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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Martha Banta and Edward I. Condren

Edward I. Condren
The item below from the Dept. of English was passed to me by Prof. Tobie Higbie. No photo of Prof. Banta could be found. Prof. Condren was one of the founders of the Faculty Assn. at UCLA:

Today I have to write with some sad news that is unrelated to the more general loss that surrounds because of the pandemic. Martha Banta and Edward I. Condren, emeriti of our department, both passed away on 1 April.

Martha Banta, distinguished Americanist and author of  Failure and Success in America: A Literary Debate, Imaging American Women: Idea and Ideals in Cultural History, and One True Theory and the Quest for an American Aesthetic, among many other works, suffered a severe fall earlier this year. She was hospitalized for a while for fractures and cognitive difficulties and then chose care at her home in Pasadena, where she passed away peacefully.

Edward I. Condren, a well-known medievalist, joined UCLA in 1967. His published books include Chaucer and the Energy of Creation: The Design and Organization of the Canterbury Tales, The Numerical Universe of the Gawain-Pearl Poet: Beyond Phi, and Chaucer from Prentice to Poet: The Metaphor of Love in Dream Visions and Troilus and Criseyde. He had not been in good health for a number of years and succumbed to his illness earlier this week.

We will follow up with more detailed notes on their lives and work on our website, but for the moment I simply wanted you to be aware of their passing in case you wanted to reach out to their friends or relatives.

In sadness,

Ursula K. Heise, Chair, Department of English

A Reconsideration

It’s time to reconsider California’s ‘shelter-at-home’ policy

By UCLA Prof. Jeffrey D. Klausner, CalMatters, 4-7-20

Despite the worst fears of the COVID-19 pandemic, the novel coronavirus has not spread broadly in the general population, though it has been severe in some settings. Many of the outbreaks have increased rapidly, peaked, and some have now declined. In California, the number of new cases has been relatively low and steady with recent increases likely due to increased testing rather than increased transmission. While the state’s initial “shelter-at-home” sledgehammer approach might have been defensible in a time of substantial fear and uncertainty, it is time now to reconsider. 

The broad use of social distancing fails to account for the nuances in the spread of the coronavirus. The World Health Organization currently categorizes the spread in each country as “local,” not “generalized,” even as it has ignited devastating epidemics in some major cities and localized regions. As of April 6 there have been more than 15,000 reported cases in California that are highly concentrated within a few counties and more than 350 deaths. In a population of about 40 million, that is about 38 cases per 100,000 residents. A recent study estimated the death rate per infected to be 0.66% or about 1 death in 150 infected, much lower than the earlier estimates but still 6 times more deadly than the flu. 

Like any response to an emergency, ours must be data-driven and not emotional.  We must re-evaluate the current social distancing policies and accelerate plans to lift these interventions in localities with little transmission and end restrictions that have little value, such as closing beaches, parks and hiking trails. The localized nature of outbreaks means we can respond locally, based on testing data and case rates using proven methods of disease control, such as testing, isolation and contact notification. We can focus resources on protecting those individuals who are most at risk — the elderly and those with chronic diseases including lung and heart disease, immune suppression, obesity and diabetes. We can achieve this with better monitoring in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, visitor restrictions, resident and employee testing, isolation of cases, continued social distancing for those at risk and policies that support paid leave and work or schooling at home. 

Our hospitals have been preparing for weeks. While there has been an increase in admissions, few California hospitals are overwhelmed. Fortunately, the substantial reduction in seasonal influenza transmission has resulted in fewer influenza-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions. That decreased burden on the health system is substantial and further assures hospital capacity. We should respond to California’s epidemic with continued actions designed to maintain awareness, promote personal behavior change such as staying home from work or school if ill, covering coughs or sneezes, and handwashing. We must increase case finding through unrestricted and expanded testing, including the use of home-based specimen collection, isolation of those infected and routine notification and testing of contacts.

We should embrace technological solutions that facilitate registration for testing and timely online access to test results and contact notification.  We should test health care workers and first responders who have been exposed or have recovered with antibody tests to determine who is immune and can safely return to work. Other infectious disease epidemics that I have helped respond to in my lifetime followed similar patterns from uncertain policies like exclusion of HIV-infected individuals in school settings to a transition to evidence-based public health disease control strategies based on disease surveillance, case-finding through testing, contact notification and treatment or isolation. 

Now that our understanding of how the virus spreads is improving, it is time to let the observed case rates and distribution of cases drive a more limited, focused response. As our knowledge and resources to control the coronavirus pandemic have increased — we need to use them strategically, protect the vulnerable and enable Californians in low transmission areas to get back to work and school. 

