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TechCrunch

Amazon pegs COVID-19 costs at an estimated $4 billion next quarter – TechCrunch

Amazon expects to incur $4 billion in COVID-related costs next quarter, an estimate that provides a bellwether for other businesses, large and small, trying to stay operational and control expenses amid the pandemic. The upshot: Amazon is planning for COVID to remain an unwelcome companion through the end of the year with costs higher than the previous quarter. The company said Thursday in its third-quarter earnings call that it logged $7.5 billion in COVID-related costs since the disease took root earlier this year. Amazon previously said its COVID costs were about $600 million in the first quarter and more than $4 billion in the second. The company’s COVID costs in the third quarter were about $2.5 billion, CFO Brian Olsavsky told an analyst during an earnings call. While Amazon was able to lower its costs in the third quarter due to efficiencies that number is on rise for next quarter. Olsavsky said the majority of the increase in costs is due to the expansion of its operations. Amazon has hired 100,000 new workers in October. COVID-19 along with other uncertainties related to the economy, holiday sales and even weather patterns weighed on its guidance for operating income in the fourth quarter. Amazon provided a wide-ranging guidance of between $1 billion and $4.5 billion in operating income in the fourth quarter compared with $3.9 billion in the same period last year.  This guidance assumes about $4 billion of costs related to COVID-19. But what is most telling is that even after…Continue readingAmazon pegs COVID-19 costs at an estimated $4 billion next quarter – TechCrunch

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VentureBeat

MIT researchers say their AI model can identify asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers

Researchers at MIT say they’ve developed an algorithm that can diagnose COVID-19 by the sound of someone’s cough, even if that person is asymptomatic. In a paper published in the IEEE Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology, the team reports that their approach distinguishes those infected from healthy individuals through “forced-cough” recordings contributed via smartphones, laptops, and other mobile devices. Applying AI to discern the cause of a cough isn’t a new idea. Last year, a group of Australian researchers developed a smartphone app that could ostensibly identify respiratory disorders like pneumonia and bronchitis by “listening” to a person’s exhalations. The potential for bias exists in these systems — algorithms trained on imbalanced or unrepresentative datasets can lead to worse health outcomes for certain user groups — but studies suggest they could be a useful tool on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. The MIT researchers, who had been developing a model to detect signs of Alzheimer’s from coughs, trained their system on tens of thousands of samples of coughs as well as spoken words. Prior research suggests the quality of the sound “mmmm” can be an indication of how weak or strong a person’s vocal cords are, and so the team trained a model on an audiobook dataset with more than 1,000 hours of speech to pick out the word “them” from words like “the” and “then.” They then trained a second model to distinguish emotions in speech on a dataset of actors intonating emotional states such…Continue readingMIT researchers say their AI model can identify asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers

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TechCrunch

How to address inequality exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic – TechCrunch

Darrell M. West Contributor Darrell M. West is Vice President and Director of Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. John R. Allen Contributor John R. Allen is President of The Brookings Institution. The novel coronavirus has accelerated the use of many digital technologies. Forced in the spring to close their doors, most K-12 schools and universities shifted to online learning where teachers lead classes virtually and students submit their assignments electronically. According to the World Economic Forum, it is estimated that 1.2 billion students around the world this year were “out of the classroom” due to the pandemic, while in the United States, over 55 million K-12 students didn’t receive in-person instruction. The use of telemedicine and video conferencing also has become a principal platform for medical consultations as a result of the coronavirus. For example, a Forrester analysis projected “general medical care visits to top 200 million this year, up sharply from their original expectation of 36 million visits for all of 2020.” Virtual connections allow patients to get recommendations wherever they are and draw on a broad range of medical expertise. E-commerce is taking off as consumers abandon small retail outlets and large department stores. An industry study found that “total online spending in May 2020 reached $82.5 billion, up 77% from May of 2019” and those numbers almost surely will increase in coming months as people appreciate the convenience of online ordering and home delivery. Yet the pandemic also has exposed dramatic inequities in technology access and utilization. Not everyone has the high-speed broadband required for online education, telemedicine…Continue readingHow to address inequality exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic – TechCrunch

