The Daily Dose: Can mobile data help fight the pandemic?

The United States set a new record for hospitalizations. In addition, more than 1million new cases have been reported during the first 10 days of November alone. It paints a grim picture. “The new wave appears bigger and more widespread than the surges that happened in the spring and summer — and threatens to be worse. But experts say there are also reasons to think the nation is better able to deal with the virus this time around.” The devastating COVID-19 spring may have only been a prologue to the real show.

Can data play a role in getting control of the COVID-19 pandemic? Lots of very smart people believe so. One such case is reported in Nature: “Chang et al.1 present an innovative method that combines simple infectious-disease models with human-mobility data obtained from mobile-phone records. This data-rich model has enabled them to generate and, to some extent, test hypotheses on where the virus is transmitted, how racial and socio-economic disparities in COVID-19 infections arise, and how effective different types of control measure might be.” The problem here is the amount and quality of data will vary dramatically between countries and ideologies. Privacy laws will undoubtedly prove a hurdle.

Politics, politics. Seems like no matter where you go, the pandemic brings out the worst in politicians. This time, COVID-brain has descended on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Sau Paulo governor, and opposition member, João Doria. The two have butt heads over Chinese vaccine trials being conducted in the country. Per South China Morning Post, “Bolsonaro and Doria have had a series of public rows over the experimental CoronaVac vaccine since the president last month cancelled a deal made by the Ministry of Health and the state of São Paulo for 46 million doses of it. Doria, who plans to run for the presidency in 2022, said at the time that Bolsonaro’s decision was criminal.” Someone find a cure for this craziness please. A crippling global pandemic is no time to bicker over politics.

Charles Darwin appears to have had a very prescient hunch about how life on earth may have started. A BBC Future article highlights a letter written to the naturalist Joseph Dalton Hooker in 1871 in which he postulates the “primordial soup” theory, only within a hypothetical pond and not the vast oceans. According to Darwin, “It is often said that all the conditions for the first production of a living organism are now present, which could ever have been present. But if (and oh what a big if) we could conceive in some warm little pond with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity etc. present, that a protein compound was chemically formed, ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the present day such matter [would] be instantly devoured, or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed.” 

Here’s a link to the letter.

And the BBC Future article.

Success! You're on the list.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: