I got sick in mid-February. Slight fever, of about 101 F. Scratchy throat and dry cough. You know the type. I brushed it off as the flu, like any other year. But was it?
I live in the Bay Area, and companies here have a lot of connections to manufacturing in China. While the first official documented case in the U.S. was on Jan. 15, it's not improbable that SARS-CoV-2 caught a ride here on business travelers around New Year's, if not before. Did I catch the coronavirus and just not know it? Unfortunately, I'll probably never know, because our nation's testing infrastructure is in such a sorry state. We weren't prepared for mass testing (for lots of reasons better left to other publications), and we've been playing catch-up ever since.
The first crucial step in testing for the coronavirus, and where we're getting all of the official numbers from, comes from PCR technology that searches for evidence of the virus’s RNA. As you fight and defeat the virus, your body expels the invading RNA, making that test less effective; that is, after the first week of infection, the reliability of this test drops off—as you start to recover. As a nation—and as a entire species, really—we definitely dropped the ball on this first round of testing. Ideally, the next phase would be "serological" testing, which analyzes your blood for the antibodies you produce when successfully fighting an infection—antibodies that "can identify people who were infected and have already recovered from COVID-19, including those who were never diagnosed, either because they didn’t feel particularly sick or they couldn’t get an initial test," as Andrew Joseph at health care news site STAT reports.
As we know from studies of northern Italian villages that were quarantined, as well as from the more thorough testing in South Korea, Iceland, Singapore, and elsewhere, a significant portion (and possibly a majority) of individuals who contract SARS-CoV-2 are carriers who don't get sick; the majority of those who do get sick only develop mild symptoms. (Anywhere from a reported 25% to 80% of positives are asymptomatic, a range that illustrates how little reliable testing data we have with the fact that a person can have the virus for up to 11 days before showing symptoms.) Because of the dearth of tests, we're mostly only testing the sickest patients—especially here in America—and that means there could be a huge number of unwitting COVID survivors. As Joseph reports: "A 2015 serosurvey of the coronavirus MERS, for example, included samples from 10,000 people in Saudi Arabia. Fifteen people were found to have anti-MERS antibodies, which the researchers used to extrapolate that nearly 45,000 people in the country might have been exposed to the virus. That’s compared to fewer than 2,500 cases of MERS that have been verified around the world." Long story short: We'll never understand the full scope of this pandemic until we get truly serious about testing.
Those who know for certain that they contracted SARS-CoV-2 and are now fully recovered from COVID-19 can donate their plasma. Rich in antibodies, the plasma from one donor could potentially be used to help two critically ill patients battling the virus. Mount Sinai in New York City is already starting to try this out. Unfortunately, with the unavailability of serological tests, only people who previously tested positive for COVID-19 and are fully recovered (at least three weeks past the onset of symptoms) can currently donate.
Why does this matter? Haven't we been told to just stay inside until this blows over?
Memes like this one were cute the first few times I saw them, but I'm starting to grow tired of them. Sure, saving the world by sitting on the couch is a funny idea, and clearly something I can excel at, but is that really all we're being called on to do?
As I write this, the U.S. has nearly 250,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, but how many others have contracted the virus, recovered, and now have immunity to it? A million? Two million? More? If those people knew they were immune, they could be out helping people who are still in danger: donating time to deliver meals and supplies to the elderly or immunocompromised members of our communities, volunteering at hospitals to do anything to take the strain off overworked and overstressed health care workers, or, at the very least, donating blood and the valuable plasma in it. If we knew, we could do more. If we knew, we could actually be mobilizing like our grandparents did and make a difference.
But we don't know ... so we can't.
