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The COVID-19 Coronavirus Disease May Be Twice As Contagious As We Thought

The COVID-19 Coronavirus Disease May Be Twice As Contagious As We Thought

A healthcare worker washes her hands during her shift at an intensive care unit (ICU) at the General University Hospital where patients infected with the COVID-19 are treated in Prague, Czech Republic, Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Tara Haelle  Forbes Senior Contributor

A single person with COVID-19 may be more likely to infect up to 5 or 6 other people, rather than 2 or 3, suggests a new study of Chinese data from the CDC. It’s not clear if this higher number applies only to the cases in China or if it will be similar in other countries. 

If the higher number does remain true elsewhere, it means that more people in a population need to be immune from the disease—either from having already had it or from a vaccine—to stop it from circulating.

The new study, published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, shifts the R0 for COVID-19 from about 2.2 to about 5.7. With the lower number, only 55% of a population needs to be immune from COVID-19 to stop its spread through herd immunity. Herd immunity refers to enough of a population being immune to a disease that the disease cannot travel through it. 

But if more people get infected from a single person with COVID-19, then more people need to be protected from the disease to stop it from continuing to spread. With an R0 of 5.7, approximately 82% of the population needs to be immune to reach herd immunity and stop the disease from spreading easily through the population, the researchers concluded. 

The new calculations also estimate the incubation period—the time from being exposed to the virus and developing symptoms—to be an average of 4.2 days, which is in line with most other estimates (though symptoms can still take up to 14 days to show up). 

Because people can be contagious before realizing they are infected, identifying and isolating patients, plus following up with people they interacted with, will only work to contain COVID-19 if only a small number of people with the disease aren’t aware they’re infected. 

“However, when 20% of transmission is driven by unidentified infected persons, high levels of social distancing efforts will be needed to contain the virus, highlighting the importance of early and effective surveillance, contact tracing, and quarantine,” the authors wrote. 

Like all studies, this one has limitations that mean the conclusions must be taken with a grain of salt. The researchers are using publicly available information to develop models, and models are only as reliable as the data and assumptions that go into them. Future data and calculations could shift understanding of this disease and its contagiousness further.

What Does R0 Mean?

Scientists measure how contagious a disease by its basic reproduction number, referred to as R0 (pronounced “R nought”). The R0 refers to how many people a single infected person will infect in a population. 

For example, the R0 of influenza is 1.3, which means, statistically, one person with the flu will infect 1.3 others in the population. (Obviously you cannot infect one third of a person, but this mean that 3 people together with the flu will, on average, infect 4 other people.) The R0 of measles is estimated between 12-18— though there’s debate about the exact range—so a single person with measles will infect about 12-18 people in a population that’s vulnerable to it (where no one has had it and no one has been vaccinated). 

The R0 is calculated based on how fast an outbreak grows, how long it takes for a person exposed to the virus to become contagious (latent period), and how long an infected person is contagious (infectious period). The longer it takes for someone to become contagious and the longer they are contagious, the higher the R0 is. The authors relied on other researchers’ estimates that it takes approximately 7-8 days between the time an infected person shows symptoms and the time until someone they infect shows symptoms (the serial interval).

If that number is accurate, the researchers estimate the R0 of COVID-19 to be about 5.8. If they expand that period a little bit to 6-9 days to allow more margin for error, the R0 is 5.7. 

“The estimated R0 can be lower if the serial interval is shorter,” the authors wrote. “However, recent studies reported that persons can be infectious for a long period, such as 1-3 weeks after symptom onset,” so they believe it’s unlikely that the average time between a person being infected and then passing along the disease is shorter than 6 days. 

Why The Change Now? 

Why has it taken this long to determine an accurate R0? First, the change is based on updated data, and it could change again with more recent, more accurate data. It’s hard to study an emerging disease when you’re still collecting data, and testing has been all over the map, literally. Different countries have used different tests and testing protocols, and varying strategies can influence how data is collected. 

The authors point out that not having reliable diagnostic protocols early in the outbreak, changes to how cases are identified and tracked, and overwhelmed healthcare systems can throw a wrench into how well researchers can estimate the growth of an outbreak. 

The early R0 of 2.2-2.7 was based on two things: early cases recorded in Wuhan before January 4, and on international flight data combined with infected people outside China. 

“Because of the low numbers of persons traveling abroad compared with the total population size in Wuhan, this approach leads to substantial uncertainties,” the authors wrote. Basically, too little data existed to make reliable estimates—“common challenges associated with rapid and early outbreak analyses of a new pathogen,” the authors add.

 Calculating more reliable estimates takes time because it requires getting the most accurate data possible on surveillance—the total number of cases, including estimating those that haven’t been tested or identified yet.

The new study also uses data from China to estimate the growth of COVID-19 cases, but the researchers collected data from throughout China—not just Wuhan—and included highly specific data from travel within China. The new calculations also will not be perfect, but they should be more precise and closer to being accurate than the previous ones.

The researchers used multiple modeling approaches, including one that relied on reports of 140 cases of COVID-19, mostly in China outside of Hubei Province (where Wuhan is the capital city). Although this number is relatively small, these cases represent “many of the first or the first few persons who were confirmed to have SARS-CoV-2 virus infection in each province, where dates of departure from Wuhan were available.” Since the researchers had details on when those people were diagnosed and when they left Wuhan—based on mobile phone data—the estimates have a better chance of precision and accuracy. 

What Does This Change Mean?

The new R0 applies specifically to data collected in China. “How contagious SARS-CoV-2 is in other countries remains to be seen,” the authors wrote. “Given the rapid rate of spread as seen in current outbreaks in Europe, we need to be aware of the difficulty of controlling SARS-CoV-2 once it establishes sustained human-to-human transmission in a new population.”

That much is now obvious to people following the news on COVID-19’s spread. The authors recommend the same strategies to control the disease that you’ve likely been hearing about. 

“Our results suggest that a combination of control measures, including early and active surveillance, quarantine, and especially strong social distancing efforts, are needed to slow down or stop the spread of the virus,” the authors wrote. “If these measures are not implemented early and strongly, the virus has the potential to spread rapidly and infect a large fraction of the population, overwhelming healthcare systems.”

In other words, if we don’t test early, identify cases quickly, isolate those people, and continue social distancing, it will be difficult or impossible to control the disease. 

But the authors do offer a note of hope: “Fortunately, the decline in newly confirmed cases in China and South Korea in March 2020 and the stably low incidences in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore strongly suggest that the spread of the virus can be contained with early and appropriate measures.”

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Fast fact: A quick change in Covid-19 plots shows when countries turn the tide

Fast fact: A quick change in Covid-19 plots shows when countries turn the tide

Aatish Bhatia – in collaboration with Minute Physics – did an amazing job of visualizing the Covid 19 data. His logarithmaic juxtaposition of total versus new cases shows when the virus growth begins to slow.

  1. Logarithmic plotting of new vs total cases shows when infection rates (as measured) slow
  2. When plotted in this way, exponential growth is represented as a straight line that slopes upwards
  3. The x-axis of this graph is not time, but is instead the total number of cases or deaths
  4. Notice that almost all countries follow a very similar path of exponential growth

You can choose the numbers to plot at Covid trends

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Unprecedented? With Data, Analytics And Scenario Planning, There’s No Such Thing

Unprecedented? With Data, Analytics And Scenario Planning, There’s No Such Thing

UNITED KINGDOM – OCTOBER 10: Man gasping with surprise, c 1940s. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
SSPL VIA GETTY IMAGES

By Douglas Laney – Forbes Contributor

Unprecedented. This word we all have been seeing and hearing a great deal lately is intended to encapsulate the enormity of surprise and the magnitude of change the world is undergoing at the moment. But it has another implication. It admonishes many of us who are too comfortable with our ignorance of history, too intellectually lazy to comprehend how one event deterministically leads to another, or too fixated on “riding the wave” to envision and plan for its eventual crash. 

Every occurrence and situation has a precedent. Unusual or uncommon? Certainly. However, we have experienced and recorded instances of pandemics and market crashes and inept leadership before. Indeed each occurrence is different, but much can be learned by gathering and analyzing the data from them, rather than just throwing up one’s hands in complete inattentive ignorance. 

Alan Simon, author and managing principal of Thinking Helmet, observes how complacency can set in, especially in a long period of economic boom. He contends that “this leads to ‘unprecedented’ mega-events that aren’t actually unprecedented, and which might have been interdicted, at least in part.” 

