Like millions of others around the world, Gulf News Foreign Correspondent Mick O’Reilly is currently under Covid-19 lockdown. This is what life is like in social isolation in Ireland, where there are strict rules about who is allowed out, where, and under limited circumstances.
Wednesday May 20, 9am
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
WHY YOU CAN’T DROP YOUR GUARD AGAINST CORONAVIRUS
DID VE CELEBRATIONS IN BRITAIN AND CHILDREN’S RETURN TO CLASSES IN FRANCE CAUSE NEW COVID-19 SPIKES?
This is a terrible disease, one now that experts are warning will be with us for a long time.
That’s a terrifying scenario, one that certainly makes all us feel a little uncomfortable. It means that the new normal of social distancing and staying apart might indeed be with us for far longer that we would have liked.
It also means that the new-found optimism about vaccines and medicines to treat COVID-19 might be a little premature. If there’s one thing experts can say for sure about this virus, if you give in an inch, it takes every mile it can – and more.
Now medical and public health experts in the United Kingdom and France are looking at new outbreaks and increases rates of spread in coronavirus as a result of the Victory in Europe celebrations and street parties on the weekend of May 9 and, secondly, after children returned to classrooms in France.
If indeed their research holds water – and sadly it certainly appears to – then it looks as if the necessary protective measures to stop the spread of coronavirus will need to be in place for a long time to come.
Across Europe, nations are at varying stages of lifting these restrictions. That’s a welcome relief for the close to 600 million people who live in Europe – but it’s not going to be an easy process.
GETTING TOO CLOSE DURING VE PARTIES
Cities and towns across northern England have been hardest hit in the UK by coronavirus. Across the UK as a whole, latest figures show that more than 40,000 people have been lost – the second-highest confirmed death rate so far.
Thankfully, the trend had been going down. But one day last week, the number of new coronavirus cases registered at Bradford Royal Infirmary jumped to 30. Given that it takes about a week for symptoms to develop, the timing of rise pointed to one thing for Dr John Wright: There could be a link to Victory in Europe Day parties that ended in fist fights, or in embraces.
The day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an easing of the lockdown, the number of new COVID patients in the hospital fell to a reassuring three. And two of them were Wright’s medical colleagues.
The low figure partly resulted from delays in reporting, which happen every weekend, but there was still a collective sigh of relief. Maybe everything was going to be all right after all?
But three days later, on Thursday 14 May, the number of new COVID-positive patients had shot up to 30.
NERVOUS ANTICIPATION OF A SPIKE
In normal times, those 30 cases might be discounted as random variation – but in these times of acute alertness every flicker of the COVID-19 dashboard needle triggers nervous anticipation of a possible spike. Given the incubation period of between five and seven days, the new cases would have been incubating since the week before – pointing to communal gatherings on VE Day six days earlier.
VE Day – the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe in the Second World War – would normally have been a massive street party across the UK. Even in the lockdown, communities did what they could – decorating their homes with bunting, sitting outside in deckchairs, socialising with neighbours in street parties, keeping two metres apart.
But as alcohol began to have its effect, staff in the accident and emergency unit at Bradford Royal Infirmary began seeing evidence of a collapse in social distancing.
“On VE day we had patients in who had been assaulted in the middle of street parties,” says Accident and Emergency consultant Dr David Greenhorn.
“There were a number of assaults and it was quite clear that as the alcohol flowed, the street parties became closer and they were no longer street parties, and more garden parties – and then eventually front-room parties,” he says. “And then, as often happens with parties, there were boxing matches.”
As he points out, it's not possible to punch someone from two metres away.
HUGS AND KISSES OVER ‘WE’LL MEET AGAIN’
People rarely end up in the emergency room of hospitals after falling in love so Dr Greenhorn has less evidence to support his next theory, but he speculates that the parties also helped to incubate Covid cases in another way.
“it was a clear night and people were out and looking at the stars and singing, ‘We'll meet again’,” he says. “There is a lot of pent-up emotion and I understand that frustration – I know why people would want to have a drink, and once you’ve had a few drinks your inhibitions and judgement go and you forget to stay two metres away, and you get that ‘I love you’ moment. And, you know, next thing people are hugging.”
So, Dr Greenhord was expecting to see a spike.
After Thursday, the daily number of new cases at Bradford Royal Infirmary fell back to less than 15.