Absent a better-coordinated nationwide effort, everyone is stepping up to do what they can, from where they are. Individuals at universities such as Cornell, Michigan State, Rutgers, Florida State, Utah, and SUNY Stony Brook are pitching in to 3D print face shields for doctors and nurses. A team at the University of Arizona is designing and 3D printing N95 respirator masks. Researchers at Yale are 3D printing visors as well as ventilator multiplexers that can allow multiple patients to use a single ventilator. MIT has designed a face shield that can be die-cut to "produce the flat face shields at a rate of 50,000 shields per day in a few weeks" and its Project Manus has a call out for more die cutters to help amp up production. Companies are voluntarily shifting their production lines to masks and hand sanitizer. And, as you'll see below, architects and firms are lending their design acumen, fabrication experience, and problem-solving skills to the effort. Technology editor Wanda Lau has an in-depth report on how architects are lending their expertise and time, and how you can join the effort. [ARCHITECT]
These stories and more are among the developments we've been following this week ...
Impact on Architecture and the Built Environment
CannonDesign is forming a coalition of makers to create protective masks for health care workers. Already signed on as of Monday were SUNY Buffalo, MaterialsIn, Oxford Pennant, Stitch Buffalo, and The Factory Buffalo. Want to be a part of this effort? Sign up here. [CannonDesign]
Led by Cornell University's Architecture, Art and Planning and Engineering schools, architects at BIG, KPF, Handel Architects, Howeler + Yoon, Grimshaw, Terreform ONE, Weiss Manfredi, and Brooks + Scarpa have joined in the effort to help professor Jenny Sabin 3D print face shields for NYC hospitals. If you have a 3D printer or a laser cutter at home, you too can join the effort. [Sabin Lab]
Architecture practitioners talk to senior associate editor Katharine Keane about the challenges that facing their health care, medical, and public sector clients preparing for surges in cases of the novel coronavirus. [ARCHITECT]
Design editor Katie Gerfen reports that MASS Design Group—no stranger to designing for infection control, having completed health care facilities in Rwanda and Haiti abroad, as well as in Boston in the States, among others—is helping during the current pandemic. The firm has made available a list of best practices for designing spaces for infection control that "address everything from improving ventilation in existing spaces to thinking about materials selection in projects going forward—especially given the changing nature of infectious diseases. More tools and resources will follow in the coming weeks, and the firm is also soliciting questions and design solutions through an email form on its website." [ARCHITECT]
Also from CannonDesign is this design for a modular walk-through COVID-19 testing facility, modeled "on testing operations already in place at Yang Ji General Hospital in Seoul." Drive-thru testing facilities are opening across the country, but this would be a variant of that for more densely populated areas where driving doesn't make sense. [CannonDesign]
Jupe Health, founded by Kasita microhousing founder Jeff Wilson and investment banker Cameron Blizzard, is manufacturing modular health care units that can be delivered quickly during a health crisis. The Jupe Rest unit is a sleeping unit/isolation unit for overworked doctors and nurses. The Jupe Care is "an off-grid Deployable Recovery Unit for non-critical COVID-19 patients." And the Jupe Plus is, they say, "the world's first stand-alone micro-grid-capable intensive care unit." (Concerning the Plus, the company says more info is forthcoming this month.) According to Jupe, they can deploy 24 units on a single flatbed truck or a half-million on a single cargo ship. [Jupe]
Included in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act stimulus legislation is $75 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities that is intended to "support at-risk humanities positions and projects at museums, libraries and archives, historic sites, colleges and universities, and other cultural nonprofits that have been financially impacted by the coronavirus." [ARCHITECT]
In AIA's first economic report since the start of the crisis, 50% of firms reported fewer new projects for March than they expected entering the month, with 83% expecting a decline in revenue. In April, nearly everyone (94%) expect it to get worse and see more revenue declines. AIA is committed to releasing economic information more often during the crisis than the monthly Billing Indexes, so stay tuned to our site for more. [ARCHITECT]
In some places, construction has been halted; in others, only residential construction can continue. But five megaprojects are still under construction during the COVID-19 outbreak. [Construction Dive]
Building and Construction