Take the Texas-based grocer H-E-B for example. Its own pandemic planning began back in 2005 when the H5N1 virus first appeared, and the plan was first executed in 2009 when the H1N1 swine flu surfaced. According to Justen Noakes, director of emergency preparedness, “We’ve continued to revise it, and it’s been a part of our preparedness plan at H-E-B ever since.” He says the first week of February they dusted it off and started working on step-one immediately. From hurricanes to pandemics, H-E-B has modeled potential effects of these potential major disruptions upon its supply chain, customer demand, and employee availability. When the situation warrants, H-E-B activates its Emergency Operations Center, which in addition to Noakes includes a director of government and public affairs, and even a chief medical officer and medical board. 

3 Ways To Manage The Pressure Of Hiring Right Now

Even when no specific precedent exists, human imagination can fill the gap. At the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis, BMC Software, then under the leadership of CEO Jim Beauchamp, devised a set of simple-to-understand, color-coded scenarios for the various directions the economy might head. A historically military tool dating back thousands of years, scenario planning imagines a set of “what-ifs” each triggering particular actions. Not only did this scenario planning enable BMC to respond quickly, even proactively, but it gave comfort and a needed morale boost to its employees. 

While scenario planning enables a rapid sense-and-respond capability for businesses, the technique is designed to anticipate, not “see” the future. According to Kishor Gummaraju, the chief customer officer at Tiger Analytics, most forecasts have been built in a certain way, factoring in long term trends and averages. “Today,” he says, “all of those models are useless,” and that companies have scrambled to implement more real-time models which also consider proxies of business activity. Gummaraju believes this abrupt switch to more sophisticated forecasting will be here to stay, not a temporary one. 

For too long, many organizations in the industries suffering today have been navel-gazing at their own data with little interest or ability to ingest the vast array of external data available.

Improved forecasting, however, requires broader, faster and deeper data, not just fancier models. For too long, many organizations in the industries suffering today have been navel-gazing at their own data with little interest or ability to ingest the vast array of external data available. With an estimated 10 million public “open data” sources, billions of websites with content ready to be harvested, thousands of commercial data products, emerging data marketplaces, and data to be bartered for from your business partners and suppliers, there is no excuse for ignoring the wide range of global economic factors and their impact on your business. A handy rule of thumb: For every one lagging indicator of past performance, your business should strive to identify at least two leading indicators of future performance. 

So how can IT leaders support their organizations in shifting from being paralyzed by the unprecedented to catalyzed by the precedented?

  1. Help the business acknowledge that current forecasting models are likely broken and that continuing to rely on them may do more harm than good. 
  2. Work with data and analytics experts along with data product vendors to identify external leading indicators so that new driver-based models can be constructed. Recognize that traditional trailing indicators like jobless claims may now be leading indicators. 
  3. Identify the temporal and affinity relationships among the purchases of even seemingly unrelated products. This will be of more predictive value than ever before.
  4. Increase investments in identifying and developing digital versions of your products and services that eliminate or reduce manual, hand-on, and face-to-face requirements. 
  5. Track and understand the evolving customer journey across channels. For example, continuing to separately report on online versus in-store activity increasingly will become ineffectual. 
  6. Keep a close eye on customer sentiment and social consumer social media activity, as this will be a key bellweather for resumed and diminishing consumption in most sectors. 
  7. Begin gathering multi-level (or “n-tier”) supply chain data about your suppliers’ suppliers to identify weaknesses or resumption of material availability. And expand the information you gather and analyze about alternate suppliers. 
  8. Factor-in the effects of prior events like severe weather or other economic bubble bursts to improve forecasts locally and nationally or globally.
  9. Coordinate with the executive team and an economist to identify a range of economic scenarios and execution plans for each. 
  10. Implement (then never disband) a formal crisis or emergency response team and operating model which includes key individuals from marketing, sales, finance, legal, operations, HR, public relations, and IT to coordinate these above activities. This team should be supported by experts in economics, data science, third-party data products, and data integration/engineering.

That said, the most capacious and enduring opportunities arising from this current global crisis, perhaps even “unprecedented” ones, won’t come from improved analytic models, but rather from new innovative business models and operating models. No doubt meant as a spiritual challenge but just as apropos in a business context, Vanderbilt University Chabad’s Rabbi Shlomo Rothstein observes, “We now have an incredible opportunity to reimagine the future and envision those wonderful new realities that we can’t usually see when stuck in the limitations of success, routine, and predictability.”

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4 Ways to Manage Your Anxiety During Uncertain Times

4 Ways to Manage Your Anxiety During Uncertain Times

GETTY IMAGES

Like many, the coronavirus crisis has caused my anxiety to spike. Here are some ways I find support when things get overwhelming.

By Elizabeth GorePresident and chairwoman, HelloAlice.com

On Friday, I hosted what I thought would be a small casual video chat for any business owner looking for support. Entrepreneurs from all over the country logged on whom I had never met before. The purpose was to walk owners through the COVID-19 Business Resource Center from Alice, the free business advice platform where I’m president and chairwoman.

However, the conversation ended up being more about how everyone was feeling, instead of business tactics to get them through the shutdowns. What I heard was that even the smallest decisions seemed gigantic, life-changing, and indeed, anxiety inducing:

  • What would my customers think about me as an owner if I shut down temporarily? 

  • Will my employees be ok if they are furloughed? 

  • Will both suffer if I am co-managing my business and homeschooling my children? (This is one of mine.)

  • Am I a failure if I apply for all of this financial assistance? 

This kind of anxiety I can relate to. You know the movie, “A Beautiful Mind”? My anxiety feels like the characters in the movie who aren’t really there, following me and whispering into my ear. While I’ve found a way to manage my own acute anxiety — and often refer to it as my “super power” that drives me to be a very effective leader and business owner — the coronavirus crisis has caused it to become a very real problem that often stays with me all day and keeps me up at night. 

My husband is on the frontlines of a global epidemic. I’m homeschooling two kids, and dropping off groceries for three elderly parents, and all of this is on top of not being able to do my normal exercise routine. I also can’t help but think about the business owners going through extreme struggles right now. I can’t stop worrying about all of you. 

As I continue to try to manage both my company and personal life, here are some ways I found support when things get overwhelming:

Keep connected.

Even if you’re surrounded by people at home, there’s no replacement for your squad. Whether it’s cracking open some beers with your usual friend group via Zoom or a long video call with that pal you’ve been meaning to keep up with, social engagement is paramount. According to Medical News Today, that face-to-face human contact triggers a cocktail of neurotransmitters that help eliminate anxiety.

Staying connected can also help your business. Talk to other business owners, your investors and advisors as much as you can right now, and you may not feel so alone.

Talk to a professional.

If you already have a therapist that you see on a regular basis, great, you’re ahead of the game. But if you don’t, it might be difficult to start a relationship with one now. My team is constantly collecting resources that can help business owners get the mental help you need.

For example, Crisis Text Line is giving specific help for people struggling due to the pandemic. Genoa Healthcare is even offering free psychiatric services remotely. Support groups are another a great way to connect with other professionals who are going through a tough time.

Create a new routine.

If you are like me and thrive on routine, create a new one. Get up, get dressed, and get to work. But also end work at a reasonable hour. Live by your calendar. Schedule your tasks, meetings, breaks, and when your day should end. Don’t be like me and work through the night. (My goal this week is to stop doing that.)

Finally, have both a healthy and fun outlet. I am working out on my driveway everyday at noon. I also have a drink on the porch with my hubby each night. Meditation and relaxation apps might also be able help you take the edge off.

Know this will end.

This last one is the most important, but it’s also the one I struggle with the most. I’m not the first person to say that this March felt like it lasted a year. I can barely remember a time before I was stuck at home. That’s why it’s so very important that I do remind myself of that, and of the fact that this time will end, too.

The world isn’t ending, it’s just pausing for a few moments. It’s a time to surround ourselves with the people and things that matter most to us. And that, in its way, is beautiful.

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U.S. High Performance Computing Takes On COVID-19

U.S. High Performance Computing Takes On COVID-19

Oak Ridge National Lab Summit Supercomputer
ORNL AND CARLOS JONES

By Kevin Krewell – Forbes Contributor
Tirias Research

In the battle against the COVID-19 coronavirus, we need all our weapons to defeat this enemy. And high-performance computing (HPC) may be one of the most valuable weapons. An important part of treating this virus will be understanding it biological interaction and modeling various treatments. This is where the power of HPC to model chemical reactions can help.