Source: https://calmatters.org/commentary/its-time-to-reconsider-californias-shelter-at-home-policy/
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*Dr. Jeffrey D. Klausner is a clinical professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of California Los Angeles. He is a former medical officer at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, JDKlausner@mednet.ucla.edu.
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Editorial Comment: Note that it was not so long ago that the national estimate of the eventual number of deaths was put at 100,000 to 240,000 even with social distancing, etc. See "Coronavirus May Kill 100,000 to 240,000 in U.S. Despite Actions, Officials Say" from the NY Times:
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/31/us/politics/coronavirus-death-toll-united-states.html.
Now that estimate is being sharply downsized. See "CDC director downplays coronavirus models, says death toll will be 'much lower' than projected":
https://abcnews.go.com/Health/cdc-director-downplays-coronavirus-models-death-toll-lower/story The NY Times puts the number of deaths up to the present (as of 4-8-20 AM) at over 12,000. But these fatalities are highly concentrated. New York has about 45%. Over half are in New York and New Jersey. In effect, the New York City metropolitan area has become the Wuhan of the U.S. (The NY Times' numbers are updated regularly and are at:
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html.)

Given all the uncertainty about testing availability and resulting numbers, we won't have a clearer picture for some time. However, it is hard to see the NY Times' fatality and case numbers getting anywhere near the old projections. Meanwhile, the economic numbers are preliminary but are also truly alarming. The impact on education from K-12 through higher ed (and including UC) will be long-lasting, particularly when the effects on state and local budgets are known and felt.

There is a temptation to evaluate the current crisis through the lens of anti-Trumpism because of evident leadership failures at the federal level. Rather than that approach, however, it is better to take a dispassionate "clinical" view, as the Klausner op ed above suggests.

-Dan Mitchell

UC Coronavirus Research Grants

UC launches grant program to spur urgently needed COVID-19 research

UC Newsroom, April 6, 2020

Funded by the University of California and the State of California through the California Breast Cancer Research Program, the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program; and the California HIV/AIDS Research Program.

To accelerate urgently needed breakthroughs in the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of California will provide $2 million in seed funding to scientists across the state to help jump-start their high-impact research projects.

Awards of up to $25,000 are available immediately, said Theresa Maldonado, Ph.D., vice president of UC’s systemwide Research and Innovation division. The goal is to help researchers begin work as soon possible, knowing that larger federal grants may take longer to be distributed.

The awards are being funded by three statewide research grant programs UC administers that focus on breast cancer, tobacco-related disease and HIV/AIDS.

“Given that people who suffer from breast cancer, HIV and tobacco-related diseases are also among those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, it made sense to begin urgently directing some of that research funding to this global pandemic,” Maldonado said. “Our goal is to seed work in areas that can have a big impact in a short amount of time and to help the California communities that need it most.”

Research proposals will be evaluated as they are received, with priority going to those that meet three criteria: a strong potential for impacting the pandemic in the near term; the ability of researchers to start work right away; and a research focus that will help California’s most vulnerable populations.

Maldonado and other UC leaders have also been spearheading an effort to facilitate greater collaboration on COVID-19 research among scientists and researchers across UC’s five medical centers, three national laboratories and 10 campuses.

A rapid-response survey of UC researchers yielded roughly 300 researchers whose work can help inform the medical and public health response to the pandemic in areas deemed by the World Health Organization to be of the highest priority.

“The adverse health and economic impact of the pandemic, as it plays out in California, cannot be overstated,” Maldonado said. “But the University of California has broad expertise in critical areas that can help with a rapid response to this unprecedented health crisis.”

Source: https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/uc-launches-grant-program-spur-urgently-needed-covid-19-research

Applications for grants at https://uckeepresearching.org/rgpo/

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Napolitano on Coronavirus Research Funding

Federal Research Is the Key to Solving the COVID-19 Crisis

Janet Napolitano and Carrie L. Byington, April 7, 2020,
Inside Higher Ed

The COVID-19 pandemic may prove to be one of the most profound global crises of our time. Every day seems to bring another unprecedented development, including mass closures of educational institutions and businesses, city- and statewide orders requiring millions of people to stay in their homes, and the disruption of financial markets. Last week, more than six million Americans applied for unemployment, while the number of U.S. infections surpassed those of all other countries in the world.

In the midst of such intense upheaval, it can be difficult to maintain confidence in our collective ability to respond, to prevent widespread infection and deaths among our most vulnerable populations, to stabilize our economy, and to return our lives to normalcy. But as unnerving as this moment is, we do have optimism that a clear path forward for the U.S. and the world can be identified. Our nation’s public research universities are one resource that can help light the way. Today, thousands of doctors, researchers, physician scientists, students and trainees at academic institutions across the United States are working around the clock to develop and test innovative ways to prevent infection, to treat patients who develop COVID-19 and to end the pandemic.