Hanley Wood publications are working together to track how state-by-state mandates are affecting the construction and building materials supplier industries. We're updating the map and the data as they develop, so bookmark this page and check in often. [JOURNAL OF LIGHT CONSTRUCTION]
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security deems construction and homebuilding as "essential." Builder editorial director John McManus writes that this is a win for the industry, but one that comes with it a heaping load of responsibility and caution: "Every person your folks come in contact with today may either be part of a 2.4-per-person Covid infection derivative, or not. Every unprotected, or not-socially-distanced, or less-than-obsessively-hygienized workplace is either a potential new cluster of infection that will eventually swamp all our hospitals' and heath care givers' capability to deal with our case rate increases, or a business continuity service that accounts for a new, hard, harrowing reality." [BUILDER]
Meyers Research's chief economist Ali Wolf is giving a weekly webinar on the impact of COVID-19 on the housing and construction market. Last week she said that "a majority of builders—68%—experienced a week over week decrease in contracts. Twenty-four percent saw no change, while 8% experienced an increase. 'I think that’s been a psychological shift, because everyone thought this was just going to be a complete stop,' Wolf said. 'And what we have seen is there still is some activity, there are still buyers that are out there.' " You can watch Wolf's March 25th webinar here. [BUILDER]
We lost architect Michael McKinnell, FAIA, of Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles (later Kallmann McKinnell & Wood, and now KMW Architecture) on March 28 to complications from the coronavirus. In 1962, McKinnell and his Columbia University professor Gerhard Kallmann won the design competition for Boston City Hall. Born in 1935 in Manchester, England, McKinnell moved to the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship to pursue graduate studies in architecture at Columbia. [ARCHITECT]
Cancellations and Postponements
The 2020 Salone del Mobile in Milan, previously postponed indefinitely, now has a new date next year: April 13–18, 2021. [ARCHITECT]
LightFair 2020 has been officially canceled. Next year's will be at the Javits Center in New York in May 2021 and then the trade show will head to Las Vegas in 2022. [ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING]
Ventilator ramp-ups: A couple of weeks ago, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked James Dyson to help make ventilators for the National Health Service. Dyson designed one in 10 days and is producing 10,000 of them for the U.K. and another 5,000 for international efforts to fight COVID-19. [CNN] Elon Musk's Tesla company and Ireland-based Medtronic are teaming up to build ventilators in one of Tesla's solar panel factories in Buffalo, N.Y.; Medtronic is openly releasing its ventilator design so that other companies can join the effort. [Forbes]
We have extra FDA-approved ventilators. Will ship to hospitals worldwide within Tesla delivery regions. Device & shipping cost are free. Only requirement is that the vents are needed immediately for patients, not stored in a warehouse. Please me or @Tesla know.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 31, 2020
They're watching: The surveillance state ramps up "to help." In Russia, "authorities announced this month that those returning from outside Russia would be monitored using the city’s more than 178,000 facial-recognition cameras." If you return to Russia from abroad, you are required to self-quarantine for 14 days. If you violate that and you spread the virus to someone who dies, you can expect five years in prison. [The Washington Post]
Tracking the virus: The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, in Seattle, a research institute founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is tracking and projecting the spread and peak of COVID-19 through the United States in the coming months, and projected numbers of deaths in each state, as measured by needed hospital capacity. [IHME] And Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering has a worldwide real-time tracker of the spread of the virus and its impact. [CSSE]
The last thing you might be worried about right now might be your garbage collection, especially since more of us are home all the time and probably creating more of it to pick up. But the shutdown of businesses is hitting waste collection companies that rely on commercial clients very hard, forcing layoffs and reducing services. [Waste Dive] First they might come for your compost, then your recycling, then ... [Waste Dive] Waste Dive is keeping an updated feed. [Waste Dive]
And finally, if you have not yet watched The Daily Social Distancing Show host Trevor Noah's interview National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci, do yourself a favor and take 13 minutes to do so now. If you can spare a few more minutes, check out Noah's interview with Bill Gates too. [The Daily Show]
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