The U.S. Federal government has quickly assembled a group of HPC related resources and put them at the disposal of researchers looking into treatments and cures for the COVID-19 virus (the White House statement). The government program is called the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium and it brought together the U.S. government, industry, and academia to provide access to the powerful high-performance computing resources. The consortium has access to over 366 petaflops on total compute power with 2,839,772 CPU cores and 36,058 Nvidia GPUs and more resources are being added.

The initial industry leaders participating in the program include: Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, and Microsoft. Even though the program just started, AMD and NVIDIA have quickly jumped on board as well. In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has several National Laboratories that are contributing resources and compute power including: Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories. The other Federal agencies involved include: the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA. The initial academic institutions participating included both Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Many more universities and labs have joined since the initial announcement (see a complete list at the consortium website).

The consortium hopes that by providing access to this massive amount of computing resources, the researcher scientists can process numbers of calculations related to bioinformatics, epidemiology, and molecular modeling to derive answers to complex scientific questions about COVID-19 “in hours or days versus weeks or months.”

The DOE has granted researchers emergency access to the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Labs (ORNL). Running simulations for two days on Summit identified and studied 77 small-molecule drug potential compounds to fight against the COVID-19. Using a traditional “wet-lab” approach to the research could take years. The ONLR researchers performed simulations of more than 8,000 possible compounds to screen for those that bind to the main “spike” protein of the coronavirus, rendering it unable to infect new host cells. Viruses use a ‘spike’ to inject their genetic material into a host cell. While the final test is done in a wet lab, digital simulations can narrow down the range of potential compounds to test. Summit is a 200 PetaFlop supercomputer composed of more than 9,000 IBM Power9 CPUs, connected to more than 27,000 NVIDIA Volta GPUs.

NVIDIA’s Response To COVID-19

As a leader in high-performance computing (it’s the GPU provider for Summit), NVIDIA has a number of tools it can offer to help researchers. As mentioned earlier, the company has joined the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium and will provide its expertise in AI, accelerated computing for science, and computer system optimization expertise. Ian Buck, Nvidia’s vice president and general manager of Accelerated Computing is leading the team.

Nvidia was already deep into genome analysis and it bought gene sequencing software company Parabricks in December. Parabricks is another tool that can accelerate research, getting results in days rather than weeks. The Parabricks genome analysis toolkit uses GPUs to accelerate analysis of gene sequencing data by up to 50x. The help researcher get access to the tool, NVIDIA will provide a free 90-day license to any researcher working to fight the novel coronavirus.

NVIDIA is also bringing on partners that can offer additional cloud services and supercomputer centers to run Parabricks. Those partners include Oracle, Core Scientific and Net App. Oracle is providing NVIDIA GPU Cloud (NGC) machine images through Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, Core Scientific is providing free access to NVIDIA DGX systems, and NetApp is providing cloud-connected storage through ONTAP AI. Tencent Cloud will also provide free GPU instances up to 90 days for qualified scientific research institutions.

PC Gamers Join The Fight

But you don’t have to have access to a supercomputer in order to help the fight. You can also help if you have a high-performance computer at home for gaming or content creation. The Folding@Home project has been around for many years and it breaks problems into smaller workloads that can be run on a distributed network of individual PCs. The Folding@Home program performs molecular dynamics simulations of protein dynamics by breaking up the compute load into smaller tasks and sending those tasks out to individual PCs running the client software. Each volunteer PC completes its part of a larger simulation and then sends it back to the project’s database server where they are combined into the overall simulation.

The combined performance of the many Folding@home clients represents a total computations capability that rivals the world’s fastest supercomputers. Interest in the project has jumped as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the total system achieved a speed of approximately 768 petaFLOPS, or 1.5 x86 exaFLOPS, on March 25, 2020. By March 30th, the system included over 356,000 Nvidia GPUs, over 79,000 AMD GPUs, and over 593,000 x86 CPUs.

Conclusion

The GPU has proved to be a powerful weapon in accelerating many workloads. While the GPU are a great tool to fighting imaginary enemies in computer games, it now has a key role in the real-life fight against the COVID-19 virus. NVIDIA, with its deep investment in HPC software and systems is extremely well equipped to support this effort.

Final note: Because of the pandemic, NVIDIA has also been forced to turn its yearly GPU Technology Conference (GTC) into a streaming event. But it has also extended the program over multiple weeks and put much of the content online after the sessions are over. Check out more of GTC here.

Kevin Krewell

Sheltering in place.

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Video: The Corona Crisis is Not a Black Swan: Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Universa Inv. & NYU Tandon)

Video: The Corona Crisis is Not a Black Swan: Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Universa Inv. & NYU Tandon)

  1. The Corona crisis is not a Black Swan.
  2. Taxpayers are subsidizing companies who failed to have the right precautionary buffers.
  3. If your portfolio doesn’t have a (well designed) tail hedge, it’s not a portfolio

Click to view
The Corona Crisis is Not a Black Swan: Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Universa Inv. & NYU Tandon)

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Coronavirus measures may have already averted up to 120,000 deaths across Europe | Imperial News | Imperial College London

Coronavirus measures may have already averted up to 120,000 deaths across Europe | Imperial News | Imperial College London

EUROPEAN EFFORT – Strong social distancing measures to slow and suppress the spread of COVID-19 across Europe are estimated to have averted thousands of deaths.

Strong social distancing measures to slow and suppress the spread of COVID-19 across Europe are estimated to have averted thousands of deaths.

The findings come from a new analysis by researchers at Imperial College London, which estimates the potential impact of interventions in 11 European countries to counter the coronavirus pandemic – including school closures and national lockdowns. According to the research, up to 120,000 deaths may have already been averted in 11 countries, including the UK, Italy and Spain. However, they add that the estimated proportion of people to have been infected with the virus may only be between 2 to 12% of the population (2.7% in the UK). The report is the thirteenth to be released by The WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling within the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis (GIDA)Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics (J-IDEA).

Europe-wide response

Many European countries have now implemented unprecedented measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, including isolation of confirmed and suspected cases, closing schools and universities, banning mass-gatherings, and most recently, wide-scale social distancing including local and national lockdowns. Such interventions are aimed at managing the epidemic to prevent an unmitigated rise in cases which would overload health care capacity. Now, the latest modelling shows that they may be having a significant impact, potentially averting up to 120,000 deaths across Europe.

Dr Samir Bhatt, report author and Senior Lecturer from the School of Public Health, said: “It is of course a difficult time for Europe, but governments have taken significant steps to ensure health systems do not get overwhelmed. There is sound evidence that these have started to work and have flattened the curve. “We believe a large number of lives have been saved. However, it is too soon to say if we have managed to fully control epidemics and more difficult decisions will need to be taken in the coming weeks” Dr Seth Flaxman, first author on the latest study, added: “Even as the death toll continues to mount, we see enough signal in the data to conclude that sustained, drastic actions taken by European governments have already saved lives by driving down the number of new infections each day. “But because these interventions are very recent in most countries, and there is a lag between infection and death, it will take longer—from days to weeks—for these effects to be reflected in the number of daily deaths.”

Modelling the impact

In the latest report, researchers aimed to model the likely impact of interventions in place on reducing loss of life. The team used real-time daily data from the European Centre of Disease Control (ECDC) on the number of deaths in 11 European countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Intervention timings for the 11 European countries included in the analysis

The models focused on reproductive number – the average number of new infections generated by each infected person. It was assumed that changes in reproductive number are an immediate response to these interventions being implemented, rather than broader gradual changes in behavior. Overall, the models estimate that countries have managed to reduce their reproductive number. The team’s analysis shows that with the current interventions remaining in place, that measures across all 11 countries will have averted between 21,000 and 120,000 deaths up to 31 March. They add that many more deaths will be averted by keeping interventions in place until transmission drops to low levels. “Our results suggest that interventions such as social distancing or lockdowns have already saved many lives and will continue to save lives,” explained Professor Axel Gandy, Chair of Statistics within the Department of Mathematics. “The impact of the pandemic is extreme – but it would have been much worse without the interventions. Keeping interventions in place is crucial for controlling it.” In addition to reducing deaths, the latest report estimates that between 7 and 43 million people have been infected with the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) across all 11 countries up to 28th March, representing between 1.88% and 11.43% of the population. Given the lag of 2-3 weeks between when transmission changes occur and when their impact can be observed in trends in deaths, it may still be too early to show for most of the 11 countries that recent interventions have been effective. The researchers stress that the results are strongly driven by the data from countries with more advanced epidemics, and earlier interventions. It is critical, they explain, that the current social distancing measures remain in place, and trends in cases and deaths are closely monitored in the coming days and weeks to provide reassurance that transmission of the virus is slowing. Professor Christl Donnelly, Professor of Statistical Epidemiology within the School of Public Health, said: “Europeans, like many people elsewhere, have changed their lives profoundly in recent weeks. This report makes clear early evidence of the benefits of these social distancing measures. By keeping our distance from each other, we limit the opportunities for the virus to spread and reduce the risks of illness and even death among those around us.” Professor Neil Ferguson, Director of J-IDEA at Imperial, added:“This analysis show that the interventions European countries have put in place have significantly slowed the spread of COVID-19. However, it is not yet clear whether or how quickly these measures will cause the numbers of new cases to decline. Data collected in the next two weeks will be crucial to refining our assessment of this key point.” Report author Dr Swapnil Mishra, a Research Associate within the School of Public Health, said: “We implement a novel scientific model of the epidemic within a robust statistical framework. It is a fully Bayesian analysis, so we do not just look at a single scenario, but rather thousands of plausible scenarios and counterfactuals. Our analysis suggests in these difficult times interventions are required and necessary to keep the pandemic in control.”

