The Spanish Influenza. Chart showing mortality from the 1918 influenza pandemic in the US and Europe. Wikipedia commons.
The New York Times had a remarkable story yesterday morning by Donald G. McNeil Jr. , which talked about a company (Kinsa) that markets smart thermometers. The company can use the data on fevers from these devices to foretell where the outbreak will grow, before that data shows up in other sources. You can see the company’s map here. As the NYT article says, there is so much interesting data here.
As someone who has spent a lot of time in Florida (my mother was a mystery writer, who set her novels in the bars of West Florida) I am deeply worried by the data on southeast Florida, as well as around Tampa. And even some of northern Florida, such as Duval county, has high levels of atypical fevers. But what is happening in Michigan? The map around Detroit has not lit up as red as Miami, but there is a swath in the south of the state where the levels of atypical fevers have raised. The swatch stretches as far west in the state as Kent county. I wouldn’t have expected what appears to be happening in Utah county, and Salt Lake county, Utah. But these counties still do not light up as much as Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade do in Florida. Continue reading
Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2020/04/cyber-tools-for-predicting-covid-19s-spread/
Image of globe on light, McGill University. Photo by Smallman
In our textbook, the health chapter begins by this comparison of nations: “Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Guadalupe, Hong Kong, Israel, Macau, Malta, Martinique, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates are a diverse set of nations and territories. Yet they all have one fact in common: their citizens live longer than those of the United States, as do the citizens of many developed countries (United Nations 2006). This truth is unexpected, given the wide gap between the wealth, power, and technology of these countries and that of the United States. But health inevitably becomes linked to broader issues of politics and policy.” This is certainly the case in the United States’ ability to respond to a pandemic.
What have some of the lessons of this pandemic been for the United States? Our health care system has a number of weaknesses during an epidemic:
- A health care system that invests heavily in technology, but less so in people, such as the public health professionals who do contact tracing.
- A lack of recent experience with pandemics, such as South Korea and Canada had with SARS and MERS.
- An inadequate stockpile of personal protective equipment. A failed effort to develop a stockpile of ventilators wasted over a decade, and left the United States undersupplied.
- A popular belief that epidemics are something that happens elsewhere, so that the first and best response is only to put in place border restrictions.
- A sense of hubris, so that outbreaks in China or South Korea are assumed to be something that could not happen here, because our hospitals -with their advanced technologies- would be able to manage the situation.
- A health care system in which peoples’ insurance is tied to their employment. This has meant that when people lose their employment during a pandemic, they also lose health care.
- Deep health inequalities, which mean that case fatality rates may vary widely depending upon class and geography.
- A lack of sick leave for U.S. workers, so that people feel compelled to come to work when they are sick, or to face an immediate financial crisis if they are forced to stay at home.
- A sense of hubris regarding the U.S. medical system, which led U.S. health authorities to reject a German developed test for COVID-19 that the World Health Organization (WHO) endorsed. Instead, the U.S. frittered away precious time developing its own test. When that did not work, the CDC and FDA wasted even more time resolving the situation.
- A CDC and FDA that had become too swamped by bureaucracy and hence struggled to adapt, despite having outstanding and dedicated people. The system’s senior leadership has ossified.
- A U.S. health care system that is too decentralized to respond to a national level emergency, although this decentralization also has some benefits when there are failures at the top.
- An over-reliance on overseas manufacturing for key health goods, for everything from masks to medications.
- A society that undervalues the very people who turn out to be particularly critical during a pandemic: janitors, grocery store clerks, truck drivers, nurses, farmers, and others. As many people have said, it is only during a pandemic you learn whose job really counts. And there is not a good correlation between peoples’ pay and how important their job truly is. The same holds true for respect.
- A high rate of chronic diseases that leave people vulnerable to a disease such as COVID-19. The “diseases of development” such as diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and morbid obesity have led to higher case fatality rates. Most of these issues connect to the Standard American Diet (SAD) and the U.S. food system. No technology can replace a good diet.
- A chronic underfunding of public health. A good public health system is like a seat belt. You forget that it should be there until you really need it. And it seems kind of basic, but when the moment comes, there is nothing else that can replace it.
- Basic public health relies on people, and salaries are expensive. But not having an adequately funded public health system is what is truly expensive. Contact tracing, outreach, education, follow-up, monitoring, epidemiology, and health communication take time and people. Perhaps because they do not rely as much on technology they are also undervalued in the United States, which always likes to use technology to solve all problems. But there is no substitute for public health professionals.
