5 Home improvement tasks to take on during COVID-19 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

5 Home improvement tasks to take on during COVID-19

You’re stuck at home, mail is at the ready, so why not get rolling on some home improvement projects that have long since been pushed to the backburner? After all, you finally have the time! Put this quarantine to good use!


Organize

Start by organizing. If you haven’t already Marie Kondo’d your entire house, now is a good time to start. Order new organizing bins online for new gear that comes from a safe distance. Just be sure to thank your delivery person by staying at least six feet away from them and their good deeds.

5 Home improvement tasks to take on during COVID-19

Start painting

Next, you can paint! Home improvement brands are offering entire kits that come to your house, while local stores allow you to do a curbside pickup for all the necessary gear. If you own your home or have permission from the owner, paint away. Interior walls and decks make great afternoon projects. However, if you live on post, you’re better off sticking to DIY furniture remodels.

Yard work

Landscaping is another great way to spend the day. Improve your home and enjoy the outdoors by planting flowers, adding rock, pulling weeds or even planting a garden. Better yet, you can spruce up your curb appeal, even when living on post.

DIY projects

It’s time to get your Pinterest on and start tackling your favorite projects. Everything you’ve been wanting to do, now is the time. Luckily, craft stores, too, are offering curbside pickup. Or order online and find some potential extra savings.

Simple repairs

Finally, take a look at all the repair work you’ve been avoiding. Sure, these projects aren’t fun … that’s why you’ve avoided them in the first place. But think how accomplished you’ll feel once your home is back in working order.

What home projects have you completed during quarantine?

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Interview: U.S. lung-disease expert on coronavirus symptoms, treatment, prevention

Ognjen Gajic, a lung expert and critical care specialist at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in the northern U.S. state of Minnesota, was interviewed by Ajla Obradovic, a correspondent with RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, about the coronavirus and the disease’s symptoms and treatment.


RFE/RL: How fast does a person’s health worsen after becoming infected? It seems that patients diagnosed with the coronavirus die rather quickly but recover more slowly compared to other diseases? Or is that an incorrect impression?

Ognjen Gajic: Critical illness [in people with the coronavirus] occurs on average after seven days of mild symptoms. From the moment one starts experiencing shortness of breath, [a patient’s condition can worsen] rapidly, sometimes within a few hours, and then intensive monitoring in a hospital intensive care unit is critical.

5 Home improvement tasks to take on during COVID-19

RFE/RL: How are COVID-19 patients treated? Is there a standard procedure?

Gajic: Most patients have mild symptoms and there is no specific treatment thus far other than controlling the symptoms — paracetamol (aka acetaminophen) for fever, weakness, and the like. Untested forms of treatment can be dangerous due to side effects and should not be used until research shows they are efficient.

I deal with the treatment of the critically ill, so I can say more about [those patients]. In many of them, the [COVID-19] disease progresses to severe bilateral pneumonia characterized by shortness of breath and hypoxia (that means oxygen deprivation in body tissue).

These patients should be immediately taken to the hospital for oxygen treatment and their condition should be constantly monitored so it is possible to respond in time [to these problems] with intense respiratory support, including respirators. Sophisticated intensive care with control and support of all organs is successful in about 50 percent of the most severely ill cases, although some patients may be on a respirator for several weeks before recovering or dying.

So far there is no proven specific treatment [for COVID-19] and untested experimental drugs should not be prescribed without the proper research [being conducted]. We are working with colleagues around the world on a day-to-day basis on research projects for new treatments and prevention.

RFE/RL: Is there any data so far on the underlying diseases that are, in some way, more pernicious in combination with the coronavirus?

Gajic: Rather than specific diseases, more important is [someone’s] physiological condition as far as their lungs and [general fitness]; elderly patients who are not fit and those with severe forms of chronic lung or heart disease have little reserve and little chance of successfully enduring intensive respiratory treatment.

RFE/RL: How much more infectious is the coronavirus than other communicable diseases and what is the best way for people to protect themselves? In the Czech Republic, for example, they require everyone to wear masks in public, while the World Health Organization has not cited this as essential for people who are not infected. Can you give some specific tips on protection?

Gajic: Masks should be left to health-care professionals. A thorough hand washing with soap and water is by far the most important tip and, at this point, isolation from all but essential contacts — especially groups — must be respected. Also, before coming to a health-care facility, first make contact by phone, since it is safer to stay home for home treatment if one is showing mild symptoms.

5 Home improvement tasks to take on during COVID-19

Mayo Clinic

RFE/RL: I understand you worked with your colleagues from Wuhan. What is it that other countries can learn from them and apply in their response to the pandemic?

Gajic: Several colleagues from Wuhan hospitals have been at the Mayo Clinic in recent years and we have been doing joint research. At the beginning of the epidemic in Wuhan, we sent support in terms of treatment guidelines and [medical] staff protection. Now they are helping us. After some initial setbacks, our colleagues in Wuhan, with rigorous isolation measures, adequate equipment, and training, were able to prevent their health-care professionals from becoming sick despite working with critically ill patients.

RFE/RL: The latest information shows that the United States now has the largest number of infected people. Did the U.S. response to the epidemic come too late?

Gajic: I’m not an epidemiologist so I can’t comment on that. When it comes to the critically ill, U.S. hospitals provide fantastic care in these difficult conditions.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Commissary is installing plexiglass ‘sneeze shields’ amid pandemic

Military commissaries worldwide will soon have plexiglass “sneeze shields” installed in checkout lanes as a barrier between commissary employees and shoppers, officials announced today.

The 24-30 inch-wide, 36 inch-high barriers, which will be installed in all commissary stores over the next several days, are designed to “add extra protection for customers and cashiers during the COVID-19 outbreak,” the release said.


5 Home improvement tasks to take on during COVID-19

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The plexiglass barriers are the latest in ongoing efforts to keep commissaries open while reducing virus spread. March 18, stores stopped offering Early Bird shopping hours to give workers more time to stock shelves and clean. Officials also started 100% ID checks at commissary doors, restricting all non-authorized shoppers from entering.

Stores have also stepped up their cleaning routine, officials said in today’s release.

“At our commissaries we are wiping down checkout areas, restrooms and shopping carts with disinfectant, and practicing routine hand washing and other basic sanitation measures to avoid spreading germs,” Robert Bianchi, a retired Rear Admiral and the Pentagon’s special assistant for commissary operations said in the release.

The plexiglass barriers will be installed at all regular checkout lanes, the release said. They will not be installed at self-checkout.

As of March 27, officials said there are now 652 total cases of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, within the DoD: 309 military, 108 dependents, 134 civilians and 62 Defense Department contractors. Of those, 34 military members, two dependents and one civilian have recovered.

The first military dependent died from the virus March 26 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Why it’s your patriotic duty to stay home

In April 1944, my grandmother, Elaine Harmon, traveled to Sweetwater, Texas to begin her training as one of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during World War II. These 1,102 women pilots volunteered to fly military aircraft for the Army within the United States. By doing so, they freed up male pilots for the crucial role to fly combat missions overseas to maintain constant pressure from the sky against enemies in Europe and the Pacific. The mortality rate for combat aircraft crews was high.


Although they avoided enemy fire while flying within the United States, the WASP still lost 38 women who died in airplane accidents. Flying as test pilots, ferrying airplanes from factories to bases and providing a moving target for teenage ground gunners to learn the art of anti-aircraft fire still carried risks.

5 Home improvement tasks to take on during COVID-19

“We did something great that was needed for the war effort,” my grandmother used to say about her flying days for the United States Army in 1944. She volunteered because she loved her country and wanted to use her needed skill as a pilot to help out the war effort. Many women during that era did not even drive cars. Those women who could not enter the cockpits of Army planes, instead, built those planes and became known as “Rosie the Riveter,” the face of a famous wartime poster encouraging that, “We Can Do It!”

Roughly 12% of Americans served in the armed forces during World War II. The rest of the population, from small children to the elderly, found ways to pitch in too. Professional sports were suspended. People collected tires, bottles, cans and scrap metal. They submitted to government-induced rationing of many products from gasoline to meat.