The full report ‘Estimating the number of infections and the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 in 11 European countries’ is available on the MRC GIDA report website. – This article is adapted from a press release from the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis Source: Coronavirus measures may have already averted up to 120,000 deaths across Europe | Imperial News | Imperial College London

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The Imperial College Report paints a dire picture of the future and what we must do

The Imperial College Report paints a dire picture of the future and what we must do

By AKALib – Daily Kos

By now, everyone has heard about the “Imperial College report on COVID-19”, which apparently was the reason for the 180-degree shift in the trump administration’s response and call for preparedness to the COVID-19 pandemic. A few days ago, trump was claiming that this is a minor bump and the virus will miraculously go away soon; on Monday, something seemed to have put the fear of God in the White House; a national emergency was declared and trump was talking about social distancing and washing hands. In the UK, the crazy idea of letting everyone get infected to achieve “herd immunity” has been replaced by proclamations of mitigation and suppression.

The change in strategy has followed the publication on Monday of a UK government-commissioned report from Imperial College London’s COVID-19 Response Team, which models different strategies and outcomes, for the UK and the US. An early copy of the report was shared with the White House over the weekend.

Here, we present a summary of the report.

Top Level Summary

The authors of the study consider 3 scenarios (and sub-scenarios) and use simulations to predict fatalities in each scenario.

#SCENARIODEATHSNOTES
1No mitigation steps4 million

80% of Americans will get the disease

Deaths will peak in June

The study mentions 2.2 million deaths with the assumption that sufficient ICU beds are available for the critically ill, which will not be true

2Mitigation steps for 3 months2 million

All symptomatic cases and their families in isolation/quarantine. All Americans over 70 social distancing.

Flattens the curve a bit but not sufficiently

3Suppression and mitigation steps for 5 months1000’s

#2 + social distancing for the entire population, all public gatherings/most workplaces shut down, schools and universities closed.

This step will have to be repeated periodically for over 18 months until everyone gets vaccinated

Note that in all cases, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions will experience a higher fatality rate.

The authors claim that scenario #3 is the only viable option at this time (assuming there are no vaccines or drugs that can significantly slow down the virus).

Paradoxically, while #3 is implemented, people and politicians will feel that the steps are overkill since the death rate will be so low.

Scenario 1

Scenario 1 is defined as the case where no mitigation steps are taken (which of course is academic since some mitigation steps have already been taken).

In this scenario,

  • Infections spread exponentially with a certain R0 values above 2.0.
  • 80% of the population gets infected.
  • 2.2 million people will die in the U.S. over the next 3-6 months, assuming there are sufficient number of ICU beds.
  • About 4 million people will die in the U.S., since the number of ICU beds will be a small fraction of that required (the survival rate for those in ICU with ventilators is 50%)
  • 8-15% of all Americans over 70 would die.
  • Jeremy Young points out that if we extrapolate these numbers to the rest of the world, this gives us ~90 million deaths globally from COVID-19, in 3-6 months.
  • Note that most survivors will have immunity against future infections
Unmitigated epidemic scenarios for GB and the US. Projected deaths per day per 100,000 population in GB and US

Scenario 2

In this scenario, some mitigation steps are taken for a period of 3 months, that help to “flatten the curve”.

In this scenario, the first 3 interventions in the table below are implemented. The last 2 are used in scenario 3.

The study uses simulation to quantify this flattening for various mitigation steps and combinations thereof. The graph below shows the number of ICU beds needed for the various mitigation steps.

Mitigation strategy scenarios for GB showing critical care (ICU) bed requirements.

Note that mitigation steps reduce R0 but not to below 1.

The study estimates that if the first 3 mitigation steps are implemented —

  • The death count will be 50% of that in scenario 1, i.e., about 2 million people will die in the U.S.; the number of ICU beds demand will still vastly exceed the supply
  • Deaths peak in June/July

Scenario 3

In this scenario, various mitigation and additional suppression steps are taken for a period of 5 months, that help to seriously “flatten the curve”. The study uses simulation to quantify this flattening for various mitigation and suppression steps and combinations thereof. The graph below shows the number of ICU beds needed for the various cases

Suppression strategy scenarios for USA showing ICU bed requirements. (B) shows the same data as in panel (A) but zoomed in on the lower levels of the graph.

With all mitigation and suppression steps in place, ICU demand (orange line) stays below supply during the 5 month period. Total deaths are in the 1000s.

Note that suppression+mitigation steps reduce R0 to below 1.

But after the 5 month periods, when restrictions are lifted (we cannot go on like this forever), the lines start to rise.

So, the authors advise, that scenario #3 needs to be replayed periodically every few months for about 18 months until everyone gets vaccinated. The graph below shows one such 18 month scenario (for GB not USA), where certain mitigation steps are implemented all the time but some of the suppression steps are lifted when ICU cases per week fall below a threshold (50) and are brought back when they exceed another higher threshold (100).

Illustration of adaptive triggering of suppression strategies in GB, for R0=2.2, a policy of all four interventions considered, an “on” trigger of 100 ICU cases in a week and an “off” trigger of 50 ICU cases. The policy is in force approximate 2/3 of the time. Only social distancing and school/university closure are triggered; other policies remain in force throughout.

Notes

The simulation uses inputs such as ICU occupancy rate of infected people, death rates by age groups measured so far and estimates of the spread parameter R0 and how it changes as mitigation and suppression steps are deployed.

The study does not take into account any new or repurposed treatments and drugs that might reduce fatalities, although the measured mortality rates account for the effect of some of the drugs that have been tried out.

The study does not assume any reduction in infection rates with summer temperatures.

The study focused on UK and USA only. Forecasts for developing countries is a question mark.

The study only hints at steps countries must take to beef up healthcare facilities and equipment.

Some Sobering Thoughts

Jeremy Young has some sobering thoughts on life in the next 18 months of Coronavirus –

Jeremy C. Young@jeremycyoung

 · 

During those 18 months, things are going to be very difficult and very scary. Our economy and society will be disrupted in profound ways. And if suppression actually works, it will feel like we’re doing all this for nothing, because infection and death rates will remain low.

Jeremy C. Young@jeremycyoung

It’s easy to get people to come together in common sacrifice in the middle of a war. It’s very hard to get them to do so in a pandemic that looks invisible precisely because suppression methods are working. But that’s exactly what we’re going to have to do. /end

6,646 people are talking about this

The authors of the study end with these somber words —

We therefore conclude that epidemic suppression is the only viable strategy at the current time. The social and economic effects of the measures which are needed to achieve this policy goal will be profound. Many countries have adopted such measures already, but even those countries at an earlier stage of their epidemic (such as the UK) will need to do so imminently.

However, we emphasise that it is not at all certain that suppression will succeed long term; no public health intervention with such disruptive effects on society has been previously attempted for such a long duration of time. How populations and societies will respond remains unclear.

Miscellaneous

The leader of the study team, epidemiology professor Neil Ferguson, himself seems to have caught the virus, 

neil_ferguson ?@neil_ferguson

Sigh. Developed a slight dry but persistent cough yesterday and self isolated even though I felt fine. Then developed high fever at 4am today. There is a lot of COVID-19 in Westminster.

5,041 people are talking about this

Opposing Views

Note that not everyone agrees with scenario #3. Others think that something like scenario #2 with aggressive testing and contact tracing will get the job done with less disruption to life. They point to S. Korea as an example of this approach.

Lawrence Gostin ?@LawrenceGostin

 · 

* @POTUS has even less power than states on domestic PH. Trump has > power in banning int’l travel, but not to order a lockdown w/in a state. Nor does he have clear power to ban domestic travel. No modern precedent for that. @CDC could/should advise against domestic travel.

