The Largest Urban Rooftop Farm in the World is Now Bearing Fruit (and More) in Paris

Getting fresh produce into the heart of a major city used to be done by a fleet of rumbling, polluting trucks—now it’s a matter of bringing it down from the roof.

The largest urban rooftop farm in the world uses vertical growing techniques to create fruits and vegetables right in the center of Paris without the use of pesticides, refrigerated trucks, chemical fertilizer, or even soil.

Nature Urbaine uses aeroponic techniques that are now supplying produce to local residents, including nearby hotels, catering halls, and more. For a price of 15 euro, residents can order a basket of produce online containing a large bouquet of mint or sage, a head of lettuce, various young sprouts, two bunches of radishes and one of chard, as well as a jar of jam or puree.

“The composition may change slightly depending on the harvest,” Sophie Hardy, director of Nature Urbaine, tells French publication Agri City. Growing on 3.4 acres, about the size of two soccer pitches, atop the Paris Exhibition Center, they are also producing about 150 baskets of strawberries, as well as aubergines, tomatoes, and more.

Speaking to the Guardian, Pascal Hardy, a sustainable development consultant and member of Agripolis, an urban farming firm, called the Nature Urbaine project in Paris “a clean, productive and sustainable model of agriculture that can in time make a real contribution to the resilience—social, economic and also environmental—of the kind of big cities where most of humanity now lives.”

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Sci-Fi Farming

Currently only a third of the total space on hall 6 of the expo center is utilized for Pascal’s alien-looking garden, and when the project is finished, 20 staff will be able to harvest up to 2,200 lbs (1,000 kg) of perhaps 35 different kinds of fruits and vegetables every day.

Photos by Agripolis

In plastic towers honeycombed with little holes, small amounts of water carrying nutrients, bacteria, and minerals, aerate roots which hang in midair.

As strange as the pipes and towers out of which grow everything other than root vegetables might seem, Hardy says the science-fiction farming has major benefits over traditional agriculture.

“I don’t know about you,” he begins, “but I don’t much like the fact that most of the fruit and vegetables we eat have been treated with something like 17 different pesticides, or that the intensive farming techniques that produced them are such huge generators of greenhouse gases.”

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“It uses less space. An ordinary intensive farm can grow nine salads per square meter of soil; I can grow 50 in a single tower. You can select crop varieties for their flavor, not their resistance to the transport and storage chain, and you can pick them when they’re really at their best, and not before.”

Agripolis

Breaking the chain

Agripolis is currently discussing projects in the U.S., the UK, and Germany, and they have finished several other rooftop farms in France including one on the roof of the Mercure hotel in 2016, which cultivates eggplant, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, salads, watercress, strawberries, nasturtiums and aromatics all directly serving the hotel restaurant.

Growing on the roof and selling on the floor can play a big part in the production of carbon-neutral food because, according to Agripolis, fruit and veg on average travel by refrigerated air and land transport between 2,400 and 4,800 kilometers from farm to market.

The global transportation force is the largest of humanity’s carbon-emitting activities, and reducing the number of flights and truckloads of produce is a great place to start cutting the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere.

For a culinary city like Paris, the Parisian mayor’s proposal to install an additional 320 acres (130 ha) of rooftop and wall-mounted urban farming space could significantly reduce the number of trucks entering the city, easing traffic and reducing pollution.

With rooftop farming being embraced from Detroit to Shanghai, the future is looking up.

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Once the Epicenters For COVID-19, New York and Italy Reach Single Digit Numbers

They were the epicenters of disease in America and Europe, but now New York and Italy have both reached single-digit daily numbers for fatalities attributed to COVID-19 and plummeting hospitalization rates after valiant efforts to stop the spread.

The Ministero della Salute in Italy reported last week transmissions of just 5.86 per 100,000 inhabitants, while some news sources place the nationwide death rate as low as 6 on June 29th, down by 22 from just the day before.

While some clusters—particularly in the north where the virus has been the worst, and the south, where many Italians go on vacation—have appeared recently, the country is still recording the lowest numbers since mid-February.

Similarly, New York has achieved a complete turnaround, recording 5 deaths last Saturday, according to AP, the lowest since March 15th—down from 13 the day before.

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“We are on the exact opposite end,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have plummeted, as well. Compared to 18,000 patients in March to under 900 last weekend.

Aljoscha Laschgari

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Need more positive stories and updates coming out of the COVID-19 challenge? For more uplifting coverage, click here.

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How a Crowded Slum of One Million People Contained the Coronavirus to Only 2,000 Cases

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, examining the spread, the rate of infections, the international response, and how these things have varied nation-to-nation has been a source of nothing less than bewilderment.

The cramped bazaars and streets of the Medinas in Morocco are relatively fine compared to some cities in the richest nations on earth.

The amount that is known and unknown has led to all kinds of approaches and guesswork, but perhaps nothing could be considered more astonishing than the containment of the now-infamous virus in one of the most crowded slums in Asia—in Dhravai, Mumbai, where one million people live in a labyrinthine-neighborhood of tightly packed shacks and one-room houses where social distancing is impossible.

The largest city in India, Mumbai is the epicenter of COVID-19 in India, and it has so far registered 500,000 cases.

But, while the city at large has seen maxed-out hospital beds, Dharavi, the setting of the Oscar-Winning film Slumdog Millionaire, has reported just 2,000 cases and 79 deaths overall, with just 274 in June.