I once told a friend who was praising the contributions of my grandmother that I may never do anything as trailblazing as what she had done, but if it meant that during my lifetime we did not have to suffer through another world war, I was content to be “normal.” Less than half a percent of Americans serve in the armed forces these days. While the United States, like other nations, has been at war for many years now and more than 7,000 servicemembers have died, the nature of these wars do not constitute a world war.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website defines a pandemic as, “a global outbreak of disease. Pandemics happen when a new virus emerges to infect people and can spread between people sustainably. Because there is little to no pre-existing immunity against the new virus, it spreads worldwide.” COVID-19 is the illness that manifests from the novel coronavirus that appeared in 2019 and is spreading globally. The CDC estimates that “most of the U.S. population will be exposed to this virus” over the next several months. There is currently no available vaccine or treatment for COVID-19.

Tragically, instead of a world war, we now have a pandemic whose possible death toll could far exceed the 405,000 American service members who died in World War II. More than 10,000 people worldwide have already died, at least 214 of those in the United States. The numbers are likely to rise exponentially as the virus spreads.

As during World War II, everyone can play a role in the success or failure of the efforts to mitigate the impact of the virus. Professional sports are suspended. Each day we learn new characteristics of this illness, one being that people who feel fine may be transmitting the virus. Accordingly, states are closing schools, reducing or eliminating business trading hours and asking everyone to move around town as little as possible and stay home. These emergency declarations and requests are done with the assumption that most people will eventually be exposed but the best way to reduce the accompanying number of deaths is to “flatten the curve” – not overwhelm hospitals all at once with patients exceeding their capacities of care.

5 Home improvement tasks to take on during COVID-19

Each of us has an opportunity right now to do “something great.” It doesn’t require spending our time from dusk until dawn sweating as we carry old tires to a rubber collection area or traversing town searching for bottles, cans, and scrap metal. All we have to do is stay at home.

Stay at home. Save the world.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

We all know Nine Line Apparel. We wear the gear, we have seen the amazing social media content and perhaps most importantly, we have seen them support the veteran community time and time again.

Well they are coming in clutch once again.


Nine Line announced that they will be shifting operations to produce and distribute masks for doctors and nurses who are working around the clock to care for Americans during the coronavirus outbreak that has gripped the nation. There has been a shortage of masks across the country; hospitals have resorted to using ultraviolet light to ‘clean’ and reuse masks. The most commonly used mask, the N95 mask, is supposed to be used only once. Every time a doctor or nurse sees a patient, they are supposed to discard the mask and use a new one for a different patient.


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One big issue is that a lot of masks are being sent from China. With the high demand of masks combined with pricing changes from Chinese manufacturers, there is now a scarcity for nurses and doctors. Masks that used to cost just 70 cents are now being billed at each. And the materials to make the mask that cost ,000 a ton have now seen an increase to 0,000 a ton according to Nine Line Apparel founder and CEO Tyler Merritt.

According to a statement Nine Line put out, the estimated number of masks needed in the next few months will be between 1.7 and 3 billion, but the country currently has a stockpile that only numbers in the millions.

Merritt went on Fox and Friends to discuss what Nine Line was planning on doing.


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This outbreak strikes close to home for Merritt, like many Americans.

“I’m an engineer, I’m also a former Army officer, I’m also a member of the special operations community, I’m also the son of a person who will die if he contracts this, I’m also the son of a nurse, I’m also the father of children who could potentially die,” said Merritt. “So, this is not about money. This is about coming together, cutting through the red tape. This is also about identifying those horrible, massive conglomerates that are hoarding materials.” Partnering with Bella+Canvas out of Los Angeles, Nine Line is working to circumvent the red tape from the government as well as corporate conglomerates who may be using this pandemic for financial gain.

Merritt’s vision is to create and sell (at cost) a mask similar or better than the N95 mask and distribute the Personal Protective Equipment to hospitals and health care workers around the country. This mask would be made out of apparel fabric and would be created by both Bella+Canvas and Nine Line using the equipment that makes those awesome shirts that you and I wear.

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Nine Line says they can shift operations and create up to 10 million masks in the next few weeks but are limited by waiting on the FDA. They are looking for help from the federal government to speed up testing of their mask and approve it so they can mass produce it and get them to hospitals ASAP.

Nine Line does have a mask (not for hospital use) that is selling to the public which can be purchased here.

Thanks for thinking outside the box and once again, doing your best to serve the public, Nine Line! Bravo.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

As COVID-19 Hits Russia, A Self-Styled Psychic Healer And Soviet-Era Icon Returns

MOSCOW — Last week, Russians of a certain age saw a familiar face return to their screens. Anatoly Kashpirovsky, a self-styled psychic healer who entranced TV audiences as the Soviet Union was coming apart three decades ago, is back as an octogenarian YouTuber offering solace as the coronavirus spreads.

And some are taking what he has to offer, apparently, helping revive the career of a man who had become an almost forgotten symbol of a time when desperation ran high.


Almost 250,000 viewers have watched Healing Seance, a video posted on April 9 to Kashpirovsky’s channel on YouTube:

Кашпировский: Оздоровительный сеанс. Прямой эфир из Москвы. 09.04.2020г.

www.youtube.com

He sits immobile against a background of beige wallpaper and asks viewers to cover their eyes with their hands — not normally advisable as a pandemic rages.

“Over the coming days,” he says toward the end of what is essentially an hourlong monologue, “comments will keep coming in from people who have been cured.”

Kashpirovsky, now 80, achieved celebrity status in the Soviet Union through a series of televised sessions beginning in 1989 — two years before the country ceased to exist. Fixing his steely gaze on viewers who sat at home, some transfixed, he claimed powers to cure the sick and heal a nation that was hurting from the effects of economic decline.

At the peak of his celebrity in the early 1990s, Kashpirovsky was traveling the country to appear before packed halls and placed second only to President Boris Yeltsin in surveys of Russia’s most popular public figures.

In the waning days of the U.S.S.R. and the early years after its collapse, millions of people looking for meaning amid the chaos of change and stark economic challenges turned for relief to people like Kashpirovsky, who years earlier might have risked being sent by the Soviet state to a psychiatric hospital but now found a prominent place on prime-time television.

Early Morning Psychics

Kashpirovsky was not alone. Hundreds of thousands watched Allan Chumak, his main rival, as he flailed his arms in a “healing” ritual on his early morning TV slot. Viewers would place water bottles or tubs of cream in front of their TV sets to “charge” them with Chumak’s energy, which the mystic claimed was enough to heal ailments if drunk or smeared on the skin.

Kashpirovsky’s most famous stunt came in March 1989, when he appeared on a screen inside an operating room in Tbilisi, Georgia, via video link from Ukraine, and proceeded to guide a woman who could not use anesthesia through open abdominal surgery.

“Now everyone who watched me can go to the dentist and have their tooth pulled,” he told viewers afterward. “There will be no pain at all.”

The woman, Lesya Yershova, said in an interview several months later that she had felt “terrible pain” throughout the operation, which required a 40-centimeter incision, and had only cooperated because she didn’t want to let Kashpirovsky down. She agreed to forego anesthesia because Kashpirovsky had promised to make her thinner and bring her along to his shows around the world as an example of his healing powers, she told the newspaper Literaturnaya Gazeta.

He didn’t keep his promise, she said.

Kashpirovsky’s claims of supernatural powers soon drew comparisons with the 20th-century healer Rasputin, whose malign influence on the family of Tsar Nicholas II sparked accusations that he was meddling in affairs of state and contributed to the collapse of Russia’s war effort in 1917 and the ultimate downfall of its monarchy. Rasputin was said to ease the pain of the tsar’s hemophiliac son simply by talking to him.

A former weightlifter and a trained psychologist, Kashpirovsky has largely retreated from the spotlight since the 1990s. In 2009, with Russia reeling from the effects of the global financial crisis, he sought to stage a comeback of sorts by launching a TV show devoted to “paranormal investigations.” But in a country where there’s no shortage of such offerings — a show called Battle Of The Psychics is now in its 20th season — his star soon faded again.

