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Online Initiatives against COVID-19

Mounir Jamil

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Online Initiatives against COVID19

For those of us who aren’t scientists or healthcare workers, the pandemic might bring about feelings of helplessness. Of course, we can play our part by staying inside, maintaining good hygiene and taking our pre-cautions. But is there something more we can do? Thanks to social media, the internet, and big data-driven analytics, there are a number of online initiatives against COVID-19 that anyone can participate in. These initiatives are powered by data and show how utilizing crowdsourcing to crunch data can help mitigate the spread.

  • Google’s Kaggle, the crowdsourced data science portal can offer plenty of learnings if you are familiar with data science. As well as live datasets from WHO collated by Johns Hopkins University and a library of 29,000 published articles can put your data science skills to work by taking on tasks like predicting the spread of the virus, how long it will affect parts of the world, and the impact of other factors on the overall statistics.
  • Folding@Home is a crowdsourced project that utilizes donated computing power in simulating protein folding, as well as tackling other medical data problems. Since the outbreak, they started using spare power of idle computers in people’s houses to crunch through data, trying to identify proteins in the virus that can be targeted with medicine. To get involved with this online initiative against COVID-19 all you need to do is download the client and run it on your machine.
  • Foldit is another site dedicated to crowdsourcing modeling of protein folding, and it also offers an online initiative against COVID-19. With foldit, you can take part in a number of puzzles that are fun, educational, and also help in making important scientific advances. A current ongoing challenge involves designing a protein with anti-inflammatory properties that assist in treating patients whose immune systems have triggered excess inflammation.
  • For the people who don’t have any spare computing power, another alternative is donating their data. Researchers at King’s College London have developed the C-19 Symptom Tracker app that collects anonymized information to help correlate symptoms and diagnosed cases of the virus. By establishing which symptoms indicate a need for testing, the app helps ensure people can self-isolate at the right time and prevent spread.
  • Another online initiative against COVID-19 is the Coronavirus Tech Handbook project, led by Edward Saperia. This first started as a collection of medical information that was aimed at doctors and healthcare professionals, however it quickly grew into an accessible compendium of useful information from hygiene to coping at home working and schooling.

These are all great examples of online initiatives against COVID-19 that wouldn’t have been possible in previous outbreaks, simply because the necessary infrastructure to collect and process data wasn’t available yet. Hopefully, when the coronavirus is under control, the next challenge will be to develop new solutions that will prevent a future pandemic like this one.

Junior social media strategist with a degree in business. Passionate about technology, film, music and video games.

MedTech

Covid-19 mass testing – the need for strategic implementation

Adnan Kayyali

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Covid-19 mass testing – the need for strategic implementation

Covid-19 mass testing should be an integral part of any plan to navigate the pandemic. The main objective across the board would be to incrementally ease lockdowns, curfews, and restrictions, open up and revive the economy, all while avoiding a second-wave. Testing is key to all of this. Without proper strategic testing, we cannot effectively isolate, contain and subdue any new pockets of infection.

Governments and institutions, especially those in developed countries, have all the tools they need to begin mass testing and start alleviating confinement. Ideally, restrictions wouldn’t be lifted until a vaccine or effective treatment is created, but that is sadly some time away, and so other measures must be implemented.

The questions to ask would be: What to test and how?

The answer to the first “what to test” is shorter: There are two types of tests, molecular diagnostic testing (RT-PCR), and serology tests. The first, is a standard test to identify whether the person is currently infected or not, and gaging the percentage of infected people within an area or community. The second, reveals whether the person has been infected before, and has developed antibodies. This is to allow people who have developed an immunity to return to work safely, and to provide samples and data that could help in vaccine development and better understand the virus.

The “how” is a slightly longer story. One of the most effective strategies that have been tried and tested by other nations such as South Korea is ‘Testing, Tracking, and Tracing’ – or TTT.

  • South Korea used techniques such as drive through testing sites and thermal imaging cameras.
  • Tracking, at least in South Korea, involved the obligatory downloading of an application that notifies authorities if a subject breaks quarantine, for which they would be heavily penalized.
  • Tracing of course, involves using a person’s location data to determine if they might be infected, map out where they’ve been and warn anyone living in those areas. Information may include details from a person’s phone, credit card, and facial recognition for locating the subject. This obviously brings up major privacy and human rights concerns, but most people can put aside their privacy temporarily – hopefully – in a time of crisis, if it means keeping their loved ones and communities safe.

Another technique for COVID-19 mass testing is known as “Assurance Testing”. Simply put, organizations, communities or even entire towns can request that their members be tested as a whole. This means that testing kits can be supplied on demand for an entire group, easing the organization, logistical strain, and procurement of medical supplies. It is an effective way of opening up the economy slowly and methodically as each office building or company that gets tested all together can pretty much return to work. If infected individuals are found, measures are taken.

