We’re pleased to bring you Verily's quick takes on the happenings of the week.
Tokyo Olympics Are Postponed One Year
After having multiple conference calls with members of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, and Prime Minister of Japan’s, Shinzo Abe, agreed the Games of the XXXII Olympiad must be postponed until 2021, (but no later than summer 2021). This was not a surprise because the Athletics Association, a labor group aimed to give voice to track and field athletes, polled 4000 of its members located around the world. About 78 percent of track and athletes said they supported postponement, and about 87 percent said the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their training.
Olympic qualifiers across the globe expressed their support regarding the IOC’s decision. “I know postponing the Olympics is the best option to keep the athletes and spectators safe,” said Kamali Thompson, a U.S.A. fencing athlete, in a USA Today op-ed. “Waited 8 years for this, what’s another 1 in the grand scheme of things? As an athlete, it’s heartbreaking news about the Olympics being postponed until 2021, but it’s for all the right reasons and the safety of everyone! Hope everyone keeps safe and stay indoors,” British Heptathlete Katerina Johnson-Thompson shared on Twitter. —Melanie Wilcox
Americans Consider What It Would Take to Reopen U.S. Economy
In a tough week amid the Coronovirus spread, including news that Prince Charles has tested positive for COVID-19, the United States surpassed China in the reported number of COVID-19 cases, with more than 85,000 reported as of Thursday evening. As Americans stay home to “flatten the curve” of the Coronavirus pandemic, the economy has reached a standstill, record-shattering numbers of people are filing for unemployment, and small businesses wonder if they must close their doors forever. On Wednesday, the Senate passed Washington’s long-belabored stimulus bill, which is expected to pass in the House today, and to which the stock market is already responding.
President Trump, alongside Vice President Pence, addressed economic concerns at a virtual town-hall on Tuesday in which he expressed his hope that businesses will open up again by Easter. While the Vice President confirmed that the administration is not considering a national lockdown, Trump warned of the downfalls of prolonged shutdowns, citing the devastating toll that economic instability takes on civilians. “I don’t want the cure to be worse than the disease itself,” he said. At the same time, while there is no consensus on how long state and city quarantines will last, some public health experts surmise that drastic preventative measures could take “months” rather than the few more weeks that Trump foresees.
Yuval Levin wrote this week in the Atlantic, “Policy makers need to think about our response to the virus in terms of two steps: a hard pause, followed by a soft start. The pause is absolutely necessary, but so is the careful and gradual return to normalcy.” Levin continued: “We need to invest in a massive, ongoing testing regime. In addition to today’s RNA-based throat-swab diagnostics, which can spot active infections, we need to deploy blood tests for antibodies. Such tests, which will be available soon, would tell us who has been exposed and recovered and might possess some immunity. That would allow for a much more fine-grained sense of where the epidemic is raging intensely and where loosening some restrictions would be safe.”
According to NBC News, New York Governor Cuomo said this week that he is working toward testing people since it’s possible that "hundreds of thousands of people" have had COVID-19 without knowing it and, having the antibodies, could get back to work. At a press conference, Cuomo said that it is a false choice to choose between public health or restarting the economy but that, “if you have to make that choice, it's public health. Because you cannot put a value on a human life.” —Mariel Lindsay and Mary Rose Somarriba
If you’d like to get a daily email curating only the essential news on COVID-19 directly in your inbox, along with some levity along the way, sign up here for “Keeping Calm During COVID-19.”
Great Barrier Reef Experiences Massive Bleaching Event
A U.S. government scientist has said it appears Australia’s Greek Barrier Reef has suffered a major bleaching occurrence, possibly the most widespread on record. This would be the third bleaching incident in five years in the area, CNN reported. Bleaching occurs when colorful corals react to the stress of warmer ocean temperatures by pushing out the algae that lives inside them. As a result, the corals turn a ghostly white.
Scientists say the damage from this year’s event may be less deep than in previous incidents, but in terms of the size of the area involved, this bleaching episode may take the cake. “This time it is not as intense, but it's much more widespread, so we're seeing it all over the Great Barrier Reef," Dr. C. Mark Eakin, coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was quoted as saying. Most often, bleaching is associated with El Niño weather patterns, in which warmer temperatures are to be expected. But there was no El Niño pattern playing a role this time, according to Eakin.
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest in the world and home to thousands of marine species. Covering almost 133,000 miles under the water, it’s also a key driver for Australia’s tourist economy. —MB
Meghan McCain Announces She’s Pregnant After Prior Miscarriage
The View co-host Meghan McCain announced this week that she is pregnant again, after losing her first child to miscarriage last year. “My husband Ben and I have been blessed to find out I'm pregnant," the 35-year-old said in a statement. "Although this isn't how I expected to announce my pregnancy, both we and our families are excited to share the news with you all."
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, doctors have instructed McCain to take extra precautions to limit her exposure to the illness, and as a result, she will be performing her co-hosting duties remotely from home. On Wednesday, she made her first appearance on the show after sharing her happy news. People magazine quoted McCain as saying she and her husband “are just completely overwhelmed by all the kindness” shown in the public’s reaction to the announcement.