In 2010, shortly after he announced that comeback, Kashpirovsky — who did not immediately respond to RFE/RL’s request for comment — launched his YouTube channel. Since then he has posted videos from auditorium shows performed in various countries, where he meets with locals and members of Russian emigre communities who pay money in hopes of being healed. The videos are posted with titles like Instantaneous Cure For A Slipped Disc and Salvation From Pain.

In a video he posted last August, an elderly man who appears to have a heavily curved spine walks across a stage in Taraz, Kazakhstan, to meet Kashpirovsky, before disappearing backstage. Minutes later he runs back onstage, waving his arms in triumph to rapturous applause from the audience, his back seemingly healed.

Кашпировский. Мгновенное избавление от спинно-мозговой грыжи.

www.youtube.com

The coronavirus pandemic appears to have drawn new attention to Kashpirovsky as it spreads in Russia, where the numbers of confirmed cases have risen sharply in recent days and President Vladimir Putin said on April 13 that the situation was “changing for the worse.”

Officially, the number of confirmed cases now exceeds 21,000, with 170 deaths, but experts suspect the real numbers may be higher.

Viewership of Kashpirovsky’s YouTube channel has risen substantially in recent weeks: His March 25 monologue — titled Coronavirus. Its Pluses And Minuses — has almost half a million views.

As he spoke during his “healing seance” on April 9, a scrolling text chat displayed comments from viewers.

“My tinnitus has completely gone,” one woman wrote. Another reported that a chronic neck pain had passed within three minutes. “I’ve believed in you since 1989,” wrote a third — though it was unclear whether in earnest or in jest.

After 53 minutes, Kashpirovsky signed off with a message to gullible viewers.

“Our meeting will naturally provoke in you an explosion in your immune system, which will protect you,” he said. “I crave that from the bottom of my soul.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

5 things to do in quarantine to boost your IQ

So you’re stuck inside, and it kind of sucks — just a slight understatement, really. For many, Covid-19 is a life-changing (or crushing, even) event, so those of us whose biggest worry is remembering what day it is and making ourselves put on real pants, doing something is highly encouraged.

Also recommended? Breaking up the monotony with a challenge. When every day feels like Wednesday, becoming one with your couch is tempting. The couch doesn’t care. It’s a couch. You, on the other hand, probably will care when endless hours of Netflix leaves you with major brain fog. Try these activities to stay sharp. If you do them every day, you may get out of quarantine smarter than you were before!


Run sprints

Or jump rope, try a Zumba class on YouTube, or do a HIIT workout. It doesn’t matter what activity you pick, as long as it elevates your heart rate. Lifting weights can improve muscle tone and bone density, but aerobic activities are the ones that give your brain a boost. In some studies, sprinting was more effective at improving IQ than playing brain-training games. In other words, if you’d like to get smarter without thinking about it, just go for a run! Your brain will thank you, and your couch potato butt probably will too.

Bring out the chessboard

I’m not a huge fan of chess. Trying to remember what all the little people do bugs me. I want to make the knight elope with the queen in a scandalous twist, but apparently that’s not how you play. If you play by the rules, however, it’s amazing for your brain. The strategy involved exercises both hemispheres of your brain and strengthens the connection between them, which is amazing for increasing mental acuity. The moral of the story? Don’t play chess like me.

5 Home improvement tasks to take on during COVID-19

Review your high school French textbook

Few of us learned a language fluently in high school, but we probably should have. Learning a new language helps you better understand how your native language works and changes how you think for the better. It also reduces the likelihood of developing dementia later in life. Oh…and it’s pretty hot.

Brush off the dust on your guitar

Learning an instrument is similar to learning a language, except the language sounds extra awesome. Like learning a language, it uses both sides of your brain and gives your memory a workout, with the added benefit of strengthening your coordination and speeding up sensory processing. So what if you sound terrible at first? It’s fun and good for your stressed out, underutilized noggin.

5 Home improvement tasks to take on during COVID-19

Sleep

In high school, I tried to convince my mom that I couldn’t study without a nap. It turns out I wasn’t too far off. (Suck it, mom!) While you admittedly can’t review history notes while unconscious, your brain consolidates memories while you sleep. Not getting enough zzz’s is a surefire way to slow down the learning process, and if it gets bad enough you can actually start losing IQ points– about one point lost for every hour of sleep you lose each night.

Welp, guess it’s time to do some jumping jacks, torture my neighbors with mediocre violin and take a nap. Maybe I’ll wake up a little smarter.


MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Five fun pandemic-friendly Halloween ideas

Spooky season is here, but it feels a bit different this year. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many places to cancel time-honored Halloween traditions, such as haunted houses and trick-or-treating this year, in following CDC safety guidelines. This means that families will have to come up with creative (and safe!) approaches to celebrating the beloved holiday this year.

Now here’s the good news: we’ve already thought of some fun ways for you and your family to celebrate!Here are some cute crafts and fun ideas that will make you forget that you can’t trick-or-treat this year:


Boo! your neighbors

If you want to spread some spooky fun around your neighborhood, consider putting together some Boo bags with your family!

Some items you can include in your “Boo” bags are:

  • Stickers
  • Pencils
  • Fun rings
  • Erasers
  • Candy
  • Lollipops
  • Gift cards
  • Small toys
  • Homemade treats
  • And more!

The best part about this you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to spread some Halloween love in your neighborhood. You can find all of the items you to make my “Boo” bags and bucket at the dollar store or the Dollar Spot at your local Target.

Make some scary treats

Making desserts is a fun way to spend time together and get in the Halloween spirit. Try to come up with ways to make your favorite desserts a little more spooky – or, you can be like me and search Pinterest for ideas. My kids and I made these spooky monster cookies together and we had a blast doing it. You can make this activity even more fun by seeing who can make the spookiest monster cookie! Be sure to save a few and add them to your boo bags, too!

Flashlight scavenger hunt

No trick-or-treating? No problem! Let your kids get dressed up while you hide candy all over the house (or in your backyard!), turn out the lights, give your kids a flashlight, and let them hunt for their Halloween treats! They’ll have so much fun, they won’t even miss going door-to-door, and you can still collect your “parent tax” after.

Have a scary movie marathon in costume

After the scavenger hunt, get the family together on the couch to wind down and watch your favorite (family-friendly!) scary movies. They can eat some of the candy they found and the treats they made with you as movie snacks. Who knows, this may become your new family Halloween tradition. Win-win!

Make some spooky crafts together

Crafting is an essential part of every holiday – at least, in my house. My kids love any excuse to make something that they can proudly display and say, “I made that!” If you have little ones, you can do something as simple as purchase a small canvas and some paint from the dollar store and make something cute (and spooky!) with their hands and/or feet, or you can bust out the watercolors, the glue, some salt, and construction paper and let them make these awesome watercolor spiderweb crafts. Your family can also carve, and even paint, some pumpkins together. The possibilities are endless, and you can participate in the fun, too!

Not being able to trick-or-treat doesn’t have to mean that Halloween is ruined. Take this opportunity to create new traditions and memories with your family and close friends. Who knows, this could be the best Halloween season yet!

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

11 critical questions about the coronavirus that remain unanswered, 6 months after the first cases were reported

In the realm of medicine, what you don’t know can indeed kill you.

Six months have passed since China reported the first coronavirus cases to the World Health Organization. But even now, what experts are still trying to understand sometimes seems to outweigh what they can say for certain.


That is little surprise to any infectious-disease researcher: Highly contagious diseases can move through communities much more quickly than the methodical pace of science can produce vital answers.

What we do know is that the coronavirus seems to have emerged in China as early as mid-November and has now reached 188 countries, infected more than 10.4 million people, and killed around 510,000. Population-level studies using new testing could boost case numbers about 10-fold in the US and perhaps elsewhere as well.

As hospitals around the world care for COVID-19 patients with blood clots, strokes, and long-lasting respiratory failure, scientists are racing to study the coronavirus, spread life-saving information, and combat dangerous misunderstandings.

Here are 11 of the biggest questions surrounding the coronavirus and COVID-19, and why answering each one is critically important.

How did the new coronavirus get into people?

The first coronavirus infections was thought to have emerged in a wet market in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province. But newer research suggests the market may simply have been a major spreading site.

