Mutated coronavirus strain spreads up to 9X quicker

A new study has confirmed that there is a new version of coronavirus that spreads faster than ever before.

This new mutation of the coronavirus reportedly spread from Europe to the US and it is now the dominant form of the virus that is infecting individuals.

The “good” news is that it does not seem to make people sicker than earlier variations of the virus.

The research on this new strain of the virus came from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology and the Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium.

There had been indications earlier in the year on genetic sequences that indicated a mutant version of the virus was developing.

The team working on the study have ran experiments involving people, animals, and also cells in lab dishes.

These have shown that the mutated version is not only more common but also more infectious than other versions.

“We do know that the new virus is fitter. It doesn’t look at first glance as if it is worse,” Saphire said.

The mutation works by affecting something called the spike protein which is the structure that the virus uses to get inside of the cells it infects.

The next stage of research is going to look at whether or not this can be controlled by a vaccine.

According to CNN, “The researchers call the new mutation G614, and they show that it has almost completely replaced the first version to spread in Europe and the US, one called D614.”

So it seems that the new virus is more contagious but not more deadly.

Apparently, this could potentially be good news because there is a possibility that as the virus becomes more infectious, it could become less pathogenic.

So just how much more infectious is this new strain?

It’s possible that the G form is 3 to 9 times more infectious than the D form.

David Montefiore, director of the Laboratory for AIDS Vaccine Research and Development told CNN, “All the results agreed that the G form was three to nine times more infectious than the D form.”

One has to wonder if this could be one reason why the US has had a harder time controlling the virus than Europe?

It sounds like scientists are still learning more about this mutation but it is yet just another reason why we need to be extra careful about the spread of the virus.

Fines being enforced for not wearing masks

The city of Miami, Florida is imposing fines for refusing to wear face coverings and repeat offenders could be liable to pay up to $500.

The new mask policy will have a tiered system for fines.

The first offense for not covering up will result in a net fine of $50 and a second offense will result in a $150 fee.

Those who continue to violate the measure will be subject to up to $500 in fees and could even be arrested.

“The only way to ensure compliance in some way shape or form is you have to have a heavy hand,” City Manager Art Noriega said Thursday.

Reportedly, these fines will go to collection agencies so refusing to pay them could result in damage to credit reports, so there are some real consequences here.

There is a lot of scientific support showing that wearing masks prevent coronavirus transmission.

Masks are not perfect but there is a lot of evidence that they are effective at curtailing the spread of a virus like the coronavirus.

Here are what a couple of studies have shown via BI:

  • “A recent analysis of coronavirus outbreaks in 42 countries found that countries where mask wearing was common, like China and Japan, saw more modest outbreaks compared with nations that weren’t accustomed to the practice.”
  • “A model from the University of Washington predicted that the US could prevent about 33,000 coronavirus deaths by October if 95% of the population wore face masks in public.”
  •  Findings from Arizona State University showed that “broad adoption of even relatively ineffective face masks may meaningfully reduce community transmission of COVID-19” and that in NY, “up to 45% of projected deaths over two months could be prevented — even if the masks were only 50% effective.”
  •  “Indian researchers recently determined that a simple cloth mask “substantially decreases” the spread of virus particles when an infected person coughs or sneezes.”

So even if the masks being worn are not totally effective at containing virus particles from getting into the environment from your nose and mouth, they can still play a major role in decreasing the spread of the virus.

Still, a lot of people consider this to be infringing upon their freedom.

There also has not been a clear message regarding the effectiveness of masks from the beginning which has been problematic.

Top level health officials and groups like the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not recommend the use of face masks for the general public and have reversed their stance on whether or not people should wear masks.

That has resulted in people not trusting the advice being told to them.

Add in the fact that this virus and its threat to public safety have been highly politicized a pre-existing stigma on masks, potential health risks involved in wearing a mask, and you can see why a sizable segment of the population is essentially “anti-mask.”

I think more cities are going to come down harder on people who violate mask ordinances in terms of setting up mandatory requirements and potential fines.

However, I question whether or not those fines will be enforced since the focus is on safety and not so much coming down on violators hard.