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Wired

The Science That Spans #MeToo, Memes, and Covid-19

Network science’s underlying theory predates the internet, but social media’s rise was an important cultural innovation that implored the need for a science of how people are connected. And while there are myriad fun and interesting questions about the way that people interact, few have been more pertinent than how social movements are born. Take this year’s #Hashtag Activism, for example, in which Brooke Foucault Welles, Sarah Jackson, and Moya Bailey use network science to uncover the growth of social media activism. Foucault Welles, an associate professor at Northeastern, says that network science “lets us distill vast, chaotic online communication data down to its essence” and “pull out important themes, people, and events for close reading.” This intersection with big data is critical: that it can extract patterns from terabytes of social media interactions strengthens the reach of its conclusions—the findings aren’t about how a small set of users behave, but about aggregate behavior. The approaches highlighted in #Hashtag Activism can reveal fundamental principles of social movements that apply to the digital activism movements of recent times. From a network of activist narratives built from quantitative and qualitative data, Foucault Welles describes how, “in #MeToo, we discovered that talking about sexual assault online is really powerful because it reduces stigma and encourages other people to disclose. The first few people to come forward have to be really brave and talk about what happened to them, even though they might not be believed, they might not be supported, and they might…Continue readingThe Science That Spans #MeToo, Memes, and Covid-19

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Engadget

San Francisco and Alameda drop Verily’s COVID-19 testing service

The task force also raised concerns about the fact that people have to provide sensitive personal information, including their addresses and whether they have chronic health conditions, when they sign up. Verily uses language in its privacy policy that says it can share people’s information with third parties involved in the testing program. Dr. Noha Aboelata, CEO of Roots Community Health Center in Oakland who worked with Verily to establish a walk-up site at her clinic, echoed the task force’s concerns. She found that the people who registered through Verily for testing tended to be white — her clinic mostly serves African Americans and other PoCs — and to come from wealthier ZIP codes outside of East Oakland. The doctor severed her ties with Verily after only six days. Dr. Jonathan Fuchs, who leads San Francisco County’s testing strategy, confirmed to Kaiser that the partnership with Verily is “currently on hold.” Verily spokesperson Kathleen Parkes told the publication, though, that conversations with San Francisco and Alameda remain “active.” In addition, she explained that the testing program requires a Gmail account so that it can use Google’s authentication procedures to protect people’s sensitive data. Source linkContinue readingSan Francisco and Alameda drop Verily’s COVID-19 testing service

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TechCrunch

TravelPerk launches an API for COVID-19 restrictions – TechCrunch

About a month after outting an open API platform for its customers to augment their apps, business trip SaaS startup TravelPerk has launched a standalone API product aimed at helping the wider travel industry provide up-to-date information on travel restrictions and risks related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The TravelSafe API is a monthly subscription product that lets travel providers integrate pandemic-related information on point to point restrictions between destinations during the booking process — with the service pulling data from official sources and local governmental websites that TravelPerk says is cross referenced by its own customer care agents. It’s also calculating the risk level for travel to a particular country which it says is based on real-time analysis of the reproductive rate of the epidemic (R0). The API launch follows TravelPerk’s acquisition of risk management startup Albatross in July, as the pandemic has pushed it to build out its travel risk management offerings. Travel startups have of course been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, with the virus decimating demand for international trips and wiping out huge swathes of the business travel market. And, while domestic staycationing does appear to have offset some of the vacation-related demand crunch, it’s still a tough outlook for business tips — as scores of information workers Zoom into meetings from home. TravelPerk’s response to the COVID-19 demand shock has been to focus on product development — and today’s launch of a subscription API looks like an attempt to find a business opportunity amid…Continue readingTravelPerk launches an API for COVID-19 restrictions – TechCrunch

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TechCrunch

The US now seems to be pinning all of its hopes on COVID-19 therapies and vaccines – TechCrunch

Almost eight months after the White House first announced it would move from containment to mitigation efforts to stop the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Administration is now pinning its hopes on vaccines to inoculate the population and therapies to treat the disease. Months after announcing it would be working with technology giants Apple and Google on a contact tracing app (and nearly two months after Google and Apple rolled out their exposure notification features) and initiating wide spread testing efforts nationwide with the largest national pharmacies (which never received the coordinated support it needed),  the Administration appears to be giving up on a national effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic. In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that the US is “not going to control the pandemic… We are gonna control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation.” MEADOWS: We’re not going to control the pandemic TAPPER: Why not? M: Because it’s a contagious virus T: Why not make efforts to contain it? M: What we need to do is make sure we have the proper mitigation factors to make sure people don’t die pic.twitter.com/0DYgk4rB3T — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 25, 2020 The admission is a final nail in the coffin for a federal response that could have involved a return to lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus, or national testing and contact tracing and other mitigation measures. Meadows statement comes as…Continue readingThe US now seems to be pinning all of its hopes on COVID-19 therapies and vaccines – TechCrunch

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The Verge

Samsung thinks its 85-inch Interactive Display is a digital whiteboard for the COVID-19 classroom

Samsung would like you to believe its new 85-inch Interactive Display can bridge the gap between students in the classroom and students studying at home, now that blended-learning is the new normal across the country. In reality, it’s just a slightly bigger digital whiteboard — but assuming it doesn’t cost too much, the tweaked vision does sound intriguing. Now that COVID-19 has swept the country, some students are huddling around tiny Chromebook screens at home while others stay in class, and Samsung’s internet-connected digital whiteboard promises to let students and teachers collaborate with each other, whether they’re in that classroom drawing on the board or adding to it in real-time from their laptop at home. The goal here isn’t to necessarily connect everyone better – they’ve had a few months to get a handle on that over Zoom – but rather to let the kind of collaboration that can happen when everyone’s together, happen while students are apart. Samsung’s 65-inch Flip 2Samsung While the Interactive Display is mostly just a larger version of Samsung’s existing Flip 2 digital whiteboards, the 85-inch size means it’s as large as an actual school whiteboard (though it weighs far more at 164 pounds). Compared to the previous 55- and 65-inch models, more students could theoretically use the board at once. Samsung imagines the display primarily mounted in a classroom where they can use its 4K touchscreen and support for four pens (it comes with two) to write and draw; it supports up to 20…Continue readingSamsung thinks its 85-inch Interactive Display is a digital whiteboard for the COVID-19 classroom

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Mashable

COVID-19 proves that suicide is much more than a personal struggle

As the United States settles into fall, fears that the coronavirus pandemic will worsen are coming true. Infection rates have spiked in the midwest and Great Plains. There’s a resurgence of COVID-19 in several neighborhoods in New York City, where restrictions tamed the virus’ spread after a tragic spring.  Yet mental health experts are also deeply concerned about another worrisome trend. An article published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association described a “second wave” of mental health and substance use disorders that threaten to inundate and overwhelm the healthcare system. Its authors, who are psychiatrists at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, expect the surge to bring increased deaths from drug overdoses and suicides.  Deaths of despair and suicides have risen in recent years, and the pandemic has only intensified risk factors for substance use and suicide, which include social isolation, loss, and limited access to mental healthcare.  At the same time, the pandemic is revealing something critical about the nature of suicide, in particular. People, who may or may not experience mental illness or a mental health condition, can feel hopeless enough to take their own lives partly because they see no escape from circumstances that may deprive them of basic needs like food, shelter, and healthcare.  This complicates the widespread notion of suicide as the product of experiencing a mental illness or mental health condition. Through this lens, suicide is often considered a personal battle, and many people look to psychotherapy as…Continue readingCOVID-19 proves that suicide is much more than a personal struggle

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The Next Web

COVID-19 will probably become endemic – here’s what that means

We can’t say with any certainty what the future of COVID-19 is. But based on our experience with other infections, there is little reason to believe that the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 will go away any time soon, even when vaccines become available. A more realistic scenario is that it will be added to the (large and growing) family of infectious diseases that are what is known as “endemic” in the human population. With the worldwide spread of the disease increasing again, it seems unlikely that the currently available measures can do more than bring that spread under control – except in countries that can effectively isolate themselves from the outside world. The fact that the vast majority of people are still susceptible to some degree means that there is sufficient fuel for the fire to keep burning for quite some time. This will be the case even if specific locations reach what is known as population (or herd) immunity (and it’s not clear how likely this is to happen). When a sufficient number of people become immune to a disease, either through vaccination or natural infection, its spread starts to slow down and the number of cases gradually decreases. But that doesn’t mean it will disappear instantly or completely. Outside any areas with population immunity, there are likely to be plenty of locations that still have enough susceptible individuals to keep transmission going. No measure of isolation is so strong that it will completely stop human interaction between regions, within and…Continue readingCOVID-19 will probably become endemic – here’s what that means