COVID-19 strains now in 30 different mutations, says Study from China

(Photo from CDC)

US is seeing a death toll at 42,897, with confirmed 799,515 cases as of April 21, and extreme rightists protesting to end quarantine.

A new study from professor Li Lanjuan and colleagues from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China  published in a non-peer review paper released on website medRXiv.org on Sunday, says that COVID-19 now has at least 30 different variation of mutations, which could make finding vaccine even more difficult.

Li Team stated that some of the COVID-19 mutations could generate as much as 270 times the normal viral load as the weakest strains, showing variety in danger to humans based on the mutation of the strain.

Assuming this study is accurate (as it has yet to be peer-reviewed amidst growing skepticism towards validity of information streaming out of China from the global community), this could make treatment immensely difficult, as so far, all COVID-19 patients have been treated in the same way.

Li says, “Drug and vaccine development, while urgent, need to take the impact of these accumulating mutations into account to avoid potential pitfalls.”

It is unclear at this time when the study will be peer-reviewed and its information, verified, however, the amidst growing tension in economic, political, and social structure of much of the western world, many hope that this study is not reflective of reality.

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Unanimous Jury Necessity for Criminal Convictions, says Supreme Court

(Photo from Google images, captured from the movie.”12 Angry Men”; authorized under Fair Use Act)

On April 20, 2020, in a divided opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that only unanimous jury may convict defendants in criminal trials.

In considering the Sixth Amendment’s “trial by an impartial jury trial” language, Justice Gorsuch wrote in an opinion, “… the answer is unmistakable … a jury must reach a unanimous verdict in order to convict.”

Out of 50 states, only Oregon allows conviction of defendants over the dissent of up to two jurors. Louisiana, the 49th state to abandon the practice of convicting a defendant without a unanimous jury verdict, only recently changed its laws in 2018, to apply to all crime convictions taking place after 2018.

This ruling overturns the 2016 conviction of Louisiana man named Evangelisto Ramos, who was convicted by a jury of 10-2 of killing a woman in New Orleans.

This new ruling has a high likelihood of getting Ramos a new trial.

Ramos’ attorney Ben Cohen of Promise of Justice Initiative, a Louisiana-Based nonprofit organization dedicated to identifying non-unanimous jury verdicts on criminal cases, expressed happiness in the ruling, calling it “rejection of second-class justice.”

Out of 9 justices, 6 voted to uphold unanimous jury verdicts; 3 justices that dissented were Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, and Justice Elena Kagan.

In a dissenting opinion, Alito argued that the overturning of a 48-year old decision that allowed non-unanimous jury laws was wrong, as it lowers the bar for overruling precedents.

Majority argued the 48-year old decision as being racist, implemented as part of an effort to make conviction of black and other ethic minority peoples easier.

Given that even the voters in the state of Louisiana tended to call this law a “Jim Crow” law, including state Senator J.P. Morrell of New Orleans, it seems to support the view that perhaps many already deemed non-unanimous jury convictions as racist.

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US halts and cuts funds for WHO; Trump receives backlash

Trump announced the halt in U.S. funding for WHO on Tuesday. He accused WHO, as a the world’s health agency, of misleading the world about the COVID-19 outbreak in China and blaming it for the resulting high death tolls around globe.

Germany slammed Trump’s WHO decision as “blaming others” for the coronavirus. According to CBS, “Blaming others won’t help. The virus knows no borders,” wrote Heiko Maas (Germany’s Foreign Minister) on Twitter.

Bill Gates, billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder called this, “as dangerous as it sounds.”

Later, Gates retweeted WHO’s “work is slowing the spread of COVID-19, and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever.”

Trump announced Wednesday, that the U.S. will cut WHO funding.

The US is the biggest contributor to the WHO, making payments of $400 million in 2019. It is 15% of its budget.

Some do agree with Trump’s point of view, as WHO’s hesitation in calling the Novel Coronavirus outbreak a pandemic for an extended period of time had potentially misled those in other parts of the world about the seriousness of the Novel Coronavirus, with Europe and the US seeing some of the heaviest effects.

However, COVID-19 vaccine is still in development, and some also worry about the effect of halting the funding on WHO could have on vaccine development.

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One of Leading Pork Processing Company closes due to COVID-19 Contraction

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and the mayor of Sioux Falls recommended at the Saturday news briefing to the Smithfield company that it’s suspending operation due to Smithfield employees contracting more than half of the state’s coronavirus cases.

Gov. Noem said about 240 Smithfield employees are sick out of 430 total active cases in the state. As a result, Smithfield Company in South Dakota will be closed for at least for 2 weeks. Meat processors in Iowa and Pennsylvania will also be closed because of coronavirus affected employees.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota facility accounts for 4%-5% of the US pork production and about 3,700 people work at South Dakota’s Smithfield facilities.

The employees will be on paid leave for 2 weeks while the plant is fully shut down. US consumers should expect to see some decline in the availability of pork products as a result of this shutdown.

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As New Jersey and New York See Decline, DC and Virginia See Incline

Monday, DC, Maryland, and Virginia saw their biggest single-day increase in COVID-19 related deaths, with up to 169.  Officials are concerned that the next hot spot will be DC and Philadelphia.  Although deaths are disproportionately concentrated among black residents, there is generally a 114 percent increase in confirmed coronavirus cases in DC region from the past week. Between Friday and Monday, there was an average of 393 new cases per day, up from average of 70 new cases a day March 22 to March 24.

