<![CDATA[The Johns Hopkins News-Letter]]> Mon, 30 Mar 2020 21:43:37 -0400 Mon, 30 Mar 2020 21:43:37 -0400 SNworks CEO 2020 The Johns Hopkins News-Letter <![CDATA[Hogan orders Marylanders to stay home]]> Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued an order this morning directing all Maryland residents to stay in their residences beginning at 8 p.m. tonight. This order also closed all non-essential businesses - including senior centers, restaurants and bars, fitness centers, theaters and malls - to the public.

Under the order, members of the public are allowed to leave their residences to conduct certain essential activities. These include purchasing necessary household supplies, seeking medical attention or advice, providing necessary care for another, receiving a meal or instructional material from an educational institution, engaging in outdoor exercise and engaging in public business.

The order specifies that any violation of its directives constitutes a misdemeanor offense and carries a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and one year in prison.

Governmental bodies, media outlets and non-profit organizations serving low-income Marylanders are specifically excluded from the requirement of the order that all non-essential businesses close. People whose residences are not safe and those who are homeless are similarly excluded from the requirement to stay home.

In an email to The News-Letter, University Assistant Vice President for External Relations Karen Lancaster reported that there are just under 200 undergraduates that remain in on-campus housing across the Homewood and Mount Vernon campuses who will be subject this order. The number of students living in off-campus housing who will be subject to this order is unknown.

Junior Mikhael Hammer-Bleich resides in Silver Springs, Md., a Beltway suburb in Montgomery County. He explained his understanding of this new order in an interview with The News-Letter.

"First of all, if someone is congregating, police are able to come and do something about it. And second of all, it uses the bully pulpit of the governorship to tell people this is a big deal," he said.

Junior Diego Tanton urged people to remember that this order should in fact not change much about their daily routines. He asked people to bear in mind that the order just codifies what public health officials have been recommending since the pandemic began.

"We're still allowed to leave home for essential activities or to get a breath of fresh air or exercise. So in this sense not much has changed for those who have already been practicing good social distancing," he said.

Freshman Breanna Soldatelli is a resident of Hebron, Md., a town in the southeastern county of Wicomico. She expressed that while she does not expect the order to affect things too much in her area, she is glad Hogan issued it.

"Where I live, it's not that big of a problem because I'm in a very rural area. But I know this will be very hard on the general public of Maryland," she said. "He's handling the best that he can. He has found a pretty good balance. I think this shelter in place order is a step in the right direction."

Junior Sumi Kim, who is currently staying in Baltimore, reported that she felt Hogan should have given the order for the public to stay at home earlier.

"I think it's definitely long overdue. Even though I know Maryland does not have as bad of a case as in other states, I just feel like precautions should have been taken earlier," she said.

On March 19, Hogan had issued an order prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people. Maryland State Police reported in a Twitter post that in the 10 days after issuing the order, they performed more than 5,200 business and crowd compliance checks. One Charles County man caught up in those checks was eventually charged in district court with two counts of violating the order.

Hammer-Bleich concurred with Kim regarding Hogan's order.

"I'm upset that it has taken him this long to do so. The Washington, D.C. area is not nearly as bad as some of the other areas in the country. But at the same time, maybe it's even more important that we do a shelter-in-place order. So that we don't have the capacity to spread it," he said.

As of the morning of March 30, public health officials in D.C., Maryland and Virginia reported knowing of at least 2,834 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the region. According to the New York Times, there were 66,526 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York State at that same time.

In an email to The News-Letter, freshman Amara Gammon worried about the effects of the order on her family's ability to earn income.

Gammon is a resident of Waldorf, Md., a community in Charles County about 23 miles south-southeast of D.C.

"I'm not sure if their jobs are the same 'essential' that Governor Hogan considers essential, but they're required to support our livelihood. I know others' parents have already shifted to remote work, but that just isn't possible for my parents," she wrote. "I'm a little scared that this new order would put my parents out of work. Despite that, it's for the greater good, plus it's temporary."

In statements made on Twitter, both Baltimore Mayor Bernard "Jack" Young and City Council President Brandon Scott urged Baltimore residents to follow Hogan's order.

In an email to the Hopkins community today, Provost Sunil Kumar, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Daniel Ennis and Vice President for Human Resources Heidi Conway informed essential Hopkins workers that they would be provided with documentation of their status shortly and asked all non-essential Hopkins affiliates to follow Hogan's order and stay home.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam also announced a similar order this morning and has since stated that he is coordinating his state's pandemic-response efforts with Hogan's.

Since Hogan proclaimed a catastrophic health emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 5, the governor has issued a series of orders related to Maryland's handling of the crisis.

Hogan ordered the activation of the Maryland National Guard on March 12. This allowed the Guard to begin operating within Maryland to support state and local officials' efforts to manage the pandemic.

On March 16, Hogan ordered the Maryland Health Secretary to relax the state's regulation of healthcare practitioners. He directed the Secretary to recognize out-of-state medical licenses, allow inactive practitioners to return to work and allow healthcare workers to work outside the area of their specific license.

That same day, Hogan suspended eviction proceedings against tenants who can objectively demonstrate in court that they have suffered a substantial loss of income related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 23, Hogan prohibited retailers from increasing by more than 10 percent the amount of profit that they make in selling or renting certain goods. These goods include food, water, medicine, cleaning products, energy sources, storage space, internet and child care.

Rudy Malcom and Chris Park contributed reporting to this article.

]]>
EDA INCEKARA/PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has issued an order for all Maryland residents to stay at home.

]]>
<![CDATA[THE PUBLIC EDITOR: Covering the new normal under new norms of online production]]>

Restrictions on student groups. Spring Fair restructuring. Progress on (and ongoing opposition to) a private police force. Not long ago, we thought these were among the year's biggest stories. Then came one headline to top them all: Students sent home.

After the initial announcement that in-person classes would be suspended through April 12 due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), students across campus connected with friends, families and peers to make important decisions: whether to carry out spring break plans, when to return home, how to transition to class (and life) online.

News-Letter Editors-in-Chief Amelia Isaacs and Sarah Y. Kim saw the announcement from University President Ronald J. Daniels during a meeting of the editorial board. It didn't take them long to agree on temporarily halting the paper's print production.

"I was not super convinced that it was going to happen," Kim said, recalling uncertainty about whether Hopkins would suspend classes in response to the pandemic. "Then it happened on Tuesday night, so we sat down for about 15 minutes and just made that decision there."

They persevered with that week's issue, which hit the stands less than two days later. Kim and Isaacs agreed that it was important to preserve a tactile record of such a significant story.

"A big thing that we pride ourselves on is being a record of what happens at the University, being a memory of what's happened," Isaacs reflected. "In our lifetimes, or at the very least in our time at Hopkins, this is the biggest thing that's happened."

As the pandemic disrupts nearly every part of life, News-Letter editors have sought to document the Hopkins community's adjustments to a new normal while acclimating themselves to new standards of production.

When Daniels shared the decision that Tuesday night, many editors had already finished up their work for the week, and production proceeded almost as usual. But in the past week, editors adjusted to a staggered online schedule, connecting virtually to coordinate the stages of writing, editing and publication.

While Isaacs and Kim said that meetings proceeded smoothly via video chat, they agreed that having editors scattered around the world rather than together in the Gatehouse during one night of production made it harder to ask questions or talk through edits to a piece. That's not to mention the sense of community that's now missing: Watching someone's cursor on a Google Doc is very different from seeing their face.

Adapting quickly, it was essential to keep structures in place to help online production feel familiar to editors. Isaacs and Kim checked in with each section to establish reasonable expectations for content. They also had to make sure the paper could preserve essential parts of production throughout the week, like the process of copy reading, without overloading editors who are used to most of their work being centralized on one or two days.

Underpinning each change editors make to adjust to new ways of production is an eye to the future.

"When all this is over, will we have a different schedule for publishing things in print and publishing things on the website?" Kim wondered, adding that they would revisit this question as the semester progresses. She and Isaacs regard the rest of the semester as a trial run of web-first production, albeit one that was forced upon them.

In a piece last semester, I touched on some advantages of moving to a web-first content formula: giving editors more flexibility with sources and writers, shifting to be more consistent with how publications engage with readers in the digital age and, in the long term, better preparing the paper for potential industry-wide ruptures which could very well reinvent journalism as we know it.

But in the short term, asking editors to reinvent their approach to the paper in the midst of a global pandemic might seem like a tall order. Both Kim and Isaacs emphasized that they sought to place the needs of the staff first.

"Now is a really stressful time for everyone. We don't want to put pressure on people in a way that they can't handle, and we know that they weren't elected to this position thinking that they would have to do it from home," Isaacs said. "But mostly, in terms of feedback we've got from editors, it's that the paper gives them a sense of normalcy in a really weird time."

Isaacs shared this sentiment, joking that replying to Slack messages can be a calming reminder of normalcy.

Through Slack check-ins, Isaacs and Kim talked with sections about how to adjust their coverage to respond to the outbreak. News & Features followed the story tightly, publishing stories throughout spring break as news broke about further policy decisions from Hopkins administrators responding to COVID-19.

Reconnecting after break, many sections had to reevaluate their typical coverage in light of the outbreak's effects on campus, in Baltimore and around the world. Sports, for example, can't cover game recaps during a cancelled season. Typical Your Weekend content does not conform to standards of social distancing. I recently wrote about Arts & Entertainment shifting to more coverage of events on campus and in Baltimore, and other sections like Science & Technology have pursued similar goals this year.

Having already stepped up their reporting, this year's editors and their writers are uniquely well-positioned to cover the effects of COVID-19 on campus and in the city.

"Even though they aren't writing about what they normally would be writing about, there's something important for each section to be covering," Isaacs said. "How is this affecting students? We've asked editors to see if they can take that view - not for all of their pieces, obviously, but for at least some of them."

As editors publish their first push of coverage related to COVID-19, other stories will find their ways back into the mix. With most Hopkins students sequestered away in their homes, The News-Letter can be an important way to stay connected. Learning about how other students are experiencing the pandemic may be part of that, but other content - Voices columns, album reviews, op-eds about the 2020 election - can hopefully help preserve an echo of normal life.

That said, the scale of the COVID-19 story feels all-consuming.

"As a paper, we try to reflect what the community is talking about and really concerned about, and right now coronavirus is really on everyone's minds," Kim said. "We've never had a moment like this in our time at Hopkins, and maybe for the next several decades we won't, and it just reminds us how important journalism, especially a student newsroom, can be at a time like this."

With the end of the year fast approaching, a fact that might be especially sobering for my fellow seniors, Isaacs and Kim are looking ahead to next year.

They delayed elections to determine next year's editors, originally scheduled for this week, to give candidates more time to consider their decisions amidst the general turmoil. That leaves less time for shadowing, which normally takes place throughout the final month of the semester as editors-in-training settle into their new roles.

