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Current Events

Don’t be UNC

This year, more than ever, college students returning to campus will be tested. Not only tested for COVID-19 but also tested for their maturity to follow the health guidelines put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to other students, their professors, university staff, and the community that hosts them.

UNC-Chapel Hill was in the news two weeks ago when a video surfaced of a large group of students walking out of an off-campus house party without masks, not socially distanced and in clear violation of the university’s ban on large gatherings. This was on August 5th, just two days after the first students started moving back into their dorms. Later the administration took disciplinary action and kicked three students out for not following safety protocols.

Two clusters of UNC students came down with COVID last week and five were sent to isolated housing prepared for students that needed to quarantine from the community. According to the UNC Carolina Together dashboard it looks as if there was not a lot of testing in the weeks leading up to last week which leads me to believe that there were lots of asymptomatic students mingling in the community that revealed themselves once full-scale testing began.

With available beds for those that need to isolate themselves running dangerously low, UNC-Chapel Hill announced today that they are sending students home to avoid further contact and spread.

After only one week of campus operations, with growing numbers of clusters and insufficient control over the off-campus behavior of students (and others), it is time for an off-ramp. We have tried to make this work, but it is not working.

Barbara Rimer, Dean of UNC-Chapel Hill School of Public Health

Both my kids are moving into college this week. I hope the closing of UNC serves as an example of how seriously the actions of a few can spin out of control and impact the entire student population.

Boston University has an extensive program for returning students that includes an on-campus lab that can process 5,000 test results every 24-hours shared on a public dashboard. The students have launched an online awareness campaign with a name designed to be provocative. Daily self-reporting of symptoms and regular testing are required and, if you miss either, your wifi followed by access card stop working until you eventually are asked to leave campus. All results are collected into an app which students use to check in their locations throughout the day. This same app also notifies students if anyone with positive test results was in proximity and will automatically limit the mobility of potentially infected students. All of this is at great cost to the university. They are not bringing kids back to school for the money.

Clark University sent test kits to all students at home a couple of weeks ago to prevent asymptomatic carriers from coming to campus until they can show a negative result. This week Clark is welcoming students and, like BU, are requiring every student to sign a Commitment to follow safety protocols or risk “dis-enrollment.” The university offered all students an online course over the summer, Pandemics. From Horror to Hope, to put our current situation into perspective, and hosted discussion groups for students including tips on how to politely tell someone to put on their mask on (and how to acknowledge someone’s request without sounding snarky). In full transparency, and to help put anxious parents and surrounding community at ease, Clark is publishing all test results on a public website.

All parents want the best for their children. We want them to experience all that college has to offer. We also want them to stay safe. It’s easy to question the trade off in sending our kids to live together during a pandemic. I have to keep reminding myself that they are not kids anymore, they are young adults, and there will be valuable lessons to learn from working together to “stop the spread.”

Universities are places of learning and innovation. This year, students will learn to live and study together in a time of pandemic. They will develop a culture and society that works in our “new normal.” Unlike the UNC community, successful schools will collectively enforce acceptable behavior and redefine what is cool. We will have much to learn from these pioneers.

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Current Events

Nike – Can’t Stop Us

My kids are sick of me showing them Nike’s latest commercial which was just released this morning and already has almost 5 million views on YouTube and over 50k retweets on Twitter.

It’s just so good.

Not only does Nike tap into the deep longing we all have to get back together and enjoy sports, it also cleverly brings together two sides of our divided world into a message of unity. The message is that unity brings strength with the underlying theme being that we need to work together to fight the challenges we face.

The campaign is for a Nike’s membership and is by Wieden + Kennedy, the Portland agency that does all of Nike’s commercials. More details here.

Earlier spots in the series include LeBron narrating Play for the World

Play for the World

and the iconic, For once, Don’t Do It

For once, Don’t Do It
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Current Events

Our New Future

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Current Events

Masked

City council meetings give us a glimpse into the soft underbelly of the American democracy. I remember having to sit through a Pennington, NJ neighbor debate at length with a Verizon representative who wanted to place a cell tower on top of the local firehouse. “Make it a ziggurat,” he said to the perplexed Verizon rep as I walked out the door.

Streaming video technology has opened the proceedings to the rest of the world. What used to be only open to those attending in person is now available for everyone to see. And mock.

Which brings me to Provo, Utah where they recently held a meeting to go over the state’s mandate that everyone at school must wear a mask.

Utah meeting on masks is canceled when residents without masks pack room

“A public meeting in Utah about a mask policy for schoolchildren was abruptly adjourned when people without masks packed the room.” This is how the NBC news report started out. If you watch the video above, the County Commissioner of Provo, Utah opened the meeting with, “This is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing,” and was met with a chorus of boos from the packed gallery.

“Science should not stand in the way”

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany

This the where we are today in America. The rest of the world is on the other side of the curve, they worked together, looked out for their fellow citizens, wore their masks and are now on the road to recovery.

They are winning while we’re still arguing over the rules.

Italy, remember how bad it was there? Just 230 cases yesterday. Here in the US, we are setting new records with over 70,000 new cases today and convoys of refrigerated trailers are making their way to Arizona and Texas hotspots to serve as mobile morgues for the anticipated surge in deaths.

Yet people insist on their freedom of choice.

No one wants free masks in Huntington Beach
Bummed out tourist

Meanwhile, as people try to take their attitudes elsewhere, they are being dealt harshly. Americans are blocked entry into many European countries, and Hawaii has strict rules demanding quarantine for any arrivals from outside the islands. Check out the tourist from Utah who has to spend his Kauai vacation behind bars because he didn’t think the 14-day quarantine applied to him. Boy does he look bummed.