- The basic systems that are always there in public health -nurses in schools, communication campaigns, testing systems, contract tracing- are the same systems that are needed in a pandemic. So having good public health in ordinary times gives you the tools and the people that are needed during extraordinary times.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2020/03/testing-us-health-care/
“Chest X-rays, 3D Image of lungs, Sagital Plane Image” by Praisaeng at freedigitalphotos.net
With the COVID-19 pandemic rampant, it’s easy to forget that other world events are still taking place, and with good reason. No other events now matter as much. Even so, after 33 of its soldiers were killed by the Syrian military (or perhaps by a Russian airstrike) last month, the Turkish government launched a devastating counterstrike against the Syrian military on February 27, 2020. The use of drones and other technology simply overwhelmed the Syrian armed forces, and let to the destruction of even the most sophisticated Russian equipment, such as the Pantsir anti-air systems. As usual, the Oryx blog has the best information. The list of destroyed military equipment on this website is striking. For example, the Syrians likely lost 32 tanks, which they could ill afford, and eight aircraft (mostly helicopters). Continue reading
Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2020/03/turkeys-strikes-in-syria/
Local market sign in Cambridge, Massachusetts, March 17, 2020
The COVID19 pandemic is now moving quickly. While northern Italy has been overwhelmed by infections, Spain and Iran are also now experiencing a disaster. Here in the United States, there are serious outbreaks in Seattle and New York. So what are the best maps and other data visualizations to keep track of what is happening? Here are my top recommendations:
Global Level Data
This John Hopkins map provides a global look at COVID19’s spread, combined with charts of country cases, as well as the number of dead and recovered. I would guess that this is one of the three most popular maps for tracking the pandemic.
Outbreakinfo is an outstanding dashboard, which provides a vast amount of information in a limited space. This is one of the top three sources for tracking the pandemic.
The Worldometer Coronavirus webpage has a plethora of charts with data on the outbreak, in particular country by country data on infections, new infections, deaths and recoveries.
Health map provides another global map of the outbreak, although it is not accompanied by the data in charts that accompanies the John Hopkins’ map above. It does have, however, an “animate spread” feature that shows a visual history of the virus’s spread, which is hypnotic.
The University of Washington novel Coronavirus map is similar to the John Hopkins map, but has a less cluttered (and less detailed) collection of data in charts.
A US high school student created this useful website with COVID19 data both globally and in the United States.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2020/03/maps-and-charts-for-covid/
From the public domain source, the US EPA (2014): “This figure shows average absolute sea level change, which refers to the height of the ocean surface, regardless of whether nearby land is rising or falling. Satellite data are based solely on measured sea level, while the long-term tide gauge data include a small correction factor because the size and shape of the oceans are changing slowly over time.
[…]The shaded band shows the likely range of values, based on the number of measurements collected and the precision of the methods used.
. By US EPA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Of all the changes that are impacting the globe with climate change, few will be as overwhelming as sea level rise. Some cities, such as New York, are trying to address the problem head on. As Orrin Pilkey has described, North Carolina is taking a different approach
; in that state business lobbyists have fought hard to create doubt about global warming. But regardless of what people say, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere continues to rise, the average global temperature increases year after year, and the mean sea level will be increasing over the coming decades.
Denise Lu and Christopher Flavelle’s have a wonderful (October 29, 2019) article in the New York Times titled Rising Seas Will Erase More Cities by 2050. The piece describes how new research shows that the sea level rises by 2050 will have a much greater impact than previously estimated. What is most powerful about their work are the maps. As the authors’ describe, most of Southern Vietnam will vanish by 2050. It is one thing to read those words. It’s another to see the map, and to imagine what that will truly mean. Similarly, most of Bangkok, Thailand will go beneath the waves. While much of Shanghai will survive, many nearby cities will disappear. Continue reading
Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2020/03/new-maps-of-rising-seas/
Today’s guest post is by Grace Lamb, who has just graduated from International Studies at Portland State, and is now looking to start her career. Grace has been my student in more than five classes, including “The U.S. and the World,” and “Cyberwarfare and Espionage” amongst others. She has worked with me as a research assistant on three separate projects related to global health. From this experience, I have had the opportunity to see how Grace writes, performs in class discussions, and interacts with other students. Grace was an exceptional student. She has outstanding research skills, works well independently, and is a skilled writer. I am happy to give her my strongest possible recommendation. To see her resume and her contact information, please view her resume here: Grace Lamb_Resume
My name is Grace Lamb, and I’m a recent graduate of Portland State University (Magna Cum Laude), studying History and Global Studies. Born and raised in Portland, Oregon. In my free time, I enjoy reading, being outdoors, cooking, and spending time with my family.
