC population and context,” spokeswoman Alison Reeves said in an email.

In states more populous than the District, that vast gap in planning and modeling could mean a life-or-death difference for tens of thousands of people.

LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, director of the District’s Department of Health, explained how the city’s leaders chose their model. It’s called CHIME and was created by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.

“We felt that a model that determined the District would have essentially no medical surge needs was not indicative of what we anticipated would be our reality in the District and thought that a model that did not overestimate the impact of social distancing in the United States” was the right one, Nesbitt said.

In the two weeks since IHME’s model was originally released — the researchers announced revisions Monday — it has been criticized by some experts as overly optimistic. But even critics are quick to note that in the absence of any tool offered by the federal government and with no other model offering nationwide state-by-state estimates, IHME could be a lifesaver.

To coordinate their response, some states with few modeling resources or home-state experts have used the IHME forecast that projects peak deaths and the resources needed. The White House relied on it in part to generate its estimate last week that the epidemic would kill 100,000 to 240,000 people nationwide.

Most epidemiological models look at different populations that interact in an outbreak — people susceptible to infection, those who are infectious and those already infected who go on to die or recover.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the IHME model embraces an entirely different statistical approach, taking the trending curve of deaths from China, and “fitting” that curve to emerging death data from U.S. cities and counties to predict what might come next.

For that reason, many experts saw IHME as overly optimistic when it was launched March 26. Few U.S. states or cities are taking action as drastic as what was adopted in Wuhan, China — the birthplace of the coronavirus pandemic — or even Northern Italy in locking down residents.

Another big difference between IHME and other models is a fundamental assumption about how effective social distancing can be. The creator of IHME’s model, Christopher Murray, said many state models assume that social distancing will only slow or reduce transmission to some degree. The IHME model, drawing from the example of Wuhan, assumes policies such as social distancing and stay-at-home orders, can effectively reduce transmission to the point where an epidemic — at least in its first wave — is actually brought under control by authorities.

At the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing Monday, health officials said they thought it was possible to have fewer deaths than have been projected by models, because of the extreme social distancing efforts being undertaken by Americans.

“Models are good, they help us to make projections. But as you get data in, you modify your model,” said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “I don’t accept everyday we’re going to have to have 100,000 to 200,000 deaths. I think we can really bring that down.”

More models, better prediction

When it comes to predictions, statisticians have a favorite maxim: “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”

By drawing on the multiple models, experts are often able to better triangulate their predictions and assumptions. This is why weather experts often draw on several models rather than one in forecasting storms, using an “ensemble” or “suite” of models. Such ensembles are also what generate the cone of uncertainty for hurricanes.

In Illinois, state leaders are using four models — a version of the CHIME model and models from the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. New York state officials have said they are drawing on at least four different models, including IHME’s.

In North Carolina, state leaders are using a “weather forecasting” approach that combines several models — and instead of focusing on specific dates or numbers of beds or ventilators, they have decided to predict the likelihood that the medical system is overwhelmed.

 “What we’ve been focusing on is less about ‘what is the exact timing of the peak?’ and ‘what is the exact height of the peak?’ and more about how likely is it that the demand for health care is going to outstrip the supply,” said Kimberly Powers, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Are we going to need more than we have?”

Their composite models predicts a peak in mid- to late-May. As long as social distancing continues, they predict only a 1 in 4 chance of exceeding the capacity of acute care hospital beds. But if those orders were lifted after April, the chances of overwhelming hospital capacity doubled.

One concern from some experts is that the IHME model is being used too much like a crystal ball with undue weight given to its predicted needs for ventilators and hospital beds and staffing.

Leaders in one state said Trump administration officials have used IHME’s numbers to push back and in some cases deny their requests for equipment and help. Officials in that state cited emails and documents in which federal officials highlight IHME projections as evidence the state needs thousands fewer ventilators and beds than the state’s models project. The state officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they said they fear retaliation by the Trump administration that could result in even fewer ventilators and less federal assistance.

“If the federal government is really making these kinds of life-or-death decisions on a single model and on only on the lower end of that model, that’s scary,” said one state official.

Murray said he is well aware of the criticism of his model

But in the absence of any other state-by-state planning tool, he noted in a Monday briefing with reporters, his model is providing a much-needed public service — a point even critics of the IHME model are often quick to point out.

Murray and his team have worked around the clock since they first released their model to feed newly emerging data and sharpen it its projections.

On Monday, they announced their biggest revisions to date — driven by a large amount of new domestic and international data.

While their original model relied only on Wuhan’s curve, the updated model now incorporates curves from seven regions from Italy and Spain where epidemics have also peaked.

The newer version also found that deaths in some states — such as Florida, Virginia, Louisiana and West Virginia — could peak earlier than previous projections. But the deaths nationally were still projected to peak April 16. The newer model suggests the number of acute care hospital beds needed at the peak could be cut almost in half and the number of ICU beds needed at the peak of the surge could drop from 40,000 to 29,000. The model also suggested the total number of deaths would be lower, with an estimated 82,000 deaths from the first wave of infection, although the number could range from 49,000 to 136,000.

Murray agreed with the critique of others that multiple models should be used.

“I could not agree more,” Murray said. “What we’ve learned from 30 years of weather forecasting, even Netflix predictions for movies … you make better predictions when using multiple models.”

Coronavirus: What you need to read

The Washington Post is providing some coronavirus coverage free, including:

Updated April 7, 2020

Live updates: The latest in the U.S. and abroad | The latest from the D.C. region

More news today: America’s most influential coronavirus model just revised its estimates downward. But not every model agrees. | What you need to know about hydroxychloroquine

Mapping the spread: Cases and deaths in the U.S. | Map of cases worldwide

What you need to know: How to make your own fabric mask | What to do if you get laid off or furloughed | Stay-at-home orders by state | Calculate how much money you might receive from the stimulus bill | Follow all of our coronavirus coverage and sign up for our daily newsletter (all stories in the newsletter are free).

Social connection is key to mental health during coronavirus pandemic

By Binghamton University, State University of New York

It’s important to stay socially connected during the coronavirus pandemic and avoid isolation for the sake of our mental health, says Jennifer Wegmann, PhD, a lecturer in health and wellness studies at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

“I think one of the most important things that all of us can start applying to our lives is the concept of social connection,” said Wegmann. “If you look at research as it relates to stress and coping, one of the most important and effective coping strategies that we all have is utilizing our social network. That looks very different for us now, because we’re used to connecting when we’re face-to-face. Allowing people to connect socially, even though it looks different, is going to remain really important.”

Adversity creates an opportunity for us to get innovative, said Wegmann. For example, some people have used the Zoom video conferencing platform to create a virtual “bar,” where they could socialize with people they knew, as well as strangers, like they would if they were in person.

“This is actually a really creative idea,” said Wegmann. “If we give ourselves a little time and space and opportunity, we will see that we can come up with really creative ways to stay connected.”

Binghamton University offers live or pre-taped interviews powered by a state-of-the-art ReadyCam television studio system, available at a moment’s notice. Our system can broadcast live HD audio and video to networks, news agencies, and affiliates interviewing Binghamton faculty, students, and staff. Video is transmitted by VideoLink and fees may apply.

A potential vaccine that could cheer India

With scientists across the world burning the midnight oil to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, every week a potential life-saver emerges. The latest in this long list of possible vaccines to the coronavirus is an age-old combination: Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, better known as BCG. BCG, used as a vaccine against tuberculosis (TB), is being trialled for Covid-19 in Australia. Thousands of physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and other health care workers are taking part in the randomised controlled trial, reports the New York Times. A clinical trial has also begun in the Netherlands. The Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston is seeking permission to do so, saying there is strong data that BCG is effective against viral and parasitic infections.

While it is still early days to bet on one single vaccine, BCG’s emergence is particularly important for India. India is among the many developing countries that have had BCG vaccination drive for many years — a policy to combat TB, which according to the World TB Report, 2019, kills 1,200 a day in India. A correlation study of 178 countries by an Irish medical consultant working with epidemiologists at the University of Texas in Houston shows countries with vaccination programmes — including Ireland — have far fewer coronavirus cases by a factor 10, compared to where BCG programmes are no longer deployed.

How Long Does Corona Virus Survive on Surfaces?

While several studies have examined the novel coronavirus, a new study — conducted by researchers from the University of Hong Kong and published in medical journal The Lancet — adds to the rapidly growing research about its stability. (Last month, American researchers had pointed out the virus was stable on plastic and steel for up to 72 hours, but did not last more than four hours on copper or 24 hours on cardboard.)

In the new analysis, researchers tested how long the coronavirus survives on various surfaces at room temperature. Subsequently, they found that on cloth(like a standard cotton lab jacket) and treated wood, it disappears by the second day. On bank notes and glass, it survived for two to four days, while on stainless steel and plastic, it remained for four to seven days. However, as for the outer layer of a surgical face mask, the researchers “strikingly” found detectable levels of infectious coronavirus even after seven days!

The study also observed that the concentration of the virus on all the studied surfaces reduced quite rapidly over time. Moreover, the virus died instantly when touched by common household disinfectants, including bleach.

Note: The presence of the virus on these objects and surfaces was detected by laboratory tools, and not fingers and hands — as the case would normally be. Therefore, the results do not necessarily reflect the potential to pick up the virus from casual contact.

A top White House official warned in January that a pandemic could imperil millions of Americans

A top White House adviser starkly warned Trump administration officials in late January that the crisis could cost the United States trillions of dollars and put millions of Americans at risk of illness or death.
The warning, in a memo by Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump’s trade adviser, is the highest-level alert known to have circulated inside the West Wing as the administration was taking its first substantive steps to confront a crisis that had already consumed China’s leaders and would go on to upend life in Europe and the United States.
“The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil,” Mr. Navarro’s memo said. “This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.”
Dated Jan. 29, it came during a period when Mr. Trump was playing down the risks to the United States. He later went on to say that no one could have predicted such a devastating outcome.
Mr. Navarro said in the memo that the administration faced a choice about how aggressive to be in containing an outbreak, saying the human and economic costs would be relatively low if it turned out to be a problem along the lines of a seasonal flu.
But he went on to emphasize that the “risk of a worst-case pandemic scenario should not be overlooked” given the information coming from China.,In one worst-case scenario cited in the memo, more than a half-million Americans could die.

“Ekal Vidyalaya” Launches Ambitious Initiative Against ‘Coronavirus’

When everywhere ‘Coronavirus’ outbreak is being associated only with the urban area populous, “Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation” has quietly launched an ambitious initiative against it in rural & tribal areas across India. As for networking and connectivity in such areas, “Ekal” (as it is popularly known) is in very unique position with its presence in over 103,000 such remote hamlets. As the shortage of Masks and Sanitizers became apparent in early March, Ekal tailoring training Ctrs banded together and started stitching face-masks and producing hand sanitizers for Ekal Volunteers, district health authorities and law enforcement personnel. It had been producing 10,000 masks and 1,000 liters of Hand-sanitizers or disinfecting solutions per day as of March-end and supplying them ‘free-of-cost’ to their authorities. Masks and Sanitizers are also being distributed free-of-cost to the poor families. It costs Ekal Rs. 20 each to make it and to distribute it.

According to Bajrang Lal Bagra, CEO of “Ekal Abhiyan” (umbrella organization of all Ekal satellite endeavors), beginning this month – April – Ekal is launching most ambitious plan to triple its ‘tailoring’ capacity in 28 centers to produce 1 Million cotton Masks by the end of April (2020). These 2-ply masks are being made to WHO’s stringent specifications and Ekal plans to keep on producing them as long as there is need. As part of empowerment and to reduce the dependency on ‘outside food’, Ekal-Villages, have actively started harvesting ‘Poshan Vatikas’ (Nutritional sustaining food items) for the people in their own vicinity on cooperative basis. Keeping up with the governmental directive, although all Ekal field activities were suspended on March 14, according to ‘Lalan Kumar Sharma’, Central co-coordinator of “Ekal Abhiyan”, the awareness campaign against deadly Virus is in motion with full throttle speed with the blessings of the local concerned authorities. Currently, ‘Arogya Sahayikas’ (Health Assistant) and Ekal teachers are, not only, emphasizing critical need for personal hygiene and clean environment in villages, but also, keeping a written tab on cases related to fever, cough and shortness of breath. Social-distancing and repeatedly washing hands with soap is being promoted as part of daily routine. Supporting the efforts of ‘Gram-Panchayats’ (village administrative admin), identifying and quantifying urban visitors or returning villagers from such areas is being diligently carried out. Harish Karat of ‘Ekal-Global’ says, “as a reminder for the precautionary habits that one must adopt to arrest the spread of ‘Coronavirus’, the walls in lot of village-dwellings are being painted with healthcare slogans”. What is interesting is that villagers have enthusiastically endorsed this campaign as one of the safeguards in the current crisis. Ekal volunteers residing in Indian urban areas are helping older, poor people during these clampdown days are providing food or sustenance items wherever possible. For example, in ‘Guwahati’ area in two days, ‘Vanbandhu Parishad’ (an allied Ekal organization) delivered food items to 650 families.  Ekal-USA providing assistance to the needy in variety of ways – such as food, mask-making, grocery-items and medical help etc. Ekal volunteers in USA are assisting food-banks, soup-kitchen and delivery of groceries to the elderly. According to Suresh Iyer, President of Ekal-USA, In the U.S., Ekal has partnered with other non-profit organizations, including ‘Sewa International’, in providing community service at this hour of immense need. It’s times such as these we are seeing the best of humanity and I am confident that we will get through this difficult time soon and come out feeling even stronger”. Though, all the annual fund-raising concerts have been cancelled currently for foreseeable future, ‘Ekal Vidyalaya’ is appealing its loyal Donors and well-wishers who have been consistently helping it to keep supporting its multiple endeavors (projects) in rural areas, including its ambitious initiative to fight ‘Coronavirus’. Kindly Donate at https://www.ekal.org/us/donate and be an active member of defense against the virus in the current crisis. Ekal serves the humanity irrespective of caste, creed, and religion

Indian-American journalist dies of COVID-19 in New York

Indian-American journalist Brahm Kanchibotla has died of COVID-19 that is ravaging New York, the epicentre of the pandemic in the US. The journalist died on Monday April 5th after nine days in a hospital, his son Sudama Kanchibotla said.