Lawrence Gostin ?@LawrenceGostin

Beyond const’l power to impose mass lockdown, how could it be enforced? American values are opposed to draconian social control/intrusive surveillance. We must encourage #SocialDistance & provide safety net. But must think carefully before exercising sweeping compulsory powers

Prof. Bedford (like many others) proposes testing and isolation (similar to S. Korea) as the strategy, rather than aggressive suppression –

Trevor Bedford ?@trvrb

 · 

Managing this level of social distancing required for suppression while still having a functional economy and society would be difficult and it’s not at all clear that this could be maintained for the ~18 months until we have a vaccine. 6/19

Trevor Bedford ?@trvrb

This is the catch-22 as presented by the report. 7/19

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Here is some selected text from the twitter chain —

  • These transmission routes (mild and maybe even asymptomatic infections) can be reduced by a huge rollout of testing capacity. If someone can be tested early in their illness before they show symptoms, they could effectively self isolate and reduce onward transmission compared to isolation when symptoms develop. 12/19
  • This rollout of testing could be achieved through at home delivery of swabs with centralized lab-based processing combined with drive-through testing facilities. There are logistics involved in getting a result quickly, but it’s really just logistics, which can be solved. 14/19
  • The second, related, strategy is using cell phone location data combined with data on known positive cases to alert possible exposures to self isolate and get tested. (This technique was also employed by S. Korea)
  • This strategy targets testing capacity at most likely cases and serves to detect exposure events early, when isolation is most valuable. This cell phone location based approach is outlined carefully here: https://github.com/BDI-pathogens/covid-19_instant_tracing…. 16/19
  • A third, supporting, strategy: as the epidemic proceeds get serological assays run on as many people as possible to systematically identify individuals who have recovered and are highly likely to possess immunity. 17/19
  • Individuals who have serological evidence of recovery and are no longer shedding virus can fully return to the workforce and keep society functioning (especially important for those at the clinical front lines). 18/19

Epilogue

I am sure I have oversimplified the report and the thoroughly detailed report contains much more subtle analysis and messages. Feel free to add your insights to the comments section.

You may differ with the study’s projections, conclusions and its recommendations for action. We can nitpick about the various factors that were not taken into account in the simulations. We can argue that scenario #3 is impractical in this country. But people are taking this report seriously, including some in the trump administration, although the administration have not yet taken any major responsible steps yet. The study itself is quite comprehensive and is based on the best data we have available.

Adding more testing kits, ICU beds, healthcare staff, etc. will help but it will get overrun until we use suppression techniques to bring R0 to below 1.

Countries like China, S. Korea, Italy, France and Spain are already past implementing mitigation steps and are close to deploying the suppression recommendations. I would presume that we are headed in that direction as well, so we may as well prepare for it physically and mentally.

Granted, trump and the GOP will take steps reluctantly, use the occasion to demonize Democrats, China, immigrants and all his “enemies”, spend trillions of tax and borrowed dollars to shore up businesses and their rich buddies, take credit for every little improvement of the situation and blame Democrats for any bad news. How this will play out politically, how elections will be effected, will Democracy survive — these are questions that will be discussed across the punditry class over the next few months, writing and talking from the confinements of their homes. We need to prepare for that too.

If implemented, scenario #3 will be unlike anything the world has seen. The effects on the world economy and people’s lives has not been calculated yet. Let’s get prepared for scenario #3, even though we all harbor hopes that #2 will get the job done.

Further Reading

  1. Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID19 mortality and healthcare demand — www.imperial.ac.uk/…
  2. COVID-19: Imperial researchers model likely impact of public health measures – www.imperial.ac.uk/…
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The Six Structures Of Successful Emotional Intelligence Training

By Dr. Denise Trudeau-Poskas

Photo:
Photo: GETTY

Emotional intelligence is vital to success both in leadership and the workplace. There is an abundance of research that directs attention to how emotional intelligence directly relates to better interpersonal relationships, performance and work-related effectiveness. Furthermore, according to Mikolajczak and colleagues, emotional intelligence is associated with significantly lowering our reactivity to stress both at the cognitive and biological levels.

Awareness of the importance of emotional intelligence is not new; it’s just growing. Back in 2011, more than 2,600 hiring managers surveyed on behalf of CareerBuilder revealed that emotional intelligence is critical. A full 71% of those hiring managers said they value emotional intelligence over IQ, and 75% said they base their promotions on higher emotional intelligence.

So how do we help leaders and employees develop this? Through my experience designing and coaching emotional intelligence programs, I have found that there are key components of training programs that will help companies develop emotional intelligence capacities at all levels.

Six Key Structures For Building Emotional Intelligence

Developing emotional intelligence is a strategic, deliberate process. These six key structures can create a frame for emotional intelligence development.

1. Balance The TPN And DMN

Emotional intelligence requires leaders and employees to practice using their TPN (task-positive network) and their DMN (default mode network). Neuroscience has informed us that the TPN, which is most commonly associated with goal setting, analyzing and task completion, needs to work with the DMN, which is mind wandering, reflectivity, visioning and long-term memory. The TPN is off when the DMN is on, so in the training program, make sure that participants are practicing using both.

For example, incorporate outcome-based benchmarks. Goal setting happens in the TPN, and sometimes people fail to achieve their goals because they solely focus on tasks. Encourage team members to focus on what will be the positive outcome of achieving their goals. What do they visualize about the ways the project will help, succeed and become innovative? As the team completes a project, also encourage them to reflect on what they’ve learned: What are their biggest takeaways? What ways could they increase innovation? What would be the impact and effectiveness?

2. Create Accountability Groups

Consider having participants work in small groups that meet twice per month to deepen their learning, share their personal leadership goals or focus wheels and hold each other accountable for making behavior changes. A focus wheel is a tool that coaches use to help create energy around seeing benchmarks accomplished. It is a circle on a piece of paper that has eight to 12 sections, similar to how a pizza is cut. Each section has a mantra or benchmark they want to achieve.

3. Practice To Make Perfect

Practice is power, and knowledge is support. So many programs rely on information dissemination. It is beneficial for employees to learn all they can about the categories and definitions of emotional intelligence. However, that is only the beginning; they also need to practice the different subsets of emotional intelligence. Whether it’s decision-making, interpersonal or intrapersonal relationships, optimism or reality testing, behavior change requires concrete ways to practice these.

For example, to practice reality testing — which is an objective evaluation of your perception — have participants ask themselves, “Is this perception empowering or not? If not, who might I check with to see other ways to view this?” Participants can practice optimism by choosing a mantra or belief about what they want to see, and then when faced with a challenge, they can read the optimistic mantra to re-shape possibilities.

4. Create A Common Language

I’ve found that it is so important to help groups, teams and participants find a new common language that incorporates neurolanguage — language patterns that empower higher brain functions. A great resource for this is Rachel Paling’s Neurolanguage Coaching. Such language works with the brain to create synergy, optimism, curiosity and solution finding. One great way to encourage participants to use more effective language is to provide a list of words and phrases that empower and influence. Some examples are “interesting,” “curious,” “looking forward to” and “interested in learning more.”

Creating a common language also means removing the use of trigger language. Trigger language is the use of words or phrases like “always,” “should,” “have to,” “incompetent,” “never” and other words that are common reactionary words.

5. Measure Growth

Consider an instrument and qualitative ways to measure participants’ growth. One example of an instrument that specifically measures emotional intelligence change is the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i 2.0) assessment tool. I also use pre- and post-training indicators that are based on Bloom’s Taxonomy and can be researched readily. It is important that the participants understand not only the ways they are being evaluated but also the research behind it, so they understand the science behind the change.

6. Use An EQ-Savvy Facilitator

Perhaps most important is ensuring that the facilitator or trainer is well-versed in emotional intelligence. A coach will likely know more about asking powerful questions, but not all companies have an internal coach. Therefore, work with your trainers to get professional development in that area. The success of an emotional intelligence training program can depend on this, as well as having a deliberate curriculum they can follow.

Considering the high technology and knowledge age we’re in and will be in the future, the need for emotional intelligence is probably only going to increase. The gap between striving and thriving organizations will likely be based on the extent to which they are helping employees build their emotional intelligence skills. Decision-making, solution finding and navigating interpersonal relationships and self-awareness are now essential skills and will likely continue to be beyond 2020.