I love understanding the diversity of the human experience and how we can build a more sustainable future globally. I am looking to expand my professional network and find a new position in research, communications, or development in the fields of international relations, sustainability, global health, and cyber security.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2020/03/grace-lamb-a-career-introduction/
Chinese Gardens, Montreal Botanical Garden, Canada. Photo by Smallman
Eric L. Einspruch
Principal, ELE Consulting, LLC
March 4, 2020
I was recently asked to comment on the value of learning world languages. My perspective is informed primarily by my study of Mandarin Chinese at the Confucius Institute at Portland State University (CIPSU), where I have taken language classes, music classes, and received tutoring since 2011. I have also twice participated in a two-week summer language program at Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University in Suzhou, Jiangsu, China. As markers of having achieved a bit of progress, I have passed the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) Level 4 written exam, the Hanyu Shuiping Kouyu Kaoshi Intermediate Level oral exam, and the Chinese Central Conservatory of Music Yangqin (扬琴, Chinese Dulcimer) Level 2 exam.
The Value of World Language Study
My comments, given in Chinese and prepared with help from one of my teachers, are provided below. I begin by providing a brief self-introduction: I am an independent researcher and program evaluator, an adjunct professor at Portland State University [in the College of Urban and Public Affairs and in the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health], I am the Chair of the CIPSU Advisory Board, and I am a student of Chinese language and music. I then say that I want to speak to three points. Continue reading
Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2020/03/the-value-of-world-language-study/
With the last week’s news many people have come to realize that COVID-19 is unlikely to be contained. Just as Korea, Iran and Italy are grappling with outbreaks, the same might happen here in the United States. Given that the US is currently incapable of testing at scale, as Canada or Korea has, when the outbreak is first detected here, it might be larger than in Singapore. If so, contact tracing might not be feasible any longer. So how can people prepare and not panic? The best guide that I’ve seen so far for individuals and families is this blog post by Australian virologist Ian Mackay. This is a pandemic and now is the time to take reasonable steps.
Shawn Smallman, 2020
Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2020/02/how-to-prepare-for-covid-19/
University of Hong Kong sign
I am very grateful to Jim P. for this guest blog post.
One Expat’s Life In China In The Time Of Corona Virus
A PSU Alum’s observations
A few things to get out of the way up front. I moved to China after graduating from PSU in the summer of 2015, and getting my Type Z (Foreign Expert) visa which took a few months. I finally arrived here in late December of 2015. I live and work in the city of Yantai, on the northeast coast of the peninsula portion of Shandong Province. The city has a population of ~7 million, though it feels much smaller than Portland because it is spread out over a much larger area, and there are large swaths of agriculture (namely corn) between different areas of the city.
When the Corona virus was first announced, I was getting off work before the beginning of the two week long Spring Festival holiday (which is what most English people think of as “Chinese New Year”). The next day, I came down with a cold. Nothing like having a nasty cough when everyone is freaked out by a disease that’s major symptom is a cough (I didn’t have a fever, or flu-like symptoms). At first it seemed like most things were still open, and much like life as usual for the beginning of the holiday (except everyone had masks on). However, as soon as the fireworks were over, everybody went back inside, and ventured out rarely (mostly to take out trash). Continue reading
Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2020/02/one-expats-life-in-china-in-the-time-of-corona-virus/
Fighting SARS Memorial, Hong Kong
Today seems to be the day in which the words and numbers that international organizations and national governments used to describe the COVID-19 pandemic increasingly diverged from facts. To begin there was an overall context in which the virus rapidly spread in the Middle East, while cases dramatically climbed in Korea (833). In the Middle East, there were new cases in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. Most of these cases were tied to Iranian travelers. In Italy the number of cases rose sharply. Venice ended the remaining days of Carnival. Italians in northern Italy rushed to stores, some of which were cleaned out and left with empty shelves. In the United States, ongoing problems with testing for SARs-CoV-2 has meant that health authorities have been unable to test at scale, as in Korea, Singapore and Canada. Finally, in China the rate of increase has slowed, but the nation still has over 77,000 cases. But neither the rising number of cases nor other problems caused corresponding expressions of concern by WHO or the Iranian government.
First, Dr. Tedros at the World Health Organization (WHO) said at a press conference that the WHO would not call COVID-19 a pandemic. Indeed, the WHO has stated that it no longer uses “pandemic” as a category. At the current time, there is ongoing transmission of a novel virus in multiple world regions, with a case fatality rate of perhaps two percent. If this is not a pandemic, what would be? The goal of deleting the term pandemic seemed to be more to avoid causing fear than to accurately describe reality. If the WHO does not play the role of declaring a pandemic, then who does? The risk of this is that the public in different nations may begin to lose confidence in the WHO. The pandemic exists even if the category does not. Continue reading
Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2020/02/covid-19-and-denial/