Technology Policy & Ethics: May 2020

COVID-19: The Threat and Impact Vectors

Fatima Hussain, Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto, Canada, Rasheed Hussain, Innopolis University, Innopolis, Russia

At the time of writing this article, the novel Coronavirus (code name COVID-19) claimed 203,307 human lives and left 2,923,125 affected with the virus among which 837,323 recovered, around the globe1. Although every sector of our life is badly affected by the COVID-19, the long-lasting effects of this pandemic will set new priorities for the nations’ policy-makers. At this point, the contours of the pandemic are opaque but it is anticipated that it will take an unprecedented amount of time, effort, resources, compromises, trade-offs, and policies to set the path to the next normal. Among other walks of life, the world economy took a huge hit due to lockdowns imposed by the international communities. COVID-19 has badly affected our daily lives, shaken the healthcare systems, and above all, paralyzed the norms of work ethics due to both ‘work from home’ and ‘no work’. The way we are struggling to work remotely to keep our jobs, remote schooling, managing our personal and social lives, COVID-19 is no longer just a health or a well-being threat. It has a far bigger threat vector than we currently anticipate. Also, thanks to our globalized society and interdependent economy, this pandemic has no political, geographic and religious boundaries, and has caused a regional and global crisis (public health included).  In this vein, this article is a minute attempt to shed light on the threat vector of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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A Low-cost Preventive Face Shield and Reusable N95 Compatible Mask for Preventing the Spread of COVID-19

Sunil Jacob, Saira Joseph, and Varun G Menon, Center for Robotics, SCMS School of Engineering and Technology, India

Recently, there has been a severe shortage in the global repository of personal protective equipment (PPE) stemming from the rising demand of gloves, face masks, and ventilators. This has left doctors, nurses, and other frontline health workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients. Most of the doctors and medical personnel are increasingly anxious, fearing they could expose not only themselves to the virus, but their families and others as well. Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the price of N95 masks, gowns and other medical essentials has increased greatly1. The research community is putting its best efforts to come up with novel solutions to tackle this problem2.

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COVID-19 Disease Modelling and Its Impact on Public Health Policy

Muhammad Qasim, University of Otago, New Zealand, Waqas Ahmad,University of Otago, New Zealand, Muhammad Azhar, Islamic International University Islamabad, Pakistan, Mohammad Azam Ali, Islamic International University Islamabad, Pakistan

In pandemics or outbreaks, mathematical models are one of the first tools to use for estimation, characterization, and planning of measures to mitigate the spread of disease.1  When a pandemic of influenza occurred in 2009, it was important to quickly analyze the potential of the virus to cause illness and death by comparing with already available data of 1918, 1957 and 1968 pandemics and characterizing it as mild or severe diseases.2  Exact forecasting of an epidemic or pandemic based on previous disease data is a major gold standard method of disease modelling. Additionally, modelling of real time data during an outbreak or pandemic is very helpful to pattern disease spread and identify the most vulnerable regions to take appropriate actions.3 Similarly, it is important to estimate the number of infected cases in the near future, for quick resource mobilization and resource management.

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Indiana: How We Figured Out the Optimal Approach to Run Government from Our Couches and Kitchen Tables

Joe Cudby, Indiana Office of Technology and Jared Linder, Indiana Family and Social Services Administration 

As a rapid response to COVID-19, Indiana’s governor mandated sheltering the entire state in-place except for essential service providers. Most of the state’s agencies were required to leave their offices since they were deemed ‘non-essential’. Historically state employees did not work remotely — with no resources (e.g., computers, virtual private network access) ever being placed in their residences. The state’s move to support the majority of workers with remote services was a huge undertaking that needed to be accomplished quickly and without too many fail points as the citizens of the State of Indiana still needed the critical services the state provides. This article is a brief case study of how this challenge was overcome. We will describe how Indiana—both at a state and an agency level—rapidly adapted to the operational challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. By pivoting quickly to novel technology, Indiana enabled more than just the ability for remote work, but also empowered teams to respond with agility to the new environment wrought by the pandemic. This response was only made possible by a strong centralized information technology (IT) presence and a collaborative agency response. We also describe the specific response and outline a successful use case.

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