Researchers across the University of California and our associated health centers are now engaged in more than 300 research initiatives designed to combat COVID-19. Five of our health centers are pursuing clinical trials testing the safety and efficacy of a range of drugs approved for other conditions that may be effective for COVID-19. A new public-private consortium that includes UC San Diego and the UC-affiliated Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories is using supercomputers to answer questions about the virus in hours or days, rather than weeks or months. A team of researchers at UC Riverside joined with partners to map a key protein that may aid in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. Other UC experts are studying everything from coronavirus mutations, infection prevention and community mobilization to the regulatory, policy and economic implications of this virus.

It’s no coincidence that these insights are all emerging from our nation’s public research universities and academic health centers, where the world’s greatest minds join together to develop solutions to our most daunting challenges. In addition to conducting groundbreaking medical research, many public universities also provide top-notch front-line medical care to patients of all income levels. In a crisis such as the one we face today, academic medical centers and the public-service mission of these institutions stand apart by doggedly pursuing medical insights and solutions regardless of the potential for profit.

We know this research is vital to our country’s health and our ability to recover and rebuild after this crisis. But the reality is that universities can only conduct this research if they have sufficient federal support. At the University of California -- like many other public universities -- federal funds are our single most important source of support for research.

In its latest stimulus package, Congress wisely included some $1.25 billion for federal research agencies to support the rapid development of diagnostics, treatments and vaccines for coronavirus. We’re tremendously grateful for this investment, and we hope it signals the beginning of reversing the recent trend of declining federal research funding. As Congress and the Trump administration consider future stimulus packages, we urge them to provide additional and ongoing support for research universities and academic health centers battling COVID-19 on behalf of our nation.

We still have a window of opportunity to make a difference in the current crisis with medical breakthroughs supported by the federal government. With the right support, research universities can continue to protect public health and save the lives of countless Americans. Acting now, we can solve this crisis more quickly and position ourselves on solid footing for whatever comes next.

Source: https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2020/04/07/federal-government-should-invest-more-university-research-help-fight-covid-19

UC-Health Now Tweeting on Testing

UC-Health is now tweeting daily on testing, as above. Go to https://twitter.com/UofCAHealth.

Monday, April 6, 2020

UCLA Coronavirus Count at 14

Updates on confirmed cases among the UCLA campus community

Last Updated 

Currently, 14 people among the UCLA campus community have been confirmed by medical professionals to have COVID-19 and have reported their diagnoses to UCLA.
Consistent with the protocols for infectious disease response, anyone identified within our campus community as being at risk of exposure from these individuals will be notified if they need to be isolated or tested.
The increased availability of testing for COVID-19 will reveal more cases in our campus and local communities. To help slow the spread of COVID-19, maintain a safe distance from others, wash your hands regularly, and cough or sneeze into tissues or your sleeve. 
Information on confirmed cases:
  • April 4: A staff member who has not worked on campus since March 31.
  • April 4: A staff member who has not worked on campus since March 18.
  • April 3: A staff member who has not worked on campus since March 18.
  • April 3: A student who lives in off-campus, non–university-owned housing and has not been on campus since March 13.
  • April 2: A staff member who has not worked on campus since March 10.
  • April 1: A student who lives in off-campus, non–university-owned housing and has not been on campus since March 10.
  • April 1: A student who lives in off-campus, non–university-owned housing and has not been on campus since March 14. 
  • March confirmed cases
  • Source: https://newsroom.ucla.edu/confirmed-cases

The Crisis: What to watch for this week

The governor has declared his January budget proposal "inoperable." It has been reported that even the modest proposed increase in the UC budget will not occur (and the Regents won't raise tuition at their May meeting). The first indicator of the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the budget will come on Friday, April 10 when the state controller issues the monthly cash report for March. However, March is not normally a big month for tax receipts - as opposed to April. And the crisis only started to have a big effect during the month, not throughout the month.

We will also have another report on weekly new claims for unemployment insurance on Thursday, April 9.

Recent news conferences by the governor can be seen at the links below.

April 4: [focus on testing]

or direct to https://archive.org/details/newsom4420

April 3: [focus on homeless housing]

or direct to https://archive.org/details/newsom4320

April 2: [focus on small business]

or direct to https://archive.org/details/newsom4220

April 1: [includes education issues]

or direct to https://archive.org/details/newsom4120