Even before the prime minister’s announcement on 10 May, the lockdown had been slowly leaking, and the legacy of any leak is an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.
Last Friday, however, it was reported that the R number –the average number of people each infected person passes the coronavirus to – has been creeping back up across the UK, and nowhere more so than in Yorkshire and the North East.
GATHERING TO BUY HOT FOOD FROM SOUTH ASIAN RESTAURANTS
Dr Dinesh Saralaya, a consultant in respiratory medicine at Bradford Royal Infirmary has concerns too about members of the city’s Muslim population gathering in the evening to buy hot food from the South Asian restaurants the city is well-known for.
“A few of us have been talking about a breakdown in social distancing – I’m worried about the possibility that this might be happening as we approach the end of Ramadan,” he says. He points out that people are doing less cooking at home during Ramadan, when they fast every day until sunset, and that some restaurants have opened takeaways outside.
“They want the food to be hot when they break their fast, so they start queuing from around 8.30pm,” Dinesh says. “You can see lots of cars pull up and there are lots of people waiting. I think that it could be exposing people and worry that we will start to see some impact of that.”
Dr Saralaya is also concerned that the upcoming feast of Eid Al Fitr – which also coincides with a bank holiday weekend in the UK, could also result in a spike of new infections. A third of the city’s population are Muslims. Typically, the city’s streets and parks would typically be filled with sunshine and festivities. But this year, under the COVID cloud, the mosques will remain closed and gatherings ruled out. The message is simple as far as he is concerned: Stay at home, Eid at home, save lives.
70 CASES OF COVID-19 AT FRENCH SCHOOLS DAYS AFTER REOPENING
Earlier in May, when Germany eased restrictions, officials there reported an increase in the R rate about a week later – a cause for concern that they might have gone too far too quickly. Now in France, a week ago after one-third of all French schoolchildren returned to their schools in an easing of coronavirus lockdowns – there has been a worrying flareup of about 70 COVID-19 cases – all linked to schools.
Some lower grades were opened last week, and 150,000 more junior high students went back to the classroom Monday as further restrictions were loosened by the government. The move initially spelled relief: the end of homeschooling for hundreds of thousands of exhausted French parents, many of whom were also working from home.
But Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer sounded the alarm Monday, telling French radio RTL that the return has put some children in new danger of contamination. He said the affected schools are being closed immediately.
French media reported that seven schools in northern France were closed.
STRIKING A BALANCE BETWEEN PRUDENCE AND REASSURANCE
The situation highlights the precarious situation the government finds itself in as it seeks both to reassure the public that the country is moving forward past the coronavirus and to react prudently to safeguard public health.
Blanquer did not specify whether the 70 cases of COVID-19 were among students or teachers.
Given that the incubation period for the virus is several days, Blanquer said, people are “likely" to have been infected before about 40,000 preschools and primary schools reopened last week, with classes capped at 15 students.
About 30 per cent of children went back to school, Blanquer said and the government has allowed parents to keep children at home.
This week, France is reopening junior high schools in “green” regions less affected by the virus, which do not include Paris.
Although the idea of children being silent “super-spreaders” has been largely debunked in recent analyses, France last week recorded its first death of a child linked to Kawasaki disease, a mysterious inflammatory syndrome that some doctors believe is triggered by COVID-19. The nine-year-old boy in Marseille was one of 125 children in France with the syndrome.
GERMANY’S TENTATIVE STEPS GETTING SCHOOLS RE-OPENED
In neighbouring Germany, schools have been slowly opening to various degrees for about two weeks now, subject to precautions.
No major outbreaks related to the re-openings have been reported, although there have been many individual cases. In Berlin’s Spandau neighbourhood, a school was ordered temporarily closed over the weekend after it emerged that a teacher with COVID-19 had had contact with two elementary classes, an after-school care programme and other teachers.
A teacher from another school in the area also tested positive but had contact with only a small number of children. They were ordered into quarantine, but the school has remained open, the newspaper BZ reported Monday
In the surrounding state of Brandenburg, two kindergartens were closed, and a fifth-grade class at an elementary school were quarantined.
Certainly, both the anecdotal and empirical evidence suggests that officials everywhere need to act with prudence and caution in getting things back up and running.