US sees worst day in new coronavirus cases

The United States just reported 36,000 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday.

This number surpasses the previous single day record of 34,203 that was set back on April 25th.

This means that we are now seeing more coronavirus infections right now then we were during the peak of the first wave.

Three states had the highest number of new cases and those include: Texas, Florida, and California — three states with massive populations.

According to CNN, Arizona is seeing the highest number of new cases per capita.

“Arizona added about 2,742 new cases per day over the seven days that ended on June 23. Adjusted for population, that’s about 38 new cases per 100,000 people per day.”

Testing has increased since April 25 so you have to take into consideration that the number of new cases has been affected by the total number of new tests happening.

The problem is that the increase in infection rates in some states has been higher than the increase in testing.

In addition, a higher percentage of people are testing positive indicating that there is more spread.

And finally, we are starting to see ICU departments getting swamped once again.

For example, it’s reported that ICU departments in Houston are at 90+% capacity.

It really seemed like we had the coronavirus figured out during May as we saw the total number of daily cases decrease but it is clear that we underestimated how quickly cases would begin to rise again.

Based on numbers like the Arizona 38 new cases per 100,000 people per day, the odds of someone contracting coronavirus are still very low.

And that number is still below the peak of new cases per capita that New York had with 51 new cases per 100,000 people per day.

But still, you can’t ignore that it is somewhat scary that we have surpassed the peak of the first wave and that as a nation we don’t seem to have a clear and collective plan on how to keep this virus in check.

So try to stay out from public areas as much as necessary, wash your hands, wear a mask (smartly), and hopefully these hotspot states can get things under control pretty quickly.


New rising covid cases are really bad


As more cases of coronavirus rise in the US, many people have questions about which parts of the country have been hit worst.

It’s clear that overall the country is on a steep upward trend ever since economies began to reopen.

But it is also clear that not every region in the US is on that steep upward trend in cases.

There’s a new helpful graph that clearly shows that each region in the US is on a different path.

The small graphs on the left clearly show that the Northeast and Midwest have controlled the spike. In the case of the Northeast, they are clearly on a major downward trend while the Midwest has a slight uptick.

However, there is a huge spike in the south and also a pretty substantial rise in the west.

This graph should help a lot of people understand just how different the transmission rates currently are in different places in the country and the importance of focusing on local and regional data.


Original article

It’s no secret that coronavirus is now spiking in cities and states all around the country.

It seems that the grand experiment to re-open the economies is now yielding its results.

And these results show that we are now seeing numbers in several states that are just as bad if not worse than the initial peaks we saw in April.

I think it is important for people to be able to see just how bad (or not bad) things are in their home state.

So I wanted to share this resource where you can see a breakdown of the new cases in your state or in other countries.

It’s really telling to view the numbers on a graph. For example, I viewed the numbers for Arizona and I saw a staggering number of new cases.

Just look at the purple line and see how bad things have spiked!

Those numbers are really bad.

And if you look at the numbers for the US as a whole, you’ll see that we are nearly approaching the peak levels we were at in April.

It’s very discouraging considering the progress we were making as a country.

Some of the numbers are the result of increased testing. The US is testing tons of people so the sheer number of daily cases is not necessarily an indication that things are getting worse.

However, we know that in many places the new cases far outnumber the increases in testing and that more people are testing positive than ever before in some cities. Hospitalizations are also on the rise as hospitals prepare to handle huge surges once again.

So my advice would be to check your local state and see how your part of the country is doing so that reality can sink in. We’ve got to be careful when going out and that starts by knowing the facts about how bad the virus spread rate is.

The Ultimate Guide to Sanitizing Your Hotel Room for Coronavirus

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the whole travel industry. It forced people to stay isolated at their homes and it demolished businesses in the travel sector.

Airlines started canceling and rescheduling flights and reported severe operation losses. Passengers to this day are wondering how to handle their coronavirus flight cancelations and get a refund. Most hotel rooms are currently empty. But there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Regardless of travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, many people are eager to travel again. If we learn how to protect ourselves from the virus we can minimize the threat.