How did they do it?

A proactive response was initiated, with 2,450 health workers assigned to Dharavi who started going door to door every morning at nine AM to test people.

After the first person tested positive in the slum—a 56-year-old garment worker who died the same day—the local and civic task forces identified the 5 highest-risk areas of the slum and started hunting the disease down, using contact tracing to find people who were at risk of being infected.

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In total 47,500 people were tested in the opening salvo. “That gave us a head start,” Anil Pachanekar, a private doctor and head of a local physicians’ association, told the LA Times. “If [those cases] had slipped through, it would have wreaked havoc.”

Credited for insuring the low rates of infection, these Mumbai health workers endured severe heat and humidity, walking through crowded streets wearing protective plastic body suits that didn’t allow for bathroom breaks.

Along with the disease, the task force encountered the paranoia and misconceptions about it. “When we went around Dharavi, we also started educating people about it,” he said. “We told them it is not a crime to be tested positive for coronavirus.”

Fear is a killer

Alleviating the fear of COVID-19 in people, especially as it related to the fear of visiting a clinic or medical office for testing, ended up being a very effective way to treat the disease.

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By April 20th, nineteen days after exposure, the door to door testing stopped, and 350 private clinics there were allowed to reopen. By then, the education efforts had paid off, and lines of people looking to get tested were forming outside of testing centers.

Meanwhile, city officials began converting buildings like wedding halls, schools and community centers into quarantine shelters with food and healthcare provisions. People who tested positive were quarantined in their homes while volunteer “COVID warriors” ensured those who were quarantined could get the medical supplies or groceries they needed.

With less than 20 deaths recorded in the slum during June, it seems like the worst is over for the residents of Dharavi—but what is being called the “Dharavi method” stands as a model for the future.

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It demonstrates that no situation is too dire for human resolve and ingenuity, and that even people living in squalor have something to teach the world.

Need more positive stories and updates coming out of the COVID-19 challenge? For more uplifting coverage, click here.

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Millions of COVID Cases and Deaths Averted Thanks to Lockdowns: ‘One of Humanity’s Greatest Achievements’

Despite the novel coronavirus outbreaks delivering countless blows to global economies, two different teams of researchers have published studies praising international and local governments for preventing additional infections and millions of deaths.

This week, scientists from Imperial College London and University of California–Berkeley both published studies on the impact of emergency health measures across 17 different countries.

Although the teams used different methods of calculation for their research, they both came to similar conclusions: millions of lives have been saved thanks to large-scale interventions during the pandemic.

According to the Imperial study, European lockdowns helped to prevent more than 3.1 million deaths. The Berkeley study—which examined infection rates and lockdown measures in China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France, and the US—found that local and national interventions prevented more than 530 million cases. Both of these studies were published in Nature.

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Furthermore, continuation of these policies beyond the study period have likely avoided many millions more infections, says Solomon Hsiang, director of Berkeley’s Global Policy Laboratory and lead author of the Berkeley study.

“The last several months have been extraordinarily difficult, but through our individual sacrifices, people everywhere have each contributed to one of humanity’s greatest collective achievements,” Hsiang said. “I don’t think any human endeavor has ever saved so many lives in such a short period of time. There have been huge personal costs to staying home and canceling events, but the data show that each day made a profound difference. By using science and cooperating, we changed the course of history.”

The Berkeley study evaluated 1,717 policies implemented across the 6 countries during the period extending from the emergence of the virus in January to April. The analysis was carried out by Hsiang and an international, multi-disciplinary team at the Global Policy Laboratory, all working under shelter-in-place restrictions.

Photo by UC Berkeley / Global Policy Lab and Hulda Nelson

Recognizing the historic challenge and potential impact of the pandemic, “everyone on our team dropped everything they were doing to work on this around the clock,” said Hsiang.

Today, global cases are nearing 7 million—but the UC Berkeley research suggests that the toll would have been vastly worse without policy interventions.

“So many have suffered tragic losses already. And yet, April and May would have been even more devastating if we had done nothing, with a toll we probably can’t imagine,” Hsiang said. “It’s as if the roof was about to fall in, but we caught it before it crushed everyone. It was difficult and exhausting, and we are still holding it up. But by coming together, we did something as a society that nobody could have done alone and which has never been done before.”

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Meanwhile in London, the Imperial team examined COVID-19 death rates across a dozen European countries after various stay-at-home orders, social restrictions, and shutdowns were implemented back in March.

Measuring the effectiveness of these interventions is important, given their economic and social impacts, and may indicate which courses of action are needed in future to maintain control. Estimating the reproduction number—the average number of cases an infected person is likely to cause while they are infectious—is a particularly useful measure.

“Using a model based on data from the number of deaths in 11 European countries, it is clear to us that non-pharmaceutical interventions– such as lockdown and school closures, have saved about 3.1 million lives in these countries,” said Dr. Seth Flaxman, study author from the Department of Mathematics, Imperial College London. “Our model suggests that the measures put in place in these countries in March 2020 were successful in controlling the epidemic by driving down the reproduction number and significantly reducing the number of people who would have been infected by the virus SARS-CoV-2.”

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Additionally, the team calculated that the reproduction number has dropped to below one as a result of the interventions, decreasing by an average of 82%, although the values vary from country to country.