Researchers are fairly certain that the virus — a spiky ball roughly the size of a smoke particle — developed in bats. Lab tests show that it shares roughly 80% of its 30,000-letter genome with SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), a virus that also came from bats and triggered an epidemic in 2002 and 2003. It also shares about 96% of its genome with other coronaviruses in bats.

Mounting evidence continues to undercut the conspiracy theory that the virus came from a Chinese laboratory.

Still, researchers still aren’t sure how the coronavirus made the jump from bats to humans. In the case of SARS, the weasel-like civet became an intermediate animal host. Researchers have suggested that civets, pigs, snakes, or possibly pangolins — scaly nocturnal mammals often poached for the keratin in their scales — were an intermediary host for the new coronavirus. But it could also be that the virus jumped straight from bats to humans.

A May study suggested that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus’ clinical name) may be a hybrid of bat and pangolin viruses.

Why it matters: Understanding how novel zoonotic diseases evolve and spread could lead to improved tracing of and treatments for new emerging diseases.

How many people have actually gotten COVID-19?

Global tallies of cases, deaths, recoveries, and active infections reflect only the confirmed numbers — researchers suspect the actual number of cases is far, far larger.

For every person who tests positive for the novel coronavirus, there may be about 10 undetected cases. This is because testing capacity lags behind the pace of the disease, and many governments, including in the US, failed to implement widespread testing early on.

New estimates from MIT suggest the world had already seen 249 million coronavirus cases and 1.75 million deaths by June 18. That would make the global case total 12 times higher than official reports, and the global death toll 1.5 times higher.

Other similar research estimated that the US alone may have seen 8.7 million coronavirus cases from March 8 to 28. US researchers also suggested in May that the nation’s official death count may “substantially understate” the actual number of coronavirus fatalities.

Meanwhile, Italian studies suggest that Italy’s coronavirus deaths could be twice as high as the official tally.

Why it matters: An accurate assessment is critical in helping researchers better understand the coronavirus’ spread, COVID-19’s mortality rate, the prevalence of asymptomatic carriers, and other factors. It would also give scientists a more accurate picture of the effects of social distancing, lockdowns, contact tracing, and quarantining.

What makes the coronavirus so good at spreading?

Viruses are small, streamlined particles that have evolved to make many, many copies of themselves by hijacking living cells of a host.

The measurement of a virus’ ability to spread from one person to another is called R0, or R-naught. The higher the value, the greater the contagiousness — though it varies by region and setting. The novel coronavirus’ average R0 is roughly 2.2, meaning one infected person, on average, spreads it to 2.2 people. But it had a whopping R0 of 5.7 in some densely populated regions early in the pandemic.

The seasonal flu, by contrast, has an R0 of about 1.3.

A person’s ability to transmit the virus depends partly on their viral load: the amount of virus particles they release into the environment. Coronavirus patients tend to have high viral loads in the throat, nasal cavity, and upper respiratory tract, which makes the virus highly contagious. Research indicates that there’s little difference in the viral loads between coronavirus patients who show symptoms and those who don’t.

Coughing — a signature symptom of COVID-19 — helps spread viruses in tiny droplets, especially in confined spaces. But the virus can also spread through singing, normal breathing, or even loud conversation.

Just one minute of loud speech can produce over 1,000 coronavirus-containing droplets that linger in the air for eight minutes or longer, according to research from the National Institutes of Health. Studies have shown that just a few hundred copies of a respiratory virus are enough to infect another person.

There’s also evidence the virus may be spread by feces, but that seems to pose less of a transmission threat.

Why it matters: Knowing how a virus gets around can help everyone better prevent its spread. Getting a handle on its behavior may also spur governments to act sooner to contain future outbreaks of this or other similar diseases.

What drives mortality in people infected by the coronavirus?

Studies have outlined a step-by-step path for how the coronavirus kills patients.

First, the virus’ spiky proteins latch onto cell receptors in the lungs called ACE2. Our immune system then senses a threat and responds by activating white blood cells. Among patients who develop severe outcomes, immune systems can overreact by producing a “cytokine storm” — a release of chemical signals that instruct the body to attack its own cells.

The reaction may cause milder coronavirus symptoms like fever, fatigue, muscle aches, or swollen toes. But it can also lead to severe symptoms including blood clots, excessive leaking in the blood vessels, fluid in the lungs, depleted oxygen in the blood, and low blood pressure.

Doctors have linked blood clots to the increased prevalence of strokes among coronavirus patients. An aggressive immune response can also damage the heart, kidneys, intestines, and liver. But most coronavirus deaths are due to respiratory failure, meaning the lungs aren’t supplying enough oxygen to the blood.

The pattern of critical cases is alarming to clinicians, and something they’re still trying to grasp: It’s not just people with apparent risk factors like smoking and chronic illnesses who get severely ill — it’s also some young and seemingly healthy people.

Why it matters: Understanding how the coronavirus does so much harm could lead to more effective treatments in hospitals and make for promising drug targets.

What percent of people infected by the coronavirus die?

Death rates for COVID-19 are not one-size-fits-all. Many factors are at work.

Age is a big one. Older people are more likely to die as a result of lung failure, strokes, heart attacks, and other problems triggered by coronavirus infections, while younger individuals are much less likely to do so. However, people of all ages, including children, have experienced severe symptoms and sometimes death.

Government action matters greatly, too. In places that did not respond forcefully and early to the outbreak, emergency rooms and intensive-care units have been crushed with patients who require care. That can outstrip resources and force doctors to make life-or-death triage decisions.

Recent estimates suggest that the global fatality rate for the coronavirus is about 1%, but may range from 0.4% to 3.6%.

Experts still aren’t sure why some coronavirus patients develop severe symptoms that could lead to death, while other people have mild, if any, symptoms.

One hypothesis is that the answer lies in an individual’s genetic code. People whose genes tell their bodies to make more ACE2 receptors — which the coronavirus uses to invade our cells — could get hit harder.

Why it matters: Variations in death rates help researchers expose flaws in government responses, supply chains, patient care, and more, ideally leading to fixes. Being able to identify the people at higher risk of severe symptoms and treati them accordingly could also lower death rates. However, the early data is clear enough: The coronavirus has the capacity to kill millions of people in a relatively short time.

Why do young people face the least risk of dying?

On a per-capita basis, young people are the most resilient to the coronavirus. But they do get infected and suffer from it. Even blood clots and strokes have emerged among some younger patients.

Between January 22 and May 30, people in their 20s and 30s made up 30% of confirmed cases in the US, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those age categories represented 10% of hospitalizations and 9% of ICU admissions, but less than 2% of confirmed deaths.

Typically, young kids and older people are in the same risk category for diseases like the flu. But it’s not so with COVID-19: About 70% of US deaths have been people 70 and older. Children, meanwhile, represent less than 2% of confirmed coronavirus infections in China, Spain, Korea, Italy, and the US.

It’s not clear yet whether kids are less likely to contract the virus in the first place, or whether many of their cases are simply being missed because they are often mild or asymptomatic.

The CDC’s largest study of children with the coronavirus to date found that 18% of those studied tested positive but didn’t report symptoms. The report, however, only included kids with confirmed cases, so the breakdown is likely skewed.

Out of more than 2,500 pediatric cases in the CDC study, only three patients died. The study concluded that “most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe.”

One reason for this could be that children have less mature ACE2 receptors — the enzymes that serve as ports of entry for the coronavirus — which could make it more difficult for the virus to infect a child’s cells.

The immune system also becomes more dysregulated as a person ages. So the pediatric immune system may simply be better at battling the coronavirus than the adult immune system.

Why it matters: Understanding why kids don’t often show signs of the disease — either because they’re not as prone to infection or because they more often experience very mild, cold-like symptoms — could have huge ramifications for vaccine development and understanding how the disease spreads.

Can you get reinfected?

The body almost certainly develops short-term immunity in the form of antibodies, and immune-system researchers are reasonably confident that the body will recognize and fight the coronavirus in the future.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah in March that he’d be “willing to bet anything that people who recover are really protected against reinfection.”

There have been a small number of cases in which people tested positive for the coronavirus, were later found to be free of the virus, then tested positive again after that. But these cases are mostly the result of false positives and misinterpretations of test results, since some diagnostic tests can detect leftover pieces of dead virus in the body.