While wearing a mask in crowded public places is important, there is one thing you should be more concerned about, sanitizing your hotel room properly. In this guide, we will walk you through everything you need to know and do to ensure your hotel room is COVID-19 free.

What are hotel chains doing about it?

First and foremost you should be sure that hotels realize the threat and take it seriously. Most hotels, especially big brands, are taking serious measures to sanitize rooms, lobbies, elevators and literally every corner of the building.

After all, they don’t do it solely because the government requires it. If somebody gets infected with COVID-19 during a stay, the hotel would most probably have to close, get bad publicity, and in some cases they could even get sued in case of extreme negligence.

Moreover, the news will spread like wildfire and no hotel chain wants to be a part of that story. So if hotels don’t take measures to prevent infections, it means both revenue and reputation loss for them. 

Naturally, no hotel chain wants that.

This is the reason most world-leading providers are open about their sanitization effort. A recent example is how Marriot showcases new cleanliness standards.

Thorough sanitizing isn’t the only thing hotels are doing to attract more customers despite the scarcity. That is obvious when you take a look at the elevated credit card welcome bonuses Hotel branded cards are doing at the moment.

You can see the huge sign-up bonuses that Hilton and Marriott are currently offering with their partners. And we can expect more offers like this to come out in the following months.

Hotels are desperate to stimulate people to travel and now is a good chance to take advantage of these great offers.

But before you hurry to go on your dream summer vacation have a few things in mind. It is not a good idea to entirely trust others to keep you safe. You should learn what you can do about it yourself.

Furthermore, this summer season doing a short road trip and staying at a rental won’t be uncommon. While big hotel brands have strict measures, we can’t be sure if smaller providers are doing the same.

So whether you plan to stay at Hilton or a small private family rental here is what you need to bring with yourself.

Packing for post-pandemic travel

The first and most obvious thing you should bring with yourself is a face mask. Or to be more precise multiple face masks. If you prefer single-use face masks, make sure you bring a lot.

Your holiday destination may not have an excessive supply of them. Right now masks are selling like crazy so don’t test your luck and be prepared.

Generally, it is better to have a reusable, machine washable mask. Buy at least 2 or 3 so you can have one at your disposal while the others are in the washing machine.

Next, you need to buy travel-sized disinfectant wipes. These will be useful throughout your whole trip, from washing your airplane seat to disinfecting your room.

Last but not least, bring a hand-sanitizer. The good news is the TSA is currently allowing you to bring large-sized bottles of hand sanitizers through the airport security checkpoint.

So after you make sure you have all of these let’s take a look at the 5 steps to sanitizing your hotel room for Coronavirus.

1. Wash Your Hands for Real

The first thing you should do when you enter the room is to wash your hands and face. That is the number one advice all experts give. There is no point in sanitizing your room if you touched an infected surface while you traveled anyways. First, sanitize yourself.

However, you need to make it count. A splash of water and little soap won’t do the job. Here is a depicted guide from the World Health Organization on how to wash your hands properly. You should rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds and make sure you get your nails and back of your hands as well.

2. Sanitize All Surfaces That are Touched Often

First, wipe your suitcase and everything you brought from the outside into your room. After that, you need to disinfect and wipe all surfaces that are touched often. These areas are very likely to hold infections as most people interact with them while they are in a hotel room. You can wipe them with your disinfectant wipes. Some of these surfaces include:

  • Doorknobs (all of them)
  • Toilet Lid and flush button/ handle
  • Sink and shower handles
  • TV remote controls
  • Light Switches
  • Cloth Hangers
  • Nightstands

Also,  if you use glasses, cups, cutlery, the ice bucket or any other food and drink utensils, make sure you wash them with hot water and soap after use.

3.  Get Rid of the Bedspreads

Bedding is changed after the guests leave the room right? Well, not exactly. If you have a bedspread that covers your top sheet it is likely this isn’t changed between guests.

Many people probably left their dirty suitcases, clothes and other belongings on the bedspread. Ask the housekeeper to take the decorative bed covering and give you a new one or you can just use the non-decorative sheets and pillows.