“This data suggests that without any interventions, such as lockdown and school closures, there could have been many more deaths from COVID-19,” said Dr. Samir Bhatt, study author from the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London. “The rate of transmission has declined from high levels to ones under control in all European countries we study. Our analysis also suggests far more infections in these European countries than previously estimated. Careful consideration should now be given to the continued measures that are needed to keep SARS-CoV-2 transmission under control.”

Need more positive stories and updates coming out of the COVID-19 challenge? For more uplifting coverage, click here.

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Countries Hit Hardest By COVID-19 Are Starting to Lift Social Restrictions After Encouraging New Recovery Rates

As the world continues its fight to curb the novel coronavirus outbreaks, several countries have announced significant recoveries this week.

France, Italy, and Spain—the countries with the highest numbers of confirmed cases outside of the US—outlined their plans for slowly lifting their various social restrictions as rates of infection and fatality continue to fall.

In light of Italy recording their lowest number of new cases since March 10th, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says that the country will begin reopening the economy on May 4th. Although schools will not reopen until September, small businesses and restaurants will soon be allowed to reopen so long as customers are limited to takeout options and social distancing guidelines. Factories will also be reopened for manufacturing and people will be allowed to visit their relatives in small numbers.

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Meanwhile, Spain celebrated a significant decline in coronavirus-related deaths, with daily counts falling below 300 for the first time since March 20th. Government officials say that they will be slow to reopen the economy; however, they will start to lift social restrictions by allowing children to play outside for one hour per day—a first for the nation’s youth after spending six weeks in isolation.

Al Jazeera reports that France also hailed their largest single-day drop in COVID-19 deaths after it fell by more than 33% in just 24 hours. The country also recorded their lowest number of in-hospital deaths in 5 weeks.

New Zealand was quick to enact some of the world’s strictest social restrictions after confirming just a few cases of the virus back in March. Now, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that the nation’s pre-emptive shutdowns has succeeded in eliminating community transmission of COVID-19 this week. This means that while there will still most likely be new cases of the virus, healthcare officials will know where it is being transmitted.

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Although New Zealand has had 1,500 confirmed or probable cases of novel coronavirus over the course of the last two months, government officials report that they will still be cautious in gradually lifting social restrictions, starting with some non-essential businesses.

South Australia also announced that they are considering easing travel restrictions after the nation made it 7 days without a new recorded case. This accomplishment is largely credited to the province testing more than 15,000 people within a two-week period. There are now currently only 14 active cases.

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Taiwan has been celebrating its own milestone of 17 straight days without any new local cases as well as its first 4-day streak without any new domestic or imported COVID-19 cases.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

Representative photo by Airman 1st Class Elora J. Martinez

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In Groundbreaking Vote for Sustainability, EU Moves to Approve Insects for Human Consumption

As famed adventure television host, world record holder, former British Special Forces operator, and all around feel-good motivational guy Bear Grylls repeatedly reminded us on his television programs Man vs Wild and Running Wild, insects have more protein than beef or fish—sometimes as much as 8x more, if measured pound for pound.

After a long television career of pounding back worms, grubs, spiders, crickets, and ants for our amusement, Grylls would certainly be applauding the new proposed European Union legislation that would allow for mealworms, lesser mealworms, crickets, and locusts to be sold as “novel food sources,” pumping life into an industry that, while small, produces 500 tons of food annually according to The Guardian.

The products include things like cricket protein bars, locust aperitif, or mealworm burgers, and the new regulations from the European Food Safety Authority are likely to open the floodgates for insect food to flow from countries where they are made like Holland, the UK, Denmark, Belgium, and Finland, into countries where they are banned, such as Italy, France, and Spain.

“We reckon these authorizations will be a breakthrough for the sector,” Christophe Derrien, secretary general of the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed, added.

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“They are taking the necessary time, they are very demanding on information, which is not bad. But we believe that once we have the first novel food given a green light from EFSA that will have a snowball effect.”

Companies in the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Spain are all preparing to ramp up operations to prepare for the demand, perceiving through market signals that people actually want insect food.

Chirps Chips submitted

An Obvious Solution

Insects have been part of the staple diet of many world cultures, even now in modern times. They represent a rich source of animal protein that is practically immune to extinction, and just like traditionally harvested animals are perfectly safe to eat if you can control the conditions in which they live.

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With some of the most basic brain functions of anything in kingdom Animalia, insects are also less-likely to offend the sensibilities of vegetarians who, being more likely to be vitamin B12 deficient than omnivores, might be able to utilize the occasional cricket bar as a means of supplementing their plant based diet with bioavailable and dietary sources of B12 which can’t be made by plants, coming only from bacteria which live on plants.

Furthermore, unlike hoofed mammals, the process of enteric fermentation which, using the United States as an example, accounts for a small percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions (about 2.5% in the U.S.) is absent in insect agriculture, and so there’s a small potential reduction in GHG emissions to be gained from a switch.

Lastly trillions of insects are killed every year both by combine-harvesters and pesticides to protect major crops like wheat, rice, soya, corn, and cotton, representing millions of tons of lost nutrients. And, in a world where many communities are protein-deficient, insect products might never be more needed.

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These Optimistic COVID-19 Updates Give Us the Evidence We Need for Hope in April

This week’s news headlines from around the world have brought together another batch of COVID-19 updates that are both positive and noteworthy.

For starters, the number of novel coronavirus deaths in Spain dropped for the fourth consecutive day in a row, which has inspired hope that the nation is now past the peak of their outbreak—especially since the decline marked the lowest recorded number of deaths in two weeks.