Brahm Kanchibotla, 66, was a correspondent for United News of India.

During his 28-year career in the US, he had worked for 11 years as a content editor for Merger Markets, a financial publication, and also did a stint with News India-Times weekly newspaper.

He had emigrated to the US in 1992 after having worked for several publications in India. Sudama Kanchibotla said that the family was not sure of the last rites for him because of the restrictions in New York.

“We have not set a date and it will have to be a very small gathering because only ten people are allowed at funerals,” he said.

Brahm Kanchibotla showed COVID-19 symptoms on March 23. When his conditions worsened, he was admitted to a hospital on Long Island on March 28 and given an oxygen mask, Sudama Kanchibotla said. On March 31, he was put on ventilator and on Monday he had a cardiac arrest.

Besides Sudama, Brahm Kanchibotla is survived by his wife Anjana and daughter Siujana. As of Monday night, 4,758 people have died of COVID-19 in New York City. The US has recorded a total of 368,196 confirmed cases, while the death toll stood at 10,986.

The Odds for the presidency: Donald Trump’s Odds Get a Boost

Joe Biden was expected to give Donald Trump a run for his money in the 2020 US Elections, but unexpected recent events could be turning the tables on the two-term vice president and the Democratic party’s hope to paint the White House blue: the coronavirus pandemic and New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s rising stock.

Donald Trump is installed as the short-odds-on favourite to win the 2020 US Elections, which are slated for Tuesday, November 3. Trump is the -110 favourite to win the keys to the White House for a second (and last) term, while Biden, who is Trump’s most prominent threat to the presidency according to most political analysts, is tipped at +125. Senator Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, is the longshot of the triplet at far flung +2500 odds in political betting markets.

By the odds for the presidency, one can infer Trump’s probability of winning is higher than Biden’s. This notion is further underscored by the president’s approval rating, which has experienced a renaissance of late (reaching nearly 50%) as he navigates the nation through the coronavirus pandemic that is having a deadly impact across the country.

In a recent interview with ‘Fox & Friends,’ Trump reiterated his hope that he’s ‘going to win.’ Even referencing the aforementioned polls that are in his favour, when he said, “I’ve gotten great marks also. We want to always make sure we have a great president; we have somebody that’s capable.”

Senator Sanders’ campaign took a big hit after Super Tuesday propelled Biden towards a majority in national delegates. What prompted many political obituaries on Sanders’ campaign to surface and his odds in political betting markets to plummet. But the 78-year-old senator isn’t going away quietly. He’s adamant about continuing the fight.

Biden, meanwhile, is leading the race for the party nomination and appears to have it practically in the bag. He has 1,174 delegates to Sanders’ 862 delegates. A total of 1,991 delegates are needed in order to become the Democratic party’s standard-bearer.

The novel coronavirus outbreak forced four primaries that were scheduled for April 4 – Alaska, Wyoming, Hawaii and Louisiana – to be pushed back into June at the earliest. That said Wisconsin is the lone primary election on the schedule for April 7, which is still planning on going ahead amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

Sanders reportedly hopes to have another debate with Biden in April, although none are confirmed or scheduled to date. Moreover, Biden doesn’t appear keen to have any more debates. In his words, “I haven’t thought about any more debates. I think we’ve had enough debates. I think we should get on with this,” he said.

Biden’s sense of urgency may be in part due to the global pandemic that has turned electioneering on its head, but there’s an even stronger case against dragging the Democratic primary process out because it could weaken the party’s position entirely come November. It could weaken Biden’s position, no less.

Biden has more than a 300 delegate edge over Sanders but the 77-year-old’s momentum appears to be waning in recent weeks, within the party and the broad spectrum of the elections. Ever since Super Tuesday on March 17, Biden is steadily fading in the national conversation.

Sanders, who’s a dab hand at virtual campaigning, is managing to stay relevant with his supporters. Hosting daily live streams from his home in Vermont, including fireside chats and virtual rallies and phonebanks, the 78-year-old is pioneering virtual campaigning; unlike Biden, who is struggling to strike an audible chord. After a few unsuccessful virtual events, Biden’s team seems content with infrequent TV appearances and interviews that are mostly controlled and remote.

This is part of the virtual town hall the Biden campaign wouldn’t post; Garbled/cut out audio, blank screens, randomly going live to unsuspecting participants

What nobody could have anticipated is the Democratic landscape turning upside down with the skyrocketing popularity of New York governor Andrew Cuomo against a backdrop of the ‘war’ on coronavirus. How the DNC reconciles its choice of Biden and Sanders now in light of Cuomo’s appeal remains to be seen.

The 62-year-old governor isn’t officially in the race nor does he intend to run in the 2020 Elections. Politics couldn’t be further from the governor’s mind, according to Monday’s briefing with the press. “There is no politics, there is no red and blue, We are red, white and blue!. So, let’s get over it and lead by example,” he said.

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Pres. Trump: “I am not engaging the president in politics. My only goal is to engage the president in partnership…I’m not going to get into a political dispute with the president.”

Yet, in spite of claim to the contrary, sportsbooks roll out odds for Cuomo. He is now the second best bet to win the Democratic nomination at +1000, ahead of Sanders but behind Biden. (When Cuomo isn’t officially even in the race that’s telling). Cuomo is also the third best bet after Trump and Biden in the race for the presidency, albeit at +2000.

When Trump was asked about a hypothetical Cuomo bid, he seemed to relish the idea, even going so far as saying he would be a better candidate than ‘Sleepy Joe,’ who Trump doesn’t think is ‘capable’ of being president.

Seemingly overnight, Cuomo’s rising star steals the spotlight and encourages re-evaluating the measure of Biden and Sanders’ candidacy for the 2020 US Elections. A right spanner in the works for the Democratic party but potentially an advantage for Trump, whose odds received a boost recently.

AAPI Launches Plasma Drive From Patients Cured of COVID-19, And NonSymptomatic For 14 Days

The U.S. has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic after reported cases surpassed those officially reported by China. Since the novel coronavirus called SARSCoV-2 was first detected in the U.S. on Jan. 20, it has spread to at least 312,249 people in the U.S., across all 50 states.
Of the reported cases in the U.S., 8,503 people have died from the virus, with more than 3,500 of those deaths in New York, 846 in New Jersey, 479 in Michigan, 409 in Louisiana and 318 related deaths reported in Washington state. Worldwide, about 1.23 million cases have been reported and 66,542 related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins virus dashboard.
Responding to this deadly virus, among the man other initiatives, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic Medical Association in the United States, has embarked on yet another noble mission. “While COVID-19 continues to disrupt life around the globe, AAPI is committed to helping its tens of thousands of members across the US and others across the globe, as concerned physicians witnessing the growing COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on our society, healthcare system and economy, AAPI has launched the Plasma Drive from patients who have been cured of COVID-19 and are now with no Corona-virus related symptoms for at least the past two weeks,” Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI, announced here.
Dr. Seema Arora, Chairwoman of AAPI’s BOT, pointed to some of the other effective initiatives by AAPI that include: Offering regular tele-conference calls which have been attended by over 3,000 physicians from across the United States. AAPI has also collaborated with other national international and government organizations such as, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Indian Embassy in Washington, DC, National Council of Asian Indian Americans (NCAIA), GAPIO, BAPIO and Australian Indian Medical Graduates Association, in its efforts to educate and inform physicians and the public about the virus, to prevent and treat people with the affected by corona virus.
Another major initiative of AAPI has been the “Donate a Mask” program, under the leadership of Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President-Elect of AAPI, Dr. Sajani Shah, Chairwoman-Elect of AAPI’s BOD, and Dr. Ami Baxi. The Task Force on Masks has been busy securing resources and identifying the hospitals and sending the supply of Masks/PPE directly to those in needed. Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda expressed great concern that “the current rate of infections will have a materially adverse effect on both our senior populations and our fellow physicians and healthcare workers who are on the front lines fighting the infection. “It’s essential to create a wholesale expansion of free COVID-19 testing available in order for identifying asymptomatic carries and then isolating them.”
Dr. Madhavi Gorusu M.D., M.B.A, President of Connecticut, Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (CAPI), who is leading the initiative on behalf of AAPI, said, “We must all stay united and support each other in every way we can to get through the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are eligible to donate or if you know of anyone who had made a full recovery from COVID-19 and could act as a potential donor, please contact AAPI by going to its website and providing your personal details.
Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Vice president of AAPI, said, The Red Cross is seeking people who are fully recovered from COVID-19 and may be able to donate plasma to help current patients with serious or immediately life threatening COVID-19 infections, or those judged by a healthcare provider to be at high risk of progression to severe or life-threatening disease. People who have fully recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their plasma that can attack the virus. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or Agency) plays a critical role in protecting the United States from public health threats including the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
FDA is committed to doing everything we can to provide timely response efforts to this pandemic and facilitate access to investigational drugs for use in patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections. (https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/investigational-new-drug-ind-or-deviceexemption-ide-process-cber/investigational-covid-19-convalescent-plasma-emergencyinds ) One investigational treatment being explored for COVID-19 is the use of convalescent plasma collected from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19.
It is possible that convalescent plasma that contains antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) might be effective against the infection. Use of convalescent plasma has been studied in outbreaks of other respiratory infections, including the 2009-2010 H1N1 influenza virus pandemic, 2003 SARS-CoV-1 epidemic, and the 2012 MERS-CoV epidemic. This convalescent plasma is being evaluated as treatment for patients seriously ill with COVID-19.
The Red Cross has been asked by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help identify prospective donors and manage the distribution of these products to hospitals treating patients in need. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or Agency) plays a critical role in protecting the United States from public health threats including the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Although promising, convalescent plasma has not yet been shown to be effective in COVID-19.
It is therefore important to determine through clinical trials, before routinely administering convalescent plasma to patients with COVID-19, that it is safe and effective to do so. The following pathways are available for administering or studying the use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma: Considerations for healthcare providers interested in obtaining COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma for Use under IND: COVID-19 convalescent plasma must only be collected from recovered individuals if they are eligible to donate blood (21 CFR 630.10, 21 CFR 2 630.15).
Required testing must be performed (21 CFR 610.40) and the donation must be found suitable (21 CFR 630.30). If you’re fully recovered from a verified coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosis, please refer to the website below for more information regarding: Potential Donor who has had COVID-19 and are fully recovered. Clinician who is interested in receiving convalescent plasma, or want to refer potential donors. https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/dlp/plasma-donations-from-recovered-covid-19-patients.html
For more information on AAPI and its several initiatives to combat Corona Virus and help Fellow Physicians and the larger community, please visit: www.aapiusa.org,  or email to: [email protected]

When, and How, Does the Coronavirus Pandemic End?

With confirmed cases of Covid-19 globally exceeding 1 million and more countries going into lockdown to slow the pandemic, the emerging question is: “When will this all end?” The answer depends in large part on uncertainties about the novel coronavirus that causes the disease, including whether you can get it more than once and how quickly the world’s scientists might produce a vaccine. The cost and benefits of a prolonged shutdown and what different countries can afford, from both an economic and political standpoint, are factors, too.

1. So how does this end?

There’s a consensus that the pandemic will only end with the establishment of so-called herd immunity. That occurs when enough people in a community are protected from a pathogen that it can’t take hold and dies out. There are two paths to that outcome. One is immunization. Researchers would have to develop a vaccine that proves safe and effective against the coronavirus, and health authorities would have to get it to a sufficient number of people. The second path to herd immunity is grimmer: It can also come about after a large portion of a community has been infected with a pathogen and develops resistance to it that way.

2. How do we manage until then?

For many countries, the strategy is to lock down movement to dramatically slow the spread, closing businesses and schools, banning gatherings and keeping people at home. The idea is to prevent a huge burst of infections that overwhelms the medical system, causing excessive deaths as care is rationed. “Flattening the curve” staggers cases over a longer period of time and buys authorities and health-care providers time to mobilize — to build capacity for testing, for tracking down contacts of those who are infected, and for treating the sick, by expanding hospital facilities, including ventilators and intensive-care units.