4. Open the windows

Many people figure out they have to clean the surfaces. But what about the air? You need to open the windows and let in some fresh air. Especially if it feels stifling. Coronavirus can drift through the air as well.

One good side of COVID-19 is that air pollution went down drastically. However, pollution is likely to return to the same level. So let some fresh air circulate in the morning from the windows if weather and pollution levels are acceptable.

5. Give your Housekeeper instructions

Housekeepers will usually go above and beyond to make you feel comfortable and of course, to get a tip. They are likely to arrange your items, fold your clothes, etc.

Tell your housekeeper to refrain from touching your stuff while cleaning. Just to be on the safe side wipe and disinfect your items you suspect were touched during the cleaning. For items like a toothbrush, wristwatch or hair combs that interact directly with your body disinfection is mandatory.

So there you have it!

You are now one step closer to having a worry-free post-pandemic trip.  If you are wondering where to look for bookings right now, you can compare offers at some of the 15 Best Hotel Booking Sites for 2020.

Now when you know how to protect yourself you can now go on your next trip with peace of mind. 

New details emerge about focus of next stimulus package

Today, we received more details from White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow regarding a second stimulus package and round of stimulus checks.

First, it looks like there is confirmation that negotiations will not be finalized until after the July recess.

This was already expected and it was just confirmed as Larry Kudlow stated that current discussions of a second round of stimulus relief is in a stage of “pre-decisional, shall we say rumors.”

Congress will take its month long recess on August 8 so many experts are speculating that the absolute latest a decision will come will be on the 8th of August, although a deal could certainly be made before then.

When asked to provide details about the potential package, Kudlow stated, “After the July recess, there is likely, highly likely – to discuss – in the House, the Senate and the administration new plans for economic growth … there is almost certainly going to be a package. What’s in the package? I don’t want to predict.”

So it sounds like the contents of the package are very much up in the air.

We have seen a lot of talk about focusing on helping small businesses, rolling out payroll tax cuts, and building infrastructure and manufacturing jobs.

Referencing Trump’s preference for second package, Kudlow also stated that, the president “wants to help out with some form of tax relief for restaurants, entertainment, athletic contests, and things of that sort. We want to help out the tourism business which has been hurt very badly and we also want to reward people who are re-employing, that are going back to work. I think that’s very important. We’re also very concerned about protecting liability insurance in COVID-19 cases for small businesses and everybody and maybe some targeted spending discussions going on between the three major bodies,” the White House economic adviser said.

We haven’t really heard a lot of details about a second round of stimulus checks. In fact, a lot of the talk is centered around the proposed $4,000 vacation credit that would incentivize Americans to get out and travel.

It seems that the focus is on businesses and not individuals at this point. And that would seem to suggest that a second round of direct payments to Americans will not happen.

However based on what the economic adviser to the White House stated, it is still too early to definitively state whether or not the second round of stimulus checks will be issued.



Who will be eligible for a second round of stimulus checks?

New stimulus package may include 1 trillion in infrastructure

New stimulus package may provide vacation credits


Coronavirus is spiking big-time in some states like Arizona

Update: 6/18/20

We now have more data that clearly shows coronavirus cases spiking on a more worrying level.

In Texas, hospitalizations are now up more than 84% since Memorial Day. Just yesterday, the state saw an 11% increase in COVID-19 hospitalization cases.

Some worry that Houston could meet ICU capacity in two weeks.

In Arizona, they’re seeing some of the largest spikes in hospitalizations in the country. Nurses are reporting that this second wave is “far worse” than the first.

Remember, these numbers above are hospitalizations related to coronavirus. These aren’t merely people testing positive for the virus.

These figures have led to the governor to change his stance and allow Arizona cities and counties to require people to wear masks.

And in Florida, there are talks about the state being the next epicenter.

Other states with record-high increases include:

  • Alabama
  • California
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina.

So I’m not trying to scare anybody but I want to make sure to help get the word out that the threat of this virus is still something to take serious and to not let your guard down.

I’m not saying you should not live your life at all and that we need a complete shut down of everything but we just need to be smart and considerate of others when we do get out.