Still, no one is certain about the prospects for long-term immunity. For other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, antibodies seemed to peak within months of an infection and last for a year or more. But a June study found that SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may only last two to three months after infection. Asymptomatic individuals also demonstrated a weaker immune response to the virus, meaning they could be less likely to test positive for antibodies.

Researchers also don’t know the specific levels of antibodies required for a person to be fully immune.

A May study from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York showed that most people with confirmed coronavirus cases tested positive for antibodies — but longer or more severe cases didn’t necessarily produce more antibodies than mild ones. Instead, the amount of antibodies a person produces may be related to innate differences in people’s immune responses.

Why it matters: Understanding whether long-term immunity is the norm would have major ramifications for controlling the pandemic and could enable officials to lift social-distancing restrictions for people who have already gotten sick.

How seasonal is the coronavirus?

Warmer temperatures and lower humidity may hinder the virus’ spread, according to research published in June. That could explain why New York City had a higher growth rate of new infections compared to Singapore in March, though other factors like testing and contact tracing likely played a role as well.

An April study found a similar link between the virus’ lifespan and the surrounding temperature. At 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit), the coronavirus lasted up to two weeks in a test tube. When the temperature was turned up to 37 degrees Celsius (99 degrees Fahrenheit), that lifespan dropped to one day.

But warmer temperatures haven’t done much to quell the US outbreak. The nation’s surge in new daily cases has surpassed its prior peak in April.

Why it matters: Knowing how much — if at all — the coronavirus is affected by changing seasons would help governments around the world better deploy resources to stop its spread.

Are there any safe and effective drugs to treat COVID-19?

There is, as of yet, no slam-dunk treatment for the coronavirus or its symptoms. However, 17 leading treatments are being tested.

President Trump has promoted and sought stockpiles of hydroxychloroquine: a relatively inexpensive drug typically used to kill malarial parasites and treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. But it was found to have no significant benefits for COVID-19 patients. The Food and Drug Administration revoked the drug’s emergency use authorization on June 15, noting “serious” heart issues and other side effects in patients taking the medication.

A more promising drug is remdesivir, an experimental antiviral chemical that the FDA approved for emergency use on May 1. Data from the National Institutes of Health suggests that remdesivir helped hospitalized coronavirus patients recover more quickly. Thousands of patients have been treated with the drug through clinical trials and expanded access programs.

Clinical trials have also shown that dexamethasone, a common, cheap, steroid, can reduce deaths in severely ill COVID-19 patients.

Why it matters: Having tools to slow infections or perhaps even stop the coronavirus from harming people could curtail its spread, reduce suffering, ease the burdens on healthcare systems, and save lives.

Will there be a vaccine for the coronavirus, and when?

More than 140 coronavirus vaccines are in development. At least 30 are expected to start human testing in 2020, and 16 leading candidates are already being tested on humans in clinical trials.

Arguably the most promising vaccine is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine developed by biotech company Moderna. The company was the first to publish early results in humans after starting its first trial on March 16. It aims to start a late-stage efficacy trial with 30,000 people in July.

Other promising candidates include “vector vaccines” — which use live viruses to teach the immune system how to fight off pathogens — developed by the University of Oxford and Johnson Johnson. The Oxford vaccine is spearheaded by British pharma company AstraZeneca, which will start its own efficacy trial in August. Johnson Johnson aims to enroll more than 1,000 healthy volunteers in a clinical trial in July.

The US government hopes to have hundreds of millions doses of a vaccine ready by January 2021 — a record timeline. But some vaccinologists and industry analysts doubt a vaccine will be ready before 2022 or 2023.

Why it matters: Developing a vaccine would help the world put an end to the pandemic.

What are the long-term consequences for those who survive COVID-19?

It’s not yet clear what the long-term consequences of weathering a severe bout of COVID-19 might be. In severe cases, the virus may cause permanent damage to the lungs and other organs, resulting in chronic, lifelong issues.

Patients who experience blood clots also face a risk of longer-term damage, pain, and loss of function, especially in organs.

While some people’s symptoms seem to clear up after two weeks, even those with milder cases have reported symptoms lasting for several months — including fatigue, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and loss of taste and smell. These symptoms may be the result of lingering inflammation rather than an active infection.

“The symptoms are probably coming from an immune reaction,” Dr. Ramzi Asfour, an infectious-disease doctor in the San Francisco Bay Area, told Business Insider.

“You have to separate the damage from the disease,” he added. “It’s going to be difficult to tell for now what subset is active, ongoing infection and what subset is really just pure immune dysfunction.”

Why it matters: Knowing the extent of lasting damage due to the coronavirus can help governments prepare for long-term strain on healthcare systems, impacts to the workforce, and slower economic recoveries. Governments can also push for more research into the underlying causes of lingering symptoms and effective treatments for them.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Havening: The weird hugging technique that will fix your anxiety

Small daily rituals can help keep sadness and anxiety at bay. Running, yoga, deep breathing, spending time in nature, and turning off news alerts on your phone do real work. Exercise releases endorphins, greenspaces increase happiness, and removing screens can lead to better sleep. In the midst of the nationwide mental health crisis stemming from COVID-19, these small defenses help in a bigger battle. Here’s another science-backed, and surprisingly impactful weapon to add to your arsenal: havening.

On the most basic level, havening means hugging or caressing yourself, sometimes while voicing positive affirmations. On a more technical level, it’s using self-soothing to induce “amygdala depotentiation,” which essentially means reining in and retraining the emotional part of the brain that kicks us into fight-or-flight mode and causes anxiety. There’s not denying it’s touchy-feely stuff. But it’s got the backing of real science and enthusiastic experts. Here’s why.


The Brain on Anxiety

To get what havening is and how it works, it helps to first understand what’s happening in the brain when we experience anxiety. Because whatever the root cause of anxiety — whether a phobia, childhood trauma, generalized anxiety disorder, or fear of contracting COVID-19 — scientists theorize that what’s going on in our heads is essentially the same.

Each of us has an “emotional brain” and a “thinking brain.” The emotional brain, ruled by the amygdala, is primal; it exists to gauge threats and react quickly to avoid danger. “The amygdala is designed to keep us safe,” says Kate Truitt, Ph.D., a psychologist and certified practitioner of the Havening Techniques. “It’s not very bright — it doesn’t think; it just operates on ‘safe’ or ‘not safe.'” When sensing a real threat, the amygdala activates the sympathetic nervous system, better known as fight-or-flight mode. Whenever we’re in this state, we feel unnerved and anxious.

Fortunately, the thinking brain also kicks into gear upon perceiving a threat, albeit four times more slowly than the emotional brain, says Truitt. It introduces reason, allowing us to react more intelligently and appropriately, which might mean not reacting at all.

“We’ve all experienced some version of walking down the road, seeing a hose or a stick, and doing a stutter step,” Truitt says. “The brain is saying ‘is that a snake?’ because we are biologically designed to look for snakes because we know they can kill us. In a healthy system, the amygdala goes, oh, that’s just a stick, and the thinking brain says, cool; we’re OK then.”

Trouble is, many people’s brains are not so healthy, especially right now. In that case — as experts believe is the case for people with generalized anxiety, phobias, or post-traumatic stress disorder — the amygdala hijacks the thinking brain and runs the show, trapping us fight-or-flight mode, even when there’s no threat present. The result: persistent, sometimes crippling, anxiety.

“Attacking or running is what we do acutely in extreme situations, but otherwise, we’re not supposed to be in sympathetic mode,” says Julie Holland, M.D., a psychiatrist in New York City. “We should be in our parasympathetic nervous system, where we stay calm, present, and open to connection. This is the only time where the body rests, digests [information], and repairs, so parasympathetic is where we want to be.” Many of us, though, are stuck in sympathetic.

Interestingly, as Holland writes in her new book Good Chemistry (Harper Wave, 2020), feeling disconnected, isolated, or lonely also activates the sympathetic nervous system. “Humans have to be social to survive, so anytime we are cut off from society or feel isolated, the body goes into fight-or-flight mode,” she says, adding that this response traces back to our early ancestors. “On the savannah, if you strayed from the tribe, you wouldn’t get help building shelter, gathering food, or finding mates. Isolation, literally, meant death. We still carry that genetic code today—we are hardwired to feel unsafe when we are alone.”