Spain has experienced the most recorded cases of the virus in Europe, although other European nations have reported some hopeful trends of their own.

In France, the number of COVID-19 fatalities and new daily cases fell by more than 50% over the weekend, according to datasets from Worldometer.

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Italy, which has been one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, has now recorded three straight days of decline in new cases. Additional datasets from Worldometer show that yesterday marked the lowest number of new cases since March 17th—roughly half of the nation’s peak number of new cases which was recorded on March 21st. After several consecutive days of decline, April 5th also marked the lowest number of Italian deaths since March 19th.

Meanwhile, less than two weeks after New Zealand enacted strict nationwide lockdowns, the nation reports that they have not only flattened their curve of cases, they have “squashed it”.

On the US front, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says that the number of deaths statewide fell for the first time and remained flat for new days, raising hopes for a flattened curve. New hospital admissions also fell across the state from 1,427 on April 2nd to 358 on April 5th, according to Market Watch.

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Furthermore, Cuomo added that 75% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the state have been discharged.

Worldometer goes on to confirm that the number of collective new cases and deaths in the US have actually fallen since April 3rd which affirms evidence that social restrictions have been effective in curbing COVID-19.

Although national responders are still anxiously anticipating new problems posed by the pandemic during the coming weeks, the nation’s most influential statistical model has predicted that there may be fewer shortages of medical equipment—and fewer deaths—than we may have previously thought.

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While authorities remain vigilant in the face of cautious optimism, weather reports are showing positive environmental progress as well.

Following similar reports in China and the US, air pollution is continuing to plummet in countries with social restrictions, such as the UK and India. In New Delhi alone—which has some of the worst air pollution in the world—airborne particulates plunged by 71% in just one week.

Particle pollution in major UK cities have also dropped by as much as one-third—and the rates are expected to fall even further as lockdowns continue.

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“These are big changes—pollution levels are the equivalent at the moment of a holiday, say an Easter Sunday,” Professor James Lee from York University and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science told The Guardian about the data.
“And I think we will see an even starker drop off when the weather changes.”

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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Reports Find Social Restrictions Are Working to Curb New COVID-19 Cases From Italy to Seattle

As more and more US states and world regions implement various stay-at-home orders and shutdowns during the COVID-19 outbreaks, some areas that have been hit hardest by the virus are showing that the restrictions are working.

Since symptoms of the novel coronavirus generally start to show within two weeks of infection, today’s infections are the result of interactions from early March. China has slowly begun lifting its strict social restrictions since their quarantine regulation helped the nation recover from the virus.

It has now been roughly two weeks since Italy ordered a nationwide lockdown amidst the outbreaks, and rates of infection have steadily been declining since the country’s first recorded death on February 21st.

According to The Times of Israel, the daily infection rate in Italy reached a high of 57% back in early March. Last week, it reached a record-low of 7.5%.

MORE: 10 Positive Updates on the COVID-19 Outbreaks From Around the World

“The slowdown in the [infections] growth rate is extremely positive,” World Health Organization deputy director Ranieri Guerra reportedly told Italy’s Capitale radio. “I think the measures taken [by Italy] are absolutely correct—perhaps with a certain delay at the start, but that is understandable.”

Similarly in the US, six Bay Area counties became the first in the nation to implement stay-at-home orders in mid-March followed by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide order three days later. Although many Californian hospitals have been struggling to address ventilator and bed shortages, some researchers report that the virus has been spreading slower than they initially thought—and it’s likely because of the lockdowns.

Dr. Timothy Dyster, a resident physician from the University of California San Francisco, published some encouraging datasets on Twitter, illustrating how the weeks-long uptick in new infections fell for the first time this week—and it may indicate a continuing decline in infection rates.

“These data should be regarded as a ‘cheer from the sidelines’ in this marathon we’re on together,” wrote Dyster. “It’s been hard work and sacrifice, and it will continue to be, but there might be some early evidence that those efforts are paying off,” Dyster said. “So please, keep staying home and keep washing your hands!”

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Jahan Fahimi, another physician from UCSF, added: “We’ve been anxiously awaiting the surge of COVID19 patients in San Francisco. The number of hospital cases increase slowly daily. But, it hit me today… we are in a flattened curve.

Posted by Joy Erickson on GNN’s FB Page

“While the surge is surely still coming, we have time. Each day we are more prepared. By delaying the surge, hospitals have time to: get ventilators, open respiratory isolation wards, stockpile PPE, integrate telemedicine, expand testing, train workforce, [and] learn from colleagues in hot spots.”

Officials in Seattle told The New York Times this week that their lockdowns are also reflecting a decline in new cases as the rate of individual person-to-person infections has reportedly fallen from 2.7 people to 1.4.

With 29 American states now maintaining stay-at-home orders, Kinsa Health—a company that has been producing and distributing internet-connected thermometers—launched an online map of the country which depicted rates of fevers, colds, and flus.

Within days of creating the map on March 22nd, the researchers noted a significant decline in commonly transmitted sicknesses. Although the map does not offer evidence that social restrictions are curbing COVID-19 cases, The Times does report that new datasets from New York and Washington have confirmed the trends illustrated by the map.

RELATED: Another Roundup of Positive Updates on the COVID Outbreaks From Around the World

Not only that, Kinsa Health’s influenza predictions have reportedly been two to three weeks ahead of those from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention—and the company is now working to share their technology with government health agencies to continue monitoring disease trends for the public.