Keep your distance, wash your hands, wear a mask, etc.


The last month has been one huge experiment.

We’ve known that the economy would not be able to sustain itself with everything shut down and so states and cities moved to open things back up after extended periods of lock down.

These openings happened with precautions put in place such as requirements (or at least recommendations) to wear masks, reduced capacity at business establishments such as restaurants, and an emphasis on social distancing.

There’s been a lot of excitement as big-name destinations have started to re-open like Disney World and universal studios Orlando.

But it’s starting to look like the results from this experiment are not going so well for some states.

Arizona just saw coronavirus cases surge 54% in one week.

That is the largest week to week increase in cases since the pandemic began.

That’s a very troubling statistic and you might be tempted to say that those increased cases are just due to more testing being done.

But the statistics don’t align with that.

For one, the percentage of positive tests has been increasing from 5% in late April to now 13%.

So now more people are getting tested but the disease is also reaching more people going in for testing.

The percentages also don’t line up when you factor in the increase in testing.

Last week, diagnostic testing increased by about 18% while cases rose by 54%.

States like Arizona are moving into that dangerous territory where hospitals may be overwhelmed.

I think that even if you are of the position that we should just let the virus run its course and let people battle it out, you have to at least acknowledge that people who have a completely preventable cause of death could die due to hospitals being overwhelmed.

Things have been stable in hospitals in certain Arizona cities like Tucson but officials are already stating that they may have to exercise surge plans to increase ICU capacity.

By now, we know that hospitalizations tend to lag as do deaths when it comes to this virus so the worst may be still to come.

Hopefully these numbers wake up officials and citizens that it’s still too early to let our guard down.


Coronavirus cases rising in 12 states

Over the past month, economies have started to open back up as millions of Americans have been eager to begin to get back to normal. Policymakers have had to make tough calls about balancing the need for economic recovery with the need to curb the spread of coronavirus.

There has been a lot of talk about whether or not a second wave of the virus will hit when things open back up. 

And now some data is starting to come in that is pretty revealing.

We already know that cases are rising fast around the globe but even here in the US things are not looking good for certain states.

Since Memorial Day, at least 12 states have seen coronavirus related hospitalizations increase.

The states include:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah

Data aggregated by CNN from the Covid Tracking Project from May 25 to June 9.

There is usually a 2 to 3 week lag when it comes to coronavirus data showing up. That’s because it takes a while for the disease to spread, for people to become symptomatic, and then for people to get confirmed results that they are positive.

So it’s no surprise that we are seeing the results now.

And it makes you wonder how much worse things will get in another couple of weeks from the George Floyd protests.

The vast majority of protesters were wearing masks that I saw so that’s a good sign but I think there still will be in a spike just based on the sheer numbers of people who participated in the protests.

Some states are spiking worse than others.

In the state where I currently reside, Arizona, they are starting to get worried about overwhelming the healthcare system again.

Health experts have asked them to activate their hospital emergency plans as intensive care unit beds are now having high occupancy rates. Consider that at its peak, Arizona’s intensive care unit beds were 78% in use and as of Monday, 76% were occupied. 

This doesn’t come as a total surprise to me as I’ve seen a lot of people in places like grocery stores not wearing masks over the past couple of weeks.

I even saw an employee at an MVD building (Arizona’s equivalent of the department of motor vehicles) not wearing a mask despite the fact that she was coming into contact with tons of people throughout the day.

It seems people were taking things very seriously up until they announced they were easing back on the lockdowns around mid-May.

So hopefully this is a wake up call to anybody who thinks that the coronavirus is no longer posing a major threat.

I think we owe it to everybody and our healthcare workers to be smart and to wear masks whenever we can to prevent further spread.


Coronavirus cases rising faster than ever

If you’ve been thinking that the coronavirus is under control and that international travel might be opening up sooner than we thought, you may want to hold that thought for a little while.

New cases of coronavirus are now rising at a rate faster than ever worldwide.

Since May 21, there have been only five days where cases have been under 100,000 a day.

That’s a lot of cases and a big problem.

But there are some regions where things are much worse than others and also these numbers are likely the result of more widespread testing so it’s not all doom and gloom.