But it's unclear how training will proceed virtually. Isaacs and Kim said editors would schedule video conferences with candidates, but added that they would consider holding a few days of intensive training before the start of the fall semester to focus on layout and other processes specific to print production.

Throughout the process of preparing for next semester, incoming and outgoing editors should question whether a universal return to the paper's "normal" is the best way forward. Firming up what currently feel like short-term changes into permanent parts of web-first production could help the paper address some long-term challenges, such as easing the burden placed on one exhausting night of production each week.

Amidst all these changes, though, Isaacs and Kim hope students will take comfort in familiar parts of the paper. Corgi cartoons in your Facebook feed might be small pieces of joy. Section editors will continue working tirelessly to maintain a range of diverse content representing student voices. The paper still plans to publish a spring magazine.

"These things hopefully do bring moments of - not relief, that's not the right word," Isaacs said. "But little moments of lighthearted content which hopefully are helpful and nice for people to see in the midst of everything that's happening."


We want you to be part of this conversation! We encourage our readers to email publiceditor@jhunewsletter.com with questions or comments about our practices and published content.

]]>
<![CDATA[Childish Gambino's new album lacks cohesion]]> Childish Gambino live-streamed music from his latest and last album on donaldgloverpresents.com for a few hours on March 15.

While I unfortunately missed those hours, I was aware that an album was coming soon. Finally, after four years since the release of the phenomenal "Awaken, My Love!", Gambino finally put out 3.15.20 (on March 22 - or 3.22.20).

My first reaction was disappointment.

It hurts me to say it, but I expected better from him. I appreciate Gambino's experimentation in this album - it seems like he has harnessed the sounds and styles of all his previous albums with a mix of laid-back pop and electro-synth-funk with an added dystopian industrialism to it. It's a brave attempt, and I respect him for trying out these styles. But for most of the tracks on the album, it just didn't work out.

I did like some songs, many of which had pretty good lyrics and expressed some interesting themes. Moreover, the album has very long transitions between each song, the outro of one song leading directly into the intro of the next. These transitions were unexpected, and I think that element of the experiment worked really well for me.

But as a whole, the project lacks cohesion. It comes off as sounding simultaneously overproduced and too lo-fi, making it seem more like the rough draft of an album than a finished product.

The cover and track titles definitely do not help with the unfinished, hurried feel of this album, not to mention that the song titles make discussing this album with someone impossible. All the songs on the album, with the exception of the second and third track ("Algorythm" and "Time"), are titled by their timestamps on the album, and that makes associating the songs with their titles (like "19.10" or "24.19") quite difficult.

As I go down the tracklist, I'll be titling each track with a recognizable word from the lyrics in parentheticals, so that if you have heard or are planning on hearing it, you can understand what song I'm talking about.

The intro to the album, "0.00" ("We are"), does a good job of introducing the audience to the techno sound that overarches the entire album, and its ambient tones are a good runway into the album. However, for its three minute runtime, the song never really goes beyond repeating "we are we are we are" over and over again to develop the song.

Gambino had pre-released early drafts for both "Algorhythm" and "Time" during his This Is America Tour. To be honest, I think I preferred those, which is most likely why I find this album overproduced.

"Algorhythm" deals better with this treatment. Gambino's vocals have a very industrial metal tone in his verses that add to the dystopian, doomsday mood of the song. However, the beat and hook are pretty good, and the verses on it are well-written and evocative.

On the other hand, "Time" simply does not hold up to the elements thrown at it. Ariana Grande's guest vocals on the track easily upstage Gambino's autotuned voice (which is a shame, because he has such a good singing voice). The beat has too much going on, and there is something radically wrong with the pacing.

The next song though - "12.38" ("Psilocybin") -is perhaps the saving grace of the album. Gambino's high vocals are very reminiscent of those on "Awaken, My Love!". The song tells a braggadocious story over a relaxed minimalist beat, and the featured artists - 21 Savage, Kadjha Bonet and Ink - who appear in the second half add a lot to the music and balance Gambino's slow pace. This song is a great example of his experimentation succeeding and is probably the best track on the album.

Sadly, "19.10" ("Hunted"), does not maintain this momentum. While the song delves into how the artist feels under public scrutiny and how fame affects his insecurities, the beat and tune are predictable and feel a little derivative of Gambino's older works. The outro of this song leads into another slow track - "24.19" ("Sweet Thing/Thank You"). Gambino certainly hits those high notes - but the song is eight minutes long. And the eight minutes unnecessarily seem to stretch on far longer. The last minute is just the sound of someone running.

The song that comes after all this running, "32.22" ("Warlords"), is another lackluster track and makes you want to run away from listening to the album altogether. The mumbled words blasted with autotune over a tribal beat attempt to make the track sound like some form of war ritual, but the song adds nothing to the album and doesn't seem to fit in at all.

But if you were to run a bit further, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised by where you end up next. "35.31" ("Little Foot, Big Foot, Get Out The Way") comes out of nowhere in the album, and seems misplaced with its cheerful tone. But it's a good song. It disguises commentary about drug culture under a cheery country tune which almost sounds like "Old McDonald," and it's a fun stand-alone song. The outro of the song also introduces the next song, "39.28" ("Why Go To The Party?"), by singing some of the lines from it backwards. This song, like many of other tracks, could have been shortened to an interlude.

After this part of the album, hearing the first few bars of "Feels Like Summer" (here, "42.26") comes as a blessing. We've heard this song before, we like it and it actually fits into the closest thing I can muster up as a theme for some of the songs in the album - a fear of the future that awaits humanity.

"47.48" ("The Violence") continues with the mellower tunes of its preceding track. It's a good song, but its best part is the outro in which Gambino talks to his son Legend Glover about what he loves. And I cannot stress this enough, the conversation is precious, and I would have loved it if the album ended on it.

Sadly, it didn't. The final song, "53.49" ("Do What You Wanna Do"), ends the album with an energetic funk song. The aggressive vocals sound very much like an Anderson .Paak song. Despite the almost silly energy, the song has a good chorus and it ends the album on a good note.

While there aren't any very terrible songs here (except maybe "Warlords"), most of the songs are just okay. While songs like "Sweet Thing" and "The Violence" are so close to being amazing, with the exception of "Psilocybin" and "Feels Like Summer," no song on the album wowed me.

However, these songs being simply "good enough" is what makes the rest of the album worse, because there are certainly some great examples of how synth, pop, techno and funk can all come together really well if done right. It shows that Gambino's experiment isn't ill-conceived - it's just ill-executed.

P.S. I still love you, Donald Glover, 3.15.20 and all.

]]>
EWatson92/CC BY-S.A 2.0

Childish Gambino released 3.15.20, his fourth album since the 2016 hit, "Awaken, My Love!"

]]>
<![CDATA[COVID-19 shuts down research laboratories ]]> Due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, most labs at Hopkins -apart from those researching the virus - have closed. The closure has disrupted the work of many researchers in the Hopkins community.

Seth Blackshaw, a principal investigator (PI) in the Department of Neuroscience at the School of Medicine, discussed the impact of the pandemic on his lab in an interview with The News-Letter.

"Everyone's productivity has been greatly affected," he said. "Everyone is having trouble focusing, is anxious about the situation and worries about how long the closure will last."

Blackshaw said that a small number of essential personnel are allowed to come into the lab to check on mice and critical machinery. However, the lab is unable to begin new experiments.

He said people in his group are keeping busy during their time at home.

"Several senior postdocs in our group have recently completed manuscripts, and are in the process of making final revisions, or have studies that are nearly complete and need to be written up," Blackshaw said. "Our group also conducts many experiments that generate large amounts of data that require many weeks to analyze fully. This will occupy the time of the other postdocs and most of the graduate students. Many folks in this group also have grants and fellowships they can write."

In an interview with The News-Letter, Anagha Ashokan, a junior working in the Sujatha Kannan Lab, said that she has not been able to continue the research she would have done in her lab since it shut down. However, she has been able to do some work remotely.

"We've stopped all data collection and are now shifting our focus to data processing," Ashokan said. "I'm planning to contribute remotely by helping out with the data analysis."

Some undergraduate researchers like Ryann Schutt, a sophomore working at the P3 Lab, have been able to continue much of their work as usual.

"I was doing a lot remotely anyway," Schutt said. "It's so interesting that everyone is now using Zoom because we've been using Zoom since I joined the lab."

Schutt has recently been trying to create her own research project and is now determined to put in even more effort into her project.

"The pandemic has actually positively affected my personal goals. Now with a lot more time, I feel like I'm able to deeply dive into my research and actually learn from it, instead of just trying to get the job done."

On the other hand, some undergraduate students are no longer able to work. Rachel Cohen, a sophomore undergraduate research assistant in the Spinal Fusion Laboratory at the School of Medicine, makes bone grafts for her research -something she can't do remotely.

"We can read abstracts and past experiments to learn more, but it's not something that could be done full-time," Cohen told The News-Letter.

The pandemic has similarly affected undergraduate researchers across the nation. Cole Pieroni is a Tauber Family Scholar in the Feldman Lab at the University of Michigan who was in the middle of his senior thesis project.

"I'm not sure how I will be able to contribute to the project now that I won't be able to aid in data collection or the development of new trials and information-seeking ideology," Pieroni said. "The plan is for me to begin typing my thesis and submit my work each week to my PI to check up on."

The University is working to facilitate research that does not require the production of new data but uses pre-existing materials. Assistant Director of Academic Liaison and Special Collections Margaret Burri discussed her department's efforts to facilitate the continuation of research projects and provide students with increased virtual access to print materials, videos and other online content.

"We have staff in our Reserves unit working closely with faculty to digitize print content as needed for e-reserves," Burri stated. "The most important thing to remember is that we do still have a library, and librarians, even if it's now virtual. In that spirit, we want you to know that your librarians are still here for you, working online just like our students."

Researchers at Hopkins are striving to continue their work and be hopeful amid the pandemic, while continuing to prioritize the health of the nation. Blackshaw said that his lab is going to continue to make the best of their situation.

"We will resume a regular schedule of twice-weekly lab meetings via Zoom, as well as regular virtual meetings," Blackshaw said. "We will also try holding lab birthday parties and happy hours via Zoom."

Blackshaw hopes that the pandemic will be an important learning experience for scientists and help them prioritize. Traditionally, he noted, scientists spend a lot of time traveling to conferences that have now been cancelled.

"We'll see how important all this running around really is. My guess is that we will see it cut back, and see much more in the way of virtual interaction," he said.

Blackshaw also highlighted many of the problems that exist with scientific publication today, such as high costs and extensive review time before publication. Now, with the need for rapid data-sharing, preprint servers like bioRxiv are used more widely.

Preprint servers eliminate the costs and time associated with conventional journals, in addition to providing a more accurate review of submissions. Blackshaw hopes that scientists will continue to use preprint servers to communicate all biomedical research.

While Ashokan is disappointed that she will not be able to continue her project in the coming months, she emphasized the necessity of lab closures.

"It's important that these measures are in place to limit the spread of the virus," Ashokan said.