“As of March 30th, we have seen illness levels in [New York City] drop to normal levels for this time of year, and we are seeing similar trends across the entire country,” writes the company. “This does not mean that COVID-19 cases are declining. In fact, we expect to see reported cases continue to surge in the near term, but this data indicates these measures are starting to slow the spread.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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Another Roundup of Positive Updates on the COVID Outbreaks From Around the World

Last week, we published a list of ten positive updates on the COVID-19 outbreaks from around the world.

Since the article has been viewed millions of times, we thought we would go ahead and publish another round-up of optimistic occurrences to keep your spirits up.

So here is another list of reasons why the global situation is not as bad as the mainstream media might have you think.

1) World Health Organization (WHO) Officials Say There Are Now 20 Coronavirus Vaccines in Development

Although there are still a number of logistical and financial hurdles that will need to be overcome in the race to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine to the public, WHO representatives say they are working with scientists around the world to test and develop 20 different vaccines.

“The acceleration of this process is really truly dramatic in terms of what we’re able to do, building on work that started with SARS, that started with MERS and now is being used for COVID-19 ,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead for WHO’s emergencies program, said at a press conference in Geneva last week, according to CNBC.

The collective body of research is particularly “remarkable” since the vaccines are in development just 60 days after a number of international scientists decoded the virus’s genetic sequence and shared it with the rest of the world.

One of the vaccines—which is already being tested on a number of American volunteers in Seattle—has already illustrated the “unprecedented speed” with which the medical community is working together to develop a vaccine.

2) From Individuals to Countries and World Governments–Everybody is Sharing Face Masks

Not only is this French fashion designer making her own face masks and giving them away for free, she is showing how other people can make their own as well. In North Carolina, a textile mill is gearing up to start making 10 million masks per week. A number of international fashion companies have also redirected their manufacturing teams to produce face masks as well.

Multiple businesses and schools have donated their recently rediscovered face mask treasure troves to hospitals in need. Other major tech companies such as Facebook and Apple are donating millions of masks and medical supplies to US healthcare facilities. Chinese companies are passing on their own stashes of face masks to European countries newly impacted by the virus. Taiwan is reportedly donating 100,000 masks to the United States.

Even medical TV shows have donated their medical supply props to North American hospitals in need.

File photo by Senior Airman Nancy Hooks

3) As American Cities Close Up Amidst Outbreaks, Pollution Plummets

The United States is now benefiting from the same environmental silver lining to the pandemics as China and Italy: as cities encourage self-isolation, air pollution is plummeting.

Over the course of the last few weeks, satellite imaging has revealed significant reductions in air pollution—particularly across California, Seattle, and New York City.

According to CNN, environmental scientists are estimating that the improvement in air quality could collectively save as many as 75,000 people from dying prematurely.

Photo by Descartes Labs

4) As Physicians Worry About Potential Ventilator Shortages, Researchers Develop Several Low-Cost Solutions

In a stroke of genius, one scientist from the University of Minnesota says he went “full-on MacGyver” to build a makeshift ventilator in a matter of hours. Although his team has revised his design over the course of several prototypes with the hopes of eventually submitting it for FDA approval, he says that the inexpensive ventilator is one that he “would be comfortable with someone [using to] take care of me in an ICU or in an operating room.”

The compassionate medical research continues in Italy as a pair of engineers have taken it upon themselves to 3D-print free respirator parts for their local hospitals. As of last week, the Isinnova startup engineers told Forbes that they had successfully printed more than 100 parts.

Meanwhile, MIT scientists are publishing open-source instructions and research on how to build inexpensive ventilators.

“We are releasing this material with the intent to provide those with the ability to make or manufacture ventilators, the tools needed to do so in a manner that seeks to ensure patient safety,” they wrote. “Clinicians viewing this site can provide input and expertise and report on their efforts to help their patients.”

Isinnova’s Christian Fracassi and Alessandro Romaioli—Photo by Isinnova

5) Communities and Countries Opening Up New Lanes of Free Entertainment for the Masses

In addition to Italians singing songs and playing music together from their balconies, homeowners have begun projecting classic films onto building fronts for the neighbors to enjoy.

As a means of keeping self-isolated people amused during global shutdowns, many online services have made their services free to the public as well.

For starters, Amazon has unlocked more than 40 new children’s shows for all of their customers to watch for free, regardless of Prime membership. Audiobook platform Audible has also released a number of free audiobooks for users to stream from their devices.

“For as long as schools are closed, we’re open. Starting today, kids everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across six different languages, that will help them continue dreaming, learning, and just being kids,” reads the Audible website. “All stories are free to stream on your desktop, laptop, phone or tablet. Explore the collection, select a title and start listening. It’s that easy.”

More than 2,500 art museums and galleries have also partnered with Google to offer free virtual tours and displays of their collections to art lovers around the world.

If you prefer cuter online content, then you can check out this handy list of zoos and aquariums offering livestreams of their animal residents.

6) More Than 100,000 People Have Already Recovered From the Virus Worldwide

According to research from Johns Hopkins University, more than 100,000 COVID-19 patients have already made full recoveries from the infection—and that number may very well climb ever higher as more and more potential treatments are tested around the world.

If that’s not enough, patients as old as 90 have managed to recover from the virus as well.