DOES SINGING SPREAD CORONAVIRUS? CHOIR OUTBREAKS RAISE CONCERNS
Whatever about getting children together in classrooms, one of the activities educators and others might want to avoid for now is singing – and remember the lessons from Bradford above over singing ‘We’ll Meet again’!
Experts say coronavirus outbreaks at choirs across the United States and Europe, despite physical distancing measures, reinforce how far COVID-19 respiratory droplets can travel, especially when singing.
US health officials studying how a COVID-19 outbreak managed to occur among members of a Washington state choir in early March found that droplets released during singing may have spread the virus.
According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 52 members of the Skagit Valley Chorale were sickened, three were hospitalised and two died following two rehearsals that included a member with cold-like symptoms. That person later tested positive for COVID-19 and was the first case identified by health authorities.
Choir members became infected despite there being no physical contact between the attendees. According to the report, members sat apart with empty seats between them, did not shake hands and used hand sanitiser.
SUPER-SPREADERS RELEASE MORE PARTICLES DURING SPEECH
“The act of singing, itself, might have contributed to transmission through emission of aerosols, which is affected by loudness of vocalization,” the report said. The CDC report also said that some people, known as super-spreaders, release more of these particles during speech than others.
“The potential for super-spreader events underscores the importance of physical distancing, including avoiding gathering in large groups, to control spread of COVID-19,” the CDC report said. “Enhancing community awareness can encourage symptomatic persons and contacts of ill persons to isolate or self-quarantine to prevent ongoing transmission.”
Colin Furness, an expert in infectious disease epidemiology from the University of Toronto, told CTV News that it is possible for an infected choir member to disperse viral particles to other people through the act of singing.
“Singing in a group typically involves standing in a close [room] for an extended period of time. The risk of inhaling infected droplets depends on both closeness and amount time – get close enough to people who are infected, and do so for long enough, and you will get infected too. For that reason, I would rate group singing as extremely risky,” Furness said.
Outbreaks have also been reported in the Berlin Cathedral Choir in Germany and the of the Voices of Yorkshire choir in England.
SPREADING THROGH SPEECH AND SINGING
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has emphasised that the novel coronavirus is primarily spread through respiratory droplets, but some studies have demonstrated that the virus can spread farther than initially thought – and linger in the air.
A study by the US National Institutes of Health, which has not been peer-reviewed, used laser imagery and video to show that thousands of fine droplets can be spewed into the air when people speak. The study, published in April in the online journal medRxiv, found that speaking can spread up to 360 droplets in the air in just 17 milliseconds.
Another study published May 13 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that one minute of loud speaking can generate more than 1,000 virus-containing droplets, and those droplets can remain airborne for eight minutes or longer.
Furness said projecting one’s voice while singing could send droplets even further.
“The risk of singing for spreading coronavirus droplets has not been directly studied. However, I feel fairly certain that singing would pose a substantially elevated risk of spreading coronavirus because it involves expelling air from the lungs with greater force than normal breathing,” Furness said.
FACE VISORS MAY PROTECT WEARER BUT NOT OTHER PEOPLE AGAINST COVID-19
So, would face visors help? Would they allow people to sing in choirs without spreading coronavirus?
Not quite, if you believe the advice coming now from medical experts and researchers.
Face visors and shields could protect workers who have close contact with others against infection from COVID-19, but may not prevent the wearer spreading the virus, experts say.
Linda Bauld, a professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said research was needed into the alternative forms of face protection before they could be recommended for general use.
Visors or shields are worn by medics in addition to masks for risky procedures in hospitals, and UK stores including Co-op, Marks and Spencer and Waitrose have offered them to their staff. An articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) last month suggested they “may provide a better option” than homemade cloth coverings as advocated in the UK, some US states and elsewhere.
Prof Bauld, however, says she is sceptical.
“The reason for having a visor which would cover the upper half of your face would be if you’re regularly coming into contact with the public at closer range, and you might be exposed to somebody who is emitting those small droplets that we’re all aware are very efficient at carrying the virus,” she says. “So, I could see how in some retail settings and other environments they wish to do that, but I don’t think there’s any strong evidence that they’re something the public should be wearing on a routine basis. The key thing is to cover the mouth and the nose.”
IMPROVISED FACE COVERINGS PROTECT OTHER PEOPLE
She says the face coverings that people are being encouraged to use, for example, on public transport is not to protect the wearer but to protect other people.
