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Rethinking the UK Education System in the Coronavirus Era

by John Brian Shannon

It turns out that Coronavirus didn’t magically disappear during 3-months of lockdown, in fact, it seems to be back with a vengeance. And while treatment has improved, those already hit with the nasty virus may have permanent heart damage according to experts who now say that 2/3rds of all COVID-19 survivors suffer from decreased heart function.

Heart Damage Even After COVID-19 ‘Recovery’ Evokes Specter of Later Heart Failure (MedScape.com)

Yes, the miracle drug (hopefully!) Remdesivir may turn COVID-19 from a killer disease into a week or two of self-isolation and flu-like symptoms (which is bad enough, but it beats dying from the Novel Coronavirus) however it doesn’t stop people from catching it. Remdesivir helps patients recover more quickly from the disease — especially the very ill — but nowhere in the literature that accompanies the medicine does it say that it prevents COVID-19.

Coronavirus drug remdesivir to cost $2,340 per patient in the U.S. (GlobalNews.ca)

And (you’ll hate this part) the present Coronavirus strain is merely one version of the larger Coronavirus family with newer versions appearing at irregular intervals. So my bet is that there will be another COVID crisis — perhaps with a more serious variant than the present SARS-CoV-2 (which most people know by the name COVID-19, or the Novel Coronavirus)

Naming the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the virus that causes it (WHO.int)

And now, cats, dogs and ferrets are dying from Coronavirus. Which is not great, as they roam everywhere and like to lick their friends and family to greet them — making pets potential carriers of the disease to unsuspecting humans and to other pets.

Exclusive: ‘Buddy’ first dog to test positive for COVID-19 in the U.S. has died (NationalGeographic.com)

So, it looks like Coronavirus is going to be around for a long time; Yes, the treatment is improving, but it’s still a serious disease even with presently available treatments. And a vaccine seems like it will be ‘only a year or two away’ for the next five years — if you take my meaning.


With the “R Rate” Increasing and School Openings Looming, Now’s the Time to Rethink the UK Education System

According to Cambridge University, the R-rate (the rate at which a virus is retransmitted to others) is over 1 to 1, and may be as high as 1 to 1.04 in some parts of the UK.

And that means the UK is (temporarily) losing the battle against COVID-19 — no doubt due to the recently relaxed lockdown and with thousands of people visiting beaches, packed pubs, and other public spaces without the dual disciplines of mask-wearing and regular handwashing.

Coronavirus R rate ‘above one’ in some parts of UK amid second wave fears (TheMirror.co.uk)

So, people, let’s get real. Coronavirus is here to stay. Which means it’s time to make some decisions. These aren’t the kinds of decisions that we can chew on for months;

These are ‘August decisions’ — which means these decisions must be made in August 2020. And these may well turn out to be life and death decisions so don’t shirk your responsibilities to your family and community.


In the Quest for Efficiency, Schools Have Been Getting Larger Every Decade (which is great for efficiency!) But it’s Also Great for Virus Retransmission

Maybe now is the time to reverse the economic efficiency mandate and do what’s best for children’s health, for family health, and for pet health as it may turn out that pets are major retransmitters of Coronavirus.

Think of a school system where all children in Grade I and Grade II attend their classes in one building, while Grades III and IV attend their school in a different location (maybe only blocks away for the convenience of parents who drop-off and pick-up their different-aged kids from school) and Grades V and VI in a different school — again, not too far apart; just let’s have them not breathing the same air.

  • None of those proposed schools should have more than 100 pupils per location.
  • Grades I and II (for example) plus teachers and vice-principal shouldn’t total more than 120 people.
  • That keeps the cohort of potential COVID-19 infections to a small number of people.
  • And similar applies for other grades; III and IV in another school, V and VI in another location, and grades VII and VIII in another building, etc.,
  • Gymnasiums could be in a 5th (nearby) location, and employ a reservation system.

YES! Schools would become more numerous, much smaller and more quickly built!

If China can build two Coronavirus hospitals in one week, the UK should be able to build two 100-pupil schools per county, per week, in the UK.

How China Built Two Coronavirus Hospitals in Just Over a Week (WallStreetJournal.com)

All that needs doing is to source the land and plunk some fast-build structures in place designed to hold 120-people.

If you know anything about construction challenges — that’s about the smallest challenge ever offered to large construction firms! — especially if they decide to use ‘modular’ design, and much of the construction could be done in factories that already produce construction-site oriented buildings or other temporary buildings.

Companies all over the UK could be building these structures during August and deliver them in time for the beginning of the school year. ‘On-time and On-budget’ please!

High School kids might need to wait a few weeks for their buildings to be delivered, but nothing that would stop them from completing their studies by June 2021.


Parents, School Districts and Various Levels of Government: Now is NOT the Time to be Timid; Now is the Time to Leap Forward to a Decentralized School Buildings Model!

There are some great school buildings in the UK — some with a brilliant history. Sir Isaac Newton was schooled in the UK, for example.

And there’s no doubt that special buildings should be preserved as an entire generation switches over to small cohort school buildings. Such valuable buildings could become museums, City Hall office spaces, office space for MP’s and doctors/dentists, etc., or be carefully preserved and listed — but leased to companies for office space.

But for now, keeping kids safe should be the main concern.

Decentralizing the present school buildings/location model might be the way to dramatically lower the R-rate and simultaneously prevent the UK economy from failing during future waves of Coronavirus (or other virus) infections throughout the country.

And we can do that by keeping cohort sizes small among school-aged children by educating them in small, relatively inexpensive, modular school buildings, in handy locations for parents and kids in each and every neighbourhood throughout the UK.

As COVID-19 appears to be with us indefinitely, it’s time to build new and smaller schools and thereby reduce future retransmission of infectious diseases.

What Lessons from the Coronavirus?

by John Brian Shannon

It has been reported by Johns Hopkins Medical Center that more than 100,000 people have died worldwide as a result of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.

Thus it follows that in the post-Coronavirus economy some things might need to change, as it’s doubtful that things will return to what we once considered ‘normal’ — but if we do return to that normal we might set ourselves up for another Coronavirus event that will play havoc with the economy and needlessly harm millions of people.


ONE: Let’s Be Prepared Next Time

It seems obvious that there will be another SARS or MERS health crisis. In fact, the Novel Coronavirus is itself a SARS-type virus named SARS-CoV-2 which journalists have (thankfully) named COVID-19, and it is simply the latest version of a long line of SARS or MERS type viruses that mutate at irregular intervals.

Let’s hope we never face the prospect of two highly infectious viruses at the same time, say, one mutated SARS virus (COVID-20, or COVID-21) and another mutated virus of the MERS family, because healthcare systems would reach full capacity within 7-days and millions of people worldwide would die before ever seeing the inside of a Hospital.

With that prospect in mind, let’s ensure that our politicians work on preparations for the next killer pandemic to the point that we could be in a strong enough position to take on, not one, but two killer pathogens at the same time, because given enough time, that will occur. Eventually.

But for now, let’s just be ready for the next SARS or MERS virus and we can do that by consolidating our best knowledge and practices into official government policy by passing an Emergency Infectious Disease Protocol bill in the House of Commons, soon.

How to Do That?

  1. The UK government should mail a package of 5-individually-wrapped surgical masks to every UK household to hang in the pantry/utility room/in the RV, or wherever appropriate.
    I fully realize that surgical masks provide little protection, but in the case of unwitting carriers of an infectious respiratory virus, etc., they help to protect others from being contaminated by that person’s breath. But even more importantly is that ‘perception’ is everything. When people see other people out and about and wearing surgical masks, it will automatically cause people to remember to maintain proper social distancing!
  2. The UK government mailout that I propose, should include an 8″x10″ plastic laminated card with a pre-punched hole so that every household can use a thumbtack to hang the infectious disease info card (and the package of masks) from a thumbtack or nail in their pantry or utility room. This card should show each type of respiratory protection (surgical, N95, and medical respirator) and the reasons for wearing each type of mask, and when to switch from one type of mask to another:
    A pictogram, followed by an explanation such as; “Surgical Mask; Wear this kind of mask if you’re walking in the park or uncrowded shopping mall.” and “N95 Surgical Mask: Wear this kind of mask if you work in a crowded environment where you can’t maintain proper social distancing OR if you’re a healthcare worker OR if you work in a Senior Citizens long-term care facility.” and “Medical Respirator: Wear this kind of protection if you’re a surgeon, or other operating theatre staff, OR if you work as a pathogen researcher.”
  3. The “8×10” card should show pictograms of each type of mask and the legitimate reasons for wearing each type of mask — and should CLEARLY summarize typical respiratory symptoms and what to do about them, such as: “If you experience any combination of fever, malaise, dry cough or uncontrollable coughing, or weakness/tiredness (or whatever symptoms you feel are appropriate for such an info card) call this toll-free number for instructions and ensure your front door is unlocked in case you can’t make it to the door.” Or words to that effect.
  4. A list of websites where people can re-order any of those respiratory protections online (along with the part number or model number) and have them delivered to their home, to ensure they can maintain (a minimum of 5 masks, for example) in their home, which would be helpful for most people. If the government provides such a headstart for people now and in the future, I believe that for the duration of this COVID-19 crisis and any mutated (say, COVID-20 or COVID-21, or MERS mutation) virus which may be more infectious, or more deadly (or both) UK citizens and residents will be better prepared, better educated, and better able to survive this event and the (almost certainly more dangerous) next mutation.