First, let’s just take a look at the chart to see what we’re working with.

Chart via CNN.

As you can see, North America hit an Apex in mid-April.

There’s no doubt that was the product of dramatic social distancing and shut downs across the continent. You can see the numbers as they went down toward the beginning of May and for the most part stabilized until recently beginning to increase again.

This increase coincides with the re-opening up of many economies around the country. But it also coincides with more testing that’s being done.

So the big question for the US is how much worse are things spreading now than they were in March when things were getting out of control and health care systems were threatened?

I think it’s still going to take some time for the data to roll in and reveal that.

I’m sure that new cases will continue to rise but with the social distancing policies in place and things like masks being mandatory in so many locations, I don’t think we will experience another exponential surge like we did in the past.

But in other parts of the globe, things are less under control.

If you look at the cases for Latin America, for example, things are rapidly escalating there.

Things are also getting heated in the Middle East and Africa where the rate of transmission is also accelerating.

According to CNN, “In Libya, Iraq, Uganda, Mozambique and Haiti, the data shows the number of known cases is doubling every week. In Brazil, India, Chile, Colombia and South Africa, cases are doubling every two weeks.”
“The Americas continues to account for the most cases. For several weeks, the number of cases reported each day in the Americas has been more than the rest of the world put together,” said World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday.
It’s very possible that Central and South America have not reached their peak yet. Things look bad there and there also has been questions about the accuracy of their testing so it could be much worse there.
So if you’re planning on heading to those destinations this summer, it may not be feasible.
Some other countries like South Korea, Germany, and China have also seen clusters of new infections as restrictions have been removed.
At this point, I think everybody realizes that cases will increase as things re-open. It’s just a matter of how quickly things will escalate and how bad they will get.
I think with another month of data we will have a better indication of whether or not a second wave will occur during the summer. But I believe there is still a lot of unknown about what will happen when we return to flu season in the fall.

Ending lockdowns might be safer than we thought

There’s been endless debate about whether or not it is currently safe to end the lockdowns in many different parts of the country. 

Most states are beginning with a phased reopening.

They might be limiting capacity in certain restaurants or requiring staff members to wear masks. Social distancing is also another major factor when it comes to re-opening places. 

But one of the biggest concerns that people have had is that as soon as we start to reopen the country, the number of infections is not only going to rise but it may spike and cause another major surge that could potentially even overwhelm the healthcare system.

But one of the main models being used to predict coronavirus deaths (the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation) is showing some interesting trends that suggest that ending these lockdowns might be safer than many people expected.

Basically, the new coronavirus death model has shown a decrease of projected deaths.

It’s currently predicting 143,360 people will die by August 4 — about 3,700 fewer deaths than the model predicted when it was last updated May 12.

Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, told CNN Monday night that he was “pretty surprised” by his model’s downward revision and that “what’s really been fascinating is there’s not a strong correlation between where mobility’s gone up and the trend in cases and deaths, even when we take into account the increase in testing.”

It is possible that the numbers here are lagging and that the number of new cases and deaths will still spike.

“I think we’re going to really need to watch the next week or two, because we sort of expected to see it by now, but certainly it could just be a lagged effect,” Murray said. “And I think we may also run into the phenomenon that people may get fatigued of being cautious — stop wearing a mask, start having more physical contact.”

But the early indications based on the modeling here is that there is not a super strong correlation between where things have opened up and new cases.

If this holds true, then we might be able to see society open up across the country in a much quicker way than we initially anticipated.

So why are numbers not skyrocketing right now?

Well, they believe that it is in large part due to the usage of masks.

“Our explanation for that is if you dig a little bit deeper, and look into the fraction of the population in different states that are wearing masks, we think that’s really the key difference there — both their behavior and mask wearing.”

This would be in line with other modeling that has been done suggesting that the wearing of masks by the public is one of the most important (if not the most important) for cutting down on transmission rates.

So if you have been on the fence about wearing a mask while out in public consider that sophisticated modeling is indicating that wearing a mask (where it makes sense to wear one) could help open society back up safely in a quick fashion.


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