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How to Have Proactive Conversations With Employees (and Calm Their Fears)

How to Have Proactive Conversations With Employees (and Calm Their Fears)

GETTY IMAGES

By Melina Palmer

Employees may be scared and their work may be impacted as a result — whether they’re working from home or not.

As coronavirus fear spreads around the world, conferences are canceling, universities are converting to online only, and people are being encouraged to work from home. People are anxious and taking control of life in any way they can, which may include buying a lifetime supply of toilet paper or enough hand sanitizer to fill a swimming pool.

Most everyone knows the choice to hoard supplies is not rational, but they still can’t stop themselves from adding one more case of Kleenex to the cart “just in case.” Why? Because human are wired to react this way in an unknown crisis.

Here are a couple of the brain concepts at play and tips for communicating with staff during troubling times.

Proactively communicate as often as possible.

Things always seem more important when we are thinking about them, due to the focusing effect. Everyone is thinking about coronavirus constantly, and as long as they are forced to keep those thoughts within their own minds productivity will be impaccted. When people have an opportunity to discuss their fears in a safe place (and some of those fears are mitigated) it can help them move on for a while and get work done.

The “what ifs” are running rampant right now, so proactively answer as many of those questions as you can to keep employees calm. Use these to create FAQs and the content for the proactive conversations suggested above:

  • What if my family or I get sick and have to be quarantined? Will my job be safe?
  • Where would I go to get tested if I think I have coronavirus?
  • What if my kid’s school is closed and I need to stay home with them?

Consider all the fears your employees may be having, and proactively talk about them to help calm fears. If you don’t have policies in place yet, communicate now to say it is being worked on and send updates as you have them. It may feel like overcommunication, but with all the focus on this, it will feel like ages between updates.

Balance the messages about coronavirus.

Look for opportunities to help employees’ brains be less likely to have fear and overreaction be their instinctual responses. There is a lot going on with new changes daily, but panic will not help the situation improve.

Actively start looking for positive stories — or at least fact-based content that is neutral — and share that with your team to balance out the messages they are hearing.

Give them something productive to focus on.

With reduced travel (more time and money) consider what your employees could be doing to move your company forward. People will jump at an opportunity to feel in control of something, and that distraction could be a huge value to your business. Put together a challenge or encourage time to be spent on creative projects by asking questions like:

  • How could we best spend the $100,000 from the travel budget?
  • What products/services could we offer to be of service during coronavirus?
  • How could being remote for six months actually help our company thrive?

Communicating during coronavirus is important, and hopefully these tips will help your employees feel safe and supported, while also allowing your company to come out stronger on the other side.

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Term: Stuffing

What Is Stuffing?

Stuffing is the act of selling unwanted securities from a broker-dealer’s account to client accounts. Stuffing allows broker-dealer firms to avoid taking losses on securities that are expected to decline in value. Instead, client accounts take the losses. Stuffing can also be used as a means to raise cash quickly when securities are relatively illiquid and difficult to sell in the market.

KEY TAKEAWAY

  • While stuffing is widely regarded as unethical, it can be difficult to prove whether such transactions constitute fraud. Often, broker-dealers are given the power to buy and sell without client consent for discretionary accounts.
  • Stuffing may also refer to when a broker loses a price or quotes a price incorrectly and is obligated by another party to honor and complete a transaction at the quoted or promised price.

How Stuffing Works

While stuffing is widely regarded as unethical, it can be difficult to prove whether such transactions constitute fraud. Often, broker-dealers are given the power to buy and sell without client consent for discretionary accounts. Furthermore, the legal standard for broker-dealers buying securities for these accounts is “suitability,” which can be broadly interpreted. Since discretionary accounts provide so much power to broker-dealers, many financial advisors suggest that customers insist on providing consent for all transactions in their accounts.

Clearly you can assume that stuffing can cause issues as it relates to brokers and customers. This is why stuffing can be quite troublesome for all parties involved. The push to have discretionary accounts give consent to all transactions is a safety protocol that is in the best interest of the client. As the world of Wall Street moves towards openness – procedures in place to avoid stuffing is widely considered a good thing.

Stuffing vs. Quote Stuffing

The stuffing of customer accounts differs from the better-known form of stock market manipulation “quote stuffing.” Quote stuffing is the practice of quickly entering and then withdrawing large orders in an attempt to flood the market with quotes—causing competitors to lose time in processing them.

Quote stuffing is a tactic by high-frequency traders (HFT) in an attempt to achieve a pricing edge over their competitors. In practice, quote stuffing involves traders fraudulently using algorithmic trading tools that allow them to overwhelm markets by slowing down an exchange’s resources with buy and sell orders.

Other Forms of Stuffing

Stuffing may also refer to when a broker loses a price or quotes a price incorrectly and is obligated by another party to honor and complete a transaction at the quoted or promised price. In general, the price to cover the agreed-to transaction is a disadvantage to the individual who quoted it. However, the cost of fulfilling the order is borne by the broker, or the “stuffed” party.

In channel stuffing, salespeople and companies attempt to inflate their sales figures—and earnings—by deliberately sending buyers (such as retailers) more inventory than they are able to sell. Channel stuffing tends to happen closer to the end of quarters or fiscal years to help influence sales-based incentives. This activity can cause an artificial inflation of accounts receivable. When retailers are unable to sell the excess inventory, the surplus goods are then returned and the distributor is required to readjust its accounts receivable (if it adheres to GAAP procedure). As a result, its bottom line suffers after the fact—and after bonuses are paid. In other words, channel stuffing will eventually catch up with a company that fails to prevent it.

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6 things you must do to ace remote meetings

6 things you must do to ace remote meetings

By Andrea Summer

Collaborating from afar has the potential for distraction and miscommunication, but best practices can help teams work in lockstep.

The enormity of what’s transpired in the past few weeks is taxing the focus of remote workers in myriad ways. Immediate and pressing concerns encompass: The health and well-being of ourselves and others; job stability, personal investments, and the larger economic outlook; childcare and homeschooling obligations; and stocking the most basic, day-to-day supplies. In short, workers have never been so distracted, even as organizational leaders need them to concentrate now more than ever in order to help their companies weather the storm.

On top of all this, those new to remote work are learning on the fly that telecommuting comes with a unique set of challenges, which include far greater opportunities for distraction and miscommunication. It’s all too easy for teams to lose track or simply misunderstand who is responsible for what and when in an environment completely lacking the usual visual cues and impromptu reminders about what needs to be done.

Fortunately, there are best practices leaders can institute to help ensure their teams are marching in lockstep. This requires diligence surrounding remote meetings, which serve as the essential vehicles through which employees come together to successfully communicate, plan and collaborate, or–alternately–to go down the slippery and dangerous slope of working at counter purposes.

Here are some steps leaders and their teams should put in place for getting the most from remote meetings and to stay aligned during these challenging times.

BUILD IN TIME FOR PERSONAL CHECK-INS

Employees dialing into remote meetings are more likely to stay strictly focused on their specific to-do lists. While this might seem like a productivity booster, it isolates workers from each other–sapping morale and reducing crucial collaboration. To promote the connections individuals need–particularly now–to feel fully human and work productively, begin remote meetings with a meaningful question. You should even create an agenda line item for this check-in that allocates a certain amount of time for each participant to respond. This will give employees a chance to clear the air, let go of some stress and anxiety, get grounded, and then switch their focus to the matters at hand. The reduction in meeting time devoted to work won’t be an issue. Research has shown shorter meetings are actually more focused and have more impact.

ALLOW HOME AND WORK TO MERGE

With working parents struggling to babysit and homeschool children even as they put in extra hours to help their companies navigate this crisis, it’s crucial to allow for the occasional personal interruption during remote meetings. To illustrate, employees who aren’t comfortable asking team members to repeat themselves if their attention was pulled momentarily by a child might pretend to understand their marching orders when in fact they do not. What’s more, the blending of work and home life can duplicate the experience of coming together around the watercooler. It creates a gracious space for the human connections that encourages team members to help and support each other as they look to achieve collective, big-picture goals amidst stressful circumstances.

BE EXTRA INTENTIONAL WITH AGENDAS

Following best practices surrounding agendas can go a long way to maximize remote meeting productivity. For example, agendas should always state the clear purpose of the meeting and what needs to be accomplished how and in what time frame. For example, a challenge might require a decision following a Q&A and brainstorm within 60 minutes. Also, there should be total clarity about who in each circumstance is responsible for creating and sending the agenda (along with related background information) and clear expectations about the need to set aside time to review so participants arrive fully prepared to accomplish objectives.

RECAP. RECAP. RECAP.