TWO: ‘Social Distancing’ is Now a Thing

Many people were/are completely asymptomatic — meaning, they had no symptoms at all, or may have felt a bit ‘off’ for a few days — in regards to the COVID-19 virus, however, those people may unwittingly carry on with their normal schedule and interact with dozens of people daily, thereby passing the virus on to everyone they come into close contact with.

If you have “B” type blood, you already know that you don’t catch as many colds or flu as your friends and co-workers. Which is handy for you, but you could pass infectious respiratory disease to everyone you interact with. Please use caution. Your ‘off day’ could become someone else’s major healthcare crisis simply because they don’t have the same built-in defences you have. Thank your parents and be considerate to others. Please.

While in public, we’ll be urged to maintain social distancing, which is difficult to get used to until you do get used to it, and then you’ll never go back to the old informal distancing rules.

Every year, I expect that a call will go out via the media telling people there’s a novel coronavirus or MERS-type virus making the rounds and to take appropriate precautions. And we all know that the best way to avoid such a virus is to lock yourself in your house until the crisis is over — which isn’t a lot of fun. But the second-best way to avoid contracting such an infection is to maintain proper social distancing, which isn’t that difficult. In addition to social distancing, wearing a surgical mask or an N95 mask will help, and even better, if you have the virus, you won’t be passing it along to everyone you come into close contact with. Unless you take it off, of course.

The UK government should create legislation that requires transportation operators to reconfigure their seating arrangements to allow for proper social distancing. In trains and buses, this could take the form of perimeter seating around the entire train car or bus, while in airlines, seating that faces each other might be the way to go. “Look ma, I’m flying backwards!” Seriously though, perimeter seating in airlines, with opposing seats in the centre of the aircraft would maximize passenger safety and still allow a large number of passengers and permit two aisles. On ferries, similar seating arrangements could be made and onboard restaurants and cafeterias should be able to reconfigure their seating area to opposing (and easy clean fabric) seating to maintain social distancing rules. Remember, when you’re eating your prime rib or vegan tortellini you can’t wear a mask, so the seating plan in those areas must consider passenger safety more seriously.

Some sidewalks in the UK are barely wide enough for one person let alone the busyness of the tourist season, therefore, cities and towns across the UK need a complete rethink of their pedestrian areas. In many cities around the world we’re seeing typical four-lane city streets turned into two-lane cobblestone streets that are only open to buses or trams. Allowing taxicabs and limos seems appropriate too, but not passenger cars or motorcycles. By converting a four-lane road into a two-lane road, it allows wider sidewalks for people to maintain the recommended social distancing rules. This can look very attractive and many cities have succeeded in this in recent years.

Working from home four days per week could become the new normal for many office workers and others who can work from home. Imagine a worker assembling 250 car mirrors per day (or 250 car tail lights per day) at a factory; Now, imagine that worker doing the same in their (formerly) two-car garage. It’s the same thing except for the location. The worker gets paid a standard price for each piece they assemble instead of payment by the hour, yet all other employee benefits for that worker would remain the same. FedEx or the automobile manufacturer’s own delivery vans could pick up and deliver the parts from the home worker. Final assembly, of course, would be done at a large factory designed exclusively for ‘just-in-time-delivery’ of the necessary parts.

Shopping online is one way to limit exposure to potentially infected persons, it also frees-up the roadways for transport trucks and delivery vans and ends the daily gridlock that spews billions of tons of pollutants into the air which, as we now find out, breathing those toxins for a few hours every day further weakens our immune system response to infectious disease. Seems obvious in retrospect, doesn’t it?


THREE: Government Policy Must Allow the NHS to ‘Hit the Ground Running’

Boris Johnson’s government has handled this healthcare crisis about as well as any government on the planet.

However, when the next SARS or MERS-type virus hits, the NHS should be fully stocked with every PPE they need, they should have standing arrangements with every available airport hangar or unoccupied office tower or movie theatre, etc., they should have millions of test kits which should be used on each person who enters a Hospital (with or without symptoms) and test kits should be used to test every passenger arriving in the country — before they debark the aircraft, ferry, cruise ship or pleasure craft — and they could be notified via SMS if their test proved positive, allowing them to self-isolate or see a Doctor, as appropriate. This would give the infected person a jump start on their treatment and provide the NHS with almost realtime tracking of infected persons arriving in the UK.

Finally, the NHS needs an entire fleet of state-of-the-art Hospitals that are built to suit the modern NHS. Yesterday’s hospitals, built in the 18th, 19th and 20th-centuries, just aren’t up to scratch. Some of them cost more than £1 million per month to heat let alone pay the lighting bill. Many aren’t fit for purpose, or are located in the worst possible place now that entire cities have sprung up around them over the past 10 or 20 decades. Some NHS facilities are simply too small to serve regular needs let alone having enough capacity to handle a major epidemic. Ten new Hospitals need to be built every year until the NHS reaches 130% capacity so that it can then offer so-called medical tourism and thereby earn valuable foreign cash from its foreign patients. Each new Hospital should be much smaller than the 1950’s era monster-sized facilities. Modern Hospitals need a smaller footprint, they need to be easily accessible, and the UK needs many more locations — more + smaller + energy efficient Hospitals, instead of few + large + energy inefficient + barely fit for purpose Hospitals.

MORE, SMALLER, ENERGY EFFICIENT HOSPITALS are the future.


Captain Tom Moore Raises Millions for the NHS

And to end on a positive note, let’s give a warm shoutout to the UK’s 99-year-old Captain Tom Moore who has raised over £18 million since April 10th for NHS Charities Together, by walking laps in his back yard. Thank you again, Captain Moore. He is 2020’s best example of the spirit of the United Kingdom. Hats off!

You can still donate HERE or SEE HOW MUCH HE’S RAISED SO FAR, if you like!

There’s a petition that already has more than 500,000 names on it to award this great military warrior and NHS hero the George Cross, please consider signing it HERE.

The End of Bricks and Mortar Stores is Nigh as Online Shopping Enters a New Era in The Coronavirus Economy

by John Brian Shannon

Those who fail to change with the times become obsolete. Just ask the dinosaurs.

Some dinosaur groups morphed into new species that allowed them to continue to live and procreate in a changed environment and we see examples of them today in our world; Today’s birds are descended from Pterodactyls, today’s crocodiles from Stegosaurus, and today’s kimono lizards are descended from Squamata (Megachirella wachtleri) which is the father of all lizards and snakes on the planet today.

The species that didn’t adapt quickly to the then-changing conditions on the Earth, died. And the ones that did change, changed slowly, consequently they exist on the Earth in smallish populations unlike their ancestors which had until then, enjoyed total dominance on this world.

If science isn’t your thing, you might look to anthropology (the study of human societies and cultures and their development) for some examples of this rule and you’ll see those that couldn’t adapt got left behind.

One example of this is the Indus Valley civilization which flourished from 7000 to 1900 BC. Although we see traces of their existence in archaeological sites, they are no more. Another example would be the Mongol civilization (1206 to 1294 AD) Seen any lately? More recently, we witnessed the end of the German Nazi Party circa 1945.


Prediction: Businesses that Don’t Learn to Sell Online (Successfully) Will Fail within 24-Months – Everywhere on Earth

Any retail store — including grocery stores — that don’t evolve quickly enough to meet the demands of the new ‘Coronavirus economy’ are sure to fail. And I have no sympathy for them. None whatsoever. ‘Change with the times or die’ is the nature of all commerce.

There’s no excuse good enough to not have a robust internet e-commerce site and multiple redundant delivery systems for your business, as every business owner knows about the internet, everyone knows how e-commerce websites work, and they’re not that expensive to create.

Indeed, you may have purchased something online, whether it was a hat, golf balls, or enough furnishings to equip your new office tower. (The link points to STAPLES.UK which has a sophisticated website that makes it easy to order any business related product or service quickly and efficiently. With STAPLES.UK shipping is free on orders over £36 and in most cases you receive your order within a couple of days of ordering) That’s the kind of commitment required to meet customer expectations in the new Coronavirus economy thereby allowing those businesses to thrive and prosper well into the 21st-century.

