News·5 min read

Daily Skimm: COVID-19 in Italy, Hate Groups, and Help Wanted at NASA

Italy and COVID-19
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Mar 20, 2020


The Story

Italy's death toll from the coronavirus has surpassed China's.


It's a grim milestone. Yesterday, Italian officials said that the number of coronavirus-related deaths reached 3,405. And that the total number of known infections topped 41,000. The news came the same day that China reported no new infections for the first time since the coronavirus's discovery in December.

Why is it so bad in Italy?

Preparedness. The country took weeks after its first known infection to set up a lockdown. Now, the virus has pushed Italy's health care system to the brink, with doctors forced to decide who they can and cannot treat. More than 20% of Italians are smokers, which could be a risk factor. And Italy has the second-largest population of older people in the world, which may have contributed to the high death toll there. But recent numbers show they aren't the only demo affected.


Data from Italy reportedly shows that young people can experience severe symptoms too. According to the CDC, nearly 40% of patients who've been hospitalized in the US fall between the ages of 20 and 54. And nearly half admitted to the ICU were under the age of 65.

How can the US learn from Italy?

Italians have taken to social media to issue a warning to the world: don't underestimate or take the coronavirus lightly. So practicing things like social distancing, washing your hands, and not touching your face can help. Reminder: the goal is to help flatten the curve so that the US doesn't see a spike in the number of hospitalizations all at once.

Speaking of the US, what's the update there?

The number of infections keeps growing. Yesterday, confirmed infections in New York were reported to have more than doubled. The State Department is warning against all international travel. President Trump canceled the G7 summit planned for June and will instead hold a video conference with world leaders. Senate Republicans introduced another coronavirus relief bill. It still needs to be negotiated with Democrats, but its proposed $1 trillion would give Americans $1,200 checks, with more money allocated for those with kids. It would also provide loans to the airline industry and other businesses affected by the outbreak. And then there's California.

Go on.

Yesterday, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) ordered all residents – about 40 million people – to stay home to help combat the spread of the coronavirus. The move came after he said that more than half of the state's population is projected to contract the coronavirus over an eight-week period. Residents can leave their home for things like a walk, and to get basic needs met like food, laundry, and medical care. But nonessential businesses are being told to close. With the country's most populous state on lockdown, the move is the most drastic any governor has taken to control the virus to date.


While we knew the coronavirus could infect anyone, new numbers from the CDC and Italy are highlighting that no age group is invincible. And that everyone needs to take the outbreak seriously to help slow its spread.

Skimm This: We spoke with WH coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx about why millennials are the core group that can help fight this pandemic. Stay tuned for our podcast episode, dropping tonight at 5pm ET.


In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many are trying to get answers and results fast. But with shutdowns, closures, and shortages worldwide, it's become an uphill battle to fight the pandemic. Here are some things that are being fast-tracked:

Treatments: Yesterday, President Trump said he's asked the FDA to fast-track testing of drugs to help treat coronavirus patients. He said the agency had approved the drug hydroxychloroquine – used to treat malaria – for COVID-19. But the FDA has made it clear that despite a promising study, it still needs to investigate the drug's efficacy for treating coronavirus, which could take weeks. Vaccine testing is also underway...but it's not expected to be available for at least a year.

Doctors: In Europe, some med school graduates will be able to start working as fully-qualified doctors, immediately. In Italy, this year's students could enter the field nine months ahead of schedule, with schools waiving final exams. And the UK is following similar steps to get more health care providers in the field faster.

Equipment: Ferrari and Fiat Chrysler are reportedly in talks with Italy's biggest ventilator manufacturer to help increase production of the life-saving machines. Since Italy has asked the ventilator manufacturer to up its production from 160 to 500 ventilators a month, the two auto companies are discussing using their resources (manufacturing plants, workers) to help. In the US, Ford and GM have been in discussions with the White House about a similar idea.


What's seen a rise...

Hate groups. Earlier this week, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that the number of hate groups in the US grew 55% since 2017. The SPLC attributed the increase in hate groups – and associated attacks – to President Trump's rhetoric, using terms like "invasion of illegals" and saying there were "very fine people" at the 2017 deadly rally in Charlottesville. But it also mentioned that in the last year, the FBI has made racially motivated violent extremism a "national threat priority" and placed it on the same level as combating ISIS.

Who's Tul-seeing herself out...

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). Yesterday, she ended her 2020 Democratic presidential campaign and endorsed former VP Joe Biden. Gabbard was one of the last three candidates in the race, known for her opposition to US military intervention. But she had only won two delegates in the primary contests and hadn't qualified for a debate since last year.

What's got updates to share...

The NFL. Yesterday, the New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton said he had tested positive for COVID-19. He's the first known person to be infected in the NFL. This news came the same day the league reportedly announced coronavirus-related provisions in free-agent contracts. In a typical NFL year, it's necessary for a free agent to get (and pass) a physical exam before signing a deal with a new team – which may include a signing bonus. But amidst travel restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak, many free agents may have to postpone their physical. And if they fail it months down the line, they risk losing that signing bonus.

When you've watched one too many Christmas movies

Take a crack at this challenge. NASA is looking for help in designing a robot for the moon.

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