“Whereas the visor and harder material is clearly to protect the wearer from coming into contact with others at those droplets,” the professor says.
While there have been several studies in relation to face masks often with contradictory conclusions, there has not been the same research into face shields or visors. The JAMA article referenced a study that found that shields worn by a test subject within 1.8 metres of a cough reduced inhaled influenza virus by 92 per cent, although this protective effect reduced after the cough had dispersed for 30 minutes.
Bill Keevil, a professor of environmental healthcare at the University of Southampton, said the advantages of shields include that they protect the eyes, are easier to put on and wash, prevent people touching their face, and are also better for people with breathing difficulties, such as asthma who have bbeen told not to wear face coverings in the UK.
“You can see how, in a way, it would give better protection for the wearer and it may – I just say may – help reduce transmission to others, because whatever you produce is not projecting a long way from your face,” he says.
VISORS MADE FROM HIGHER SPECIFICATIONS
Additionally, face shields and visors appear to be easier to make than high-specification medical and surgical masks, as evidenced by a number of UK universities manufacturing them, including through the use of 3D printing.
In the US, companies such as Amazon, Apple, Nike and General Motors have been making them, with Amazon saying that after the needs of healthcare workers are fulfilled, they will be available for purchase by all customers.
But Prof Bauld stresses that members of the public could easily make improvised masks at home.
“The basic face coverings we’re encouraging people to use can be made by anybody with any fabric … which is why the public are being encouraged to use their own or make their own rather than order them off some website where they’re needed for other settings,” she says.
While acknowledging some positive elements of visors and shields, she said it was noticeable that, in countries ahead of the UK in infection control such as Hong Kong and Singapore, plastic visors are not seen. “It’s not happening, right?” she says. “So, this is additional protective equipment for specific environments. I think we’re somewhere away from recommending people [generally] wear plastic visors.”
WEARING GLOVES IN PUBLIC WON’T PROTECT YOU FROM COVID-19, EXPERTS SAY
While many of us wouldn’t opt for full face visors, disposable gloves seem like a more reasonable protection measure, right?
While there’s divided opinions and much debate over wearing a face mask in public, infectious diseases physician Dr Sumon Chakrabarti says the answer to whether or not gloves will prevent someone from contracting COVID-19 is much clearer.
“In public, [wearing gloves] is unnecessary,” Chakrabarti told CTVNews. “What I find is that when people are wearing gloves in public, they often wear the same set of gloves everywhere. By doing this, you actually are paradoxically putting yourself more at risk for infections.”
Touching various surfaces with the same pair of disposable gloves can not only spread harmful germs, but also transmit the virus from one location to another, Chakrabarti explains, which could do more harm than good.
“The use of gloves is just too fraught with problems of cleanliness,” he said. “They act as an extra thing to clean.”
According to WHO, COVID-19 is mainly transmitted from person-to-person through respiratory droplets released from the mouth or nose. The infection spreads when a person with the virus coughs, sneezes, or exhales, and someone else breathes in these droplets
It is also possible for someone to become infected if they touch a surface contaminated with COVID-19, and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.
CONTACT WITH MUCUS MEMBRANES LEADS TO INFECTION
Dr. Jeff Kwong, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Toronto, says that contact with these mucus membranes is what leads to infection. “If [the virus] was just on your hands, you won't get it as long as you don't touch your face,” he told CTVNews.
According to Dr Chakrabarti, wearing disposable gloves – whether latex, nitrile or vinyl – can mislead people into thinking this is enough to protect themselves from the virus.
“It can give people a false sense of reassurance,” he says. “People tend to wash their hands less when they’re wearing gloves.”
But diligent hand washing continues to be one of the best ways to prevent against contracting COVID-19, explains Dr Kwong.
“People might see wearing gloves as an extra layer of protection against things that they’re touching,” he said. “But whether you’re not wearing gloves and you touch something and it’s on your hands, or you are wearing gloves and you touch something … you’re still recommended to wash your hands.”
When running errands, Dr Kwong urges people to use hand sanitiser or wash their hands wherever they go, including as soon as they get home.
“Frequent hand washing is the most important thing,” he says.