3. When can restrictions loosen?

The public shouldn’t expect life to return to normal quickly. Lifting restrictions too early risks inviting a new spike. Authorities in China began to re-open the city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began, two months after it was sealed off from the world, when transmission had virtually halted. But China’s measures were stricter than anywhere else so far, and at least one county has gone back to a lockdown. England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jenny Harries, said lockdown measures there need to last two, three or, ideally, up to six months. Annelies Wilder-Smith, a professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, recommends restrictions stay in place until daily cases drop consistently over at least two weeks.

4. Then what?

road map authored by a group of U.S. health specialists including former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb calls for an intermediate stage in which schools and businesses would reopen but gatherings would still be limited. People would continue to be encouraged to keep at a distance from one another, and those at high risk would be advised to limit their time in public. If cases begin to rise again, restrictions would be tightened. Their report, published by the pro-business American Enterprise Institute, is arguably more optimistic than the future envisioned by researchers at Imperial College London. Their models suggest that for at least two-thirds of the time until herd immunity is established, all households would need to reduce contact with schools, workplaces or the public by 75%. In any case, the widespread availability of testing is important in this stage. At the heart of the U.S. plan: at least 750,000 tests per week.

5. Why is testing so important?

This virus is wreaking so much havoc, not because it’s especially lethal, but because it’s insidious; many who are infected are well enough to go about their daily business, unwittingly spreading it to others. That makes it vital to test for infection widely in the population, and to test everyone with symptoms. That way, those who are infectious can be put in isolation and everyone they’ve had close contact with while contagious can be tracked down, tested and if necessary isolated as well, limiting the spread in the community. Another kind of test looks for antibodies to see who has already beaten the virus and is thus unlikely to be re-infected, at least for a time. Once widely available, such tests might enable people who test positive for antibodies to move about more freely.

6. Why does where you are matter?

Authoritarian countries such as China can impose stricter controls on movement and more intrusive means of surveillance, such as house-to-house fever checks, tracing and enforcement of quarantines, and are less vulnerable to pressure from businesses and popular opinion. That gives them powerful tools to keep the virus in check, so long as they are vigilant against imported cases. That’s a more difficult proposition for other nations. The poorest countries can less easily afford the economic losses caused by prolonged restrictions, and often don’t have the health infrastructure for extensive surveillance.

7. How long will a vaccine take?

Dozens of companies and universities around the world are working on it, but there’s no guarantee they will prevail. Vaccine development normally is a long and complex process that includes years of testing to ensure shots are safe and effective. In the coronavirus fight, some of the players aim to deliver a vaccine in 12 to 18 months, an extraordinarily ambitious goal. As well as using tried-and-true approaches, scientists are relying on new technologies, like those that add viral genetic material to human cells, inducing them to make proteins that spur an immune response. Some vaccine specialists believe governments, citizens and investors should temper their optimism. It’s not clear if the methods will work, that the timelines will be met or that companies will be able to manufacture enough shots.

8. What about the second path to herd immunity?

First, it would occur only if recovering from an infection leaves people with lasting immunity. It’s not yet known if that’s the case with the novel coronavirus. The portion of a population that would have to be exposed to the virus to establish herd immunity is also unknown. Generally, it’s high, for example 75% for diphtheria and 91% for measles. Patrick Vallance, the U.K. government’s chief scientific adviser, estimated the figure at 60% in February. How long it would take to reach the necessary threshold would depend on measures governments impose in response to the pandemic. Without tight restrictions, it would be faster yet come at a steep cost in illness and deaths as health systems would be overburdened. Some research assumes the actual number of infections is much higher than the confirmed cases. If that’s true, countries are closer to herd immunity than we know.

9. Are there other variables?

We could get lucky, and the virus could fade with the onset of summer in the northern hemisphere, where most cases are, just like outbreaks of influenza subside with seasonal changes. But it remains unknown whether warmer weather will play a role. Even if the outbreak wanes, it could return in the fall. Some are pinning their hopes on an ultra-effective therapy or a cure.

The Reference Shelf

  • Related QuickTakes on what you need to know about Covid-19, how it transmits, the quest for treatments and a vaccine, and the seasonality question.
  • Bloomberg News looks at the hurdles to development of a coronavirus vaccine.
  • The roadmap published by the American Enterprise Institute and the modeling done by Imperial College London.
  • An article in MIT Technology Review argues that the pandemic will change our lives, in some ways forever.
  • commentary in the New York Times suggests the near future will be like a roller coaster ride.

Death Toll Continues to Rise in US – 1,500 die of coronavirus in 24 hours

The United States recorded nearly 1,500 deaths from COVID-19 between Thursday and Friday, last week according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, the worst 24-hour death toll globally since the pandemic began.

With 1,480 deaths counted between 8:30 pm (0030 GMT) Thursday and the same time Friday, according to the university’s continuously updated figures, the total number of people who have died since the start of the pandemic in the United States is now 7,406.

More than 1.13 million people worldwide — including more than 278,400 people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals brace for unprecedented patient surges.

The worldwide death toll for the coronavirus moved past 60,000 Saturday morning and has infected more than 1.13 million people according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States has more than 270,400 cases and more than 7,100 deaths.

President Donald Trump on Friday recommended that Americans cover their faces with masks when outdoors, a policy U-turn following growing scientific research suggesting their widespread use can stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Trump told a White House briefing that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was urging people to wear face coverings like scarves or homemade cloth masks, but to keep medical-grade masks available for health workers. “It’s going to be really a voluntary thing,” he underlined. “You don’t have to do it and I’m choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it and that’s okay.”

The about-face was widely expected after senior health officials told reporters the scientific evidence had evolved. Speaking to Fox News on Friday, Anthony Fauci, head of infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, cited “recent information that the virus can actually be spread even when people just speak as opposed to coughing and sneezing.”

Days earlier, the CDC’s Robert Redfield said up to a quarter of people who are infected may be asymptomatic. Taken together, the developments represent powerful arguments in favor of the widespread use of facial coverings.

The global death toll attributed to the novel coronavirus hit 59,884 early Saturday, and the latest surge in cases in France pushed the European nation’s total past that of China, where the illness was first detected in December.

In the four months since the virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, it has infected at least 1,131,713 people worldwide, according to a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University. Five countries – the United States, Spain, Italy, Germany and France – have now confirmed total infection counts well above China’s 82,526 cases.

  • The United States has reported 278,458 cases, resulting in 7,159 deaths.
  • Spain has confirmed 124,736 cases, resulting in 11,744 deaths.
  • Italy has reported 119,827 infections, resulting in 14,681 deaths.
  • Germany has reported 91,159 cases, resulting in 1,275 deaths.
  • France has confirmed 83,029 infections, resulting in 6,520 deaths.
  • China has recorded 82,543 cases, resulting in 3,330 deaths.
  • Iran has recorded 55,743 cases, resulting in 3,452 deaths.
  • The United Kingdom has reported 38,697 cases, resulting in 3,611 deaths.
  • Turkey has recorded 20,921 cases, resulting in 425 deaths.
  • Switzerland has confirmed 19,702 cases, resulting in 60 deaths.

How to get your US stimulus check from the US Government?

The IRS and the Treasury Department say Americans will start receiving their economic impact checks in the next three weeks. The payments are part of the $2.2 trillion rescue package signed into law last week by President Donald Trump aimed at combating the economic ravages of the coronavirus outbreak.

As part of the economic stimulus bill, hundreds of billions of dollars are being earmarked for one-time economic impact payments, or “stimulus checks” to most American households. While the size of the stimulus payments has been widely reported, there are some key details that are still unclear — such as how you’ll actually get your payment, what happens if you haven’t filed a tax return recently, and what if your information has changed.

While this is still a fluid situation and there are some important details the IRS and Treasury haven’t quite figured out yet (to be fair, the bill passed just a few days ago), the IRS recently issued their most up-to-date guidance yet. With that in mind, here are five things about the stimulus check that you need to know.

Most people don’t need to do anything to get the money. But some — including senior citizens and low-income people who might not traditionally file tax returns — do need to take action. People behind on filing their taxes might also want to get caught up.

The IRS and Treasury have provided more details on how to ensure you get paid. Here are the basics:

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE PAYMENTS?

Anyone earning up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income and who has a Social Security number will receive a $1,200 payment. That means married couples filing joint returns will receive the full payment — $2,400 — if their adjusted gross income, which what you report on your taxes, is under $150,000.

The payment steadily declines for those who make more. Those earning more than $99,000, or $198,000 for joint filers, are not eligible. The thresholds are slightly different for those who file as a head of household.

Parents will also receive $500 for each qualifying child. So, a family of four could get as much as $3,400.

WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET THE CHECK?

For most people, nothing. If you’ve already filed your 2019 tax return, which is now due on July 15, the IRS will use it to determine your eligibility. If you have not filed a 2019 tax return yet, your eligibility will be based on your 2018 return.

The money will be directly deposited in your bank account if the government has that information from your tax return. If you haven’t filed your 2019 taxes, the government will use information from your 2018 taxes to calculate your payment and determine where to send it. It can use your Social Security benefit statement as well.

I DON’T USUALLY HAVE TO FILE TAXES. DO I STILL GET A PAYMENT?

Yes. People who are not required to file a tax return — such as low-income tax payers, some senior citizens, Social Security recipients, some veterans and people with disabilities — will need to file a very simplified tax return to receive the economic impact payment. It provides the government basic details including a person’s filing status, number of dependents and direct-deposit bank information.

I HAVEN’T FILED MY 2018 OR 2019 TAXES. WILL I STILL GET A PAYMENT?

Yes, but the IRS urges anyone required to file a tax return and has not yet done so for those years to file as soon as possible in order to receive an economic impact payment. Taxpayers should include their direct-deposit banking information on the return if they want it deposited in their account.

I DIDN’T USE DIRECT DEPOSIT ON MY TAXES, WHAT CAN I DO?

The government will default to sending you the check by mail if you did not use direct deposit.

However, IRS and Treasury say that they will develop an online portal in the coming weeks for individuals to provide their banking information so that they can receive the payments immediately instead of in the mail. It has not yet set a deadline for updating that information.

WHERE DO I DO THIS?

The IRS says the Treasury is planning to develop a web-based portal for taxpayers to provide their bank account information for stimulus payments. The goal is to get the money in your hands as soon as reasonably possible, and the quickest way to do that is to allow everyone to use direct deposit if they so choose. We don’t know yet if there will be an option to choose a paper check.The IRS and Treasury say the website irs.gov/coronavirus will soon provide information about the check, including how people can file a simple 2019 tax return.

I NEED MORE TIME TO FILE MY TAX RETURNS. HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO GET THE PAYMENT?

The IRS says people concerned about visiting a tax professional or local community organization in person to get help with a tax return should not worry. The economic impact payments will be available throughout the rest of 2020.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Thursday that many Americans reeling from the financial impacts caused by the coronavirus outbreak can expect to see their one-time stimulus checks of up to $1,200 show up in their bank accounts in about two weeks. For those without direct deposit, Mnuchin promised checks would go out quickly in a matter of “weeks.”

The announcement followed a memo sent out by House Democrats that warned some Americans could have to wait up to 20 weeks – or five months – before they receive their checks.

 The first payments are expected go out within three weeks to those for whom the Internal Revenue Service already has direct deposit information on file. Mnuchin said at a White House coronavirus briefing that payments would go out within two weeks to people whose direct deposit details are on file with the government, echoing comments he made after passage of the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill that payments would not go out until mid-April.  He added that a web portal would be established for people to supply their details and that checks would be sent to anyone else, but did not specify a timeline.  “I am assuring the American public, they need the money now.”

Three-quarters of U.S. Catholics view Pope Francis favorably, though partisan differences persist

Americans’ opinions of Pope Francis have rebounded slightly after hitting an all-time low almost two years ago in the wake of Catholic Church sex abuse scandals, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

Six-in-ten U.S. adults say they have a “very” or “mostly” favorable view of Pope Francis, up from roughly half who said this in September of 2018, when the question was last asked. At that time, a Pennsylvania grand jury had just published a report revealing decades of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, and former cardinal Theodore McCarrick had recently resigned because of separate sex abuse allegations.

Overall, public opinion of Pope Francis is now roughly at the same level as when he assumed the papacy in 2013, but still below higher points in 2015 and 2017, when 70% of U.S. adults said they had a “very” or “mostly” favorable view of the pontiff.

How we did this

U.S. Catholics are more likely than the general public to have a positive assessment of Francis. About three-quarters of Catholics (77%) now view the pope favorably, which is 10 percentage points lower than the share who did so in January 2017 (87%) but not statistically different from the ratings recorded in January or September 2018. (Even though the 2018 and 2020 surveys produced different estimates of the share of Catholics who view Pope Francis favorably, the differences between the current survey and each of the surveys conducted in 2018 do not pass a test of statistical significance.)

Catholics who attend Mass weekly and those who attend less often have roughly similar views of Pope Francis, with about three-quarters in each group expressing a very or mostly favorable opinion of Francis (79% and 76%, respectively).

Partisan differences

January 2018 survey found growing partisan polarization in views of Pope Francis, with Catholic Republicans holding less favorable views of the pontiff than Catholic Democrats. That polarization persists today, with roughly nine-in-ten (87%) Catholic Democrats and Democratic leaners viewing Francis favorably compared with 71% among Catholic Republicans and Republican leaners.