As Chinese cities gradually reopen to the public now that they have gotten the virus under control with less than 10 new infections reported each day, other countries are expected to experience similar recoveries during the coming months.

7) Nobel Prize Winner Who Correctly Predicted COVID-19 Trends Says ‘We’re Going To Be Fine’

According to a recently-published interview with the Los Angeles Times, Nobel laureate and Stanford biophysicist Michael Levitt has been “remarkably accurate” in predicting China’s recovery from the virus since he began researching the infection rates back in January.

Levitt, who won the 2013 prize for developing complex chemical models of calculation, says that as long as countries continue to practice safe self-isolation measures, the numbers show that they are already beginning to experience slow signs of improvement.

“What we need is to control the panic,” he told the news outlet. “We’re going to be fine.”

© Nobel Media AB. Photo: A. Mahmoud

8) Celebrities and Businesses Have Contributed Millions Towards Feeding and Caring for At-Risk People

From Michelin-starred Chef José Andrés to the Bill Gates Foundation—millions of dollars are being donated to novel coronavirus research and charities feeding families amidst the shutdowns.

It’s hard to quantify just how many resources are being contributed to the cause, but suffice it to say that it’s a lot—in fact, here’s just a quick list of celebrities giving back to their communities that we published last week.

9) No Matter Where You Look, People Are Being Kind to Each Other

People and small businesses are delivering groceries to their elderly neighbors in self-isolation; kids are caring for the homeless; social media users are setting up “caremongering” groups to support each other and share helpful information; people are sharing their toilet paper with community members.

There are even more stories of kindness and compassion being reported from around the world every day—so remember to keep your chin up during the weeks ahead and remind yourself that this situation might not be as terrible as your social media feed might have you believe.

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10 Positive Updates on the COVID-19 Outbreaks From Around the World

If it seems that your news feed has been flooded with nerve-wracking updates on the COVID-19 outbreaks, have no fear—there are also plenty of positive updates on the pandemic as well.

So without any further ado, here is a list of 10 hopeful headlines on the coronavirus response from around the world.

File photo by Pan American Health Organization, CC

1) US Researchers Deliver First COVID-19 Vaccine to Volunteers in Experimental Test Program

Scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle delivered the first rounds of a potential coronavirus vaccine to several dozen optimistic volunteers earlier this week.

One 43-year-old vaccine recipient is Jennifer Haller, who is a mother to two teenagers.

She was all smiles afterward, telling AP reporters she was “feeling great” as she was leaving the clinic.

“This is an amazing opportunity for me to do something,” she added.

2) Distilleries Across the United States Are Making Their Own Hand Sanitizers to Give Away for Free

Amidst national shortages of hand sanitizers, alcohol distilleries in Atlanta, Portland, rural Georgia, and North Carolina have begun using their facilities to make their own sanitation products.

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) says that cleaning your hands with an alcohol-based rub can help to kill viruses on your hands, many of the distilleries say they hope to continue producing their bootleg sanitizers until the virus has been properly contained.

3) Air Pollution Plummets in Cities With High Rates of Quarantine

Satellite readings of air pollution levels over China and Italy show that the regions hit hardest by the COVID-19 have also caused air pollution levels to decline dramatically.

Photo by NASA

Some reports estimate that China’s quarantine has saved more than 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere—which is about the equivalent of what Chile produces in a year.

Not only have similar effects been reported across Italy, the canals and waterways of Venice are reportedly cleaner than ever with the waters shining crystal clear in the absence of diesel-powered boats and gondoliers.

4) Johns Hopkins Researcher Says That Antibodies From Recovered COVID Patients Could Help Protect People At Risk

The vaccine being tested in Seattle isn’t the only potential treatment for the disease—an immunologist from Johns Hopkins University is reviving a century-old blood-derived treatment for use in the United States in hopes of slowing the spread of the disease.

The technique uses antibodies from the blood plasma or serum of people who have recovered from COVID-19 infection to boost the immunity of newly-infected patients and those at risk of contracting the disease.

5) South Korean Outbreak Finally Abating as Recoveries Outnumber New Infections for Three Days in a Row

File photo by Valentin Janiaut, CC

According to Reuters, South Korea recorded more COVID-19 recovery cases on March 6th than new infections for the first time since the nation experienced the largest Asian outbreak outside of China.

Since the novel coronavirus outbreak was first reported in South Korea back in January, the nation reached a peak of 909 new infections on February 29th. Now, however, Reuters reports that the declining rate of infection has continued to fall with less than 100 new cases reported for several days in a row.

6) China Celebrates Several Milestones of Recovery After Temporary Hospitals Close and Parks Reopen

Crowds of medical staffers and discharged patients were filmed celebrating the closure of all 14 temporary hospitals that opened in Wuhan to treat COVID-19 patients during the worst of the outbreak.

Authorities told the South China Morning Post this week that the virus had finally passed its peak as the nation’s mainland experienced only 11 new cases on March 13th, most of which were from international travelers.

As the outbreak is finally brought under control, parks and tourist attractions are slowly beginning to reopen to the public under careful moderation.

7) Australian Researchers Testing Two Drugs as Potential ‘Cures’ for the Virus

Professor David Paterson, director of the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research and infectious disease physician at the RBWH.

At the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, scientists have found that two different medications—both of which are registered and available in Australia—have completely wiped out traces of the disease in test tubes.