WHO SAYS WEARING GLOVES IS NOT EFFECTIVE
The WHO says wearing gloves in public is not considered effective in protecting against the spread of COVID-19. “You can still pick up COVID-19 contamination on rubber gloves,” WHO advises. “If you then touch your face, the contamination goes from your glove to your face and can infect you.”
Public health officials around the world say regularly washing or sanitising your hands offers more protection against contracting COVID-19 than wearing non-medical gloves. And they also say that disposable gloves should not be reused and instead thrown out once taken off.
Instead of wearing gloves, public health officials recommend practising good hand hygiene by frequently washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a good quality hand sanitiser. Other recommendations include not touching your face, and practising respiratory etiquette by coughing into a tissue or sleeve instead of out into the open.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) echo this message, insisting that wearing gloves is not necessary for the general public. According to the CDC, regular hand washing or sanitising remains “the best way to protect yourself from germs when running errands and after going out.”
SO, WHAT ABOUT GLOVES AND HAND SANTISERS?
The idea of using hand sanitizer on disposable gloves may seem like an appealing one. Despite concerns over the damage it could cause due to the use of alcohol as a disinfectant, research suggests that using hand sanitiser on both latex and nitrile gloves does little to reduce the protection they offer.
Still, Dr Chakrabarti advises against this, insisting that “hand sanitiser is designed for use on the skin, not on latex or nitrile.”
While Dr Chakrabarti says he understands why people might see the use of gloves as a way of protecting against the spread of COVID-19, he warns this is not the case.
“I understand the reason why people want to do it – it seems like you’re putting a barrier there,” he says. “If you use gloves, just know that they’re not providing you with any extra protection.”
In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while running errands, both Drs Kwong and Chakrabarti recommend regularly washing your hands and not touching your face, both in addition to physical distancing.
Whether you’re grocery shopping, picking up medication, or grabbing a cup of coffee, these measures are much more effective than the use of disposable gloves, says Dr Chakrabarti, no matter how trivial they may seem.
“Those things often seem too simple and people want to do more,” he says. “But the very simple things are still the best ones.”
MONITOR PATIENTS FOR POST-COVID MENTAL DISORDERS, STUDY WARNS
Whatever about the science of trying to stop the spread of COVID-19 through face visors, gloves or other means, there’s now a warning that health practitioners worldwide need to monitor COVID-19 patients for the development of psychiatric symptoms, according to a new study.
The Lancet Psychiatry study – conducted by University College London and King’s College London – examined the mental health effects on 3,500 hospitalised Coronavirus patients, including people with SARS, MERS and COVID-19.
Since the global pandemic emerged, the full impact of the virus on an infected person’s mental state has yet to be determined. On a wider scale, the impact that COVID-19 restrictions are having on populations at large remains unclear.
According to the Lancet study, SARS and MERS survivors may be at risk of mental illness including depression, anxiety, fatigue and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The medical community should, therefore, be aware of potential impacts COVID-19 may have on a patient’s mental health after treatment.
FEELINGS OF CONFUSION AND ANXIERTY IN COVID PATIENTS
Data gathered from two studies of SARS and MERS patients who were hospitalised found that confusion occurred in 28 per cent of patients. Low mood was reported in 42 per cent of patients, anxiety in 46 per cent of patients, impaired memory in 34 per cent and insomnia in 12 per cent.
Looking at COVID -19 patients, 12 studies found evidence of delirium in serious cases. Confusion was recorded in 26 out of 40 ICU patients, agitation in 40 out of 58 ICU patients and altered consciousness in 17 out of 82 patients who subsequently died.
The study’s findings suggest that delirium – a mental state characterised by changes in consciousness, behavioural disturbance, and sometimes hallucinations – may be common in hospitalised patients in the acute stages of SARS, MERS and COVID-19.
The authors have cautioned, however, against drawing definitive conclusions given limitations in methodology and small sample sizes of studies recorded. If patterns observed in SARS and MERS patients follow a similar course in COVID-19 patients, the study concludes, most COVID-19 patients should recover without experiencing mental illness.
MOST WON’T SUFFER FROM MENTAL ILLNESSES
The 3,500 cases studied suggest that most people won’t suffer from mental health issues, said Dr Jonathan Rogers from University College London, He co-led the research.
There is little evidence to suggest that common mental illnesses beyond short-term delirium are a feature of COVID-19 infection, Dr Rogers adds.