40 percent originated in Prince George’s County and Montgomery County; DC and Northern Virginia accounted for more than 30 percent of new cases: 538 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 656 additional people awaiting test results. Maryland has hospitalized 1,059 people, with 184 released from isolation.

As DC, Maryland, and Virginia together reach 10,000 infected mark, officials warn people to stay home and to practice social distancing, as the area hospitals begin preparing extra beds to prepare for an influx of COVID-positive patients.

Although New York is seeing a decline in infection numbers, New York also saw its highest death rate today, 779 people.

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VA Treats Veterans for Coronavirus

Tents are being erected outside the Veterans Administration hospital on Galvez Street in New Orleans. These tents will serve as a drive-through testing site for coronavirus. (James Varney/ The Washington Times)

The Department of Veterans Affairs currently tracks Veterans who have tested positive for coronavirus. As of Monday, 204 Veteran patients were found to have coronavirus. There are 8 in the Washington DC area.
5 are self-quarantined at home, with three in the hospital. Two Veterans have died from the disease so far.
VA has so far administered over 1,524 coronavirus tests nationwide and plans to administer more as coronavirus continues to spread.

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Companies or Individuals? Republicans and Democrats Fight Over Who Should Get the Stimulus

Senate Democrats blocked a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue bill on Monday, as parties split on who should receive the money, at 49-46. 60 vote threshold is need to advance the legislation for a final debate on the Senate.

Democrats argued that the bill does not help families and health care providers enough, while Republicans argued that the bill offers financial assistance to the entire economy and should be passed before more people lose jobs.

Democrats are especially concerned that $500 billion fund would be for businesses, states and cities with wide latitudes to spend, would focus on the big corporations and Wall Street over actual health care.

Republicans argued that Democrats are focusing only on special interest and organized labor.

As Dow Jones has lost 10,000 points in six weeks, with several million Americans without jobs, and it seems that the Senate is caught arguing about who should get what, yet again.

Current plan is for $500 billion loan program with $425 billion for companies, states and cities, $50 billion for passenger airline companies, $8 billion for cargo air companies, and $17 billion for firms deemed important for national security, with $350 billion for small businesses.

When or if the stimulus plan will actually pass, is a question that Congress cannot yet answer, and one, impacting the lives of many Americans.

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Coronavirus Fears Lead US to Telework

As universities and government agencies employ telework policies in fear of coronavirus, Alphabet, Google’s parent company has recommended its North American employees to work from home through April 10.

Although governments and schools have implemented telework or online course policies regionally or within its city boundaries, Google is asking everyone in the entire continent to follow this system.

As COVID-19 spread throughout Washington state, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook had encouraged its employees to work from home.

Google has also cancelled its annual developer conference Google I/O, due to COVID-19 worries. Furthermore, Google will establish COVID-19 fund which will enable temporary staff and vendors globally to take paid sick leave if they have potential COVID-19 symptoms or cannot work due to quarantine.

The US executive branch plans to meet with representatives from tech companies to discuss COVID-19 response efforts, where they will meet remotely.

Unwittingly, it seems that a virus may trigger a permanent shift in business and administration in the American workforce.

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Missing Corona Virus Link: First Outbreak in US

(Photo from Google Images)

A woman at UC Davis in California was tested positive for Corona virus. Strangely, this woman has had no contact with China or with another sick individual.

The California State Health Department has begun an investigation in attempt to find the source of the spread.

This is much difficult to do, as officials must attempt to identify everyone who might have had any extended contact with the woman within 6 feet of distance.

Furthermore, as she arrived intubated with a ventilator, identifying everyone she might have come in contact with is even more difficult to identify or clarify.

While US officials maintain that risk to the general public is low, they had failed to test the woman for Corona virus initially, declining to test her as she did not meet the criteria for infection with Corona virus.

CDC declined to comment on this failure, which ultimately led to the current situation. However, as worldwide count for Corona infection continues, the FDA is gearing up for the Corona virus outbreak, getting labs prepared.

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Infrastructure worries grow in US: Anderson Dam

(photo from weather.com)

The average integrity score for infrastructure soundness in the US is a low score of D Amidst the worry, federal government ordered Anderson Reservoir in Santa Clara County, California to be completely drained from October 1, 2020, due to rising concerns of the dam failing, both from its age, upkeep, and the earthquake.

Anderson Reservoir, which is less than 20 miles southeast of San Jose, sits alongside the Calaveras Fault. More than 10 years ago, according to the San Jose Mercury News, an engineering consultant warned that a 6.6 magnitude quake centered on the fault directly at the reservoir, or a 7.2 quake centered one mile away, could cause the dam to fail.

Built in 1950, the dam is a 240-foot damn located between Morgan Hill and San Jose. Generally kept at around half full, but in 2017, extensive rain filled up the reservoir quickly, creating heightened concerns for the areas nearby San Jose and even San Fransisco bay area too.

When this dam built in 1950s, the bedrock was not solid and it was some sand and gravel under it, which it could more liquefy in a big earthquake, leading the dam to slump and fail.

This reconstruction cost estimated is now $563 million and was scheduled to begin in 2022.

The problem is they can’t obtain the permits from other government agencies for the construction and still all other issues contain in the dam in Silicon Valley.

according to weather.com, studies found that if the dam failed when the reservoir was full, a 35-foot wall of water would slam into downtown Morgan Hill within 14 minutes. Within three hours, an 8-foot wave would reach San Jose.

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