Not only that, the drugs were given to some of the nation’s first COVID-19 patients, which resulted in “disappearance of the virus and complete recovery from the infection,” researchers told News.com.au.

The university is now looking to conduct a nationwide trial with the drugs to evaluate the efficacy and tolerance of each drug administered separately and together.

8) Uber Eats is Supporting the North American Restaurant Industry By Waiving Delivery Fees for 100,000 Restaurants

As restaurants across Canada and the United States are forced to temporarily shut down amidst COVID-19 outbreaks, Uber Eats has announced that they will be waiving delivery fees for independent restaurants.

“We know the success of every restaurant depends on customer demand,” the company said in a statement. “That’s why we’re working urgently to drive orders towards independent restaurants on Eats, to help make up for the significant slowdown of in-restaurant dining.

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“As more customers are choosing to stay indoors, we’ve waived the Delivery Fee for the more than 100,000 independent restaurants across US and Canada on Uber Eats. We will also launch daily dedicated, targeted marketing campaigns—both in-app and via email—to promote delivery from local restaurants, especially those that are new to the app.”

9) Dutch and Canadian Researchers Are Reporting Additional Breakthrough Research on Treating the Virus

Photo by Sunnybrook University

Scientists from Canada and the Netherlands have also made medical breakthroughs of their own. In Toronto, a team of researchers managed to isolate the agent responsible for the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, which will help researchers around the world develop better diagnostic testing, treatments, and vaccines.

“Researchers from these world-class institutions came together in a grassroots way to successfully isolate the virus in just a few short weeks,” said Dr. Rob Kozak, clinical microbiologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “It demonstrates the amazing things that can happen when we collaborate.”

Meanwhile, Dutch researchers have submitted a scientific paper for publishing on how they have identified an anti-body for the virus—and it could be a world-first.

10) Here Are a Bunch of Other Ways That People and Businesses Are Supporting Each Other Throughout the US Outbreak

File photo by Martha Heinemann, CC

Dollar General has announced that they will be devoting their opening hour of shopping time to elderly customers. Athletes and sports teams are pledging to pay the wages of arena employees during the shutdown. Utility companies, landlords, automakers, and internet providers are waiving a number of late fees and payments to ease the financial burden of the shutdown. School districts across the country are still opening their doors to serve meals to kids and families.

All in all, the pandemic situation may seem grim, but these are just a few examples of how businesses and individuals are still looking out for each other during times of trouble.

NEW Podcast: Daily Inspiring Covid-19 Updates from Good News Gurus Under Quarantine

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Watch Celebrations Erupt After Nation’s Last Ebola Patient is Discharged From Treatment Center

This woman officially became the last Ebola patient in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after she was released from medical care and provided with an official bill of health last week.

Medical teams have been fighting to control the Ebola outbreak since it began in August 2018, making it the nation’s second-worst outbreak with more than 2,000 deaths. Since Masika Semida was the last patient treated for Ebola, healthcare workers cheered and danced in celebration as she was discharged from their treatment center in Beni.

Officials have been closely monitoring several dozen people who were in contact with Semida prior to her treatment—but with no new Ebola cases reported within the last two weeks, UN officials believe the outbreak may have finally come to an end.

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“I applaud the tireless efforts that have been made to respond to this outbreak and I’m truly encouraged by the news that the last Ebola patient has left the treatment centre healthy,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.

The end of the outbreak can only be officially confirmed once there have been no new reported infections 42 days after the last reported case has tested negative. However, all the aspects of the Ebola response remain in place to ensure that any new cases are detected quickly and treated.

According to WHO, surveillance, pathogen detection and clinical management are ongoing, including validating alerts, monitoring the remaining contacts, supporting rapid diagnostics of suspected cases and working with community members to strengthen surveillance on deaths in the communities.

(WATCH the video below) – Photo by ABC News

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Canada’s First ‘Dementia Village’ is Helping to Change How People Care for Seniors With Alzheimers

This cozy little Canadian community may seem like an ordinary village on the outside—but in actuality, it is the country’s first village designed specifically to accommodate people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The British Columbia community, which is simply called The Village, hosts several dozen cottages, businesses, and shared living spaces for up to 78 patients.

Shortly after construction began on The Village in March 2018, Elroy Jespersen—the vice president of special projects at Verve Senior Living and the mastermind behind the Village, told CTV News that he wanted dementia patients to feel the same amount of independence as their able-bodied counterparts, saying: “We believe that it’s really important for people to be connected to nature and life and the outdoors.”

The Village now gives them a controlled space in which to live their lives, free of the stressful feeling of always “running into a locked door”.

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Although residents are free to roam throughout the gardens, restaurants, and facilities of The Village, the 7.5-acre community is protected by an 8-foot fence around the perimeter of the property.

Residents are also required to wear “wellness bracelets” which uses Bluetooth technology to keep track of their locations.

The initiative draws inspiration from Hogeweyk, a similarly-designed community in the Netherlands which was declared the world’s first village for dementia patients. The compound features everything from supermarkets and stores to restaurants and gardens.

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Since The Village opened in Langley back in August, it has already welcomed several dozen residents. Not only that, CBC says that there are similar initiatives now being implemented in South Vancouver and Comox.

Although housing rates for The Village range between $7,300 to $8,300 per month, its management is now conducting research on the project’s efficacy in hopes that it will eventually spur the government to help fund its operations and make its care model more affordable to the Canadian public.