Holland says feelings of isolation and loneliness were already super common pre-pandemic, thanks to our increasingly digitized world. But now that COVID-19 has closed schools, canceled social events, and forced us to work from home, these emotions — and therefore anxiety — have become rampant.

How Havening Helps

Havening (more specifically, the trademarked Havening Techniques) was developed by neuroscientist Ronald Ruden, Ph.D., about a decade ago as trauma therapy. It uses gentle touch of the upper arms, hands, and face, along with constructive messaging, to ‘depotentiate’ or rewire unhealthy neural pathways that have developed due to stressful experiences, putting healthier responses and emotions in their place.

But havening is also a powerful stress-busting technique that anyone can learn and practice at home on themselves or their kids. You basically cross your arms, place your palms on your shoulders, stroke your arms downward to your elbows, and repeat. While doing this, you can recite a simple mantra like “calm and relaxed” over and over, sing a song, or, as Truitt suggests, play a distracting brain game such as thinking of band names starting with letters A through Z. (Check out the official Havening Techniques website for lots of videos demonstrating applying havening to specific situations.)

On a neurological level, havening helps shift the brain into parasympathetic mode. It does this in part by boosting oxytocin, a hormone that is normally conjured up by human touch and bonding — something many of us are sorely lacking these days.

“Havening harnesses the brain’s ability to heal and build itself,” Truitt says. “Use this technique whenever your nervous system starts to feel dysregulated. As soon as you notice a stressful stimulus, such as text messages coming in or CNN popping up on your phone, do havening to bring the system back to a state of calm.” The more you do this, she notes, the more resilient your amygdala becomes and the more easily you can access this calming state in the future.

Havening can also help if you’re anxious about something specific, such as delivering a work presentation on Zoom. “Sit down and do self-havening and ask yourself how you would like to feel,” Truitt says. “If you’d like to feel confident, reflect on a time when you felt confident. Because you have that memory, you can imagine going into the speech with that confident energy instead.”

Parents can also use havening with their kids when they get anxious. “Parents are the nervous system for their children,” Truitt says. “When they regulate their nervous system, the child starts to regulate right along with them. For kids, we teach the ‘don’t worry massage.’ Kids apply touch and the whole family sings songs and applies touch together, which brings the family together.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Watch this EOD guy dismantle an IED with a pickaxe and pliers

We’re spending a lot of time on the internet these days watching plenty of useless information — cat videos, TikToks, Tiger King all the Netflix in the land. Finally, here’s something useful, with a heart-stopping, compelling element: an EOD badass dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and pliers and no protective equipment. DISCLAIMER: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. OR ANYWHERE.


Forget everything you thought you knew about dismantling IEDs. As this Peshmerga EOD guy clearly shows, all you need is a pickaxe and a pair of pliers.pic.twitter.com/hZOoP9m291

twitter.com

Researcher Hugo Kaaman posted a clip of a “Peshmerga EOD guy” dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and a pair of pliers (Did we mention? Do not try this!). After a little more digging, another Twitter user cited that the subject was Major Jamal Bawari who is/was a part of a Peshmerga EOD unit.

BBC Four, Storyville did a documentary on ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert, who was in the same unit as Jamal, titled “Hurt Locker Hero” in 2018.

The description of the documentary on BBC Four is: The heart-stopping story of ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert who single-handedly disarmed thousands of landmines across the country with just a pocket knife and a pair of wire clippers.

Between the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the chaos and destruction wreaked by IS ten years later, Fahkir’s unwavering bravery saved thousands of lives throughout Iraq. ‘Hurt Locker Hero’ tells Fakhir’s story through the raw and visceral amateur footage captured by his soldiers on a camcorder intended for filming family occasions. Instead, it records Fakhir endlessly snipping wires, searching family homes and digging out roadside IEDs, insisting it’s too dangerous to wait hours for the highly trained American bomb disposal teams to arrive.

Whilst their father and husband becomes a hero, Fahkir’s wife and eight children struggle to make ends meet and worry endlessly about his safety. Fakhir will be remembered as the man who risked his life to save others -‘If I fail, only I die, but if I succeed, I can save hundreds of people.’.

This is definitely better than cat videos.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: Putin tells officials to ‘get ready’ for fight; Iran urges IMF to move on emergency loan

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 87,000 with over 1.4 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.



Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told cabinet ministers and regional heads to prepare to battle the coronavirus as he outlined steps being taken to counter the outbreak.

“Right now we need to get ready to fight for the life of each individual in every region,” Putin said during a video conference from his residence outside Moscow on April 8 during which he outlined measures being implemented to counter the growing outbreak in the country.

Russia has more than 8,670 officially confirmed coronavirus infections and at least 63 fatalities.

5 Home improvement tasks to take on during COVID-19

However, critics have cast doubt over the veracity of the figures, saying the actual toll could be much higher.

Among the steps publicized by Putin during his address was extra pay for medical personnel and the freeing up of 10 billion rubles (3 million) from the federal budget to be disbursed among the country’s more than 80 administrative regions.

In addition, he said that medical personnel who are in direct contact with coronavirus patients would be in line for an additional bonus.

Addressing the economy, Putin said that there was “practically no such thing as a total shutdown of business,” despite the obstacles and restrictions being faced.

“We must realize what kind of damage and destructive consequences this can bring about,” he said.

Putin also told the nation that he realized it is difficult to “remain inside four walls all the time.”

“But there is no choice,” he said. “One has to make it through self-isolation,” he told chiefs of Russia’s regions, which are mostly under strict lockdown.

Iran

Iranian President Hassan Rohani has urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide Tehran a multibillion-dollar emergency loan it had requested to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

The epidemic has further damaged Iran’s economy, already battered by U.S. sanctions that were reimposed after Washington in 2018 withdrew from a landmark deal between Tehran and world powers to curb the country’s nuclear program.

Tehran, as well as several countries, the United Nations, some U.S. lawmakers, and human rights groups have urged the United States to ease the sanctions to help Iran respond more effectively to the virus.

5 Home improvement tasks to take on during COVID-19

The outbreak has officially infected more than 62,500 people and killed over 3,800 in the country. Iranian officials have been criticized for their slow initial response to the pandemic, and experts have been skeptical about the veracity of official figures released by the authorities, who keep a tight lid on the media.

“We are a member of the IMF…. There should be no discrimination in giving loans,” Rohani said in a televised cabinet meeting on April 8.

“If they do not act on their duties in this difficult situation, the world will judge them in a different way,” he added.

Last month, the Central Bank of Iran asked the IMF for billion from its Rapid Financing Initiative to help to fight the pandemic in one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.

An IMF official was quoted as saying the Washington-based lender was in dialogue with Iranian officials over the request.

Iran has not received assistance from the IMF since a “standby credit” issued between 1960 and 1962, according to the fund’s data.

U.S. President Donald Trump has offered some humanitarian assistance, but Iranian officials have rejected the offer, saying Washington should instead lift the sanctions, which Rohani on April 8 equated to “economic and medical terrorism.”

Medicines and medical equipment are technically exempt from the U.S. sanctions but purchases are frequently blocked by the unwillingness of banks to process transactions for fear of incurring large penalties in the United States.

In one of the few instances of aid, Britain, France, and Germany used a special trading mechanism for the first time on March 31 to send medical supplies to Iran in a way that does not violate the sanctions.

The three countries sent supplies via Instex, the mechanism set up more than a year ago to allow legitimate humanitarian trade with Iran.

On April 7, Iran’s parliament reconvened for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak forced it to close, and rejected an emergency bill calling for a one-month nationwide lockdown.

More than two-thirds of the legislature’s 290 members gathered in the absence of speaker Ali Larijani, who tested positive for the virus last week.

During the session, deputy speaker Massud Pezeshkian criticized the Rohani administration for “not taking the outbreak seriously.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on April 7 condemned the detention of journalist and workers’ rights defender Amir Chamani in the northwestern city of Tabriz after he posted tweets about the health situation in Iran’s prisons and protests by inmates.