Like Tom Hanks says – it’s simple – “do your part, we’re all in this together.” Wear a mask for the your house, your work, your town, and society as a whole.”

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Current Events

Death as Art

These are the times we live in. Artist James Beckwith plotted each death from January thru June along a timeline, on a map and set it to music, “each country is represented by a tone and an expanding blip on the map when a death from Covid-19 is recorded” says Beckwith on his YouTube page.

This work was emotionally a difficult piece to write and may be upsetting to some people. I created it to highlight the terrifying spread of this virus and to try and understand how frightening its exponential growth has been. There seems to be something much more real and chilling about these numbers when you hear them, as well as seeing them.

James Beckwith

Beckwith took his inspiration from an earlier piece by the Japanese artist (and former foreign exchange dealer) Isao Hashimoto who created 1945-1998 an audio/visual representation of nuclear proliferation which you can see below.

“1945-1998”
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Current Events

Post-Pandemic Wuhan

Japanese documentary film maker Takeuchi Ryo has been living in Nanjing, China for seven years sharing. with his YouTube audience what it is like for a Japanese ex-pats living in China.

Long Time No See, Wuhan

In May, Mr. Takeuchi spent 10-days in the newly opened Wuhan, the Chinese city that was at the epicenter and perhaps source of the Coronavirus pandemic. We get a glimpse of a city flickering to life after a long, hard lockdown.

There’s the harsh economic reality of restaurant owners having to cut their prices to attract back customers who are also hurting from lost wages. We learn how contract tracing works in practice, movements are tracked everywhere, it’s Foursquare check-ins, enforced by law. QR codes have finally found widespread adoption. We experience life in the city through several individuals we meet up close.

There’s a nurse who volunteered on the front lines. She’s normally bubbly and would dance to help lift the spirits of her patients but asks to stop the interview when asked to recall what it was like to see so much death. She almost quit her job before the pandemic hit but now she has found a new purpose in her career.

There’s the construction worker who didn’t sleep for three nights while building that famous insta-hospital that went up in just 10-days. His future is uncertain as goods manufactured in Wuhan factories are shunned across China due to fears of contamination. Yet he’s just happy to be alive to raise his family after seeing complete civic panic and the potential collapse of society, up close.

There is also a newlywed couple that re-unite after quarantine forced their separation. Their joy to be together is infectious and through them you feel a giddiness that comes only when happiness has been denied for a long time.

The exuberant optimism of the city’s residents today in Long Time No See, Wuhan hint at what must have been a horrible period of sadness and despair. Only someone who has suppressed happiness for a long time could be this joyful and optimistic.

I am happy for the future of Wuhan but it’s those hints of what they went through that has me worried. I don’t feel like Americans are prepared to give up their freedoms in the same way that those in Wuhan did and still do so today. Americans cannot even agree to wear a mask in public. How will we ever enforce mandatory temperature checks, location tracking, and regular testing to reduce the spread of this disease? I hope we can pull together and do what needs to be done to turn things around.

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Current Events

Bolero Juilliard

Students from Juilliard quarantined at home like the rest of us, are unable to be with their colleagues or classmates, and isolated from the collective space where they practice their art.

But distance and isolation cannot dampen their spirit. As with others, they put a Zoom video together but, this being Juilliard, they took it to the next level and the gravitational momentum of the project brought in a several famous alumni to join the project.

The result is, as the Juilliard website describes, “a collective endeavor that captures a snapshot of a specific global moment and the possibilities of creative connection in an uncertain world.”

Bolero Juilliard

More from The Daily Beast on the making of:

Keigwin told The Daily Beast that getting Bolero Juilliard right “turned into an obsession that was comforting on so many levels. And we just hit it full speed for days and days. Not every project do you wake up at 3am for and have lots of ideas, or start editing at 6am. It was so inspiring and passion-filled. And it really wasn’t just me, this was a hugely collaborative effort.”

He laughed as he described shouting at the multiple performers on the screen in front of him: “Follow my lead…faster…grab something…stop…MELT.” People would be moving furniture, breaking things, an animal would enter the shot, leading Keigwin to exclaim: “No, keep the cat! I love the cat!

‘Bolero Juilliard’: Inside the Making of a Lockdown Musical Miracle
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Current Events

Ads in the time of Covid

In times of uncertainty, it’s best to stick to the pack.

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Office

Coronavirus Data

When you work for a news app and there’s lots of news, you’re busy.

At SmartNews we’ve been busy trying to get a handle on the numbers behind the Coronavirus pandemic and present it in a way that is meaningful to SmartNews users.

We started with a simple widget with totals for confirmed cases along with those that had recovered. We designed a way to put US and Global numbers in once widget that updated daily. Tapping on the More data link to you to a full page with interactive graphs showing the cumulative totals of these numbers over time along with the death count.

As casualties grew and recovery data started to look inconsistent (it’s not clear when you recover and many states do not require hospitals to record recovery rates), we made the difficult decision to post the death count on the widget, replacing the recovered figure. We re-built the data pipeline to pull in data more frequently so we added a counter to show the current daily totals compared to yesterday’s total.

Then we added county-level data to satisfy the growing interest in local information.

The most recent iteration, in the app today, adds back in the global number to give context to the US figures. We’ll continue to iterate on this widget to bring the most useful information to our users.

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Current Events

Can’t keep us down

The human spirit is irrepressibly creative.

https://twitter.com/RexChapman/status/1243935674895605761

Three mates stuck in their apartment Barcelona hit a chord with their bit, Stay Homas and have now become an internet sensation with their own YouTube channel and a profile in the New Yorker.

When British sportscasters get bored.
Daniel is a Flyers fan when he’s not parodying Broadway