]]>
<![CDATA[A COVID-19 vaccine may create new problems]]> Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, scientists in both the public and private sectors have been testing various experimental vaccines to curtail long-term damage of the virus.

Hopkins researchers Tzyy-Choou Wu and Chien-Fu Hung, who studied the SARS virus in 2002 and 2003, are among the many scientists who are already testing various experimental vaccines. Wu and Hung aim to identify the protein of the novel coronavirus that allows it to infect humans and then use a part of that protein to create a DNA-based vaccine. They are currently testing their version on mice. However, in an interview with Hopkins Medicine, the researchers noted that DNA-based viruses are not approved as treatment for humans.

The researchers expect it to take up to a year and a half before their vaccine is ready for human trials, which can cost $1 million to $2 million.

Though a DNA-based vaccine may face greater hurdles in implementing human trials, a few experimental vaccines with different approaches have made it to human trials.

On March 16, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced the launch of the first test in humans of an experimental vaccine for COVID-19 made by Massachusetts-based biotechnology firm Moderna, Inc.

Trials are underway. Unlike Wu and Hung's vaccine, Moderna's vaccine is RNA-based. RNA vaccines introduce a mRNA sequence into the patient.

"[The sequence] is coded for a disease specific antigen, once produced within the body, the antigen is recognized by the immune system, preparing it to fight the real thing," according to the PHG Foundation at the University of Cambridge.

Although no mRNA-based vaccines have made it to the market, there have been successful clinical trials.

Many other scientists are aggressively taking part in the search for an effective vaccine to COVID-19. However, the creation of a successful vaccine is merely the first step, after which a myriad of biological, socioeconomic and cultural questions come into play.

Biological concerns about COVID-19 vaccination include questions about the long-term effectiveness of the vaccine. Mutations which occur during a virus' replication process drive the evolution of the virus over time. Depending on the mechanisms of a virus' genetic code, the virus may be more or less susceptible to accumulating mutations. The mutation rate of a virus is dependent on whether or not it possesses proofreading machinery in its genetic code. Fortunately, researchers have recently identified such a proofreading mechanism in the genetic code of the novel coronavirus.

"The new coronavirus has proofreading machinery... that reduces the "error rate" and the pace of mutation," The Washington Post reported.

Scientists note that the low mutation rate means that the novel coronavirus is less likely to evolve and therefore less likely to become more dangerous. This is in stark contrast to the influenza virus, which has a high mutation rate due to the absence of a proofreading mechanism in its genetic code. Fortunately, scientists believe that the novel coronavirus' low potential for evolution suggests that an effective vaccine, once it is found, may provide long-lasting protection against COVID-19.

Socioeconomic concerns on COVID-19 vaccination include worries over equitable distribution of the vaccine on the national level. In late February, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar had told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that there was "no guarantee" that every American would be able to afford the COVID-19 vaccine once it is developed.

Azar's statement did little to allay the fears of many socioeconomically disadvantaged Americans surrounding the affordability of the new coronavirus vaccine once it is released to the market.

"The reality is that without price controls it may not matter whether a coronavirus vaccine is developed because it will be out of reach to millions across the world who cannot afford it," Safura Abdool Karim wrote in The Hill.

However, the most recent statements on vaccine affordability by the federal government suggest that price controls may be difficult to establish.

"[The government] would want to ensure that we work to make [the vaccine] affordable, but we can't control that price because we need the private sector to invest," Azar said in a statement to the House Energy and Commerce Committee last month.

Some Americans are doubtful that private companies would jack up prices. In an interview with Marketwatch, physician and former Republican U.S. senator from Oklahoma Dr. Tom Coburn reflected that he has no worries about the unaffordability of the vaccine for Americans.

There are also cultural concerns in vaccination. Noted by the World Health Organization to be one of the top 10 global health threats of 2019, anti-vaccination campaigns have had a strong following in the United States.

Vice News reports that anti-vaccination movements are still active amid the outbreak of COVID-19 and that they may continue to campaign against vaccinations. This cultural movement poses a concern to public health. The efforts of anti-vaccination movements threaten vaccination rates, which in turn have grave consequences for herd immunity.

Herd immunity occurs when a large enough fraction of a population are vaccinated so that even individuals who cannot be vaccinated, such as those with chronic illnesses, are offered some protection because the disease has little opportunity to spread within the community.

In an email to The News-Letter, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice and community engagement, estimated how long it would take for vaccines to reach a sufficient amount of the population to attain herd immunity.

"If the vaccine generates immunity within a couple of weeks as most vaccines do, it should be as fast as we can get the vaccines to the susceptible population plus two weeks," he wrote.

But first, a vaccine has to be approved and made available to the public.

]]>
<![CDATA[Why we need to listen to other people's opinions]]> I've had the following experience many times, both at and away from Hopkins. If I say that I am a Democrat, or if I voice my opinions toward a democratic ideology, I sometimes get a weird look, a look of suspicion and disgust. If I do get a weird look, then I instantly know that the person that I am talking to is a Republican. From there, the conversation can no longer continue.

I am sure Republicans also have similar experiences. In fact, I am sure that Republicans on campus experience this far more often, given that the Hopkins population seems to lean Democratic. This is problematic, because we stop listening to each other as soon as we realize that we don't have the same beliefs. But why do we have to react this way?

We are mostly interested in our opponent's conclusion or beliefs, without trying to understand where these beliefs come from. The reasons for opposing beliefs are not even considered. This is a sad phenomenon, since it discounts the fact that people that support other political parties are also brilliant and smart.

I speculate that this has something to do with the instant gratification of the modern world. People no longer try to work hard for things, since everything is at one's fingertips. You want a new backpack? You go to Amazon and it will come to you in two days. You want a romantic partner or a hookup? You go to Tinder and start swiping, and soon there will be a match. You want to talk to your friends? You just start typing up on your phone or your laptop. You want to watch a movie or a show? You go to Netflix.

I could go on, but the point is that everything is readily accessible without too much effort. We all have a desire for this instant gratification. We all became too impatient because of the high speed of modern technology.

This transferred into our daily lives at one point. Now we don't even have the patience to listen to an opponent's argument, the politics in America are increasingly polarized and distrust has become prevalent. One may just listen to an opponent's conclusion, since they already have their own thoughts in mind.

For instance, take the idea that "American politics have been corrupted because of capitalism." If someone is a strong advocate of the capitalist system, they might automatically think that that opinion is not worth arguing for or even listening to.

Is it not worth listening to the opposing view, though? I think that it is. For example, when I took the philosophy course Philosophy of Religion, I listened to the professor talk about the Anselm of Canterbury's ontological argument for the existence of God. The professor didn't just state the conclusion, "God must exist because he is that which nothing greater can be conceived" and ask the students to take it or leave it. He laid out the premises and the development of the argument and explained how Anselm reached this conclusion.

It would have been absurd if the professor just stated the conclusion and left it there, right? It is important for philosophers to clearly lay out the outline of the argument. After looking at the flow of the argument, one can point out that this specific part of the argument is wrong, and therefore the conclusion should be reconsidered. Just looking at the conclusion and leaving it there is precarious not only for the opponent but also for you. You can't judge a book by its cover.

This same principle applies to real-life arguments. If you listen to someone's belief - for example, "American politics have been corrupted because of capitalism" - then should you just leave it there? No, because you may actually benefit from understanding the opponent's viewpoint and the reasoning behind it.

There may be a legitimate reason why your opponent believes that capitalism corrupts American politics, and it is to your benefit to understand their thought process. Once you understand where your opponent is coming from, you can challenge their belief by pointing out that something is wrong in their reasoning. Furthermore, by listening to the opponent's reasoning, you accumulate possible objections and expand the possibilities of how to think about a particular issue. These can ultimately diversify and widen your perspective.

Of course, listening to those we don't agree with is not an easy task, in part because we all became impatient thanks to modern technology. I am not saying that it should be easy. In fact, it should be difficult to implement, especially in this rapidly moving society. Everyone is busy these days. You may wonder, "Why should I even listen to this person if they don't agree with me? I don't have time!" But that is the precise reason why you should listen.

If your opponent doesn't agree with you, then there may be real benefits for both you and the other person. If you only talk to the people you agree with, you will continuously be confined to that one perspective. You will essentially shut yourself off from the multitude of possibilities. But if you talk to the people who you disagree with, you are exposing yourself to other possible points of view and potentially eye-opening experiences.

You need to be open-minded, patient and willing to listen in order to really hear others. It will be difficult, but the more difficult it is, the more rewarding it will be.

Phillip Yoon is a junior majoring in Philosophy and Mathematics from Charlotte, N.C.

]]>
<![CDATA[Finding my unique place in the Coronavirus outbreak]]>

Like most people, I have had a lot of time to think and reflect lately. One theme keeps coming back to me. What will the world be like after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is over? Tragedies and national emergencies do change the nation, the world and the way we live. The ending of World War II led to the Cold War and an arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were a direct effect of 9/11. Going to the airport has never been fun, but 9/11 created the need for the TSA, and we've been removing our shoes and tossing bottled water at the airport ever since.

The virus has hit Italy particularly hard, and the country now has more COVID-19 deaths than even China. Italy is famous for its bustling plazas and café culture, not for its people quietly sitting in their homes alone.

Will tourists once again flock to big cities with their restaurants, theaters and museums? Will Americans stop hoarding toilet paper, tissues and hand sanitizer? These are just a few of the things that have changed since COVID-19 emerged. Will national borders across Europe reopen? Who will be the NCAA, NBA and NHL champions this year? Will there be simply an asterisk in the record books? The 2020 games in Tokyo have been postponed. While disappointing to fans, this is economically crushing to Japan who has invested in stadiums, arenas and other infrastructure. For many athletes, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to compete in a sport for their country.

Even in my community I have seen how life has changed. My local Barnes and Noble started placing seats and tables eight feet apart before finally closing their doors.

COVID-19 is understandably having an effect on the 2020 presidential race. Will President Donald Trump's response to the outbreak hurt his chances at the ballot box, or will Americans not want to change leaders during a national emergency. Former Vice President Joe Biden is trying to capitalize on Trump's response by showing how he would have handled the crisis differently.

Like other viral outbreaks and pandemics, the coronavirus outbreak will eventually end. Testing, social distancing and anti-viral drugs should eventually stop the spread and resulting deaths. How long this will take is up to state governments and the federal government. More testing kits and sites are needed. Social distancing has been spotty at best up to now.

I have a unique situation because I'm in the Army. I am supposed to move this summer for the final time before my retirement. By the time the quarantine ends, we are likely moving or preparing to move. My son has likely played his last soccer game with his friends at school while my other son will have few opportunities to ride his horse at his weekly lessons.

Across America, high schools and colleges are canceling graduations. My daughter has worked 12 years for the opportunity to finally walk across the graduation stage. There is a possibility that this will no longer be the case. There will be no goodbyes to favorite teachers and friends. The expensive prom dress that we bought her: likely not being used anytime soon.