A majority (59%) of religious “nones” – those who describe their religious affiliation as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – rate Francis as either very or mostly favorable. This is much higher than the share (39%) who rated him favorably when he first became pope in 2013, though at that time roughly a third of “nones” were not familiar enough with Francis to rate him.

Among white Protestants there are varying levels of support for Francis. About six-in-ten white Protestants who do not identify as born-again or evangelical view Pope Francis favorably (62%). White evangelical Protestants, however, are less likely to share this positive view; 43% express a favorable view of Francis. Among white Protestants – both those who identify as evangelical and those who do not – favorable opinions of Pope Francis have increased since the decline seen in September 2018.

New York, New Jersey Relax Rules for Physicians with Work Visas to Join the Fight Against COVID-19

As New York state climbs the steep face of its COVID-19 curve, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order vastly widening the scope of practice for some healthcare providers and absolving physicians of certain risks and responsibilities.

Along with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, both the states’ governors signed executive orders this week waiving licensing requirements or granting temporary licenses to foreign-born and foreign-licensed physicians in training in the U.S., in order to lessen the pressure on the work force currently stretched thin, according to a Times of India report.

The new relaxation of the rules could mean that nearly 1,000 Indian physicians currently on J-1 and H-1B visas could join coronavirus fight.

Med Page Today reports that, the order’s provisions include eliminating physician supervision of physician assistants, nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and others; enabling foreign medical graduates, such as those of Indian origin, with at least a year of graduate medical education to care for patients; allowing emergency medical services personnel to operate under the orders of NPs, PAs and paramedics; allowing medical students to practice without a clinical affiliation agreement, and lifting 80-hour weekly work limits for residents; granting providers immunity from civil liability for injury or death

Suspending usual record-keeping requirements; allowing several types of healthcare professionals with licenses in other states to practice in New York; and suspending or revoking hospitals’ operating certificates if they don’t halt elective surgeries.

The order, which remains in place through at least April 22, was met mostly with applause, though with some hesitation around work-hour limits, the report said.

Meanwhile, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin is doing its part to help as well. AAPI announced it has organized national tele-conferences on COVID-19, in collaboration with the Indian Embassy and National Council of Asian Indian Americans.

“While COVID-19 continues to disrupt life around the globe, AAPI is committed to helping its tens of thousands of members across the U.S. and others across the globe,” said AAPI president Dr. Suresh Reddy.

Reddy notes that, as concerned physicians witnessing the growing COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on our society, healthcare system and economy, AAPI has embarked on several initiatives.

The most effective so far, he said, has been offering twice a week conference calls having been attended by over 2,000 physicians from across the United States.

The teleconference on March 27 was unique as it was jointly organized by AAPI, Indian Embassy in Washington, DC, and National Council of Asian Indian Americans, the release said.

Anurag Kumar, Minister of Community Affairs, while praising the numerous efforts of AAPI, especially in this season of pandemic affecting the world, enumerated the many efforts of the Embassy to help Indians, and with particular focus on the nearly 200,000 Indian students in the U.S., the release said.

The teleconference was moderated by Dr. Lokesh Edara, who lauded AAPI’s efforts in providing such a forum to join in and share their expertise with their fellow physicians and thus provide the best care practice to their patients, especially in this season of fastspreading Covid-19 global pandemic, the AAPI release said.

Dr. Prasad Garimella was a main speaker at the conference. The Indian American physician is a critical care medicine specialist in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and has been practicing for 20 years.

He specializes in critical care medicine, pulmonary disease. Garimella gave an overview of the situation in the state of Georgia, and the many challenges his state faces as the pandemic is fast spreading.

“Everyone needs to act like a health care professional and needs to have the best attitude in order to defeat this deadly virus,” he said, according to the news release. “Social distancing is not isolating. Keep in touch with loved ones. Stay busy and stay connected. Filter and assess the news, look for credible sources to rely upon.”

Dr. Arunachalam Einstein was another speaker, who is an emergency medicine specialist in Everett, Washington. He specializes in emergency medicine and internal medicine. Einstein gave an update of case status in his state.

Another main speaker for the day was Dr. Usha Rani Karumudii, an infectious disease specialist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Easton Hospital and UPMC Passavant.

Kanumudi, in her address, said coronavirus has been there for long. The new virus is called novel because it’s highly infectious and we have high number of people with symptoms.

Another major initiative of AAPI has been the “Donate a Mask” program.

March 30 was National Doctors Day, an annual celebration aimed at appreciating and honoring physicians who help save lives everywhere.

“I want to take this special opportunity to thank our physicians for responding to late-night phone calls, working long hours and providing unswerving care. Today, more than ever, we know the sacrifices they make to put the health of their communities first,” Reddy said in a statement.

“We do acknowledge that these are challenging times, more than ever for us, physicians, who are on the frontline to assess, diagnose and treat people who are affected by this deadly pandemic, COVID-19. Many of our colleagues have sacrificed their lives in order to save those impacted by this pandemic around the world,” he said.

New York Indian Consulate Organizes An Online Interactive Session With GOPIO Members From The New York Area

India’s Consul General in New York Mr. Sandeep Chakravorty hosted an online interactive session for GOPIO Life Members and GOPIO chapter officials from the New York area on April 3rd. Other officials from the Indian Consulate present at the interactive session included Deputy Consul General Shatrugna Sinha,  Consul for Political and POC Mr. Vipul Mesariya and Community Affairs Consul A.K. Vijayakrishnan.

GOPIO International officials included its Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham, Vice President Ram Gadhavi, Secretary Dr. Rajeev Mehta, International Coordinator Dr. Asha Samant, Media Council Chair Jasbir Kaur, GOPIO-New York President Beena Kothari, GOPIO-CT President Ashok Nichani, GOPIO-Central Jersey official President Kunal Mehta, GOPIO Manhattan officials and several other chapter officials.

Consul General Chakravorty gave a brief of the Indian Consulate functioning and how it has been helping the Indian American community as well as Indian students and visitors who are stuck in the US because of lockdown due to Coronavirus. GOPIO chapters highlighted their activities during the lockdown period especially arranging online webinars and helping the community including senior citizens. There were several questions to the consulate officials on when the Indian visitors can return back to India and lifting of travel ban of OCI card holders. Consul General Chakravorty said that it would take several weeks to get back to the normalcy on these issues.

The Indian Consulate plans several other online  interactive sessions covering talks by eminent persons, webinar on important community issues, musical programs and children’s programs.

CORONA EFFECT WILL BE OVER BY JUNE 20th – Kancherla Subba Rao, A Renowned Octogenarian Astrologer says

Fears are growing that the global downturn from the corona virus, COVID 19 could be far more punishing and long lasting than initially feared — potentially enduring into next year, and even beyond — as governments intensify restrictions on people and businesses to halt the spread of the pandemic, and fear of the virus impedes consumer-led economic growth.

However, an astrologer from India has predicted that the pandemic will be over by June 20th this year. “The corona pandemic plaguing the world today is due to Kala Sarpayoga because of the positioning of all planets in between Rahu and Kethu, which make them totally eclipsed,” says Kancherla Subba Rao, a popular astrologer from the state of Andhra Pradesh in India.

“However, this doesn’t affect India,” he goes on to explain. “As per the longitudes and latitudes, India is beyond the orbit of Rahu and Kethu. Hence Kala Sarpayoga does not impact India. The present corona is transmitted by foreigners but will have very limited effect in India. Whatever effect we are facing in India today will be over by 18 June,” the renowned astrologer says.

According to an NRI entrepreneur based in the national Capital region in DC,  who has known Kancherla Subba Rao personally, the renowned astrologer has predicted in the past accurately about the election victories of Barak Obama, Narendra Modi and Donald Trump. As per the NRI, he is a well-known astrologer locally and has gained respect and honor from the local community for his accurate predictions of life’s events. He also says, because of the strong alignment of stars, Trump is likely to be re-elected in November this year.

Describing his own experience in the field of astrology, he says, “I have 40 years of experience in Astrology and learned the subject in childhood from the elders.” He holds a Master’s Degree and has served as a Bank Manager in Andhra.

Kancherla Subba Rao says, “In Vastu also I gained some knowledge. You can ask any questions in Astrology. Your date, time and place of birth are necessary. The question should be clear and precise. Please worship SUN God at every sun-rise,” his advice to the readers.

Born in a teeming and remote village of Andhra Pradesh, Sri Subba Rao acquired astrology as a child prodigy. At the age of 30 years, he was felicitated with golden leg bracelet, an honor given to great scholars by then chief Minister Kasu Brahmananda Reddy.

Since then he has been making accurate predictions for more than 50 years on the national and international developments. He has a rare expertise in medical astrology. When he suffered from paraplegia (paralysis of both legs) in his youth, his attending physicians in India told him that he could never recover. Shri Rao challenged the Doctors based on his knowledge of medical astrology and predicted that his recovery in a specific time frame which became true.

A dhoti clad and ardent farmer, Sri Subba Rao  lives a simple life, meditates and sleeps among the cows in his farm. He never takes remuneration or payment for his predictions. Though hails and lives in a village, his grip on English is commendable.

A voracious reader who keeps reading Astrologer Raphael and others, Subba Rao is also a great philosopher with utmost purity of thought and action and an ardent follower of Astrologer cum philosophy Plato.

How to get into ‘working mode’ while at home

If you are struggling to get into the working mode as you stay at home due to the lockdown, some simple tips like maintaining a routine and dressing up in a way as if you were in office may help you increase productivity, suggests a new report.

“Maintain daily routines as when working regularly — get up at the same time, take a shower, dress-up, get breakfast and than start working at the same time you normally do at the office,” according to the “Work From Home Best Practices” shared by Bain & Company, one of the world’s leading strategy and management consultancies.

Another key point to keep in mind is that you should leave private life outside the room where you work. If you want to check private messages, take a break and do it in your private space.

Taking break, in fact, is quite important to make your work from home effective, according to Bain & Company.

“Reward yourself and give yourself breaks “breaks are critical to recharge batteries, they can be small (e.g., 5 minutes of checking social media) or longer (e.g., full 45 min lunch break),” it said.

At the same time, it is important not to engage in any household tasks/ chores while on worktime.

To get the maximum out of you time, structure your day along key tasks/ objectives to achieve and keep track of what has to be done during the day (and week and month) and clearly decide when to do.

Instead of using the whole apartment for work, use one particular room and avoid having meals in front of the workstation.

“If you have a partner also working from home find clear rules for who can use the workplace at which time and where calls can be made from without ‘distracting’ each other,” the company said, adding that getting the right infrastructure and having good connectivity are key to having fruitful working hours at home. (IANS)

Wuhan Study Describes How Body Positioning Can Improve Breathing in Severe COVID-19 Patients Requiring Ventilation

In a new study of patients with severe COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) hospitalized on ventilators, researchers found that lying face down was better for the lungs. The research letter was published online in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

In “Lung Recruitability in SARS—CoV-2 Associated Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome: A Single-Center, Observational Study,” Haibo Qiu, MD, Chun Pan, MD, and co-authors report on a retrospective study of the treatment of 12 patients in Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, China, with severe COVID-19 infection-related acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) who were assisted by mechanical ventilation.  Drs. Qiu and Pan were in charge of the treatment of these patients, who were transferred from other treatment centers to Jinyintan Hospital.

A majority of patients admitted to the ICU with confirmed COVID-19 developed ARDS.

The observational study took place during a six-day period the week of Feb. 18, 2020. “This study is the first description of the behavior of the lungs in patients with severe COVID-19 requiring mechanical ventilation and receiving positive pressure,” said Dr. Qiu, professor, Department of Critical Care Medicine, Zhangda Hospital, School of Medicine, Southeast University, Nanjing, China. “It indicates that some patients do not respond well to high positive pressure and respond better to prone positioning in bed (facing downward).”

The clinicians in Wuhan used an index, the Recruitment-to-Inflation ratio, that measures the response of lungs to pressure (lung recruitability). Members of the research team, Lu Chen, PhD, and Laurent Brochard, PhD, HDR, from the University of Toronto, developed this index prior to this study.

The researchers assessed the effect of body positioning. Prone positioning was performed for 24-hour periods in which patients had persistently low levels of blood oxygenation.  Oxygen flow, lung volume and airway pressure were measured by devices on patients’ ventilators.  Other measurements were taken, including the aeration of their airway passages and calculations were done to measure recruitability.

Seven patients received at least one session of prone positioning. Three patients received both prone positioning and ECMO (life support, replacing the function of heart and lungs). Three patients died.

Patients who did not receive prone positioning had poor lung recruitability, while alternating supine (face upward) and prone positioning was associated with increased lung recruitability.

“It is only a small number of patients, but our study shows that many patients did not re-open their lungs under high positive pressure and may be exposed to more harm than benefit in trying to increase the pressure,” said Chun Pan, MD, also a professor with Zhongda Hospital, School of Medicine, Southeast University.  “By contrast, the lung improves when the patient is in the prone position.  Considering this can be done, it is important for the management of patients with severe COVID-19 requiring mechanical ventilation.”

The team consisted of scientists and clinicians affiliated with four Chinese and two Canadian hospitals, medical schools and universities.

This study was funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China.

Most Americans Say Coronavirus Outbreak Has Impacted Their Lives – More than half have prayed for an end to the virus’s spread

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise and schools, workplaces and public gathering spaces across the United States remain closed, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that the coronavirus outbreak is having profound impacts on the personal lives of Americans in a variety of ways. Nearly nine-in-ten U.S. adults say their life has changed at least a little as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, including 44% who say their life has changed in a major way.

Amid widespread calls from experts for Americans to socially distance from one another to avoid spreading the virus, what recently seemed like mundane daily activities now elicit concerns from large swaths of the population. About nine-in-ten U.S. adults (91%) say that, given the current situation, they would feel uncomfortable attending a crowded party. Roughly three-quarters (77%) would not want to eat out at a restaurant. In the midst of a presidential election year, about two-thirds (66%) say they wouldn’t feel comfortable going to a polling place to vote. And smaller but still substantial shares express discomfort even with going to the grocery store (42%) or visiting with a close friend or family member in their home (38%).

How are people adapting their behavior in light of the outbreak? Four-in-ten working-age adults ages 18 to 64 report having worked from home because of coronavirus concerns – a figure that rises to a majority among working-age adults with college degrees and upper-income earners. Still, despite current circumstances, about two-thirds of adults with children under 12 at home say it’s been at least somewhat easy for them to handle child care responsibilities.

The virus also has impacted Americans’ religious behaviors. More than half of all U.S. adults (55%) say they have prayed for an end to the spread of coronavirus. Large majorities of Americans who pray daily (86%) and of U.S. Christians (73%) have taken to prayer during the outbreak – but so have some who say they seldom or never pray and people who say they do not belong to any religion (15% and 24%, respectively).

Among U.S. adults who said in an earlier survey they attend religious services at least once or twice a month, most (59%) now say they have scaled back their attendance because of the coronavirus – in many cases, presumably because churches and other houses of worship have canceled services. But this does not mean they have disengaged from collective worship entirely: A similar share (57%) reports having watched religious services online or on TV instead of attending in person. Together, four-in-ten regular worshippers appear to have replaced in-person attendance with virtual worship (saying that they have been attending less often but watching online instead).

These are among the findings of a Pew Research Center survey of 11,537 U.S. adults conducted March 19-24, 2020, using the Center’s American Trends Panel.1 Other key findings from the survey include:

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they feel comfortable proceeding with a variety of activities despite the coronavirus outbreak. For example, 68% of Republicans and people who lean toward the GOP say they would be comfortable visiting with a close friend or family member at their home, compared with 55% of Democrats and Democratic leaners. Along these same lines, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say their lives have changed in a major way as a result of the virus, and that they have been feeling psychological distress.

Compared with older Americans, young adults are more likely to say they are comfortable going to a crowded party, a restaurant or a small gathering with close family or friends. Still, most adults under 30 say they are uncomfortable eating out at a restaurant (73%) or going to a crowded party (87%). Young adults are more likely than their elders to say they have used a food delivery service due to the outbreak.

Concerns about public activities and changes to personal lives have been felt more acutely in states with higher numbers of COVID-19 cases. For instance, 51% of those living in highly impacted states say their lives have changed in a major way, compared with 40% of those in states with the lowest numbers of cases.

Most Americans say their personal life has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak

Nearly nine-in-ten U.S. adults say their personal life has changed at least a little bit as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, with 44% saying their life has changed in a major way. Just 12% say their life has stayed about the same as it was before the outbreak.

Women (47%) are more likely than men (41%) to say their personal life has changed in a major way as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. And while more than four-in-ten white (45%) and Hispanic (47%) adults say this has changed their lives significantly, about a third of black adults (34%) say the same.

Income and education are also linked to assessments of the personal impact of the coronavirus outbreak. More than half of those with higher incomes (54%) say this has changed their life in a major way, compared with 44% of those with middle incomes and 39% of those with lower incomes.2

Similarly, 61% of those with postgraduate degrees, and a narrower majority of those with bachelor’s degrees (54%), say the coronavirus outbreak has changed their life in a major way. By comparison, 43% of those with some college and about a third of those with a high school diploma or less education (35%) say this has happened to them. Across income groups, those with at least a bachelor’s degree are more likely than those with less education to say the coronavirus outbreak has changed their life in a major way.

Across age groups, similar shares say the coronavirus outbreak has had a major impact on their personal life. For example, 43% of adults younger than 30 say the outbreak has changed their life in a major way, as do 45% of those ages 65 and older.

Not surprisingly, those in states with a high number of coronavirus cases are more likely than those in states that haven’t been as affected to say their personal life has changed in a major way because of the outbreak. About half of those who live in states with a high number of cases (51%) say their life has changed in a major way, compared with 43% of those in states with a medium number of cases and 40% of those in states with a low number of cases.3

Among the 33% of Americans who say they or someone in their household has either lost a job or took a pay cut because of the coronavirus outbreak, 54% say their personal life has changed in a major way as a result of the outbreak. This compares with 39% of those who say they have not experienced either of these situations.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say their personal life has changed in a major way as a result of the coronavirus outbreak: About half of Democrats and Democratic leaners (51%) say this, compared with 38% of Republicans and those who lean to the GOP.

These partisan differences remain even after accounting for the fact that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to live in states with a high number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. About a third of Democrats (34%) live in these states, compared with 22% of Republicans. More than half of Democrats in states with a high number of cases (57%) say their life has changed in a major way, compared with 42% of Republicans in states with a high number of cases. Similarly, in states with a medium or low number of cases, Democrats are more likely than their Republican counterparts to say the coronavirus outbreak has impacted their life in a major way.

More than three-quarters of Americans say they are not comfortable eating out in a restaurant given the current situation with coronavirus

About six-in-ten Americans say they would feel comfortable visiting with close friends and family members at their home (62%) and going to the grocery store (57%), given the current coronavirus outbreak. Roughly four-in-ten say they would not be comfortable doing these things (38% and 42%, respectively). Far fewer express comfort in going to a polling place to vote (33%) or eating out in a restaurant (22%), and only about one-in-ten (9%) say they would feel comfortable attending a crowded party.

There are some notable demographic differences in what Americans are comfortable doing during the current outbreak. In particular, younger adults are more likely than older Americans to express comfort with leaving their homes for various reasons. Across all age groups, majorities of Americans say they are uncomfortable eating out in a restaurant; still, about one-quarter of young adults ages 18 to 29 (27%) say they would be comfortable doing this, compared with just 16% of Americans 65 and older. Younger Americans are also more likely to feel comfortable visiting with family and friends: 68% of adults younger than 30 say they’d be comfortable doing this, compared with 60% of Americans ages 30 to 49, 64% of adults ages 50 to 64 and 56% of those 65 and older.

Across a variety of measures, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they are comfortable continuing with regular activities. Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats to say they are comfortable going to a grocery store and visiting friends and are far more likely than Democrats to say they are comfortable eating in a restaurant.

Roughly seven-in-ten Republicans (68%) say they are comfortable visiting with a close friend or family member at their home, while 32% say they would be uncomfortable. Democrats are more divided: 55% say they would be comfortable doing this while 45% say they would not be comfortable.

When it comes to Americans’ comfort with visiting with those close to them, partisan differences remain even after accounting for the fact that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to live in states with a high number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. About two-thirds of Republicans in states with a high number of cases (65%) say they would be comfortable visiting with close family and friends, compared with 50% of Democrats in these states. Similarly, in states with a medium or low number of cases, Republicans are more likely than their Democratic counterparts to say they are comfortable visiting with family and friends.

Overall, Americans living in suburban and rural areas are more likely than those living in urban communities to feel comfortable visiting with close friends and relatives. However, Americans living in urban areas are divided depending on how many confirmed cases of COVID-19 are in their state. Those living in urban areas in states with a high number of cases are the least likely to feel comfortable visiting with others (47%) while urban dwellers in states with a medium (56%) or low (67%) number of cases are more likely to feel comfortable going out to visit friends. These differences are not as stark in suburban areas, and there is no difference in comfort with visiting others among Americans in rural communities, regardless of the number of cases in the state.

About one-in-five adults say they have used a food delivery service because of the coronavirus outbreak. Amid recommendations for social distancing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, about one-in-five adults (21%) say they have used a food delivery service instead of going to a restaurant or grocery store as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Adults younger than 30 are particularly likely to say they have used a food delivery service because of the coronavirus outbreak: Three-in-ten in this group say they have done this. A quarter of adults ages 30 to 49 also say they have used a food delivery service because of the coronavirus outbreak, while smaller shares of those ages 50 to 64 (15%) and those 65 and older (14%) say the same.

Hispanic adults (26%) are more likely than white (19%) and black (20%) adults to have used a food delivery service instead of going to a restaurant or grocery store as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. And while about a quarter of women (23%) say they have done this, about one-in-five men (19%) say the same. There are no notable differences by educational attainment, income, or whether people live in states with a high, medium or low number of coronavirus cases.

Most working-age adults with at least a bachelor’s degree have worked from home as a result of the coronavirus outbreak

Four-in-ten working-age adults – those ages 18 to 64 – say they have worked from home as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.4 Men and women in this age group are about equally likely to say they have worked from home.

About three-quarters of working-age adults with a postgraduate degree (73%) say they have worked from home as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, as do 62% of those with a bachelor’s degree. Far smaller shares of working-age adults with some college (35%) or with a high school diploma or less education (22%) say they have worked from home.

Similarly, working-age adults with higher incomes are more likely than those with lower incomes to say they have worked from home because of the coronavirus outbreak: 61% of those in the upper-income tier say they have done this, compared with 41% in the middle-income tier and an even smaller share (27%) of those with lower incomes.

In states with a high number of coronavirus cases, 45% of working-age adults say they have worked from home because of the outbreak; smaller shares in states with a medium or low number of cases say the same (38% each).

Most adults with young children at home say it has been easy for them to handle child care responsibilities

Even as many schools have closed because of the coronavirus outbreak, 65% of adults with children younger than 12 at home say it has been at least somewhat easy for them to handle child care responsibilities during this time, with 32% saying it has been very easy. About a third (35%) say this has been very or somewhat difficult for them.

Gauri and Shah Rukh Khan offer their 4-storey office to BMC for quarantine facilities

Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan has revealed a series of initiatives to help citizens during India’s fight against coronavirus.

In a seven point plan, Khan revealed contributions via his various businesses to multiple funds, an effort to help supply 50,000 items of PPE equipment for health workers, and a pledge to provide daily meals to more than 5,500 families in the city of Mumbai, as well as a kitchen that will make 2,000 daily meals to serve homes and hospitals.

The contribution that B-towners are making to ease the coronavirus crisis reiterates the belief that in trying times, everyone stands together. From contributing financially to the PM and CM’s relief funds to now offering infrastructure, Gauri and Shah Rukh Khan are leading the pack from the front. Their magnanimity has set a precedence of how one can stand united in the times of COVID 19.

Announcing their contribution, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation tweeted, “We thank @iamsrk & @gaurikhan for offering their 4-storey personal office space to help expand our Quarantine capacity equipped with essentials for quarantined children, women & elderly. Indeed a thoughtful & timely gesture!#AnythingForMumbai#NaToCorona

In the past, SRK and Gauri’s companies, KKR, Red Chillies and Meer Foundation provided monetary help as well as food for anyone who needed it.

The actor said on Twitter, “Given the enormity of the task, my team and I discussed ways to contribute in our own modest way. We have come up with a series of initiatives, which we hope will make a small difference.”

The actor praised the efforts of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the fight against COVID-19. The country is currently under an unprecedented lockdown. Cases rose to 1,965 in India on Thursday while the death toll stands at 50.

This crisis is not going to pass in a hurry, it will take its time and its toll on all of us. It will also show us that there isn’t really a choice between looking out for ourselves and looking out for one another. There’s nothing more obvious in the spread of this pandemic, than the fact that each one of us is inextricably connected to each other, without any distinction,” the actor added.

He concluded, “As a nation and as a people, it is our duty to give it all we’ve got. I am going to try my best and I know each one of you will do so too. Only together we will be able to fight through these difficult and unimaginable days.”