The Paris-based media freedom watchdog quoted Chamani’s family as saying he was detained on April 2 after being summoned by the cyberpolice.

The authorities have given no reason for the arrest of Chamani, who was transferred to a detention center run by the intelligence department of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to RSF.

Romania

Romania has confirmed another 344 cases of COVID-19 to reach 4,761, with 18 more fatalities that brought the toll to 215, the country’s coronavirus task force said on April 7, amid renewed calls for a sustained increase in the number of tests.

More than 700 of those infected are health-care workers.

The first fatality among medical staff was reported on April 8 — an ambulance paramedic from the northeastern city of Suceava who had reportedly kept working without being tested for days, although his health was deteriorating rapidly.

Suceava is the epicenter of the outbreak in Romania and has been under lockdown since last week.

5 Home improvement tasks to take on during COVID-19

The first coronavirus death was registered in Romania on March 22.

An additional 631 Romanians tested positive for COVID-19 abroad, most of them — 412 — in Italy, the world’s hardest-hit country. Some 37 Romanians have died so far in Italy, Britain, France, Spain, and Germany.

The country has been under a state of emergency since March 16, and President Klaus Iohannis on April 6 announced his intention to extend it by one month, while the government decided to postpone local elections that should have been held in early summer.

The Suceava paramedic’s death adds to worries about how Romania’s system is coping with the epidemic. Doctors and nurses have spoken out in recent weeks over insufficient equipment for those treating COVID-19 cases, and many medical staff have resigned over the shortages as well as mismanagement and fatigue.

Romanian platform for online activism DeClic has launched an Internet campaign urging the authorities to speed up the testing under the slogan “Mr. [Prime Minister Ludovic] Orban, don’t toy with our lives.”

Romania, a country of 19.5 million, has tested 47,207 people for coronavirus. By comparison, fellow EU member the Czech Republic has tested almost 99,000 people out of a total of 10.5 million. The Czech death toll stands at 99, less than half of Romania’s.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Romanian Service, digi24.ro, g4.ro, Reuters, and hotnews.ro

North Caucasus

A former top official of the independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Akhmed Zakayev, has been hospitalized in London with coronavirus symptoms.

Zakayev’s relatives told RFE/RL that the exiled former member of the Chechen separatist government was hospitalized on April 6 after he experienced difficulties breathing.

The relatives added that three days prior to his hospitalization, other family members were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever and cough, as well.

Medical officials asked Zakayev’s relatives to sign a consent paper to use artificial respiration during his treatment.

Zakayev, 60, served as culture minister, deputy prime minister, prime minister, and foreign minister in Chechnya’s separatist government.

He and his immediate family members have been residing in exile in London since 2002.

He is wanted in Russia for alleged terrorism, which he and his supporters deny.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: One Iranian ‘dying every 10 minutes’; Romania urges expats to stay away

The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 230,000 people worldwide, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.


Iran

The death toll from the coronavirus in Iran continues to rise as the worst-affected country in the Middle East prepares for scaled-down celebrations of Norouz, the Persian New Year.

“With 149 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, the death toll from the virus has reached 1,284,” Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said on state television on March 19.

“Unfortunately, we have had 1,046 new cases of infection since yesterday,” Raisi added.

Iran has the third-highest number of registered cases after China and Italy.

With the country reeling from the outbreak, officials have recommended that Iranians stay home during the March 20 holiday, a time when hundreds of thousands usually travel to be with friends and relatives.

The government has closed schools at all levels, banned sports and cultural events, and curtailed religious activities to try and slow the spread of the virus.

Kianoush Jahanpour, the head of the Health Ministry’s public relations and information center , noted on March 19 that the data on the outbreak means an Iranian dies every 10 minutes from COVID-19, while 50 infections occur each hour of the day.

“With respect to this information, people must make a conscious decision about travel, traffic, transportation, and sightseeing,” he added.

Despite the dire circumstances, many Iranians were angered by the temporary closure of Shi’ite sites, prompting some earlier this week to storm into the courtyards of two major shrines — Mashhad’s Imam Reza shrine and Qom’s Fatima Masumeh shrine.

Crowds typically pray there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, touching and kissing the shrine. That’s worried health officials, who for weeks ordered Iran’s Shi’ite clergy to close them.

Earlier on March 19, officials announced that the country wouldn’t mark its annual day celebrating its nuclear program because of the outbreak.

Georgia

The Georgian government has ordered the closure of shops except grocery stores and pharmacies beginning March 20 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The measure, announced on March 19, also exempts gas stations, post offices, and bank branches. The South Caucasus country has so far reported 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, and no deaths.

Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia on March 19 said he would declare a state of emergency, as many countries in Europe already have, if health authorities advise him to do so.

“As of today, I would like to emphasize that there is no need for this. However, in agreement with the president, we have decided, as soon as that need arises, that we will be able to make this decision within a few hours,” he said.

Romania

President Klaus Iohannis has urged Romanians working abroad to refrain from traveling home for the Orthodox Easter amid fears of a worsening of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Romania has been under a 30-day state of emergency since March 16.

Iohannis made the appeal in a televised speech on March 19 as thousands of workers returning from Western Europe were slowly crossing into Romania after having clogged Hungary’s borders both to the west and the east for two days in a row.

Romania is the European Union’s second-poorest country, and at least 4 million Romanians work abroad, according to estimates.

The bottlenecks were worsened by Hungary’s decision to close its borders on very short notice from March 17 at midnight — a measure relaxed by Budapest after consultations with the Romanian government.

“Romanians from abroad are dear to us, and we long to be with them for Easter,” Iohannis said. “However, that won’t be possible this year…. We must tell them with sadness but also with sincerity not to come home for the holidays,” he added.

Some 12,500 mostly Romanian travelers had crossed into Romania in 4,600 vehicles as of the morning of March 19, Romanian border police said.

They said 180 people were immediately quarantined, while some 10,000 were ordered into self-isolation once they reached their destinations.

The rest were mostly travelers in transit toward Moldova and Bulgaria, according to the police.

Romania has confirmed 277 coronavirus cases.

One of the patients is in serious condition in intensive care, while 25 people have recovered, according to health authorities.

No deaths have been reported so far.

However, authorities are concerned that the massive number of Romanians returning, mostly from Italy and Spain — the European countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic — will lead to a spike in infections in the run-up to Orthodox Easter on April 19.

The Romanian military has started building an emergency hospital in Bucharest amid fears that the country’s crumbling health-care system will not be able to cope with the outbreak.

Ukraine

Some 900 Ukrainians are embarking on March 19 on a train journey from Prague to Kyiv as part of an evacuation plan amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The train is set to travel through the Czech Republic and Poland, where it will make a stop at Przemysl, before heading to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv and the capital.

Yevhen Perebiynis, the Ukrainian ambassador to Prague, tweeted that more than 3,000 Ukrainians residing in the Czech Republic had asked to be evacuated.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Zhytomyr, Serhiy Sukhomlyn, said the city located 140 kilometers west of Kyiv recorded its first coronavirus infection.

Sukhomlyn said the patient, aged 56, had recently returned from Austria.

As of March 19, there were 21 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness in six regions and the capital, Kyiv, the Health Ministry said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine recorded its third death linked to COVID-19 in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region.

An elderly woman died one day after visiting a hospital with severe flu-like symptoms, according to the Health Ministry.

Russia

Russian officials have reported the country’s first death connected to the coronavirus outbreak, but quickly backtracked, saying an elderly woman perished due to a detached blood clot.

The Moscow health department said on March 19 that the 79-year-old, who had tested positive for COVID-19, died in a Moscow hospital from pneumonia related to the virus.

Svetlana Krasnova, head doctor at Moscow’s hospital No. 2 for infectious diseases, said in a statement that the woman had been admitted with “a host of chronic diseases,” including type 2 diabetes and heart problems.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin then confirmed the coronavirus-releated death, saying on Twitter, “Unfortunately, we have the first loss from the coronavirus infection.”

Hours later, however, health officials put out another statement saying an autopsy had confirmed the woman had died of a blood clot.