At the end of remote meetings, it’s imperative to determine the next steps and a roadmap for achieving them. This verbal wrap-up can serve as a framework for a formal, more comprehensive written recap based on in-depth notes, ideally captured by someone other than the meeting lead. It’s crucial that prior to the start of the meetings, everyone knows who is taking notes and who is creating and distributing the formal recap, which should include immediate and longer-term next steps, parties responsible for deliverables and sign-offs, and a clear timeline. Being crystal clear about these responsibilities and the process(es) required to move forward is vital in a remote environment. Teams should be encouraged to overcommunicate as a fail-safe.

MAKE SURE YOUR TECHNOLOGY WORKS

Understanding conference call and video systems are a bit overloaded and may not be working as before, remote workers must do everything they can to make sure personal tech doesn’t interfere with meeting schedules. That includes workers having passwords at the ready, making sure they have decent quality headsets, etc. Large and/or especially important meetings, or those that involve components like a remote, collaborative PowerPoint review, benefit from having a pre-identified tech lead to handle such tasks as managing call volume and controlling who is featured in videoconferences.

KEEP OFFICE TRADITIONS ALIVE

To maintain a bit of workplace normalcy, look to maintain traditions from the physical workspace. For example, if teams previously had weekly walking meetings, look to keep that going via conference calls conducted via walks in teammates’ respective park or backyard. If a CEO always shared a nonsense memo on April Fool’s Day, make sure that continues. Remember, rituals offer tremendous comfort, helping get people through uncertain times when disruption of routines tend to add to anxieties. If nothing existed previously, think about something new, like remote happy hours, which are becoming increasingly popular.

Learning to ace the remote meeting now will not only help companies get through the next few difficult weeks but also adjust to a very likely new normal, in which both organizations and workers look to continue telecommuting, enjoying the well-established benefits and cost-savings.

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4 Signs That a Boss Has High Emotional Intelligence

By Marcel Schwantes


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During the current pandemic, a quick exercise in assessing emotional intelligence is in order.

Forrest Gump is known for the famous line, “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

The same is true for bosses. Anytime anyone accepts a position, they never really knows what they’re going to get.

To really find out whether you have a good boss or not, a quick exercise in assessing your boss’s current emotional competencies against bosses with high emotional intelligence (EQ) is in order.

During the stress and anxiety that we are feeling amid the coronavirus outbreak, seeing these EQ competencies in action will put more ease into the minds of workers everywhere. Here’s what to look for:

1. They display optimism

Exhibiting this EQ competency means that your manager is consistently hopeful and proactive about creating possibilities and seeking solutions. Displaying these at a high level means you’re working for a boss with a mindset of positivity that’s switched to “on.” This is especially crucial during the crisis.

2. They motivate their people from the inside-out

Managers who display this skill at a high level will trigger intrinsic motivation in their workers by involving them in work that has purpose, meaning, and lasting impact. They allow their employees to see, feel, and experience that the time they’re putting in is making a difference in the lives of their customers. Moreover, they let employees take ownership of their work by allowing them to give and share input into common goals and values.

3. They have vision

Does your manager have a sense of vision and purpose for directing the team or company toward a shared goal? This is important because it gives a leader direction and aligns her decision-making to long-term choices that carry a vision forward. Stated simply, a leader whose vision guides her decisions puts emotional intelligence into action for positive change.

4. They practice empathy

Does your boss recognize and appropriately respond to others’ emotions? This EQ competence allows to understand others and build strong emotional connections. In essence, empathy is the act of perspective-taking. In a recent episode of the Love in Action podcast, Michael Ventura, the founder and CEO of Sub Rosa, and author of Applied Empathy, describes several subsets of empathy:

  • Affective empathy — you treat others how you would want to be treated.
  • Somatic empathy — physically embodying the feelings of others.
  • Cognitive empathy — applied empathy or perspective-taking. It is doing unto others as they would have you do unto them.

Ventura says, “The only way to build resilient and collaborative teams is by practicing empathy.” While you can’t measure empathy, you can measure its effects: high-functioning teams emerge, they work well together and produce better, faster work. Companies are more resilient and responsive in the market. As a result, decision making becomes more collaborative.

If you already work in an environment where leaders display such competencies, I know I’m preaching to the choir. For new employees assessing long-term culture fit, you should begin to see these EQ skills play out during your onboarding. Give it some time, and engage your new boss by showing interest and curiosity in your new role, your team members, and the mission. The rest will take care of itself.

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Term: Liquidation Preference

What Is a Liquidation Preference?

A liquidation preference is a clause in a contract that dictates the payout order in case of a corporate liquidation. Typically, the company’s investors or preferred stockholders get their money back first, ahead of other kinds of stockholders or debtholders, in the event that the company must be liquidated. Liquidation preferences are frequently used in venture capital contracts to clarify what investors get paid and in which order in a liquidation event, such as the sale of the company.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The liquidation preference determines who gets paid first and how much they get paid when a company must be liquidated, such as the sale of the company.
  • Investors or preferred shareholders are usually paid back first, ahead of holders of common stock and debt.
  • The liquidation preference is frequently used in venture capital contracts.

Understanding Liquidation Preference

Liquidation preference, in its broadest sense, determines who gets how much when a company is liquidated, sold, or goes bankrupt. To come to this conclusion, the company’s liquidator must analyze the company’s secured and unsecured loan agreements, as well as the definition of the share capital (both preferred and common stock) in the company’s articles of association. As a result of this process, the liquidator is then able to rank all creditors and shareholders and distribute funds accordingly.

The liquidation preference determines who gets their money first when a company is sold, and how much money they are entitled to get.

How Liquidation Preferences Work

The use of specific liquidation preference dispositions is popular when venture capital firms invest in startup companies. The investors often make it a condition for their investment that they receive liquidation preference over other shareholders. This protects venture capitalists from losing money by making sure they get their initial investments back before other parties.

In these cases, there does not need to be an actual liquidation or bankruptcy of a company. In venture capital contracts, a sale of the company is often deemed to be a liquidation event. As such, if the company is sold at a profit, liquidation preference can also help venture capitalists be first in line to claim part of the profits. Venture capitalists are usually repaid before holders of common stock and before the company’s original owners and employees. In many cases, the venture capital firm is also a common shareholder.

Liquidation Preference Examples

For example, assume a venture capital company invests $1 million in a startup in exchange for 50% of the common stock and $500,000 of preferred stock with liquidation preference. Assume also that the founders of the company invest $500,000 for the other 50% of the common stock. If the company is then sold for $3 million, the venture capital investors receive $2 million, being their preferred $1M and 50% of the remainder, while the founders receive $1 million.

Conversely, if the company sells for $1 million, the venture capital firm receives $1 million and the founders receive nothing.

More generally, liquidation preference can also refer to the repayment of creditors (such as bondholders) before shareholders if a company goes bankrupt. In such a case, the liquidator sells its assets, then uses that money to repay senior creditors first, then junior creditors, then shareholders. In the same way, creditors holding liens on specific assets, such as a mortgage on a building, have a liquidation preference over other creditors in terms of the proceeds of sale from the building.

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Leading By Example: How To Motivate And Inspire Your Team During The Pandemic

Leading By Example: How To Motivate And Inspire Your Team During The Pandemic

By Sally Percy

Spanish Royals Deliver Accreditations On The 8th Promotion Of Honorary Ambassadors For 'Spain' Brand
Santander chairman Ana Botín made a powerful gesture when she gave up half her salary to help fight…WIREIMAGE

Santander chairman Ana Botín made headlines this week after it emerged that she had taken a 50% pay cut. Her earnings will be used to back a €25m medical equipment fund that has been created by the bank to help counter the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

Through her powerful gesture, Botín is leading by example. As a business leader, she is getting personally involved with trying to address the huge health challenge facing the world today.

Other leaders will not have Botín’s level of resources. Nevertheless, they can still act as examples – to their teams and colleagues, as well as peers in other organizations. So, how can a leader be a good example in these difficult times? Here five experts share their thoughts.

1.     Be an effective homeworker

“Home working in the virtual world is very different from being in the office every day,” says Dr Alan Watkins, a physician, immunologist, neuroscientist and CEO of coaching and development company Complete. “It requires a significant shift in our energy, how we organize our day and how we communicate with each other.”

Watkins, who is also author of HR (R)Evolution: Change The Workplace, Change The World, adds that leaders can help their teams to respond better to stress. “If we panic, we increase our cortisol levels which makes us more susceptible to infection,” he says. “But if we remain optimistic and positive in the face of the challenge, we will increase our levels of DHEA, which is the body’s antidote to cortisol. DHEA will improve our immunity, increase our resistance and reduce our threat to others.”