(WATCH the video tour of The Village below)

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Apple and Pear Cores Turned Into Chemical-Free Sweetener as an Alternative to Artificial Sweeteners and Sugar

A Dutch company aptly-called Fooditive, is turning pear and apple cores, as well as bruised and discarded fruit from producers and suppliers into a chemical-free, calorie-free, sugar substitute.

Artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame, though legal for use in food and beverages for decades in the United States and elsewhere, are now not only emerging as a potential genotoxin (a poisonous substance which damages DNA), but also as an environmental pollutant since it is not entirely absorbed by our bodies and can travel all the way through our water treatment systems and back into groundwater sources.

Refined cane sugar has its own problems, playing a role in the global skyrocketing rates of diabetes and obesity since the 1950s. Sweeteners and syrups made from corn have much the same effect on our bodies, while also contributing massively to keeping afloat the problematic, uncompetitive American system of agriculture, farm subsidies, and lobbying.

Dutch food scientist Moayad Abushokhedim uses a natural fermentation process to extract fructose from third-rate fruits collected from suppliers and turns it into a calorie-free sweetener that contributes to Rotterdam’s goal of a circular economy by 2030.

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According to the company’s website where you can see a detailed ingredients list, he plans to make Fooditive Sweetners available in powder, liquid, and syrup forms. There is no information yet on how to purchase.

Apart from their sweetener, Fooditive also has a solution for artificial preservatives, creating natural ones from carrot waste, and he counters harmful emulsifiers with potato extracts.

Right now, the company is in the process of expanding their operations to try and get Fooditive products like their sweeteners and preservatives into commercial Dutch foodstuffs.

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“Our products really provide the food and beverage producers with the ability to have a clean label, a green label, and show people what’s in their food,” said Gijs Gieles, Fooditive spokesperson to Fast Company.

These kinds of recycling applications are becoming more and more common in Europe, especially since France passed a law in 2016 forcing supermarkets to recycle, compost, or donate as much of their outgoing or expired stock as possible. Other countries like Germany began to create similar legislation, and a German supermarket SirPlus Rescue Market specializes in discarded, expired, or unwanted packaged foods and produce.

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In Just 20 Years, Over 220 Million Children Have Been Saved From Marriage, Labor, and Violence

As English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes famously stated in his treatise On Commonwealth, life without the commonwealth was “nasty, brutish, and short”.

In commemoration of its founding 100 years ago, Save the Children has released its third Global Childhood Report—and it contains figures that would make Hobbes blush.

In Hobbes’ day, the average male life expectancy was about 35 to 45 years at birth in England; now the chances for a child—even in rural Africa—of reaching adulthood unmarried, nourished, and educated education, are getting stronger and stronger.

Success by Numbers

“In the year 2000,” reads the report, “an estimated 970 million children were robbed of their childhoods due to … ill-health, malnutrition, exclusion from education, child labor, child marriage, and early pregnancy.

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Just two decades later, Save the Children reports that number has been reduced by one-third. 115 million more children are being sent to school, 11 million young girls have been saved from marriage, 3 million girls are saved from bearing children in their young age, there has been a decrease of 94 million child laborers, and 4.5 million children have been saved from violent deaths around the world.

Nations across all 5 major continents have worked hard, sometimes in the face of corruption and even war, to achieve these remarkable results, including Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Colombia, the Philippines, Mexico, and Ethiopia.

Across every major geographical zone on earth, Save the Children’s “End of Childhood Index Score” has increased, including west, central, east, and southern Africa.

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Sierra Leone, once a Mad Max-style country of blood diamonds and civil war, has cut their rates of infant mortality, child labor, and child marriages by half since 2000.

25 years after the genocide, Rwanda’s score is 744 out of 1000 after cutting infant mortality rates by 80% and teen pregnancy by 60%.

What Accounts for this Dramatic Improvement?

In the Global Childhood Report 2020, Save the Children lists some of the ways in which these outstanding goals have been achieved.

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One of the primary drivers for reductions in things like child marriage, child labor, teen pregnancy, and school absence has been a global drive for equality between the sexes worldwide—not just in western nations.

“As this report shows, rising education rates among women and girls have been critical to improvements in child health in Bangladesh and child protection in Afghanistan and India,” the report reads.

“Investing in education programs for girls and increasing the age at which they marry can return $5 for every dollar spent. Investing in programs improving incomes for women can return $7 dollars for every dollar spent.”

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The first 5 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals which so many bilateral development projects attempt to adhere to include Gender Equality and Quality Education.

The MDG (Millennium Development Goals) put down in the year 2000, targeted the eradication of poverty in all its forms by the end of the century.

“A recent Brookings Institution study found as many as 19 million extra child lives – most of them in Africa—were saved because of MDG-accelerated action,” reads the report.

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Finally, the advances in technologies like smartphones, social media, medical instruments, vaccines and drugs, have changed the face of the world in ways that especially benefit the developing world. Nearly all (96%) of the humans on earth have access to the internet, up from nearly half (58%) in 2001.

Mobile phones are being used to register births, improve early diagnosis of HIV in infants, monitor malnutrition in children, and to educate individuals about family planning, adolescent health and prenatal care.

If this is what nations can achieve in 20 years, another 20 years of pursuing development goals could mean that another 300 million children worldwide could enjoy their childhoods in relative peace and security before entering adulthood as educated, nourished, and independent members of society—which is quite an encouraging thought to have as we enter this bright new decade.

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