It isn’t difficult to create and maintain an online e-commerce presence. Yes, it takes a little work, but nothing too onerous. And yes, it does cost a little money to set up and operate, but again, those costs should be considered as part of the normal cost of doing business in the 21st-century.

It’s nothing but utter laziness if your company isn’t selling at least fifty per cent of its goods or services online in the 21st-century. It’s so easy to do. But it needs true leadership — which isn’t about nice-sounding speeches in shareholder meetings or at the company Christmas Party — it’s about the kind of leadership that gets it done by the end of the year, not by the end of the company, if you take my meaning.

If you think things haven’t changed profoundly, you’re not looking hard enough.

Many businesses want to get you into their store so you’ll be tempted to purchase so-called ‘impulse buy’ items — things you wouldn’t normally buy, but because you walked past an appealing display you were tempted to purchase. If your business model depends on that you’re already halfway to insolvency, because whether you like it or not, the old ways of doing business are already gone. Not next month, not next year, but now.

The old days of people milling around at the weekend and walking into your store by chance and buying things are over. The Coronavirus economy is here, and it isn’t going away. Ever.

Many people will catch the Coronavirus bug over the coming months and the ones that don’t die of it will become immune to that strain of the virus. We’re presently at COVID-19 (SARS Coronavirus 2019 variant) and there will no doubt be a COVID-20 (Coronavirus 2020 variant) and a COVID-21, and a COVID-22, etc., until the end of time.

“There are three to five emerging diseases every year, and only by luck and the grace of God that they don’t turn into pandemics each time.”William Karesh, Executive Vice President for Health and Policy at EcoHealth Alliance

At the moment, COVID-19 is killing one to two per cent of those who contract the virus. But that’s a temporary situation until the virus mutates (and all viruses mutate) whereupon it will become more deadly — and those who’ve contracted COVID-19 may, I repeat may, have some immunity to a newer version of the virus. Fifty per cent immunity is typical among SARS virus survivors when a new version comes along, but you still get ill, and you still ‘go down’ for a few days, and you can still pass the new variant to others who breathe the same air as you. And the same holds true among MERS survivors.

In fact, I suggest that perhaps later this year, there will be people who haven’t yet caught the COVID-19 variant (and therefore have no immunity to subsequent COVID versions) and may contract a (likely more serious) COVID-20 version (which has yet to appear) and die within days or hours of contracting that new and more robust virus.

There will be people who contract both COVID versions at the same time, sorry to say.

There will be people who haven’t caught either variant and they will be ‘sitting ducks’ by simply walking into a store or subway landing with hundreds of other people, and thereby catch one or both viruses in the same week. And there will be people who catch the normal flu and while their immune system is barely coping with that, they’ll catch one or more SARS or MERS respiratory illnesses. They won’t last long and they’ll know it from Day One.

And that’s why most people will choose to dramatically and permanently alter their shopping habits, gravitating towards online shopping — instead of them playing Russian Roulette with their life every time they walk into a store or onto a train platform. Once people comprehend the enormity of the Coronavirus economy and the implications thereof, the ‘bricks & mortar store’ model will be dead.

Now, if you’re a serious fly fisherman or fly fisherwoman (for example) you’ll need to visit a bricks & mortar store at some point to do a few casts with a selection of rods and reels before you decide which one to purchase. Other situations may apply, as not everything can be easily purchased online.

In the near-future, well-managed stores will sell MORE goods and services online than they do now from all sources combined — and their staff will deal elusively with the Fed Ex driver and perhaps one in-store customer per day who needs to try out that rod and reel combination, or who needs to try-on that dress before purchasing.

Some stores will prosper as never before — and the ones that don’t accept a new business model will fail. Just as it should be.


Lead, Follow, Or Get Out of the Way!

If you’re a business owner presently without a robust online e-commerce site, it’s time to pick up that phone today and get a new e-commerce website built. Otherwise, you’re gone by the end of the year, IMHO.

The retail world is about to change more profoundly than at any time since the first electrical grids appeared, when grid-powered heat and light in stores suddenly allowed workers the opportunity to shop at the end of their workday.

Some of you already and clearly see this new paradigm, some will realize it in the coming weeks, and some will cling to their horse and buggy thinking until the day they reach the Pearly Gates.

Regardless of when you see it, or whether you like it or not, change is coming to the retail world. Better get ready, as it’s going to get rough for businesses that don’t evolve to meet the demands of the new Coronavirus economy.


Related Articles:

  • World Health Organization Coronavirus Situation Reports webpage (WHO)
  • World Health Organization Situation report 25 March 2020 available here