2.     Avoid cognitive shortcuts

“Stress is usually a bad platform from which to lead,” says Stephen Frost, founder of global diversity and inclusion consultancy Frost Included and co-author of Building An Inclusive Organisation. “By necessity, it means we take cognitive shortcuts to save time. This often relies on stereotype – what we already know and trust.”

Frost argues that in times of stress, leaders must seek out feedback from people whose opinion they wouldn’t normally solicit. “The cognitive short-cuts in our heads can lead to an empathy deficit, groupthink and other forms of excessive and unhelpful bias,” he said. “It’s in your own interests, as well as those around you, to slow down and be inclusive so that you make better decisions.”

3.     Put social value above profit

U.K. supermarkets are offering priority shopping to elderly and vulnerable customers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – even though they would probably make more profit from prioritizing big spenders such as families and young professionals. This is the correct approach to take, according to Alex Edmans, professor of finance at London Business School and author of “Grow the Pie: How Great Companies Deliver Both Purpose and Profit”.

He says: “My research shows that putting purpose first is not only the right thing to do in a crisis, it actually delivers more profit in the long term by building stakeholder trust.”

Edmans also suggests that leaders think creatively about what resources their organization has and how these can be used to serve society.  “covering the cost of hotel accommodation for health workers so that they can avoid long and disrupted commutes due to the reduction in public transport.”

4.     Be authentic

“Leaders must maintain a positive mental attitude, but it is not enough just to cheerlead,” says Raj Tulsiani, co-founder of executive search consultancy Diversity and Inclusion for Leaders: Making a Difference with the Diversity Headhunter. “We must demonstrate authenticity and humility in admitting that we, too, are fearful of what lies ahead.”

Tulsiani also emphasizes the importance of acting with integrity. “It may be that we have to make decisions we didn’t expect to make and, if so, we need to do this in an honest and transparent manner.”

5.     Steady the ship

“A leader’s first job is to steady the ship and ensure that people don’t panic,” says Kevin Green, former CEO of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation and previously HR director of Royal Mail. “If fear and panic take hold, poor decisions get made and a difficult position can often be made worse.”

Green, who is also author of Competitive People Strategy: how to attract, develop and retain the staff you need for business success, emphasizes the importance of aligning the top team. “The leadership team should talk every day so they are talking with one voice,” he says. “They should map out what decisions are needed in the days and weeks ahead. At the start of each meeting, it’s good practice to get everyone just to talk about how they are feeling and what’s on their mind. This allows you, as the leader, to calibrate what state the team is in and how you support them during the crisis.”

It is vital to give yourself space and time to think and reflect. “When the pressure rises, human beings have a tendency to become myopic,” notes Green. “As a leader, you need to find time to stand back, reflect and anticipate what comes next. Go for a walk – fresh air and gentle exercise will help the thinking process. Find half an hour each day to just sit with a blank sheet of paper. I use mind maps to help me think though the big decisions.”

Green believes it’s essential to give the top team time to think the issue through before making a decision. “Make sure that both sides of every decision are fully explored. Ensure everyone in the team contributes and reinforce the point that no thought is too small, wild or random to be listened to. If it’s a big strategic call, give yourself and the team a day to reflect.”

Finally, says Green, make sure that you look after yourself. “Eat well, get exercise, try to sleep and try to stay fresh,” he advises. “Energy is an important commodity in a crisis, so you need to be on top form.”

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5 Ways to Get Focused When You’re Working from Home (Even During a Pandemic)

5 Ways to Get Focused When You’re Working from Home (Even During a Pandemic)

GETTY IMAGES

By Amanda Pressner Kreuser

Thought it was tough to tune out distractions before? Welcome to the chaos. Here’s how to find sanity (and your flow) from within your four walls.

Seventeen states and nearly 100 million Americans are now under stay at home orders–and as the Coronavirus crisis continues, that number may only continue to grow.

Those of us who are able to work from home are fortunate. We’re able to stay (mostly) out of harm’s way while those with truly essential jobs–medical professionals, grocery clerks, bus drivers, postal workers, etc.–help keep our nation going.

Working from home is a privilege, to be sure, but it’s also never been harder to get your brain focused on your job..and to keep it there.

If you’re not homeschooling your kids, discussing the headlines with roommates, or walking your dog, you’re picking up your phone or refreshing your browser to get the news (don’t even get me started on the insane amount of Whatsapp chats and Zoom calls happening right now).

Finding focus in the wake so much stimulation and anxiety may be tough, but it’s definitely doable. My team at Masthead Media and I frequently work remotely and from home (we’re 100 percent WFH now), and we’ve developed some strategies for staying productive during the most challenging moments.

Stick to a Single Task

There’s a lot going on right now. You may feel like you need to do five things at once to keep up with it all. Resist the urge: it’s not going to help your workload or your sanity.

On a good day (no international crisis to speak of) the average person spends just three minutes on any given task before switching to something else. While we think of this as multitasking, we’re actually moving quickly and repeatedly between tasks. This is known as “task switching” and doing it causes you to lose (or never achieve) true focus. In fact, studies show that you can lose up to 80 percent of productive time due to task switching.

When you sit down to fully focus on work aim to focus on a single project at one time (e.g., don’t attempt to email clients while also teaching your son 2nd-grade math). When it’s time to produce that report, do only that for 45 minutes to an hour. Then switch over to 20 minutes of responding to email. When it’s your turn to watch the kids, aim to be fully present for at least half-hour (and then you can both take a break). You’ll feel a little saner — and get a lot more done.

Trade Time

If you have two adults in the household, and at least one dependent, you try to block out periods when you’re working–and when you’re just not available for work.

Determine what style of time blocking you both prefer (half days, or two hours on/two hours off, etc) and look to see if there are any immediate conflicts on your schedule, before sitting down to map out the time you’ll each need. Check-in with your boss and co-workers as well, to make sure your scheduling doesn’t create any conflicts.

In my house, we start the clock at 8 am and build the schedule until 8pm — and even with that, my husband and I each only get six hours of focused work per weekday. That’s where the weekends come in. I personally try to grab additional hours on Saturday or Sunday, but not both (we all need a break, even if we’re not using it to go anywhere).

If you’re a single parent, you’ll likely need to rely more on screentime, naptime, and bedtime for getting calls and highly focused work done.

Shut Off Alerts

Consider the number of message notifications we’re getting all day long, on every single device (even during the best of times!) it’s incredible any of us get any work done at all.

Because I’m the kind of person who feels compelled to respond to the most urgent new thing that hits my phone or inbox, I try to turn off all notifications while I’m working, on both my phone and my laptop. I find it’s so much easier to respond in batches to texts, IMs and chats…and it reminds me that I’m in control of my time (not the last person who sent me a message).

If you find it tough to avoid picking up your cell to check messages, leave your phone in another room, or at least put it on silent and turn it over. You can use a Chrome extension like Stay Focused to keep you from browsing on certain predetermined sites (Facebook, CNN, etc), for a period of time.

Schedule an Early Morning or Late Night

As a working parent, I’ve always needed more flexibility to cover for sick days, snow days, parent-teacher conference days, and other things that come up. I’ve been fortunate enough to work this out with my co-founder and colleagues, but the work still needs to get done…and it can’t always wait.

To make up for the lost time, once or twice a month I work early from home (at 5 am) or stay late at my office (until 10 or 11 pm). That practice will continue as my family and I self-isolate at our apartment near New York City. Not only is the time completely uninterrupted (see above!) but those few extra hours enable me to dig into and often complete projects that are either very high priority or consistently slip down my to-do list.

Prioritize What’s Important

Considering all of the changes in our world, and our workplaces right now, it’s unlikely any of us are going to get as much done as we had hoped…and that’s okay. It has to be. Give yourself a big break, and lower your expectations, if you can.

If you have a superior, talk candidly with him or her about what’s doable given your current life situation. This isn’t a time to work while pretending you don’t have obligations at home.

One thing you can do to feel more of a sense of control is to reshape your priority list to reflect the time you actually have–and what you need to do in order to keep your department or business moving forward.

A week ago (just after schools were canceled) I archived my old ultra-long to-do list. I started a brand new (much shorter) one that boiled down what was absolutely important for Masthead Media in the coming weeks and months–and I haven’t looked at the rest.

Maybe I’ll get back to it at some point–or maybe I’ll won’t. Time will tell if those tasks were really that important in the first place.

Please take care of yourselves right now, and stay well. 

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Covid-19 – Johns Hopkins University

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