Today's technology has at least softened the blow from our forced social distancing. Apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Skype have helped keep us connected. With Amazon, Netflix and Hulu, we are able to catch up on shows and movies that we've been meaning to watch. Will we as a society revert back to theaters, arenas and restaurants when this crisis is finally over? People are often creatures of habit. Our collective habits can change over time. We're realizing how many activities can be conducted in a virtual environment. Do we need offices with a large carbon footprint when we can work from our living room and home office? Will Sunday mass become something that people do through apps like Zoom?

In my short 41 years I have already seen our society become slightly more introverted. Within homes, you often see six or more people on different electronic devices. Go to any Major League Baseball game, and you'll see countless fans staring at their phones rather than the action on the field. DoorDash and Grubhub have eliminated the need to dress up, make a reservation and eat at an actual restaurant. While cozy nights alone at home are necessary once in a while, they can be isolating when they're too often.

The COVID-19 pandemic has already exposed cracks in our society. I see scores of young people playing basketball in parks that have yet to be closed, while other people wave warily at you, not wanting to get too close. For the first time in my life, I'm witnessing competitiveness at the grocery store. "You snooze, you lose" is real nowadays.

Generational divides are also being exposed. Older people are experiencing the brunt of this deadly virus. Younger people are gathering together, despite the evidence that they will infect scores of older people eventually. Somewhere in the middle are people in their thirties, forties and fifties who are trying to occupy small kids at home and effectively deal with their teens' need for socialization and safety. With many schools across the country closing for the year, parents are learning how to become teachers themselves.

I, for one, am tired of looking at my phone. There are only so many COVID-19 memes to look at. Will we as a society begin reading more printed books again, or will this pandemic and its changes simply be an anomaly?

]]>
<![CDATA[Homewood adopts universal S/U grading system for Spring 2020 ]]> Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Sunil Kumar announced in an email to the student body that the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences (KSAS) and Whiting School of Engineering (WSE) will adopt a universal satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U) grading system this semester.

The email, which was sent on March 27, states that the administration acknowledges that the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak - which prompted all University courses to proceed online - pose a variety of challenges that not all students would share.

An additional email sent by KSAS and WSE clarified that all undergraduate grades will be limited to S or U grades with no impact on a student's overall GPA. Additionally, all courses necessary for degree requirements can be fulfilled by a satisfactory grade.

The universal S/U grading policy will be automatically applied to all courses, with no opt-in or opt-out option. Because professors will register either an S or a U into Student Information Services, students will not have the ability to uncover their grades.

Prior to these University announcements, students petitioned the administration to adopt non-traditional grading systems. One petition, with 1,907 signatures as of March 25, pushed for universal S/U grading. Another asked the University to give all students either an A/A- this semester. This petition had over 2,000 signatures.

In an interview with The News-Letter, senior Rojahne Azwoir, who initially supported the A/A- policy, explained why she was content with the University's decision to implement a universal S/U system.

"Though I think the double A policy would have benefited the most people, universal pass/fail is best to avoid disadvantaged students from being negatively impacted by this situation the same way that the opt-in would have further punished them for their extenuating circumstances. So I support it," she said. "Though I am aware that not everyone's happy, I think this is a good compromise."

Likewise, senior Cyndy Vasquez wrote in an email to The News-Letter that S/U grading is the most equitable way to address the diverse needs of students. Vasquez, who is a first-generation, limited-income (FLI) student, said that the transition to off-campus learning has made the semester frustrating - particularly because she was on-track to get good grades.

Now that she is living at home, Vasquez said finding space and privacy to do her work is challenging.

"I was emotionally preparing myself to deal with getting bad grades this semester because of all of the factors outside of my control," she wrote. "It has to be acknowledged that, for many students, the ability to live on campus with access to University resources is a great equalizer that allows us to perform at our best, and to suddenly get that safety net taken from you from factors outside of your control and still be expected to perform the same academically is unrealistic."

Freshman Lubna Azmi, who is also a FLI student, echoed Vasquez's sentiments. In an email to The News-Letter, she argued that the University committing to a universal policy would be beneficial to both FLI students and the community as a whole.

She also expressed her belief that a S/U system will not necessarily make students less eager to excel in their academics.

"I'm continuing to work just as hard in my classes. This doesn't deter my motivation. It just alleviates any stress," she wrote. "I'm fortunate enough right now that the pandemic hasn't upturned my life like [it has for] many of my peers so I'm thankful for that, and it's necessary that other students in positions like mine advocate for solutions that benefit students who aren't in our positions."

Senior Kendall Free, who is president of the Black Student Union and president of the Multicultural Leadership Council, further explained that these inequities in student resources made an opt-in policy unfair to students who also utilize on-campus services - such as PILOT and Learning Den - because their GPAs would not have the opportunity to benefit from this semester's grades.

Although she personally believed a universal A/A- option would provide the most academic equality to students, she understood the administration's stated concerns with this approach.

Free added that prior to the University's announcement she had emailed Vice Dean of Undergraduate Education for the Whiting School of Engineering (WSE) Michael Falk to voice these concerns.

In his email response to Free, Falk wrote that the WSE Curriculum Committee, which was composed of himself, three other faculty members and four Student Government Association (SGA) representatives, met on March 25 to discussthe aforementioned alternative grading policies.

He said that the Committee's grading proposition aimed to focus on three principles: flexibility, student autonomy and equity. Falk added that the SGA members on the committee offered valuable insight into some of the student body's concerns.

"The student representatives did a great job relating cases of individual students struggling at home with out-of-work parents, lack of access to basic necessities, environments unsuitable for study," he wrote. "They also were very clear in relating why the various policies appealed to different groups of students and shared the results of the poll that was launched with SGA support. I was very proud of the commitment that our SGA and our students bring to weighing in on these issues and being frank about their own challenges and the challenges their peers are experiencing."

This new grading policy only applies to ongoing Hopkins courses. Spring half-semester classes that have already concluded, which are more commonly taken by WSE students, will not be affected by this policy change.

Sophomore Steven Solar is a biomedical engineering student who was enrolled in such half-semester courses. In an email to The News-Letter, he wrote that his final exams for his half-semester classes were held after the University announced the transition to online-only courses.

This meant that he had to study for his final exams while also packing to leave Baltimore and he ultimately was required to sit for the exams at home. He said that he wished that the University had taken this into account.

"The same students whose full semester grades have been hindered by this will also have half semester grades affected by this," he wrote.

However, Solar was grateful that the University decided to enforce a universal S/U system for the rest of the semester.

"I'm a big supporter of universal pass/fail. I think it's the only equitable decision in terms of grading. I think opt-in/out disadvantages hardworking students who have been personally impacted by the crisis. And the A/A- policy disincentivizes hard work. If you work to get an A, but miss by a few points and get an A-, you might as well have put in 0 effort and failed to get that same A-," he wrote.

Senior Aran Chang co-founded JHU Help, a group which has acted as a bridge between the student body, SGA and the administration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like Solar, he had concerns about fair grading.

"A covered grade policy is none at all. At least some group that was going to be severely disadvantaged and couldn't focus on their grades because of what's going on would get some relief from the fact that the administration is trying to show some care for the student body," Chang said.

Freshman Sofia Angel, who said that she was involved in lobbying the administration to adopt a non-traditional grading policy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, wanted students and the administration to be aware of how students now face unique disadvantages.

"Right now, academics isn't the main focus," Angel said. "Even though [some] people may be in a situation where they can study to their full potential, [the administration] realizes that there may be students in quarantine, there may be students with families in quarantine. There may be students that are running out of food. There may be students [whose] parents are now unemployed... I'm glad that they realized that everyone has different circumstances and that they changed it to pass/fail to keep it the most equitable. It shows that they value the health of their students and their family members."

Jake Lefkovitz and Rudy Malcom contributed reporting to this article.

]]>
EDA INCEKARA/PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR

Students have been pushing for alternative grading systems since Hopkins suspended in-person classes for the spring semester.

]]>
<![CDATA[The Walters Art Museum displays historic St. Francis Missal]]> For the first time in nearly 40 years, the St. Francis Missal has its own dedicated exhibition at the Walters Art Museum. Though the museum is currently closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, the exhibition will be on display until May 31.

One of the most famous saints, St. Francis of Assisi was the patron saint of Italy and was the founder of the mendicant Franciscan Order. A figure of humility and charity, he was commonly associated with nature and wildlife and said to be the first person in history to receive the stigmata, the wounds of Jesus. An advocate for the poor, the current pope chose his papal name as Pope Francis, marking the first time a pope was been named after the saint.

In 1208, St. Francis of Assisi and two followers debated how best to serve God in the Church of San Nicolo in Assisi. Francis supposedly consulted the Missal, a large book containing the texts used in the Catholic mass, on the altar at three random times to symbolize the Holy Trinity. The Missal served as a seminal moment in the formation of the Franciscan Order and is believed to be a relic of St. Francis' touch, thereby retaining his holy aura.

In 1924, Henry Walters, co-founder of the Walters, originally purchased the Missal from an art dealer in Paris, bringing the book back to Baltimore. The text has thus drawn Christians and avid historians alike from around the globe in pilgrimage to the city's very own Walters Art Museum.

When I attended, the exhibit itself was modest and held in a small, intimate setting, perhaps as a reflection of St. Francis' character. Of course, the centerpiece of the exhibit was the Missal. Each page featured passages from the Bible (including famous verses such as Mark 10:21, Luke 9:3, and Matthew 16:24) which urged the renouncement of material goods. At first, the book was open to the Latin passage of Mark 10:21 that St. Francis and his followers supposedly read over 800 years ago:

"Go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven," it read.

Halfway through the exhibition, the pages were turned and another of the three passages were shown.

Surrounding it are other artifacts of the medieval era including a 14th-century diptych altarpiece with two plates attached at a hinge that supposedly contains fragments of St. Francis' and St. Clare's tunics. The fragile diptych is on display for the first time in the Walters' history. There are paintings, altarpieces, ceramics and other depictions of St. Francis and his devout followers. Additionally, there are pieces describing the lives of St. Clare, the patron saint of embroiderers and Francis' most famous female follower, and St. Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost objects.

While there has been some skepticism, historians have said that the displayed manuscript is likely to have been the same one St. Francis consulted and touched. This new exhibition follows a two-year restoration project of the Missal in which the cover was almost entirely replaced and the book was fully taken apart and delicately stitched back together.

Before the restoration, the book's beech wood cover had crumbled almost entirely away and was littered with holes from insects. Its worn pages were torn and discolored and the ink was flaking off, to the point where the Missal could not be opened without damage. The binding was almost nonexistent. The extensive conservation process is documented in the exhibit and the entire book is now able to be read online on Ex Libris, the Walters' manuscript website.

Yoseph Kim, a junior who visited the Walters, remarked that the exhibit wasn't as impressive as he expected, but worthwhile nonetheless.