McCain, widely considered the “conservative voice” on The View, is the daughter of the late Republican U.S. senator, John McCain of Arizona. She frequently clashes with her fellow co-hosts. Last year, McCain wrote movingly in the New York Times about the loss of her first child. We wish her and her baby good health! —MB
Spanish Military Finds Elderly Deceased and Abandoned in Nursing Homes
As Spain grapples with surging numbers of coronavirus infections, military units called in to help have discovered patients in retirement homes abandoned by staff, some of them dead in their beds. The BBC reports that prosecutors have opened an investigation. Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles told Spanish TV that soldiers visiting care homes to help in disinfection efforts found that staff had sometimes fled after COVID-19 was diagnosed in the facility. As the death toll has risen across the country, funeral staff have also been frequently delayed in removing bodies for burial preparation. In Madrid, the city funeral home has declared it is no longer willing to help move the bodies of COVID-19 victims because of a shortage of protective equipment.
Robles pledged to “be strict and inflexible when dealing with the way older people are treated,” and Health Minister Salvador Illa reassured the public during a news conference that nursing homes were “an absolute priority for the government.” Spain’s struggle with coronavirus has escalated recently, with a death toll surpassing that in China, where the disease first emerged. —MB
COVID-19 Causes Closure of Abortion Clinics In Some States
As coronavirus continues to spread in the United States, state officials in Mississippi, Ohio, and Texas clarified that a government ban on non-essential medical procedures includes an order to stop elective abortions. CBS News reports that the moves are part of an effort to save personal protective equipment like masks and gloves for healthcare workers on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.
In Ohio, most abortion centers indicated they wouldn’t comply with the health department’s order because they view terminations as “essential and time-sensitive.” In Texas, providers were said to be reviewing their options. There, the attorney general has requested that surgical abortions only be performed if they are necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother. Purely elective procedures were to be postponed.
Mississippi has one abortion facility, of which the state’s governor, Tate Reeves, said: “It is without question that the lone clinic in Jackson does, in fact, operate doing procedures that are elective and not required, and therefore they should be following the guidelines as offered by the state department of health.”
Caregivers across the country have reported critical shortages of protective equipment, and donation drives are being held nationwide, with beauticians, veterinarians, and others donating masks and gloves to medical centers. In Washington, D.C., the National Cathedral donated a cache of protective gear discovered in its crypt. —MB
A Brand-New Marie Kondo Series Is coming to Netflix
Marie Kondo, Japanese organizing consultant extraordinaire, has a brand-new show coming to Netflix! Called Sparking Joy With Marie Kondo, it represents a bigger-picture transition from transforming households to transforming entire communities. So while Marie’s wildly popular Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo unveiled the best-selling author’s methods for creating new beginnings for emotionally struggling families, this upcoming series seeks to inspire and refresh entire communities via Marie’s makeovers of communal spaces.
As of now, the show is not in production but has announced a casting call for towns that would like to be featured on the show. The show will feature selected towns’ communal spaces, places like the “Mayor's Office, classrooms, local restaurants, community gardens, fire stations and more.”
What’s more, the show’s application process seeks to understand the unique personalities of the towns nominated, requesting details on topics such as struggles faced, historical events and local heroes. It will be exciting, and certainly eye-opening, to watch as the creator of the KonMari Method grapples with the psychology of communal organization. —ML
Kim Kardashian West and Taylor Swift Respond to Leaked Kanye West Footage
Last weekend, a leaked video of Kanye West on the phone with Taylor Swift made the rounds, reigniting an old feud between the famous country-pop singer and the Wests.
In case you need a refresher or simply didn’t care the first time around, in 2016, Kanye released the song “Famous” in which he raps: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? / I made that b***h famous.” Swift took issue with these lyrics, namely to being called a derogatory word, while West insisted that Swift had approved the lyrics. Taylor vehemently denied West’s claim.
But when his wife, Kim Kardashian West, posted on Snapchat a phone conversation between West and Swift, it appeared that Swift had been lying, and had, in fact, approved the lyrics. This exchange went down in pop culture history, and Swift’s reputation was dragged through the mud (the entire ordeal led to the release of Swift’s 2017 darker, comeback album, “Reputation”).
Now, the story is back in the headlines, only this time it appears that the Wests were lying. In a leaked 25-minute video of the phone call, it now appears that West did not call to ask for approval, but rather he asked that Swift promote the song, which she politely and uncomfortably refused. In fact, Swift’s publicity team has always maintained that Swift was unaware of the use of the expletive, but also that she warned West about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message.
On Monday, Swift took to Instagram to reference “*that call* (you know, the one that was illegally recorded, that somebody edited and manipulated in order to frame me and put me, my family, and fans through hell for 4 years)," the singer wrote. "Swipe up to see what really matters." The post led to a donation page for Feeding America.
Shortly after, Kardashian-West also responded on Instagram and Twitter, claiming Swift has "has chosen to reignite an old exchange - that at this point in time feels very self-serving given the suffering millions of real victims are facing right now." However, it seems that the damage has been done and the tide has turned against Kimye, whereas Swift has regained favor. The one thing that we can agree with both women about is that there certainly are more important things to tend to at this time. —Gabriella Patti
Good News of the Week
Country singer Brad Paisley started a service in which volunteers deliver a week’s worth of groceries to elderly individuals in Nashville. Paisley and his wife, Kimberly Williams Paisley, founded “The Store,” in 2018. It provides free food for “people who have fallen on hard times,” according to Paisley.
The announcement, posted on Instagram, succeeded Paisley’s virtual concert streamed from his Nashville home. Country music stars Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood and Chris Young made appearances via Facetime. —MW
Watch of the Week
This week the TODAY Show highlighted first responders and medical professionals in a short montage alongside Andra Day’s anthem “Rise Up.” Prepare to have your heart warmed (and have your tissues handy).
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