Embassy of India Student Hub Advisory [Updated 27 March 2020]

Following the growing cases of COVID-19, US universities have taken measures to shut down on-campus operations and/or move classes online. The Embassy of India/India Student Hub has the following advisory for Indian students who may be impacted by these decisions. Please note that this advisory is based on information available as of 27 March 2020. The WHOCDC, Government of India Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (for India-specific updates), and your universities are the best sources for the latest information in this rapidly evolving situation. Further India Student Hub updates will be issued as needed.
Please read this advisory carefully. For emergencies, continue to contact the 24×7 Consular Emergency helplines at Embassy or Consulates as per your present location. In addition, to help support Indian students during the COVID-19 crisis, the Embassy of India Student Hub has established a non-emergency Peer Support Line. Details for these are given below:
  1. If you are staying on-campus and are asked to vacate, check with your university about retaining on-campus housing. If your petition is not accepted, consult with your university and/or with your network on how to find alternate accommodations;
  2. If your university or program is shutting down on-campus services, check with your university or program on how to avail your university’s health services, student health insurance, international student services, and any other essential service(s) that may be impacted;
  3. The Embassy of India/India Student Hub can provide information on temporary emergency resources. The Embassy has partnered with and is grateful to members of the Indian community who have made these resources available for Indian students in an emergency. During this extraordinary situation created by the pandemic, our commitment remains steadfast to ensure welfare of our students in the best possible manner within available resources and with the support of the US government;
  4. The Embassy of India is in touch with the US government, which is monitoring the implications that this evolving situation may have for international students. Please note:
  • The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (‘SEVP’) has confirmed that international students can temporarily engage in distance-learning, either from within the U.S. or outside the country, in light of COVID-19, without any penalty to their visa status;
  • In addition, for most cases, SEVP noted that the five-month temporary absence rule will not apply for students who remain in Active status. Read the full SEVP guidance here: (https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2020/COVID-19FAQ.pdf);
  • The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides updated information on visa status and CPT/OPT applications/extensions at https://www.ice.gov/covid19.
  • If you, a relative, or a friend were admitted on a visa that may be expiring (and were not admitted as an F-1 student for Duration of Status), you may need to take action to extend the authorized stay. We are given to understand that DHS is currently not in a position to offer a blanket extension of visa cases. However, they are working hard to quickly process urgent requests from individuals. We have been asked to advise Indian nationals whose visa status may be expiring (for any reason) to apply online as early as possible through USCIS. You may direct yourselves/family members to https://www.uscis.gov/visit-united-states/extend-your-stay for specific information regarding extensions of status for individuals who are unable to depart as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Official campus advisories and your Designated Student Official (DSO) and/or program coordinator can also provide more information or clarification on questions relating to F-1/J-1 students or their dependents.

    5. Please avoid all non-essential domestic or international travel, as recommended by the WHO and CDC:

  • For official advisories on domestic travel within the US or internationally, consult the US Department of State , US Transportation and Security Administration, and the relevant local and state government websites;
  • Kindly note that India has suspended all scheduled international commercial passenger flights until 1830 hrs GMT on 14 April 2020. In addition, all domestic passenger flights within India are also suspended until 14 April 2020. This action has been taken in the interest of public health and safety of all Indian citizens. The latest Government of India travel advisories can be found at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare website: https://www.mohfw.gov.in/;
  • Remain in contact with your DSO for information on any possible impact international travel may have on your F-1 or J-1 status.
We again request you to avoid travel for two reasons:
a. to protect you from exposure to COVID-19, and
b. to prevent you from being a source of transmission to other people/communities.
We will update the information as soon as commercial flights to India resume. Meanwhile, if you need any support, please do reach out to us using the information below.

6. Please practice social distancing (staying at home as much as possible, except to access essential services) and maintain a distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people to minimise the transmission of COVID-19. If you have flu-like symptoms, please self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days. Consult the WHO and CDC websites for further information about the disease, preventative measures, and what to do if you experience any symptoms.

This is an unprecedented situation, but we can successfully manage it by making decisions with a calm mind. Please take prudent health precautions and carefully review information and travel advisories.
To receive the latest Embassy of India Student Hub advisory(s), register here:
Contact Information
For peer support and advice, contact the India Student Hub’s COVID-19 Peer Support Line at (414)-404-6342 or (414)-40-INDIA (11 AM – 5 PM EDT daily), or by email at: [email protected]
For emergency consular services by jurisdiction, please visit:
Residents of Bermuda, Delaware, District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia
Tel: 202-213-1364 and 202-262-0375
Residents of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virgin Islands
Tel: 404-910-7919 and 404-924-9876
Residents of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin
Tel: 312-687-3642 and 312-468- 3276
Residents of Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Nebraska
Tel: 713-626-2149
Residents of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont
Reach out through PRAMIT available on our website: https://pramit.indiainnewyork.gov.in/
Tel: 212-774-0607/347-721-9243
Residents of Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming
Tel: 415 483 6629
Best Regards,

शम्भु हक्की
Shambhu Hakki
प्रथम सचिव (प्रैस, सूचना तथा संस्कृति)
First Secretary (Press, Information & Culture) & Political
भारतीय राजदूतावास, वॉशिंग्टन डीसी
Embassy of India, Washington D.C.
फ़ोन/Phone: 202 939 7041
ईमेल/Email : [email protected]

$2 Trillion Relief Bill as U.S. Becomes Coronavirus Epicenter

President Trump on Friday signed into law the largest economic stimulus package in modern American history, backing a $2 trillion measure designed to respond to the coronavirus, COVID 19 pandemic while the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpassed 100,000.

Under the law, the government will deliver direct payments and jobless benefits for individuals, money for states and a huge bailout fund for businesses battered by the crisis. The legislation will send direct payments of $1,200 to millions of Americans, including those earning up to $75,000, and an additional $500 per child. It will substantially expand jobless aid, providing an additional 13 weeks and a four-month enhancement of benefits, and for the first time will extend the payments to freelancers and gig workers.The deadly disease broke the longest bull-market in history and caused 3.3 million Americans to lose their jobs last week.

$2 Trillion Relief Bill as U.S. Becomes Coronavirus EpicenterTrump signed the measure in the Oval Office hours after the House approved it by voice vote and less than two days after the Senate unanimously passed it.  “We’re so pleased to be able to have passed on the floor—practically unanimously—this important bill, CARES. And we want to demonstrate that we do care for the American people in every way,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Ca.) said after the bill was passed by voice vote.

While majority support for the measure didn’t appear threatened, House members are currently scattered across the country and with domestic air travel schedules slashed due to plummeting demand. This was the logistical and procedural obstacle that Pelosi had hoped to avoid.

The U.S. is now the global center of the coronavirus outbreak, with the more than 100,000 American diagnoses passing the number of cases in China. The disease’s devastating spread in the U.S. and the economic toll that countermeasures to contain it have wrought led Pelosi to begin on Thursday to talk about the contents of another aid bill that would come after the one the House is currently working to pass.

The measure will also offer $377 billion in federally guaranteed loans to small businesses and establish a $500 billion government lending program for distressed companies reeling from the crisis, including allowing the administration the ability to take equity stakes in airlines that received aid to help compensate taxpayers. It will also send $100 billion to hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic.

The law was the product of days of talks between members of Mr. Trump’s administration and Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress. And even before Mr. Trump held a bill signing on Friday afternoon, congressional leaders said they expected to negotiate more legislative responses to the pandemic in the coming months.

Pelosi said in an interview Thursday that in the next recovery package, she wants to go above and beyond the current bill’s level of direct cash payments to Americans. The bill passed by the Senate provides for $1,200 per taxpayer and $500 per child.

“We do want to see more direct payments” to Americans, Pelosi said on Bloomberg TV Thursday afternoon. “We had much higher direct payments in our House bill, and we would hope to see that we could do that again.” Family and medical leave and workplace safety would also be a focus for the House in the next aid bill, she said.

For an update on the fast growing pandemic, please visit: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports

U.S. Public Sees Multiple Threats From the Coronavirus – and Concerns Are Growing

Majorities express confidence in CDC and state and local officials – From Pew Research Center

As coronavirus cases increase across the United States and federal and state governments scramble to address the crisis, 70% of Americans say the COVID-19 outbreak poses a major threat to the nation’s economy and 47% say it is a major threat to the overall health of the U.S. population.

So far, Americans are less concerned about how the new coronavirus is affecting their health, finances and local communities. Still, 27% say the coronavirus is a major threat to their personal health, while 51% say it is a minor threat. Only 22% says it does not threaten their personal health.

Underscoring the rapidly changing nature of this crisis, the shares of Americans who say the COVID-19 outbreak is a major threat to the economy and other aspects of life increased substantially over the past week. For example, in interviews conducted March 10-11, 42% of the public said the coronavirus was a major threat to the health of the U.S. population; in interviews conducted March 14-16, 55% say it is a major threat to the nation’s overall health.

The national survey by Pew Research Center – conducted March 10-16 among 8,914 adults using the Center’s American Trends Panel, in conjunction with the Center’s Election News Pathways project – finds widespread public confidence that public health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local government officials are doing a good job in responding to the coronavirus outbreak.

More than eight-in-ten (83%) say they are very or somewhat confident that CDC officials are doing a good job, including 40% who are very confident. Most (73%) also say they are confident in state and local government officials.

The public is less confident in how President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are responding to the crisis: Fewer than half are very or somewhat confident that Trump (45%) and Pence (48%) are doing a good job responding to the crisis.

Here are the other major findings from the new survey:

News media’s response to coronavirus outbreak. An Election News Pathways report out today finds that Americans are closely following news about the coronavirus outbreak, and they give the news media fairly high marks for their coverage: 70% say the news media are doing very or somewhat well covering the story. And misinformation is also part of the story: 48% of Americans report having seen at least some news they thought was made up about the virus.

Strongly partisan reactions to the government’s response to COVID-19 outbreak. Partisanship is evident in the public’s views of most national problems, and so far, the coronavirus outbreak is no exception. Perhaps the most striking example of this: 59% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say the outbreak is a major threat to the health of the U.S. population as a whole; only 33% of Republicans and Republican leaners say the same.

Trump viewed as minimizing coronavirus risks; news media seen as exaggerating them. Reflecting the public’s modest level of confidence in Trump’s response to the outbreak, 52% say he has not taken the risks from the coronavirus outbreak seriously enough, while 37% say he has gotten the risks about right; 10% say he has exaggerated the risks. By contrast, a majority of adults (62%) say the news media have exaggerated risks from the outbreak.

Financial toll from coronavirus. Among those who are currently employed, only 36% say they would continue to get paid if they were unable to work for two weeks or more because of the coronavirus. Another 21% say they could still meet basic expenses, even if they did not get paid during the crisis. A third of Americans say they would not get paid and that it would be difficult to keep up with expenses. Among adults with family incomes of less than $50,000, about half (49%) say they would struggle with day-to-day expenses.

Has the coronavirus been exaggerated – or not taken seriously enough?

Americans generally say that the public health officials at the CDC have gotten the risks of the coronavirus about right. But far fewer say that about the news media, Donald Trump and congressional Democrats.

A majority (63%) says public health officials at the CDC have gotten the risks for the coronavirus about right. Relatively few say they have exaggerated the risks (21%) or not taken them seriously enough (15%).

By contrast, a majority (62%) says the news media have exaggerated the risks from the coronavirus outbreak. Just 30% say they have handled the risks appropriately, and 8% say they have not taken the risks seriously enough.

Critiques of Trump’s response run in the opposite direction. About half (52%) say either that Trump has not taken the risks seriously enough (23%) or that he hasn’t taken them seriously at all (29%); 37% say he’s gotten the risks about right.

When it comes to Democratic leaders in Congress, about as many say they have exaggerated the risks (40%) as say they have gotten them about right (38%); 19% say they haven’t taken the risks seriously enough.

Views of how Trump, Democratic leaders and the news media have responded to the risks of the coronavirus are highly partisan. However, there is bipartisan agreement that officials at the CDC have responded appropriately: 64% of Democrats and Democratic leaners and 63% of Republicans and Republican leaners say CDC officials have gotten the risks of the coronavirus about right.

Roughly three-quarters of Republicans (76%) say the news media have exaggerated the risks of the coronavirus, including 53% who say they have greatly exaggerated them. While Democrats are less likely than Republicans to say this, many do criticize the news media in this regard: 49% of Democrats believe the media have exaggerated the coronavirus risks, compared with 41% who think they’ve gotten them about right.

Partisans are far apart in how they assess Trump’s response to the coronavirus. Nearly eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic leaners (79%) think the president has not taken the risks seriously enough, including 50% who say he hasn’t taken the risks seriously at all. Among Republicans and Republican leaners, 68% think he’s gotten the risks about right, compared with far fewer (22%) who say he hasn’t taken them seriously enough.

A narrow majority of Democrats (56%) say their party’s leaders in Congress have gotten the risks of the virus about right; the remainder of Democrats are about evenly split between saying their leaders have exaggerated the risks (23%) and saying they haven’t taken them seriously enough (20%). Most Republicans (60%) criticize Democratic leaders in Congress for exaggerating the risks of the coronavirus, while 20% say they’ve gotten the risks about right and 18% say they haven’t taken them seriously enough.

Coronavirus threat perceptions rose over survey field period

Information about the coronavirus outbreak and guidance from federal, state and local officials evolved over the survey’s seven-day field period, and public concern about the threat posed by the virus was higher at the end of the survey than at the beginning.

For instance, in the first two days of the survey field period (March 10-11), 42% said the new coronavirus outbreak was a major threat to the health of the U.S. population. In the final three days of the survey field period, this share had risen to 55%.

This increase in the perceived threat posed by the coronavirus over time was seen across the four other areas of concern measured in the survey.

Bipartisan confidence in CDC, state and local officials

Republicans have much more confidence than Democrats in Trump and Pence to respond to the coronavirus, but majorities of both partisan groups say they are confident in CDC health officials and their state and local officials to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

A large share of Republicans and Republican leaners (87%) say they either are very (48%) or somewhat (39%) confident in public health officials at the CDC to do a good job responding to the coronavirus. Most Democrats and Democratic leaners (80%) also say they are confident in CDC officials, though fewer (33%) are very confident.