However, “clinicians should monitor for the possibility that common mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, and PTSD could arise in the weeks and months following recovery from severe infection, as has been seen with SARS and MERS,” he says.
Aside from medical and immune responses leading to psychiatric issues in COVID-19 patients, the Lancet study also suggests that a wider social impact of COVID-19 – including social isolation and stigma – may lead to mental health problems.
Separately, researchers in Ireland are trying to pin down the barriers which may be preventing people from exercising more during COVID-19.
MORE ARE TURNING TO EXERCISE DURING PANDEMIC
An ongoing survey conducted at Trinity College Dublin shows that 50 per cent of people are exercising more than they used to during COVID-19. Data was gathered by Trinity researchers from 1,500 people across Ireland. Most responses came after Government restrictions eased slightly on the 5 of May, enabling people to exercise within a 5-kilometre radius of their homes.
“People haven’t let the closure of gyms, classes or the 5kms distance restriction limit their ability to exercise and are finding new ways to be active,” says Dr Emer Barrett, Assistant Professor in Physiotherapy at Trinity College Dublin.
“It is very encouraging to see that there is a strong awareness of how physical activity can positively impact mental and physical health particularly at this time of crisis,” Dr Barrett adds. “We need to understand the factors that have facilitated or motivated this increase in activity with a view to maintaining them once restrictions are lifted.”
The Trinity study found that 46 per cent of people surveyed felt they were exercising more since COVID-19 restrictions with 28 per cent of people reporting the opposite.
According to the survey, 54 per cent of people surveyed are now meeting the daily amount of physical exercise recommended in Ireland – 30 minutes moderate intensity physical activity five days per week.
Of the 1,500 surveyed by Trinity, almost 90 per cent of people reported walking in the last seven days, 50 per cent have found new ways to be active since COVID-19 restrictions and over 90 per cent also said they were physically active because it benefited their mental and physical health.
US. RESTAURANT USES INNER TUBE 'BUMPER TABLES' TO KEEP DINERS APART
A restaurant in Ocean City, Maryland, has created special bumper tables with inner tubes to keep customers apart while they walk around. The tubes are on a metal frame and the customer stands in the middle. Credit John Middlebrook and Facebook
Here’s a novel way to ensure customers keep apart from a popular waterfront restaurant in the US state of Maryland.
Fish Tales Bar & Grill in Ocean City has bought new “bumper tables “that are surrounded by large inner tubes to keep diners from getting too close. The custom-built tables look like huge 45 vinyl records and are on wheels, so people can walk in the restaurant’s parking lot and bar area and mingle, while enjoying a cocktail or some food.
Maryland began re-opening parts of the state last Friday. Under Stage One, retail businesses, have started to re-open but with limited capacity and other safety precautions inplace.
Fish Tales Bar & Grill owners Shawn and Donna Harman told CNN that they’ll use the tables for customers who are waiting for tables or would normally sit at the bar.
“I mean, it’s a novelty, it's cool. It’s a great photo opportunity for them,” Shawn Harman says. They said it will also make it easier for restaurant staff to enforce social distancing.
“If you put the two tables together, you can’t get within 6 feet of each other – and it’s fun,” Donna Harman says.
ANOTHER SIGN OF NORMALCY IN US – THERE’S AN EXECUTION PLANNED IN MISSOURI
Today, Tuesday, in O’Fallon, Missouri, things will be getting back to normal. The pause in US executions during the coronavirus pandemic is likely to end with the scheduled lethal injection of a Missouri inmate for slaying an elderly woman nearly three decades ago.
Walter Barton, 64, would be the first person executed in the US since Nathaniel Woods was put to death in Alabama on March 5. Soon after that, efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus shut down the US economy and led to strict limits on social distancing, including inside prisons.
Three states have put aside executions over that time.
Republican Missouri Governor Mike Parson said Monday that he had not heard anything to make him reconsider the execution, which he said would “move forward as scheduled.” A federal appeals court on Sunday overturned a 30-day stay of execution granted by a judge two days earlier. Barton’s lawyer has asked for a stay from the US Supreme Court.
Gladys Kuehler operated a mobile home park in the town of Ozark, Missouri near Springfield. In October 1991 she was found dead in her bedroom. She had been beaten, sexually assaulted and stabbed more than 50 times. Barton has long said he was innocent, and his case has been tied up for years due to appeals, mistrials and two overturned convictions.