A subsequent official tally of the number of official coronavirus cases in Russia showed 199 confirmed infections but no deaths.

It was not clear whether the woman’s death would eventually be counted as a result of the virus.

Though President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that the situation was “generally under control,” many Russians have shown a distrust for official claims over the virus, and fear the true situation is much worse than they are being told.

Amid a recent rise in the number of cases, officials have temporarily barred entry to foreigners and imposed restrictions on flights and public gatherings.

The national health watchdog on March 19 tightened restrictions for all travellers from abroad with a decree requiring “all individuals arriving to Russia” to be isolated, either at home or elsewhere.

Serbia

Serbia has closed its main airport for all passenger flights and said it will shut its borders for all but freight traffic in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The government banned commercial flights to and from the Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade on March 19.

However, the airport will remain open to humanitarian and cargo flights, according to the Ministry of Construction, Traffic, and Infrastructure.

Later in the day, President Aleksandar Vucic said that as of March 20, Serbia’s border crossings will be closed for all passenger road and rail transport.

“Nothing but trucks will be allowed to enter,” Vucic said. “From noon tomorrow we will also halt commercial passenger transport inside the country.”

The move comes after some 70,000 Serbs working in Western Europe and their families returned to Serbia in the last few days despite appeals by authorities not to do so.

Serbia currently has 103 confirmed coronavirus cases, with no fatalities.

The Balkan country had already imposed a state of emergency, introduced a night curfew for all citizens, and ordered the elderly to stay indoors.

Pakistan

Authorities in Pakistan have closed shrines of Sufi saints in the capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere while access to museums, archaeological, and tourist sites have been banned as confirmed coronavirus cases jumped to 301, mostly in pilgrims returning from Iran.

Two Pakistanis who had returned from Saudi Arabia and Dubai became the country’s first victims when they died on March 18 in the northwest.

Schools have already been shut in Pakistan.

Thousands of Pakistanis, mostly pilgrims, have been placed into quarantine in recent weeks at the Taftan border crossing in the country’s southwestern province of Balochistan after returning from Iran, one of the world’s worst affected countries.

Pakistani authorities on March 19 plan to quarantine hundreds more pilgrims who returned from Iran. These pilgrims will be kept at isolated buildings in central Pakistan for 14 days.

Uzbekistan

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev’s influential son-in-law says police have identified individuals who allegedly published the names of Uzbek nationals who tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Otabek Umarov, who is also the deputy head of the president’s personal security, said on Instagram that officials are now trying to determine the legality of the perpetrators’ actions.

A joint working group set up by the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General’s Office has also identified 33 social media accounts involved in “disseminating false information that provokes panic among people,” Umarov wrote.

He called the accounts a “betrayal” of the country and a matter of “national security.”

Umarov’s comments come amid a campaign by the Uzbek government to crack down on information that incites panic and fear among the public amid the coronavirus crisis.

On March 16, the country’s Justice Ministry said that, according to Uzbek law, those involved in preparing materials with the intention of inciting panic — and those storing such materials with the intent to distribute them — will face up to ,400 in fines or up to three years in prison.

Those who spread such information through media and the Internet face up to eight years in prison, the ministry added.

The statement came a day after the Central Asian nation announced its first confirmed coronavirus infection, which prompted the government to introduce sweeping measures to contain the outbreak, including closing its borders, suspending international flights, closing schools, and banning public gatherings.

The number of infections had risen to 23 as of the morning of March 19, the Health Ministry said.

The ministry said that the 23 individuals are all Uzbek nationals who had returned home from Europe, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Health Ministry regularly updates its social media accounts with information on the outbreak in Uzbekistan. Posts are frequently accompanied by the hashtag “quarantine without panic” in both Uzbek and Russian.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan

The Kazakh national currency, the tenge, has continued to weaken sharply as the number of coronavirus cases in the oil-rich Central Asian nation reached 44.

Many exchange points in Nur-Sultan, the capital, and the former Soviet republic’s largest city, Almaty, did not sell U.S. dollars or euros on March 19, while some offered 471 tenges for id=”listicle-2645571641″, more than 25 percent weaker than in early March when the rate was around 375 tenges.

The tenge has plunged to all-time lows in recent days following an abrupt fall in oil prices and chaos in the world’s stock markets caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Kazakh Health Ministry said on March 19 that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country had increased by seven to 44.

In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, three people, who returned home from Saudi Arabia several days ago, tested positive for the virus, which led to three villages being sealed off in the southern Jalal-Abad region.

In two other Central Asian nations, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, no coronavirus cases have been officially recorded to date.

Armenia

A relative of an Armenian woman blamed for spreading the coronavirus in the South Caucasus country alleges that criminal offenses have been committed against members of their family.

It emerged last week that the woman had traveled from Italy before attending a family gathering with dozens of guests in the city of Echmiadzin, disregarding health warnings about the coronavirus pandemic.

The woman, whose name was not released, later tested positive for the virus and was hospitalized. Dozens of other people who attended the gathering were placed under a 14-day quarantine.

Armenia has reported a total of 122 cases so far, including dozens in Echmiadzin. It has not yet reported any deaths.

Echmiadzin was locked down and a nationwide state of emergency has been announced in a bid to slow the spread of infection in Armenia.

Many on social media in Armenia expressed anger over what they said was irresponsible behavior by the woman.

Some ridiculed the woman and used offensive language against her. A photo of her also was posted online.

The woman’s lawyer, Gohar Hovhannisian, said that one of her relatives who lives abroad filed a complaint with the public prosecutor on March 17.

The complaint alleges that personal information about infected people was illegally obtained and published by the press and social media along with insults and photographs.

“It affects the mental state of a person. Imagine that a person is sick and such language is used against her or him and her or his personal data are published,” Hovhannisian said.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office forwarded the report to police to investigate the case.

Human rights activist Zaruhi Hovhannisian, who is not related to the lawyer, noted that the protection of personal data is enshrined in Armenia’s law. He said that disclosure of personal data in this case made it possible to identify the infected woman.

“Moreover, under the law on medical care and public services it is forbidden to disclose medical secrets, talk about people’s medical examinations and the course of their treatment as well as to pass these data to third parties,” the activist said.

Earlier this week, a shop owner in Yerevan filed a complaint with police alleging that he had been attacked by three relatives of the woman in question for posting a joke about her on Facebook.

Police said they had identified and questioned three people over that complaint. But the authorities did not reveal their identities.

Azerbaijan

The Azerbaijani capital, Baku, has been sealed off to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the South Caucasus state.

According to a government decision, as of March 19 entrance to Baku, the nearby city of Sumqayit, and the Abseron district has been banned for all cars, except ambulances, cargo trucks, and vehicles carrying rescue teams and road accident brigades. The measure will run until at least March 29.

All railway links between Baku, Sumqayit and the Abseron district, and the rest of the country were also suspended.

Azerbaijan has reported 34 confirmed coronavirus cases, with one fatality.

In neighboring Armenia, where authorities announced a state of emergency until April 16, the number of coronavirus cases is 115.

Elsewhere in the South Caucasus, Georgia, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached 40.

Afghanistan

The United States is temporarily suspending the movement of new soldiers into Afghanistan as a way of protecting them from the coronavirus outbreak.

U.S. Army General Scott Miller said in a March 19 statement that the move could mean that some of the troops already on the ground in Afghanistan may have their deployments extended to ensure that the NATO-led Resolute Support mission continues.

“To preserve our currently healthy force, Resolute Support is making the necessary adjustments to temporarily pause personnel movement into the theater,” he said.

“We are closely monitoring, continually assessing and adjusting our operations so we can continue to protect the national interests of the NATO allies and partners here in Afghanistan,” he added.

About 1,500 troops and civilians who recently arrived in Afghanistan have been quarantined, Miller said, stressing that this was purely a precautionary measure and “not because they are sick.”

Earlier this month, the United States began reducing its troop presence in Afghanistan as part of a peace deal signed in February with the Taliban.

The agreement sees an initial reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from about 13,000 to 8,600 soldiers.

Miller did not mention the agreement in his statement.

So far, 21 U.S. and coalition staff exhibiting flu-like symptoms are in isolation and receiving medical care, Miller’s statement said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.


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