Similarly, 75% of Republicans and 72% of Democrats say they are at least somewhat confident that their state and local officials are doing a good job responding to the coronavirus outbreak.

Republicans are broadly confident that Trump and Pence are doing a good job responding to the coronavirus, while large shares of Democrats lack confidence in them to do this.

About eight-in-ten Republicans (82%) say they are very or somewhat confident in Trump to do a good job responding to the coronavirus; nearly as many (77%) say the same about Pence. By contrast, 87% of Democrats say they are not too (20%) or not at all (67%) confident in Trump to do a good job responding to the coronavirus; a slightly smaller majority (77%) say they are not too (30%) or not at all (47%) confident in Pence.

Fewer Republicans than Democrats see ‘major’ threats from coronavirus

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to describe the coronavirus as a major threat across all five areas of concern tested in the survey.

Most notably, Democrats and Democratic leaners are 26 percentage points more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say that the virus presents a major threat to the U.S. population as a whole (59% vs. 33%).

And while majorities in both parties say the coronavirus outbreak is a major threat to the U.S. economy, Democrats (77%) are more likely than Republicans (62%) to say this.

Democrats are also somewhat more likely than Republicans to say the coronavirus is a major threat to day-to-day life in their community, their personal financial situation and their personal health.

How an extended job absence would impact workers

Missing work for an extended period because of the coronavirus would hurt lower-income, less highly educated, younger and nonwhite workers more than others in the labor force.

Overall, just over half of employed people (54%) say they would not get paid if the coronavirus caused them to miss work for at least two weeks. The larger share of this group (33% of all employed people) say it would be difficult for them to keep up with their basic expenses while out of work and not being paid; 21% of workers say they would not get paid but would still be able to keep up with expenses.

Just more than a third of employed people (36%) say they would still get paid if they could not work for at least two weeks because of the coronavirus; 10% say they aren’t sure what would happen.

Nearly seven-in-ten employed people with family incomes of less than $30,000 a year (68%) say they would not get paid if they had to miss work for two weeks because of the coronavirus, including 52% who say they’d have trouble keeping up with expenses during this time. Smaller shares of employed people with higher annual incomes say this. For instance, just 11% of those earning $100,000 a year or more say they would not get paid and would have trouble meeting expenses if they were out of work for at least two weeks because of the virus; most of this group (61%) say they’d continue to get paid if they could not work.

Black and Hispanic workers are less likely than white workers to say they’d still get paid if they had to miss work for two weeks because of the coronavirus. A majority of Hispanic workers (66%) say they would not get paid if the coronavirus caused them to miss work for two weeks, including 47% who say it would be difficult to meet expenses during this time. Half of black workers say they would not get paid, while another 23% say they aren’t sure what would happen.

The youngest workers surveyed – those ages 18 to 29 – are the age group most likely to say they would not get paid if forced to miss two weeks due to the coronavirus. They also are more likely than other age groups to say they would have trouble meeting basic expenses without income.

Racial, ethnic differences in personal health concerns from coronavirus

Most Americans view the coronavirus as a threat to their own personal health, though far more view it as a minor (51%) than major (27%) threat; 22% say it is not a threat.

The level of personal concern about the virus varies significantly across demographic groups. In particular, older adults, black and Hispanic people, and those with no college experience are especially likely to view the coronavirus as a major threat to their own health.

Majorities of those of all races and ethnicities see the new coronavirus as at least a minor threat to their health. However, 46% of black people and 39% of Hispanics view the coronavirus as a major threat to their own health, compared with 21% of white adults.

Among adults ages 65 and older, 86% say the coronavirus is a threat to their personal health, including 33% who say it’s a major threat. Among adults ages 18 to 29, a smaller majority sees the virus as a personal health threat (72%) and 23% view it as a major threat.

Those who live in urban areas (33%) are somewhat more likely to see the coronavirus as a major threat to their personal health than those living in suburban (25%) or rural (25%) areas.

Across levels of educational attainment, 35% of those with no college experience say the coronavirus is a major threat to their personal health, compared with 26% of those with some college experience, 19% of college graduates and 21% of postgraduates.

There are not major differences in concern over personal health between those who say they are covered by health insurance and those who say they are not.

Close followers of coronavirus news more likely to see major threats

About half of U.S. adults (51%) say they are following news about the coronavirus very closely, while 38% say they are following it fairly closely and just 11% say they are following it not too or not at all closely.

Those most closely following news about the coronavirus are significantly more likely than other groups to say the virus poses a major threat in all five areas of concern tested in the survey.

For instance, 78% of those following news very closely say the coronavirus outbreak is a major threat to the U.S. economy, compared with 65% of those following news fairly closely and just 46% of the relatively small share of the public that’s following the news not too or not at all closely. This pattern is consistent across the other areas of concern measured in the survey.

These measures and more can be explored further in the Election News Pathways data tool, where all of the data associated with this project is available for public use.

AAPI Launches Fund Raising For “DONATE A MASK” – Regular Teleconferences by AAPI to Educate and Share Information on COVID 19

Responding to the national/world-wide shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment, even as several healthcare professionals, including physicians and nurses, who are in the forefront diagnosing and treating patients, have been diagnosed with COVID-19,  American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, has launched a Fund Raising to support their fellow professionals, providing them with Masks that are so vital to prevent them from getting transmitted with this deadly virus.

Due to production and distribution delays in China, where most personal protective equipment, or PPE, is manufactured, healthcare facilities are experiencing shortages of much needed Masks and PPEs.

During a Teleconference organized by AAPI, and attended by hundreds of physicians on Saturday, March 21st, Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI, said, “As we are not prepared well, our frontline soldiers (physicians) are working under suboptimal conditions with severe shortage of GS masks and other protective gear. As a result, some of the foot soldiers (front line physicians) have succumbed to this deadly virus. To protect our fraternity, we have established a donation box on AAPI website under the banner “DONATE  a MASK.”

A Task Force consisting of Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President-Elect of AAPI, Dr. Sajani Shah, Chairwoman-Elect of AAPI’s BOD, and Dr. Ami Baxi, has been constituted to identify the hospitals and sending the supply of Masks/PPE directly.

During the COVID-19 national emergency, which also constitutes a nationwide public health emergency, covered health care providers subject to the HIPAA Rules may seek to communicate with patients, and provide telehealth services, through remote communications technologies.  Some of these technologies, and the manner in which they are used by HIPAA covered health care providers, may not fully comply with the requirements of the HIPAA Rules.

Dr. Stella Gandhi, President of YPS, updated the members on the conference call on Telemedicine, which has become more prevalent in the past five years in the US.

Quoting the Notification from the Federal Government on Enforcement Discretion for telehealth remote communications during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency, Dr. Gandhi said, “A covered health care provider that wants to use audio or video communication technology to provide telehealth to patients during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency can use any non-public facing remote communication product that is available to communicate with patients.  OCR is exercising its enforcement discretion to not impose penalties for noncompliance with the HIPAA Rules in connection with the good faith provision of telehealth using such non-public facing audio or video communication products during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.  This exercise of discretion applies to telehealth provided for any reason, regardless of whether the telehealth service is related to the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions related to COVID-19.”

Dr. Soumya Reddy Neravetla, Cardiovascular/Thoracic Surgery, through a chart for providers that has a diagnostic code for each type of services one could provide to patients via telehealth, offered an overview of the set up options for physicians who are new to telemedicine.  “You can use your tablet or smartphone for the telemedicine software/video call with the patient next to a computer that you are logged on to for regular EMR. Thus allowing documentation/chart review simultaneous. We are working with Cure Companion to provide discounted easy to use options for our members,” she said.

Dr. Hetal Gor, specialized in OBGYN, educated the participants on how the data on people with symptoms keeps changing everyday. She said, Pregnant women are more at risk for Covid infection and it could possibly impact the newborn and breast feeding by these mothers could adversely impact the newborn.

Dr. Arunachalam Einstein provided an update on identifying Covid Infection, various symptoms, including diarrhea to respiratory. He advocated for adequate precaution while caring for patients with such symptoms as a way of staying off this virus. He stressed the need for close monitoring of such patients after discharging these patients by Tele Nurses for any symptoms and follow up after discharge.

Dr. Kusum Punjabi, who is specialized in Emergency Medicine and works in New Jersey, gave an overview of the fast changing data on prevalence of people diagnosed with COVID 19. She said, corona-virus and Influence can co-exist in each patient. With rapid increases of people diagnosed with symptoms, an alarming phase doubling every day, hospital in her state have set up tents outside of the hospital for triaging patients prior to admitting them depending on the need.

Describing the current times and circumstances and as “an extra ordinary and unprecedented time and that never before in the modern history have we have experienced this kind of health-related calamity,” Dr. Reddy said, “Covid -19 also called Corona Virus disease is playing havoc on our streets and isolating family members at home. The results are catastrophic. We don’t have vaccines or anti-viral agents to effectively treat the patients with this strange disease. In the next four weeks, we will have a lot more Americans helplessly dying due to this “rakshas” virus. Now even young people in their 20s are dying from this viral disease. This is a global war on this “rakshas” virus.  We request all the members to donate generously to fight this ferocious virus, which has put basic existence of entire human race at stake.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Suresh Reddy has announced that AAPI has launched a Help Desk Button on AAPI’s website, and AAPI has started a Covid Advisory Committee for the community under the leadership of Dr. Jayesh Shah, past President of AAPI.

·         AAPI has also decided to have Teleconference regularly to discus, educate and share information on Corona Viryus related topics, Dr. Anumama, Gotimukula, Vice President of AAPI anounced. The next conference will be on Wednesday, March 25th with the following speakers:

1. Pulmonary/ Critical care- Dr. Kalpalatha Guntupalli, Chief of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine Section

2. Cardiology: Dr. Brahma Sharma, Cardiologist, Faculty, UPMC ,Pittsburg

3. Anesthesiology : Dr. Kumar Belani ,
Professor, Chief of Pediatric Anesthesiology, Univ of MInnesota

4. Dr. Krishan Kumar, Pediatric Emergency Medicine , New York-Presbyterian Queens Hospital
5. Dr. Deeptha Nedunchezian, Infectios Disease, New York

Moderator- Dr. Lokesh Edara; Followed by Q& A session.

For more information, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

 

Want to Know More About COVID-19?

 

·         The pandemic that’s spread to nearly every country in the world is picking up pace, with global cases edging close to 400,000 and deaths soared past 16,000. And here’s how. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), while it took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus, it took only 11 days for the second 100,000 cases, and just 4 days for the third 100,000 cases.

·         And while asking people to stay at home and other physical-distancing measures were an important way of slowing down the spread of the virus, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described them as “defensive measures that will not help us to win”. On the contrary, testing every suspected case, isolating and caring for every confirmed case, and chasing and quarantining every close contact, is the way to go.

·         However, the outbreak could overwhelm health systems around the world in just a few weeks. Think intensive care units, doctors and nurses utterly exhausted. World health officials estimate more than 26 million healthcare workers may end up treating Covid-19 patients.

·         The need of the hour is ramping up production of personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses and to avoid placing export bans on the life-saving gear. Note: If we don’t prioritise protecting health workers, many people will die because the health worker who could have saved their lives is sick.

·         The WHO said the success in controlling the pandemic will depend on “densely populated countries” like India. Michael J Ryan, executive director of the WHO, however, expressed confidence in India’s ability to step up. “India led the world in eradicating two pandemics, small-pox and polio so India has a tremendous capacity,” he said.

  • A revelation: Nearly 1 out of every three people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in China was an asymptomatic carrier of the virus — “silent carriers” who show no symptom of the disease such as fever or cough — classified Chinese government documents show, reports South China Morning Post. More than 43,000 people in China had tested positive for Covid-19 by the end of February but had no immediate symptoms, SCMP reports. China, against WHO’s norm, did not count these positive cases in the official tally at the time — around 80,000. They were, however, quarantined. China’s doesn’t appear to be a lone case. Research by a group of Japanese scientists led by Hiroshi Nishiura, an epidemiologist at Hokkaido University, has found that nearly 30.8% who tested positive after evacuation from Wuhan were asymptomatic. In South Korea, where wide-scale testing (nearly 300,000) was conducted, 20% of positive cases were asymptomatic.
  • Why it matters? Most other nations, including India, do not test asymptomatic carriers unless they have been in contact with a confirmed case. After all, that they do not exhibit “sickness” means they slip under the radar. The WHO had said transmission of virus through asymptomatic carriers was “extremely rare”. But data from China and South Korea suggest, by ignoring asymptomatic carriers, the world may only have a tunnel vision of the pandemic. Note: Since carriers themselves wouldn’t know they are infected, only extensive testing of the population would bring such cases under the light.
  • But they could transmit the virus. That these “silent carriers” do not show symptoms such as coughing does reduce the chances of transmission. But it is not fool-proof, Ho Pak-leung, a professor with the microbiology department of the University of Hong Kong, tells SCMP. “Of course it is hard to say if they may be less infectious if they don’t cough. But there are also droplets when you speak,” he said. Another joint study by specialists from Columbia University, the University of Hong Kong, Imperial College London, Tsinghua University, and the University of California had earlier reported that an estimated 86% of infections in China before January 23 — when Beijing finally locked down Wuhan — were not documented.