It seems like COVID-19 mass testing is the only way out of this mess. We can’t all sit at home; someone has to run all the machines and keep society marching on. But things cannot go back to normal so quickly and easily either. Strategic implementation is key.

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MedTech

New VR video demonstrating COVID-19 Resuscitation Techniques

Mounir Jamil

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New VR video demonstrating COVID-19 Resuscitation Techniques

A digital design specialist from the Annenberg School for Communication has successfully created a 360-degree VR video demonstrating COVID-19 treatment procedures to prepare medical staff that are in remote locations to respond to emergency cases.

VR is a fully immersive technology that can benefit medical personnel by generating 3D, interactive environments in settings that are usually too hard to simulate with simple 2D graphics, the video here, was filmed in the Emergency Department in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Via operation performed on a mannequin, the video illustrates a doctor treating a COVID-19 patient that is suffering from respiratory failure.

Even though the video is available to almost everyone, it was specifically made for healthcare providers that have been exposed to high levels of critically ill COVID-19 patients. The video can be accessed by medical staff via YouTube and Annenberg’s website through a computer screen or even with a VR headset.

Kyle Cassidy, Annenberg digital design specialist, has spearheaded the project when he first created a VR video back in 2018 to teach people how to use Narcan, an anti-opioid overdose reversal agent. After Cassidy presented a paper regarding the video at a healthcare conference, a physician at Weill Cornell medicine, Kevin Ching, reached out to Cassidy in mid-Apil asking him for help in developing an educational VR video that highlights Coronavirus treatment practices.

Lauren Weinberger Conlon, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, serves as the video’s principal actor as an attending physician, has mentioned that the project deeply focuses on VR video demonstrating COVID-19 resuscitation of a patient with respiratory distress. Conlon worked closely with Ching, as well as Weill colleagues, Amos Shemesh and Neel Naik, in order to draft the video script and ensure that information presented was clear and consistent.

To make the video come to life, Cassidy used a special camera with six outward facing lenses from Penn Libraries Vitale Digital Media Lab to capture a realistic 360-degree perspective of the hospital setting and surroundings. The VR aspect of Annenberg video makes it easier for the medical staff to better prepare for the possibility of distractions in a high-pressure atmosphere as they treat a COVID-19 patient with respiratory failure.

Cassidy mentioned that there is an in-person aspect to medical teaching which often requires people to look in different directions, to physically touch something, see something move, formulate a decision, and see the outcomes of their decisions.

A recording studio assistant for Vitale Digital Media Lab at Penn, Christopher Vandegrift, edited the majority of the video by stitching the six lenses of the camera closely together, and by adding noise and lighting adjustment, and inserting onscreen graphics all in order to produce the VR video demonstrating COVID-19 resuscitation techniques. The video took around 20 to 40 hours to edit after receiving the unedited version. Vandegrift mentioned that VR makes it real and immersive in a way that normal video would not be able to capture.

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MedTech

COVID-19 Travel Kit Launched by Albea

Adnan Kayyali

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COVID-19 Travel Kit Launched by Albea

The travel industry has taken the hardest hit during the pandemic. Many people are reluctant to fly due to the growing fear of inadequate hygiene and sanitary precautions on a flight whilst being in close proximity to other passengers and staff. To tackle this issue, Albea Travel Designer has come up with a stylish and innovative prototype: a customizable COVID-19 travel kit dubbed ‘Travel&StaySafe’.

The kit will be available for delivery worldwide and can be purchased via the companies’ ecommerce site. It is designed for airlines, transportation companies, agencies, and operators like taxi services, shipping companies, vehicle rentals, rail companies, to ensure their customers’ safety and comfort.

The COVID-19 travel kit comes with different types of masks that are reusable and which come in both adult and child sizes. It can also include gloves, hand cleaning gel, disinfectant wipes, hydroalcoholic solution, or a lab coat, if you choose to have it that way.

What is also cool about the kit is that it can be customized to any company’s brand design. This might be considered an added extravagance by some, but visual appeal adds intrinsic value to this item. Companies can choose to have their COVID-19 travel kit blend in with their image and feel, integrating better hygienic habits seamlessly into their brand identity and everyday life.

Even in a post-COVID-19 world, hygiene, sanitization and safety measures will stay in people’s minds for a long time to come. Companies must adapt to the new hyper-cautious, hyper-vigilant, and borderline-paranoid way of thinking that people have forcibly adopted. Integration by visual design is certainly one way to do it.

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