"It was historically interesting and educational, albeit somewhat aesthetically underwhelming," he said. "It was really cool learning about how the museum has restored the Missal throughout its deep history."

Junior Robert Kim described the experience of attending the exhibition as awe-inspiring.

"As a Christian, it felt a little surreal to be around a relic of St. Francis. Although the Missal was almost 800 years old, it shares the same basis as the sermons and discussions I have today. It seemed to really pull the figures out of the stories we tell and ground them in reality," he said.

Currently studying towards a minor in History, Robert Kim was also struck by the breadth of other historical objects there.

"The restoration disguised just how old [the Missal] was. There were also paintings done by artists whose bones are probably dust by now, but the pieces look almost new. There's just such an abundance of history behind each of those artifacts," he said. "It impressed upon me just how ancient and prevalent my faith is. It was a well-done exhibit."

]]>
COURTESY OF DYLAN KWANG

The Walters Art Museum recently opened an exhibition of the Missal read by St. Francis of Assisi, a seminal Christian text.

]]>
<![CDATA[The Fool: Embracing the ambiguity of our situation]]>

For those who don't know me, I am well versed in divination, especially tarot cards. While I do use them to predict the future, they also allow me to reflect on the universal themes each card speaks to. How I relate to those themes in a specific moment helps me process and understand events in my own life. They serve as a focusing lens in the way I perceive my reality.

In tarot, the first and last card, as its number is zero, is The Fool. Its most general meaning is a fresh start or stumbling ignorantly into the future.

So, before I could fully understand the news of the pandemic, I found myself standing in the library amidst a crowd of students. Brody was clearing out in pandemonium: half exuberance, half apprehension. I wandered aimlessly. Suddenly, I was on the Beach with some familiar faces.

It was as if time stopped for a moment and I was lurched into an uncertain future. It started to rain. We all talked about nothing. I tried not to cry. After an hour, I left to go to another friend's get-together. I put on folk music, danced - because that's what you do when you feel like the world is ending and laughed at nothing. Eventually, I walked back to my dorm alone.

I remember only one thing from that walk: a tree blooming in flowers with white petals, illuminated under the fluorescent light of a street lamp. I leaned in and deeply inhaled. I stood there a while, staring at the blossoms, letting my thoughts percolate. Is this what living is?

We all know what happens next. Or, at least, the story so far. At first, I was overwhelmed. I scrolled through the news for hours and couldn't shake all the information from my head. My entire body ached from the stress. My chest tightened so much it was hard for me to breathe.

It's been hard on my mental health. I'll admit it.

I've since reduced the amount of news I consume, but that only left room for questions: Who am I now? What am I supposed to do? Where am I going? Am I going anywhere at all? I've been home for a week, living in the quiet of the Connecticut woods. I spend my days reading, rereading (I've already received a paper cut from a well-loved copy of my favorite book) and writing. At night, I chart constellations from stars I miss when I'm in Baltimore.

Now, I miss my friends, my daily coffee at Bird in Hand, the dark shadows of my Homewood apartment. The words "new normal" can't quite capture the way reality shifts in mere moments.

More and more, I feel like The Fool. I have all these questions and no idea where to start. The more I spend time thinking, the less I understand. So, I do what I do best, and take it as what it is.

I've made the radical, conscious decision to be The Fool and to live in ambiguity. If I let myself simply exist in the moment, I don't have to answer any questions about the future.

And, honestly, it's been liberating. For now, at least, who I am, what I am and what I do does not have to be defined.

Perhaps I will write a novel. Perhaps I will take up a hobby. Perhaps I will reinvent myself and the next time you see me, I'll be unrecognizable. Or, perhaps, I will do none of these things. And that's okay, too. I am entitled, and so are you, to do what I need to do.

So, I'm letting this be a fresh start for me. I'm taking this time to heal. I meditate every morning to ground myself. I walk in the afternoon to let the sun cast away negative thoughts. Everything happens in discrete moments now. The answers, and the future, will come on their own time.

For now, I'm giving myself permission to just exist. Let me be nothing.

Who I was yesterday, who I am tomorrow, doesn't matter. At this moment, my bare feet in the grass, my hands twisting through my hair, I just am. As Virginia Woolf wrote, and I have inscribed on my ankle, "I am rooted, but I flow." Who I am is who I am, not something to be answered.

All I'll do now is stumble into the future, head-first, with the faith that there will be someone or something to catch me on the other side. And there will be. I know it.

]]>
CC BY-ND 2.0

For Aghamohammadi, The Fool encapsulates these ever-changing and uneasy times.

]]>
<![CDATA[COVID-19 and air pollution: an unexpected source of hope ]]> Coronavirus (COVID-19) has claimed the lives of over 14,000 people worldwide, infecting a total of 330,000 people. Countries such as China, Italy, France, Spain and the U.S. have suffered the most damage to date. Yet, among heightened anxiety and social distancing measures, the pandemic has at least one beneficiary: the planet.

According to a preliminary paper by researchers at Bocconi University in Milan, air pollutant concentrations decreased significantly across northern Italy and China in the wake of the pandemic. Nitrogen dioxide emissions, which are strongly correlated with activities such as driving and factory production, decreased by up to 30 percent in China. Marco Percoco, an author of the study, explained the unprecedented nature of this phenomenon.

"It's the first time in history we've seen something like this," Percoco said to the New York Times. "It is clear people are not moving by cars."

The paper describes the drop in PM2.5 (particulate matter of a size less than 2.5 microns) over the city of Milan. Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that the drop, 25 μg/m3, could save over one million lives if implemented worldwide.

The numerical data is backed up by anecdotal observation. Viral social media posts show crystal-clear water in Venetian canals, free from the pollution drivers inadvertently push into the rivers.

China has seen similar results. According to Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, China's carbon dioxide emissions over the past three weeks have been about 25 percent lower than during the same period last year.

Even this temporary decrease could be significant for reducing climate change. The 25 percent reduction is equivalent to New York City's emissions for an entire calendar year, Myllyvirta explained to the New York Times.

Hopkins Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences Darryn Waugh, whose research focuses on the interactions between the ocean and atmospheric pollution, explained that this reduction was not predicted by atmospheric data.

"To be honest, I didn't really have this sort of unexpected drop in my climate models," Waugh explained in an interview with The News-Letter. "I think people will definitely be trying to put these changes in their models and project the effect that it might have on the atmosphere."

He was particularly interested in the data indicating that Chinese nitrogen dioxide emissions decreased.

"Nitrogen dioxide reacts with oxygen in the lower atmosphere to form ozone, which has a much longer chemical lifespan. That ozone is damaging to the lungs, so hopefully we'll see a reduction in deaths caused by poor air quality," Waugh said.

Waugh noted that data from the WHO indicates that the majority of these deaths occur in less developed countries.

Melanie Alfonzo, a sophomore who is affiliated with both Students for Environmental Action and GreenHacks, explained in an interview with The News-Letter what the reduction of pollution represents.

"This really shows the extent and control that human society has on the environment," Alfonzo said. "Hopefully now people can see that a compromise can be made between lowering emissions and getting things done."

With the accelerating rate of infections in the U.S., it is likely that more states will enact shelter-in-place orders. According to CNN, approximately one half of the country will be under lockdown orders by the time this article is published. Such orders would have the immediate impact of drastically cutting U.S. air pollution.

However, celebrations may be somewhat premature. With the recent news that China may soon lift Wuhan from lockdown, emissions could skyrocket past even last year's levels. According to the New York Times, China's carbon dioxide emissions surpassed that of the U.S. and Europe combined in 2018. Waugh noted that nitrogen dioxide emissions in China are beginning to rise.

"I think emissions will rebound to at least the same level that they were before," Waugh said. "If they open new factories, the levels will only shoot up. They still have to fulfill their economic targets for the year, and their economy has been down for months. The demand for goods might be higher in the second half of the year."

Another danger, according to Waugh, is the deprioritization of environmental goals.

"During normal times, countries have some self-imposed limits on pollution. But in a situation such as this for China, you have to consider the likelihood that some of those self-imposed limits won't be prioritized," he said.

Alfonzo agreed that emission levels will rise to what they were before the pandemic.

"For it to be sustainable, people's lifestyles should change permanently," she said.

]]>
PUBLIC DOMAIN

This Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer image shows air pollution over East China.

]]>
<![CDATA[Why Bernie Sanders' campaign means so much to so many]]> Hope.

For millions of people, both Americans and not, Bernie Sanders' "Not Me, Us" movement has given hope that change is possible. The passion people have carried for that hope has been marked as aggressive, naïve and disorderly.

Don't get me wrong - we are angry. I am angry. We have every right to be angry.

I am angry because my best friend, one of the smartest and most hardworking people I know, has had to worry her entire life about her family being deported. Her DACA status almost prevented her from affording college since she is not an American citizen, despite having lived in the U.S. almost her entire life.

I am angry because my mother, who had symptoms of a heart attack, had to think twice before going to the emergency room to receive treatment, because of the momentous costs it would weigh on my family.

I am angry because there are millions of stories like and unlike these, that all share the common theme of injustice.

People across this country have been outright cheated, not just by the Trump administration, but by this country throughout history, out of a decent life. The blame isturned around and put on them. "You just need to work harder." "Well, your parents shouldn't have come to this country anyway."

Or they're met with neutrality. "These things you're asking for, they're just not possible." "Well I'm doing okay." "We don't need to change the foundations of our system, everything is working fine."

Why is this the response of so many Americans?

Take a moment. I want you to ask yourself, no matter what you believe, why you believe those things, what has led you to believe them and what real standings those justifications have.

Who says that the Midwesterner who has built their small business from the ground up hasn't worked as hard as the New York banker? Who gets to say who an American is, when the land the U.S. was founded on doesn't even rightfully belong to the people that now own it? Why does one person deserve the bare minimum -health care, a proper education for their children - and another person doesn't?

Sanders' "Not Me, Us" movement has played a significant role in bringing these questions to the forefront of our generation. As Americans, we are beginning to question our places and roles in society and why we have the mentalities we do about work, politics and the world. And we are coming to realize that a lot of those ideas do not make sense.

We are led to believe that the people influence the party, but just the opposite rings true. Policies that are extremely favorable among voters across the spectrum like Medicare for All, a higher minimum wage and free college are portrayed as "radical" by political parties and some media outlets. When people hear the word "radical," even if they and their neighbors agree with the policies at hand, they come to the conclusion that the rest of America wouldn't agree. By accepting these ideas, they see a future loss to Donald Trump.

This gap between people's policy beliefs and where they are voting is getting lost in national policy discussion. We've heard that "moderate" views are the best choice, the safest choice, the unifying choice in this upcoming election. People aren't rallying around Joe Biden because they like his policy; they believe he's the best equipped to defeat Trump based on his label as a "moderate."There is fear that people need to consolidate their values to win this election, but major polls show Sanders beats Trump in the general elections by wide margins.