The dollar is on a tear. Here’s why that’s troubling

Even though the novel coronavirus has the United States essentially in lockdown mode, the American dollar continues to be viewed as the world’s safest and most stable currency.

The value of the greenback is surging, up more than 7% against a basket of other currencies — such as the euro, British pound and Swiss franc — since hitting the lowest point of 2020 on March 9.

But this strong demand from other countries around the world has created a liquidity crunch — essentially a dollar shortage. There are worries that this could further disrupt global financial markets.

“This collapse in global activity leaves a lot of people with US dollar liabilities to finance, and not enough dollars coming in to do it,” said Kit Juckes, a strategist at Societe Generale, in a report.

“It doesn’t matter that they don’t owe these dollars to Americans…what matters is that they need dollars and need them now,” Juckes added.

That appears to be the main rationale behind moves from the Federal Reserve to roll out new dollar loans (known as swap lines) with five major central banks on Sunday and an expansion of the program with nine other central banks on Thursday.

The Fed announced further plans Friday to step up the frequency of dollar swaps with The Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank.

The arrangements will now be daily — as opposed to just weekly — starting Monday and will last until at least the end of April.

“Any stress in wholesale funding markets is getting noticed, and anything done to address it matters. Expanding the swap lines to more countries could continue to improve currency funding constraints,” said Lauren Goodwin, economist and multi-asset portfolio strategist at New York Life Investments, in a report.

The resurgent dollar may create another big problem for giant US multinational companies that are already staring to struggle from lower demand abroad as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A strong dollar makes US exports more expensive — and therefore less competitive — than foreign made goods.

Benefits to a strong dollar as well

Still, the demand for the dollar is also a good psychological sign.

It shows that investors around the globe are still in confident in America’s status is the world’s leading economy and the dollar as a reserve currency for the world.

“The dollar is rallying because it is a safe haven currency. And that has some benefits,” said Brent Schutte, chief investment strategist at Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company.

With that in mind, Schutte said investors should not worry about what the dollar will do to corporate profits. A stronger dollar also makes imported goods cheaper for American consumers.

“The US is still the number one economic power on the planet. There is a reason that the dollar and Treasury bonds are considered the healthiest in the world. This is unavoidable and in the long run it is not harmful,” said Ric Edelman, founder of Edelman Financial Engines, a company that provides advice for 401(k) plans.

Still, some experts question if the dollar can rally much further from these levels.

It might be time for the dollar to give back some of its gains — especially as other countries begin to realize that they need to prop up their own currencies.

“The main risk for the dollar is G7 currency intervention. With the rise in the greenback driving many currencies to multi-year lows, central banks from Brazil to Norway have rushed to prevent further losses,” said Kathy Lien, managing director of FX strategy at BK Asset Management, in a report.

“There’s a very good chance that coordinated action on a global scale will be next. If they come into the market, it will be to sell dollars, not buy them,” Lien added.

U.S. economy deteriorating faster than anticipated as 80 million Americans are forced to stay at home

Economic decline will be sharper and more painful than during the 2008 financial crisis

The U.S. economy is deteriorating more quickly than was expected just days ago as extraordinary measures designed to curb the coronavirus keep 84 million Americans penned in their homes and cause the near-total shutdown of most businesses.

In a single 24-hour period, governors of three of the largest states — California, New York and Illinois — ordered residents to stay home except to buy food and medicine, while the governor of Pennsylvania ordered the closure of nonessential businesses. Across the globe, health officials are struggling to cope with the growing number of patients, with the World Health Organization noting that while it required three months to reach 100,000 cases, it took only 12 days to hit another 100,000.

The resulting economic meltdown, which is sending several million workers streaming into the unemployment line, is outpacing the federal government’s efforts to respond. As the Senate on Friday raced to complete work on a financial rescue package, the White House and key lawmakers were dramatically expanding its scope, pushing the legislation far beyond the original $1 trillion price tag.

With each day, an unprecedented stoppage gathers force as restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and offices close to shield themselves from the disease. Already, it is clear that the initial economic decline will be sharper and more painful than during the 2008 financial crisis.

Next week, the Labor Department will likely report that roughly 3 million Americans have filed first-time claims for unemployment assistance, more than four times the record high set in the depths of the 1982 recession, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. That is just the start of a surge that could send the jobless rate spiking to 20 percent from today’s 3.5 percent, a JPMorgan Chase economist told clients on a conference call Friday.

Estimates of the pandemic’s overall cost are staggering. Bridgewater Associates, a hedge fund manager, says the economy will shrink over the next three months at an annual rate of 30 percent. Goldman Sachs pegs the drop at 24 percent. JPMorgan Chase says 14 percent.

“We are looking at something quite grave,” said economist Janet L. Yellen, the former Federal Reserve chair. “If businesses suffer such serious losses and are forced to fire workers and have their firms go into bankruptcy, it may not be easy to pull out of that.”

As layoffs skyrocket, the holes in America’s safety net are becoming apparent

Little more than seven months before the presidential election, President Trump already is looking past the crisis and promising a swift recovery. “We’re going to be a rocket ship as soon as this thing gets solved,” he said Thursday. “… We think it’s going to come back really fast.”

Most economists expect the economy to begin climbing out of its deep hole in the second half of this year. But those forecasts depend upon the pandemic being brought under control and the United States and other governments enacting policies that prevent lasting harm to factories and financial arteries. Even if all that happens, the economy will be smaller at the end of this year than it was at the beginning, according to Bridgewater, Goldman and JPMorgan.

The truth is no one knows what will happen months from now. No one on Wall Street or in Washington has any experience dealing with the kind of complex threat that has suddenly materialized to upend American life — a global health scare that is strangling the economy and disrupting financial markets.

Americans are very likely to get $1,200 checks. Here’s what you need to know.

Individual workers and their families — many only recently recovered from the economic cataclysm of 2008 and 2009 — are already feeling the effects. The unexpected economic shock has put millions of Americans living on the precipice of ruin. In a Fed survey last year, 39 percent of Americans said they would be unable to handle an unexpected $400 expense.

Lyndsy Hartmann knew something was wrong last weekend when she went to her job at a spa company in Charlottesville. Hartmann, 34, normally handles 150 calls a day from people interested in booking spa treatments and massages. But on Saturday and Sunday, she received a total of six.

AAHOA Advocates for Indian American hoteliers facing devastation seek urgent Congressional help

The Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA)–the largest hotel association in the world—in a call to arms to its nearly 20,000 members, who own almost one in every two hotels in the U.S. with more than $30 billion in property assets and hundreds of thousands of employees, has called on its members to prevail on the U.S. Congress to address their challenges in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic that has devastated their industry.

In a form letter that urged every member to sign on to and send off to their respective Member of Congress and Senators, AAHOA said that “the Coronavirus pandemic is inflicting significant financial strains upon hoteliers across the country” and that “now more than ever, Congress must protect those affected most by the coronavirus.”
It said that “AAHOA is working around the clock to ensure that our lawmakers in Washington, D.C. and state capitals hear America’s hotel owners’ concerns loud and clear.”
The suggested form letter said, “I am a small business owner and a constituent who lives in your district. I am also a member of AAHOA, which represents nearly 20,000 members nationwide, who own nearly 50 percent of all hotels in the United States, and employ nearly 600,000 workers accounting for over $10 billion in annual payroll.”
“As small business owners, our members consistently contribute to the economy through tourism, real estate development, job creation and community investment,” it said, and continued, “The hotel industry is in severe distress and we need your help now!”
The letter said, “As the coronavirus has spread, it has rightfully led to event cancellations and travel restrictions out of concerns for health and safety. As a result, we have seen a dramatic drop-off in guests in every hotel across the country.”
The letter noted, “While we prepare for downturns and unexpected circumstances each year, no business can ever be prepared for a national economic catastrophe like this. The hardest-hit people during this time are our employees and America’s small businesses.”
“Because we have no guests to serve, rooms to clean, shuttles to drive, or meals to prepare, our staff do not have work and I do not have the capital necessary to pay them. Employees’ hours are limited and jobs have unfortunately already been lost. We literally cannot pay our employees and we cannot meet our mortgages. I am terrified that within weeks, I will be forced to close my hotel.”
Thus, it urged their “support of the ideas below in the next stimulus package to help the hotel industry survive this crisis.”
AAHOA’s asks of Congress to allocate $100 billion for the creation of a Hospitality Workforce Relief Fund – create grants to businesses so hoteliers can retain and rehire employees.
It said, “The outlook for the spring and summer travel season is bleak as cancellations pile up. The fund would help employers make payroll, slow rising unemployment, and help keep employees on employer-provided health insurance, lessening the impact on the Unemployment Insurance program.”
It also asks Congress to allocate $50 billion for flexibility in lending and in this regard, “Facilitate forbearance of principal and interest payments on debt during this health crisis, and make federal funds available to owners to cover debt.”
It said, “Small business hotel owners that are facing severe economic circumstances who are able to have debt canceled should not be required to pay taxes on this Cancellation of Debt (COD) income.”
The letter also called for “Access to small business loans” and this included providing hotel owners with zero interest, unsecured loans and loan guarantees from SBA, capping loan sizes at $10 million and allowing forbearance for the first 12 months.”
The letter also requested Congress to ensure hotel owners have immediate access to capital to make their payroll and mortgage payments. “Congress should establish a voluntary liquidity facility program to provide zero-interest loans or loan guarantees to hotel owners. We need the lending process to work much faster in order to provide meaningful help to our businesses,” it said.
Another ask was for Congress to support regulatory flexibility for lenders, which meant the lawmakers support to Eliminate Troubled Debt Restructuring (TDR) status for businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis that pursue workout arrangement with affected business borrowers or to create a separate designation for COVID-19 related loans.”
It pointed out that “a TDR designation remains throughout the life of the loan. A declaration at this point will discourage lenders from finding adequately flexible workout arrangements with lodging industry borrowers.”
The form letter also called for the elimination of administrative burdens for SBA disaster loans, and complained that The Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program is not working.
It said, “The EIDL process requires state governors to request assistance before business owners can apply. Hoteliers need capital now. Although the funds exist, it will take at minimum 4-6 weeks before any hotel owner sees any relief to help make payroll — by then, layoffs will occur and doors may close.”
Meanwhile, in lauding the signing of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law by President Donald Trump on Mar. 19, AAHOA said, “The bill will provide many American workers affected by COVID-19 with paid sick leave, boost food assistance, unemployment insurance, and federal Medicaid funding, and provide free testing for coronavirus for those who need it.”
It predicted that “the passage of this bill will provide much-needed relief to working Americans affected by this pandemic. It also includes important tax credits for small businesses to help offset some of the costs. This bill is a good step towards where we need to be as a country and as an industry.”
A proposed Travel Workforce Stabilization Fund emerged from a meeting March 18 between President Trump and hospitality and travel industry CEOs. The proposal calls for $250 billion to be split between a travel and employment grants account and a travel business stabilization account. These would provide hoteliers and other travel-dependent businesses with emergency liquidity in the face of a sharp decline in occupancy rates and overall travel.
AAHOA said that “the Travel Workforce Stabilization Fund is exactly the type of aggressive and direct action needed to stave off the complete economic collapse of not just the hospitality industry, but the broader travel industry and the elimination of millions of jobs. It could help tens of thousands of small businesses keep the lights on and keep their employees on staff.”
The CARES Act Is Signed into Law
Today, President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan CARES Act into law. The CARES Act provides small businesses with immediate liquidity, which will address the need for capital used to make payroll and cover operating expenses. AAHOA applauds Congressional leadership for expediting this critical relief package. The passage of the CARES Act provides AAHOA an opportunity for further conversations with the Trump administration and Congressional leadership regarding the necessary assistance small businesses need to weather this national pandemic.
Read the Statement

What this means for you: We are expecting additional relief packages in the coming weeks as our government responds to the economic crisis sparked by COVID-19, and AAHOA is dedicated to advocating on behalf of America’s hoteliers throughout the duration of this legislative process.

New Resource: The Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act
The programs and initiatives in the CARES Act that was just passed by Congress are intended to assist business owners with whatever needs they have right now. When implemented, there will be many new resources available for small businesses, as well as certain non- profits and other employers. This guide provides information about the major programs and initiatives that will soon be available from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to address these needs, as well as some additional tax provisions that are outside the scope of SBA.
Download the Resource
More than 3,000 Hoteliers Educated with AAHOA’s COVID-19 Webcast Series
AAHOA created a series of COVID-19 webcasts that will keep you informed and help determine next steps for your business. With more than 3,000 hoteliers educated to date, AAHOA is proud to make these webcasts available to the entire industry, so please share them with your employees, business partners, and others in your network. Here’s what some attendees have said:
  • “This was very helpful. In these difficult times, I cannot express how grateful our company is to the team at AAHOA and the experts they bring in.”
  • “This was one of the best presentations I have seen. The information was great and presented very well. I am very glad I took the time to be here.”
  • “Way to be on top of this crisis. AAHOA provides top speakers. Thanks for all you do.”
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