COVID-19 PUT EXECUTIONS ON HOLD
Other states, including Ohio, Tennessee and Texas, have postponed executions after attorneys argued that pandemic-related closures prevented them from securing records or conducting interviews for clemency petitions and court appeals.
Attorneys also expressed concerns about interacting with individuals and possibly being exposed to the virus. And, they’ve argued that the execution process, which includes placing prison workers and witnesses in close proximity to each other, could lead to spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in the prison housing Missouri’s execution chamber in Bonne Terre, about 100 kilometres south of St. Louis.
Missouri Department of Corrections spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said everyone entering the prison will have their temperatures checked and will be offered face coverings. Witnesses will be divided into three rooms.
The last execution in Texas, the US’ busiest capital punishment state, was February 6. Seven executions that were scheduled since then have been delayed. Six of the delays had some connection to the pandemic while the seventh was related to claims that a death row inmate is intellectually disabled.
The next execution in Texas is set for June 16. Officials have instituted a process requiring witnesses to be subject to the same screening required of prison employees before entering the facility, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jeremy Desel said. The screening involves questions based on potential exposure to the coronavirus and health inquiries.
MEME OF THE DAY
This one is from my friend Craig, who lives near my in Spain. He has spent a lot of time on social media through this lockdown. In Spain, restrictions on movement have lifted – and that means Craig will be back on his bikes again, with less time to spend sharing memes and other videos.
HOW I’M PRETENDING TO GROW £10,000 IN PLAY MONEY
Two days into the trading week and I’m still up, even though my portfolio lost £105.90 on the day.
A reminder that this is all pretend, I started out in lockdown with £10,000 – about Dh45,000 to invest on the London Stock Exchange, I don’t pay for trade and I can only buy or sell when the market is closed. There’s no minimum on the amount of stocks I can buy, just as long as I can afford them.
Net worth: £12,186.38
Diageo, 100 shares: £2840.50
Ocado, 100 shares: £1950.50
Drax, 2,600 shares: £5349.40
PowerHouse 1,200 shares: £2,040.00
Cash in hand: £14.98
£ loss on last trading day: £105.90
% Gain overall: 20.2 per cent
£ Gain overall: £2,186.38
COVIDIOTS, YOBS AND GOONS
Here’s my daily collection that serves as a reminder that covidiots won’t be deterred by the time-space continuum.
NEW YORK TOURIST ARRESTED IN HAWAII AFTER POSTING BEACH PICTURES ON INSTAGRAM
Distance is no object to a determined covidiot. And lockdown rules? A mere inconvenience to a covidiots. A tourist from New York was arrested in Hawaii after he posted beach pictures on Instagram when he was supposed to be in quarantine.
The 23-year-old man was arrested for violating Hawaii’s mandatory 14-day quarantine rule and for “unsworn falsification to authority,” the Hawaii governor’s office said in a statement.
He arrived in O’ahu on Monday and quickly posted numerous pictures of himself on the beach on Instagram. He allegedly used public transportation to get to the many places he was pictured, the statement said.
Authorities became aware of his social media posts from citizens who saw posts of him – on the beach with a surfboard, sunbathing, and walking around Waikiki at night.
Hawaii has reported 638 coronavirus cases and 17 deaths. In an effort to stop the spread of the virus, the state requires travellers to the islands to self-quarantine for 14 days, without leaving their hotel room or residence. They are required to fill out a document acknowledging that violating the quarantine is a criminal offense punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to a year in prison.
But the most recent covidiot isn’t alone. Many visitors, including a newlywed couple on their honeymoon, have been arrested for ignoring the state’s quarantine orders.
“We, like most of the United States, are still dealing with the challenges of this pandemic,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said. “But right now, we see travelling as bringing the virus, and we would prefer people not come until it’s safe to travel again.”
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I’m not an expert, but I might be able to help you make a bit of sense of this. And we can all get through it together. Isn’t this what this is all about.
Send your questions for me to Readers@gulfnews.com.
That’s it for now. Let’s check in with each other tomorrow. I have used files from Reuters, AP, DW, Sky News, Twitter and other European and North American media outlets in today’s blog. And remember to stay safe.
Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent based in Europe