The problem is that we, the people, don't know where the real political middle even is. The terms "unification" and "moderation" in politics have been used as a cover to benefit those who have an established influence in this country rather than the other 99.9 percent. While that 99.9 percent believes they vote on issues built to benefit them, the real voices and policies not present on the spectrum of moderation continue to be silenced. Medicare for All, for example, has been shown to cost Americans less and benefit them more, but has been described as "pie in the sky" by established Democrats.

We must reach for the stars, even the ones we cannot yet see. The way to get voters across factions is to show them what can be done to benefit them rather than the most powerful. Bernie Sanders' campaign is and has been doing that. His efforts are especially prevalent in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, in which many of the faults of our current medical system are increasingly apparent. He has halted all donations to his campaign and has instead used his broad base and network to get funds to charities that are working to help people during this crisis.

There is a narrative that the candidate who has stood unwaveringly to unify this country, no matter one's race, income or origin, is the one that is "divisive." This is an effort to further dim these diverse voices. Dismissing Bernie Sanders on the grounds that the small population of hateful, typically white men - often referred to as "Bernie Bros" - overpowers the voices of the marginalized communities that make up the majority of "Not Me, Us," furthers the narrative that those voices do not matter.

I voted for Bernie Sanders because we cannot compromise on justice. Because this election does not have to only be about defeating Donald Trump. Because if we do not vote with our voices, then they will never be heard. Because millions of people cannot just wait another four years. Because the voices of those who have been silenced for far too long must be a part of the mainstream conversation.

We must carry our inspiration from this movement beyond the election. We must make others understand what Bernie Sanders has stood for his entire life, why this campaign and this movement means so much to us. These are steps toward justice. Toward honesty. Toward breaking down what we have been so set to live by and to instead pave ways to create something better.

I know the concept of change may sound frightening. Many Americans, I know in my heart, want what's best for themselves and their families. But we must continue to ask ourselves what changes we are afraid of and why. We must look at the present through the lens of history. We must ask ourselves, "What do we want our vote to mean, not only for us, but for the future?"

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "The "wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see... that justice too long delayed is justice denied." It's not too late to vote our values. A vote for Bernie Sanders ends that wait. A vote for Bernie Sanders is a beacon for the future instead of a rollback to the past.

What Bernie Sanders means to me has never been and never will be about him. It's about real justice, for us.

Lubna Azmi is a first year student from Manassas, Virginia studying International Studies.

]]>
TREVOR BEXON/CC BY 2.0

Azmi argues that Sanders offers much-needed change to American politics.

]]>
<![CDATA[For senior athletes, COVID-19 spells the end of athletic careers]]>

The coronavirus has spread chaos around the globe, touching every aspect of life and leaving the country's physical, mental and emotional well-being in a vulnerable state. Within just a short period, people in the United States went from average day-to-day life to being advised to not leave their homes or be within six feet of others.

With the virus and the fear it induced spreading exponentially, organizations around the world were forced to make difficult decisions about their operational status. One of these organizations was the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), who announced on March 12 that the still-competing winter sports and the just-commencing spring sports and their championships were canceled. With that announcement, hundreds of senior athletes lost out on what for most is their final season.

I'd like to preface with a disclaimer: I understand that in this time of crisis, the last thing that many people are worried about is sports. Most are more concerned - and rightfully so - about staying safe and staying sanitary over March Madness or the start of college baseball, so reading about the impact that this global pandemic is having on athletes may not be a topic that resonates with many.

However, when the dust settles and life returns to normal, or whatever the new version of normal is for the country, these senior athletes will still have missed out on their true final campaign in their sport. While the NCAA has stated that they plan on extending spring athletes' eligibility by a year to compensate for the cancellation, the details have yet to be worked out, and even if the program is implemented, it will likely have a very limited effect on Hopkins athletes.

For those who are unaware, Division-III programs are unable to provide their athletes with scholarship money in exchange for their services, so students on an athletic team pay the same amount as a non-athlete, excluding potential differences in financial aid. The NCAA also stipulates that student athletes must be enrolled in "no less than 12 credit hours per term to compete in athletics," meaning that student athletes have to take and pay for an extra semester of classes to take advantage of this extra year of eligibility. Many of these athletes have also already made commitments to graduate programs or occupations following graduation, so even if they have the resources or interest in this fifth year, there won't be many athletes able to use it.

In short, the seniors on the Hopkins lacrosse, baseball, tennis and track teams have competed for the last time in the black and baby blue. These student athletes put in hours upon hours of works on and off the field over the past four years in service of their teams, only to have their last months of competition stripped away in the name of containing the spread of the virus.

As a former athlete myself who had my athletic career taken away prematurely by injuries, I sympathize with these seniors and can only imagine the overwhelming feelings that must have filled their hearts when the announcement came through from the NCAA. No matter how you rationalize the decision, there are no words capable of expressing how meaningful this year was to so many.

The virus has ruined the senior year of students across campus, punctuated by the recent cancellation of the Class of 2020's Commencement ceremony, and the likely dashed planned festivities to celebrate the conclusions of undergraduate experiences. For the senior athletes, take the missed experiences just mentioned and add two missed months of bus rides, practices, games and countless other hours spent outside of preparation and competition with their teammates.

Add in the traditional senior day festivities where family, friends and loved ones gather to celebrate the conclusion of the athletic journeys of these athletes and it is readily apparent just how much has been taken away. These are memories and experiences that cannot be replicated in any other setting, and their final year on Homewood campus will forever be tainted by the inability to fully realize the goals and aspirations for these finals days as a Blue Jay athlete.

Any athlete will speak to the importance of sports as more than just a form of physical activity and praise athletics as a means of learning life lessons and forming valuable social connections, and I encourage the spring athletes to use those lessons and those connections while coping with this loss. Few experiences can prepare you for trials and tribulations like sports, and the ups and downs of your athletic journeys and the knowledge you gained along the way will serve you well.

The late Jim Margraff, who was the head football coach at Hopkins, used to speak to his players about how fortunate they were to be able to play a college sport and how so many of those with the same dream of stepping onto a college campus as a student athlete were unable to realize that ambition. For those that had the honor of wearing "Hopkins" across your chest, you were part of a community of a lucky few who were fortunate enough to compete for elite athletic programs while attending a university that is revered as one of the very best on the planet.

Recent events have proven how fragile an athletic career can be. It could be an injury or a worldwide pandemic that closes the chapter on this truly special portion of an athlete's book of life, but it serves as a reminder to not take time for granted and to appreciate every experience.

To those athletes who will be able to return to action next spring, I implore you to keep the Class of 2020 in your minds when you step on the field. When a workout seems difficult or a practice is tiring, think about how much the seniors before you would give to have just one more team workout or one more practice.

The athletic careers that recently ended are just the beginning of a new journey for these student-athletes, and I do not doubt that the soon-to-be graduates of Hopkins will go on to do incredible things in the world wherever they choose to spread their wings and in whatever they choose to excel in next. Although they were unable to finish their careers as they hoped, the Class of 2020 left an indelible mark on their team, on their teammates and on this campus.

]]>
<![CDATA[Grace VanderWaal brings Stargirl to life in Disney's new film adaptation]]> Unfortunately, this past "spring break," I wasn't able to watch my usual batch of five movies at my local theater's discount Tuesdays. However, fortunately, I was still able to watch the new movie release, Stargirl, from the comfort and safety of my own home through Disney+. In the coming weeks or months of social-distancing, it looks as if streaming and online retail services will be our savior for watching new movies and television.

Stargirl is a film adaptation of the 2000 novel by Jerry Spinelli. The novel has two main characters, Leo and Stargirl. The story is centered around Stargirl, an oddly sincere and socially noncomforming girl who had been home-schooled until her sophomore year of high school, when she joins a public school.

The book is told from the point of view of Leo, a junior who eventually forms a romantic relationship with Stargirl. Stargirl details how a high school of socially conforming students react to Stargirl as her peculiar acts of sincerity and her lack of social awareness generate great attention. At its core, it is a story about the importance and power of individuality even under the pressure of conformity.

Stargirl is particularly popular among today's young adults, who most likely read the novel back in their middle or elementary school years. In fact, my little sister, who is a big fan of the story, and owns not only a copy of Stargirl, but also its sequel, read the book back in fifth grade. She later convinced me to read it for the first time when I was in high school. In my opinion, while the vocabulary and plot of the story itself is understandable for young elementary school readers, its message and themes are quite mature and enlightening, even for the oldest of us.

After returning back home, I was able to grab the book off my sister's shelf and give it another read in preparation for the film's release.

Since the book itself was fairly short (a 186-page, one-night read) and felt easily adaptable, I wasn't expecting the movie to make substantial changes. As the movie, did, however, make certain modifications, I was forced to question the reasons behind the filmmaker's choices.

At the beginning, the story addresses how both Stargirl's and Leo's respective fathers passed away in the movie. Instead of the school cheering on their basketball team, the movie chooses football. The mascot of the school is also no longer an electron but a mudfrog.

While these minor details could be dismissed, a few other changes were more major and caused the movie to deviate from the main plot and theme of the book.

For example, in the movie, Leo and Stargirl's relationship begins close to the start, whereas in the book this happens much later on. Consequently, the movie misses out on a lot of important events that occur before they are together that help to clarify the reason their relationship sadly ends later in the story. Not only do we not see Stargirl's many acts of kindness before their relationship begins, but there are also key insights into Leo's character that we miss out on. These would've explained why exactly he's interested in Stargirl but reluctant to befriend her.

Nonetheless, none of these changes, no matter how large, detracted from Grace VanderWaal's superb performance as Stargirl. VanderWaal is popularly known for her rise to stardom after winning season 11 of America's Got Talent at the age of 12. During her first audition, she sang her own original song, "I Don't Know My Name," on the ukulele, capturing the audience with her unique voice. The song itself accentuated her character: She was true to herself, confident and genuine.

Throughout the rest of her time on America's Got Talent and her subsequent musical career, VanderWaal continued to stick to her distinct style. In a society with an increasing plethora of social influences, the ability to do so has become increasingly rare and valuable.

In the 16-year-old's acting debut, she brings her personality and even her ukelele talent directly into her character to perfectly portray a unique and widely loved character, so much so that the best aspect of Stargirl is, simply put, Stargirl herself. Just like VanderWaal, she remains committed to her own sense of self. For anyone who hasn't yet, I would recommend reading Stargirl for its message and watching the movie to see Grace bring the beloved Stargirl to life.

]]>
JUSTIN HIGUCHI/CC BY-S.A 2.0

Grace VanderWaal, who rose to fame on America's Got Talent, made her acting debut in the newly released Disney+ adaptation of Stargirl.

]]>
<![CDATA[From Baltimore to Brooklyn: connecting with home and Hopkins while coping with the coronavirus]]>

As I write this, it's day nine of spring break, one day until online classes begin and more days than I feel like counting until I return to Baltimore and the life I love there. I'm sitting on my couch at home in Brooklyn, wondering how the hell I got here and have been forced to stay here. I think it's safe to say this wasn't what anyone expected, even just two weeks ago.

To state the obvious, this sucks. We're in the midst of a global health crisis, and once that's over, we'll be left with an economic crisis - things to look forward to, right...? Seriously, there's a lot to lose.

And we Hopkins students, and millions of other students, have already lost part of our college experience. Others may dismiss that loss, and it is unfortunately necessary, but it's still significant, and we're allowed to grieve it. We're losing time and memories with our friends. We won't be able to complete research, or projects for extracurriculars and jobs. Our education probably won't be as in-depth or rigorous as it is normally. Streams of income have dried up or trickled thinner. There could be permanent repercussions on our loved ones' or our own health, or worse.

These problems all manifest in a uniquely difficult way for each of us. I've been planning to study abroad next semester, so that could be cancelled, which sucks, or if it isn't, I won't see my friends until January, 10 months away. I have no more crazy Wednesday nights at the Gatehouse with my News-Letter coworkers, nor can I pick up a freshly printed copy of the paper every Thursday, because this has forced us to go online-only. Despite Hopkins promising to pay student workers through April 12, I may not make as much money or put in as many hours remotely for my campus job, which I only started this semester and really enjoy. One of my parents is effectively jobless until this ends, and the other is much more vulnerable than the average person to the coronavirus. Both of those things concern me.

These are just my small or not-so-small things that pile up on top of the greater societal impact to make this even harder. We all have them. We can't control or fix them right now. But we can only accept that lack of control if we let ourselves mourn this loss first and then deal with worse things as they come, rather than anticipating them too much.

I've had a lot of other recalibrating to do for this semester now that I'm no longer in Baltimore, just like many of us have had. My goal for this semester, and this column, was to recover and grow from a rough last semester, and also to tie up some loose ends before going away next semester. I wanted to enjoy myself, start taking pride in myself and what I do again and be more present with my friends and in classes.

I put in a lot of work to do that: finding a job, starting to work out, fine-tuning my class and extracurricular schedule, practicing more gratitude and self-care, checking on my friends more and doing more fun things with them. Right before spring break, I felt like that was starting to really pay off, so I was excited to come back from break and just... thrive.

But now we're not coming back, even though classes will resume (sort of...). I've had to reconsider what's still important and feasible and what my new priorities are. Honestly, my academics don't matter to me as much now. I'll do my work as much and as well as I feel able, but remote learning isn't ideal and I'm concerned about other things - like, you know, the pandemic - so I'm not going to overexert myself doing it, and I'm going to pray to God that the University listens to my plea for S/U grading. I can't be physically present with my friends, but I know they're also struggling, and I miss them, so thankfully we have a plethora of digital platforms to use so we can still be there for one another.

I can also value this time at home (though cabin fever is imminent). Home and family can be frustrating, but I often feel like I haven't had enough of them since coming to college. I love Brooklyn and my family and our Flatbush rowhome. I've missed them. Though I still have to spend a lot of time in college mode, I want to take this extra opportunity to be in home mode, too. I want to enjoy sleeping in my own bed. I want to get to know my neighborhood even better while I take long, "socially distant" walks every day. I want to yell answers at the TV while watching Jeopardy! with my dad and Google the historical accuracy of The Crown with my mom. I want them to teach me family recipes. I want to support them as they deal with this crisis too.

So that's how I'm beginning to make peace with this radical change to daily life, though I'm sure it will be hard and will only get harder at some points.

Dealing with the threat of the virus in and of itself, though, is more overwhelming to me. The number of cases refuses to stay put. More towns are locking down and tightening their rules. The world feels like it's turned upside down then right side up again a dozen times in the past few weeks. Death, though kind of incomprehensible to me, is an inevitable outcome for many. My hometown, New York City, is currently the heart of the pandemic in the U.S., which terrifies me. I don't want to get sick, particularly after spending so much time injured and out of commission last semester. I especially don't want my more vulnerable family members to get sick.

And I've been having a hard time figuring out my feelings about the media in this. They obviously have a huge role, since they're the ones relaying all the important but overwhelming information and suggestions and predictions. My father always likes to say they sensationalize things, right now the coronavirus. Sometimes I agree with him; sometimes I don't. Now I just want to turn it off a lot, but I think that comes more from a place of wanting this to be over rather than being unable to handle an influx of news.

But I have to acknowledge my own role in the media too, although it may seem negligible to some. I am a student journalist, right here at The News-Letter. I put a lot of love into this job, as do my coworkers. But we contribute to the influx too, in our own small way. Are we handling this properly? Are we just a meaningless speck compared to mass media? Does my individual work matter?

I ask myself those questions all the time, but since March 10, I've been asking them more than ever and thinking about what our - specifically my - role is now that we're online-only, no longer on campus and dealing with a global crisis. But I'm glad to still have this connection to Baltimore, to Hopkins, to some slight feeling of control as I continue to write and edit articles that try to make sense of it all. This column, specifically, has been cathartic for me this semester, and I had it all kind of planned out: the knot of thoughts and feelings from last semester that I would try to untangle in each article. But now this semester has its own knot - a much bigger and more communal one, and going forward, I think I'm going to pick at this one instead.

So, even though nothing about this column or this semester or this world right now is what I (or anyone, probably, for the latter two) expected, they're still gonna keep on going, and we just gotta hang tight with them.

]]>
COURTESY OF SOPHIA LOLA

While Lola can find comfort in her Brooklyn home, the heavy impact of coronavirus in the city feels overwhelming.

]]>
<![CDATA[Lessons from a dog walker]]>

This past summer I signed up to be a sitter on the app Rover and take care of dogs in Baltimore City. I love dogs and have always had at least one in my home while growing up, so it seemed like a natural side hustle. I also really missed my pup back home throughout my entire freshman year and knew I could not go another year without increasing my canine contact.

As a big fan of Meatball and Tilly, the puppers that Stressbusters bring to campus, I figured this was also a way to force myself to schedule self care into my daily life. This job actually works great with my weird class schedule and gives me a chance to enjoy some quality time with dogs. It has also helped me to truly realize the value of my time.

I decided to go for it and sign up for Rover after a friend told me she had found a great walking job that way. I took the background check in July, but my inbox remained empty for the first few weeks. Discouraged by the lack of business, I eventually dropped my rates and told myself it would be alright if I couldn't live my dream life as a dog walker.

Right as I was about to give up and delete my account, I was booked for a relatively long stay with my first client. I learned a lot with that first stay, but mainly I learned that if I treat the dogs I watch like I treat my own puppy back home, they would fall in love with me (as dogs do) and that their owner would too. Just treat others as you would want to be treated, but apply it to dogs.

That first client left me a very kind, positive review, and from there my inbox began to fill with requests. Unfortunately, this boom in business happened right as school was about to start, so I had to deny some bookings. This really didn't feel great on my student wallet, since I had to turn down one request that would have been worth over a hundred dollars.

It took a few weeks for me to learn the (non-monetary) value of not accepting every booking. I struggled to give up each opportunity to earn money, which revealed how twisted my priorities were. I was working as a research assistant, college application consultant and dog walker all while taking five classes and starting as a Science & Technology editor of The News-Letter. Basically, I was the definition of over-commitment.

As a self-diagnosed chronic overachiever, I had been letting the draw of money override my well-being by trying to cash in on my limited free time. While studying is obviously valuable, spending an extra hour on schoolwork does not offer a tangible benefit like cash does. Since I knew the exact value of every hour I spent caring for dogs, it was easier to justify spending an extra few hours earning a guaranteed sum of money than it was to spend it studying.

After one particularly stressful week last fall, I realized that I honestly could not handle everything I was doing. It seemed as though the universe was plotting against me when I had three midterm exams and a paper in a week where I was booked to walk every morning before class and dogsit (which includes staying at the owner's home) for two pups from Thursday night through the weekend.

I somehow managed to survive the week with minimal damage to my GPA, but I was stressed to the point of exhaustion. When I talked to my mom on the phone Sunday evening, she reminded me that I started this venture in order to help my mental health. I had let my perfect side hustle become a job, removing the self-care aspect that originally drew me to it. After hanging up the phone, I changed the settings of my Rover services to only accept repeat clients and those that I could conveniently travel to via public transit.

Before leaving campus, I just walked one dog on weekday mornings before my classes. I am fortunate to have a really great relationship with this client and their pup, who conveniently reside near a JHMI stop. It was great to start my day with some fresh air and puppy time, which is exactly why I wanted to do this job in the first place. Dog walking has been a great source of regular self care, and I am really missing the pup I walked daily now that I'm back home.

]]>
COURTESY OF LAURA WADSTEN

Wadsten has found an outlet for self care in walking her furry friend Stella.

]]>
<![CDATA[STEM majors: this too shall pass]]>

Seeing that we are halfway through the semester, another round of midterms has just passed, we have just "returned" from spring break, spring is sprung-ing and a certain virus that shall remain unnamed has quite literally scattered us Blue Jays across every corner of the world, I'd say that now would be a good time to stop and do some reflecting, as we like to do here at STEM Major Survival Guide.

I don't think I'm alone when I say that the last two weeks have kind of really sucked. True, I started on a high; I was not going to complain when three days of class were cancelled, my neuroengineering exam was made optional and seven billion deadlines that I had been suffocated by were all instantaneously pushed a week back. It took me a couple hours to realize that I should have been more careful about what I wished for - I was about to get a whole lot more than what I bargained for.

True, I realize that I could have it a lot worse, that as of now, I am definitely one of the luckier ones as this scary narrative unfolds. But that doesn't mean that the sadness I feel about the not-as-planned ending to my year is any less legitimate.

There are things we're all, for a lack of a better word, mourning the loss of: sports seasons, a capella concerts, Spring Fair plans, spring musicals, cherry blossom trips, design projects, lunches at Levering with our friends, the company of our roommates or even graduation. For some of us, this would have been the last time that we'd ever get to enjoy these things before frolicking off into the real world. Having the semester cut off so abruptly can really be a reminder that we have more at stake, more that we truly care about, at this school than we may have once believed.

And that's only the beginning of our stress and grief - yes, we get to go home, but to do what? To read the news about all of the crazy things going on around the world? To fear for our own health and that of our loved ones? To quite literally be scared to leave our own homes and scared because this feels like it may never end?

If you're like me, you probably moped around quite a bit last week, feeling a very strange mix of emotions. Feeling sorry for yourself, then feeling guilty about being sorry for yourself because you know your life could be a lot worse, and even wanting to lay in bed all day since your state is on literal lockdown and there's really nothing else to do.

If you're like me, through all this internal chaos and mopiness, this simple thought probably popped into your head at some point: "Now what? This is all new and different territory - how am I supposed to know what to do now?"

Well, I've been unmotivated before. I've felt grief before, of all kinds. I've felt scared, I've felt disappointed and I've felt fearful and uncertain about the future. Sure, the world may not have been as close to complete chaos then, but at the end of the day, sadness is sadness, fear is fear and disappointment is disappointment, no matter how intense or unexpected the onset of these feelings is.

Thinking back to it, how did I get past those emotions then? How did I survive those long stressful days, disappointing results and feelings of fear and uncertainty that I've felt so many different times, for so many different reasons, throughout my life?

I moped. I was sad. I lay in bed. Which is kind of what I'm doing now... But I guess I didn't do that forever; it couldn't have been forever, since a couple weeks ago I was literally just planning all the things I wanted to do for the second half of the semester... So what did I do after all the mopey sad stuff?

I guess I pulled a Nike and just did it; I kept going. I rolled up my sleeves, went to class, tried to do the things that made me happy, got around to doing more work at some point and eventually I kind of left the mopey sad stuff behind.

Sure, this process can take a while, and the ensuing chaos in the world around us will definitely make it harder, but that is what worked in the past, so that is what I'll do now.

I'll go to online class. I'll do my best to focus on BMEing, no matter how hard it is to do so. I'll Facetime my friends and try to find things at home to keep me happy. I'll keep living my life to the greatest extent possible (while being responsible and keeping myself and others safe, of course) and try to fill my calendar with new things - who cares if they're virtual, simple or far off into the future? I'll be creative in finding things to look forward to.

Things suck, but they've sucked before, to all degrees and variations. So I'll do what I've always done; I'll keep going. If there's more disappointment for me in the future, I'll still keep going. What other option do I really have?

Take it easy. Stay safe. Be persistent - keep going. And have hope that things will get better soon, for you and everyone else around you.

]]>
<![CDATA[Public health experts explain the science behind social distancing ]]> As the number of coronavirus cases continue to rise across the world, public health officials are recommending social distancing as a measure to slow the spread of the virus. Because we are innately social beings, this public health practice has been challenging and has required substantial lifestyle adjustments.

However, social distancing is scientifically justified. Social distancing measures are enacted to reduce the spread of a contagious disease, in this case COVID-19, by preventing opportunities for a sick person to come in contact with healthy individuals. Some current social distancing measures include public and private universities closing and transitioning to remote learning, companies asking employees to telecommute and businesses modifying their daily hours.

From shelter-in-place orders in California and Illinois, to restaurants and bars closing at 5 p.m. in Minnesota, states are promoting social distancing in various ways. Across the nation, practicing social distancing includes avoiding large group gatherings and activities, and maintaining at least six feet of distance from others whenever possible.

Why is practicing social distancing effective? The 1918 U.S. flu epidemic established precedent, with studies finding that the cities that practiced social distancing slowed the spread of the flu the fastest and emerged from the epidemic with lower mortality rates.

Public health experts and mathematical epidemiologists urge people to socially distance in order to reduce transmission of the virus.

Hopkins experts Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Jennifer Baker and Katherine Connolly authored a joint statement for The News-Letter on the science behind social distancing.

Sharfstein is the vice dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and directs the Bloomberg American Health Initiative. Baker is an MPH candidate at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and Connolly is an MPH/MBA candidate at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and Carey School of Business.

Sharfstein, Baker and Connolly explained the essential purpose behind enacting social distancing measures.

"The goal of social distancing is to slow the spread of the virus in order to reduce the burden on health-care systems and workers," they wrote.

Both asymptomatic individuals and those displaying symptoms can transmit the virus. Therefore, it is important that everyone social distances.

Taylor McIlquham, an infection control epidemiologist at Hopkins Medicine, explained that the COVID-19 virus spreads in a manner similar to other respiratory viruses.

"When someone coughs or sneezes, respiratory droplets containing the virus are able to travel up to six feet," she said in an interview with The News-Letter.

Imagine a scenario in which one asymptomatic person at work coughs continuously while having a conversation with a coworker. The coworker, who was standing less than six feet away, has come in contact with the virus and returns home, where he eventually infects his family. McIlquham warns that this can have serious repercussions for high risk populations.

"The virus will continue to spread person-to-person and eventually infect elderly or immunocompromised people who are at high risk of severe illness," she said.

Transmission of the virus follows the domino effect. Social distancing measures, such as staying six feet apart, are preventative; they reduce the probability of the first domino falling.

The coronavirus is rapidly spreading, with the number of cases from the end of January to today following an exponential curve. At the rate the virus is being transmitted, the number of daily cases will surpass the health-care system's capacity. Social distancing must be practiced in order to "flatten the curve," or reduce the number of daily cases overtime.

Sharfstein, Baker and Connolly noted that the flattest curve is formed through extensive social distancing when compared to a forced quarantine or moderate social distancing.

"At this moment, extensive social distancing is recommended to put the brakes on infection, for several reasons including giving the health-care system more time to prepare," they wrote.

While social distancing will slow the spread of the virus, other simultaneous measures are necessary to stop it. Regular hand-washing, staying as isolated as possible and quarantine of affected individuals will aid in ending the pandemic.

Social distancing limits our physical connections with friends and families but does not affect our ability to communicate virtually. Sharfstein, Baker and Connolly described how around the world, communities are finding creative ways to come together while practicing social distancing through events like virtual happy hours, shared streaming sessions or balcony concerts. Other ways of coping with the lack of social interaction include focusing on personal physical and mental health by going for a walk or recording something to be grateful for each day.

McIlquham noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended practicing social distancing for at least the next six weeks. Sharfstein, Baker and Connolly, however, believe that social distancing will be required for months.

"The length of time [of social distancing] really depends on whether or not people follow those guidelines," McIlquham added.

As testing continues, the disease affects a larger portion of the population every day. For now, individuals are urged to continue practicing social distancing and to plan on continuing it.

"Any Johns Hopkins University student could be a bridge to infection by someone in a high-risk population," Sharfstein, Baker and Connolly wrote. "It is essential that all young people do their part to protect the community and flatten the curve."

]]>
ESTHER KIM & CARL T. BERGSTROM / CC BY 2.0

Social distancing aims to slow the spread of COVID-19.

]]>
<![CDATA[COVID-19 strikes the local food and beverage industry]]> The current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused some of the most widespread business shutdown orders we have ever seen. On Monday, March 24, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced the closure of all non-essential businesses.

The food and drink industry has been hit particularly hard, due to its inherent challenges like low margins and large amounts of required labor.

Foraged, a local restaurant in Hampden, first transitioned to doing orders for curbside pickup before switching full time to relief efforts, passing out food to industry workers who had lost their jobs and public servants such as police, firefighters and healthcare workers.

Unfortunately, as such a small sit-down restaurant that depends on a fairly regular customer base, Foraged was forced to shut down.

"We have seen over 75 percent drop in sales and are currently closed," said Chris Amendola, executive chef and owner of Foraged. "The hardest part for us is the uncertainty if we will bounce back from this or when we will open again."

Danielle Dandrea, a barista at Pitango Bakery + Café, said that she filed for unemployment eight days ago and just got a follow-up letter.

"I'm an hourly and tipped employee, so I currently have no source of income," Dandrea said.

Dandrea has since obtained a temporary job at an Amazon warehouse and hopes that unemployment benefits will still apply, although she has yet to receive confirmation.

Leandro Lagera, an avid participant in the food world and a social media influencer under the moniker "foodnomad," emphasized the importance of having enough subsidies for the food industry. Otherwise, he said, it won't be just a few businesses that close. It will be all of them.

"My biggest concern for the industry is that if they don't get a government stimulus for both the restaurants and their employees... it will never come back," Lagera said.

Other sub-sectors of the industry have fared better. Based in Towson, Cunningham's consists of a restaurant as well as a cafe and bakery. The restaurant had already closed recently to be reworked into a different concept, so that part of the business has not taken severe losses.

Alice Zou, a member of the Class of 2018 who works at Cunningham's as an overnight baker, said that the bakery has also been able to mitigate its losses.

"A lot of the restaurants we provide to, their business is down, so we are making less," Zou said. "But because we're doing wholesale [at the bakery] and have gained a contract with a grocery store, losses are not as bad as they could be."

She believes that the pandemic will not have a severe impact on the business in the long run.

"There's money behind the business, so you know it will do fine," Zou said. "Although that doesn't necessarily mean they will protect the workers."

Some are taking advantage of the closure time to dedicate effort towards diversification. Josey Schwartz, head brewer at Suspended Brewing Company, explained that Suspended is currently working on mixed-culture projects as well as a bottle release to debut off-site sales.

"We're taking this time to make stuff that no one else in Baltimore is making, stuff that will contribute to a vibrant brew scene," Schwartz said.

He added that the business is fortunate because all of its staff has an alternative source of income.

"We were able to take our time and prevent ourselves from rushing into any overnight business model changes," Schwartz said. "I feel that the socially responsible thing to do is to keep our distance, since we are financially able to."

The crisis has not only affected food service business owners and workers, but also consultants like Dave Seel, founder of Blue Fork Marketing. Blue Fork Marketing is a firm that provides social media and marketing resources to budding hospitality and lifestyle concepts.

"Almost all my clients are food and beverage brands, so with the closures of restaurants there's a lot of uncertainty for me," Seel said.

On March 15, Seel started the Baltimore Area Restaurant Industry Relief Group, a Facebook page with over 1700 members at time of publishing. It serves as a place to pool together resources and tackle the crisis as a community.

"We have put together a petition that we have since pushed to the state level with a number of different recommendations on how best to rebuild and support the restaurant industry," he said. "I think one of the biggest factors in our favor is the fact that restaurants are not required to completely close."

The Baltimore Area Restaurant Industry Relief Group is also partnering with The Night Brunch to put together a food distribution system for workers in need that plans to be stationed in the Hotel Revival.

"We are working to file for a 501 (c) 3 status for the Baltimore Restaurant Relief Fund, and it will prioritize Baltimore City and Baltimore County in bringing money to industry workers and proprietors," Seel said.

Despite the pandemic, consumers can still support the local restaurant industry from afar. Lagera believes that the best way to help is to continue spending money where you were spending before. Amendola suggested that people donate to restaurants' buying orders for take-out and delivery. Seel encouraged people to buy gift cards, saying that the money goes directly to restaurants and their workers.

"We understand everyone is strapped as it is, but if you can afford it, then please do," Seel said. "There are a number of creative ways people are earning revenue, like selling T-shirts or converting into grocery markets as well."

Virtual tip jars and GoFundMe's are circulating around the Baltimore area, where people can tip others in the industry. Dandrea, however, is not sure how effective virtual tip jars will be.

"Everyone, not just restaurant employees, are nervous about their job security, so they're less willing and able to donate money without receiving a service," she said. "We have a Pitango tip jar GoFundMe, and so far, each employee has gotten about $20."

Dandrea noted other ways in which consumers can support local businesses during this time.

"To support local bars and businesses, please buy alcohol from the bars instead of liquor stores," she said. "Order carry-out from restaurants directly. Tip generously. Buy your books over the phone from Greedy Reads instead of Target or Barnes and Noble."

]]>
COURTESY OF JESSE WU

Restaurants across Maryland have been forced to shut down due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

]]>