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COVID safeguards stopping spread of other diseases: experts

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COVID safeguards stopping spread of other diseases: experts

COVID-19 put not just humanity into quarantine, but also every other transmittable disease. 

As an unintended result of social distancing precautions enacted to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, virtually all other respiratory viruses have, at least for the moment, hit record-breaking low rates. 

“Almost every other virus that is transmitted among people has gone into hiding,” Northwell Health infectious disease specialist and pediatrician Dr. Sunil Sood told Insider.  

Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s influenza report for the last week of January noted positively that “seasonal influenza activity in the United States remains lower than usual for this time of year.” 

Acute flaccid myelitis, a debilitating illness similar to polio, which doctors began observing in children starting in 2014, has also been stopped in its tracks, seemingly as a consequence of distance and mask protocols. 

“It’s one of those mysteries of nature,” Sood said of AFM’s perplexing, increasingly large outbreaks every other summer and fall across the US. 

Doctors have long been hopeful coronavirus protocols could help tame the AFM outbreak anticipated for last year. 

“[There] is a good chance, based on the data that’s been analyzed, and just thinking theoretically, that we could social distance away an EV-D68 outbreak this year, which would be fantastic,” pediatric infectious disease physician Kevin Messacar said in July, referring to the virus that causes AFM, in July. 

Once the pandemic ends and mask and distancing protocol along with it, however, society will once again be vulnerable to the same viruses as before the pandemic, Sood warned. 

Still, avoiding last summer’s AFM outbreak not only saved many lives from being impacted by the disease but also bought scientists precious time to continue researching it, increasing hopes they’ll have better preventative and treatment options by or before the next outbreak. 

“You’re essentially buying time if you put off an outbreak, which is good news,” Messacar said.

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Man spent entire pandemic alone in five-star NYC hotel

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Man spent entire pandemic alone in five-star NYC hotel

Isolated in the lap of luxury, he watched the skyline go dark.

When New York City went into its COVID-19-induced lockdown in March 2020, the fire department announced properties were required to keep one person on-site in case of trouble. For Midtown’s five-star Chatwal hotel, that person became Robert Mallia, Crain’s reported.

Mallia was not the 76-room-hotel owner’s first choice, but when multiple other people passed on the gig out of fear or to prioritize their family, Mallia — a 36-year-old childless bachelor — volunteered.

“Having the chance to live in a building that you worked on is cool,” said Mallia, an architectural designer for the Dream Hotel Group, which owns a portfolio of Manhattan hotels including the Chatwal. “My apartment is quite modest compared to a five-star luxury hotel.”

In the 14 months he’s been living in Room 307, the space has at least become familiar.

“When weeks became months, I got used to my room, like in ‘Shawshank Redemption,’ ” he said. “I’m content in my cell now.”

Initially, though, it was quite the adjustment from his Long Island City apartment, which he still makes frequent visits to.

“At first, it was strange,” he said. “It was perfectly silent.”

With all 59 members of the hotel’s staff gone, Mallia has been responsible for cleaning up after himself. For food, he has mostly relied on takeout. 

“It’s nothing too glamorous, I’m afraid,” he said.

His daily schedule involves waking up at 5:30 a.m. and doing a variety of housekeeping: sorting mail, looking for leaks and other maintenance problems. Once a week, he flushes every toilet in the building; twice a month, he turns on all the showers and sinks for 10 minutes.

His only companions are a rotation of security guards and the building’s chief engineer, who makes weekly visits to confirm fire code compliance.

The owner’s other hotels have begun reopening this month, and the Chatwal will likely follow suit soon — good news for Mallia.

“I miss being at home,” he said. 

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Zoo euthanizes animals as state becomes too warm

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Zoo euthanizes animals as state becomes too warm

The Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley has announced that their two remaining musk oxen were preemptively laid to rest over fears that the warming state would make their final days more difficult.

Zoo officials announced the decision on their website on May 13, writing that the pair of “elderly musk oxen had been showing progressive age-related health issues.”

“Their health further declined this spring as the weather warmed,” they said in a tweet on May 14. Followers called the news “incredibly sad” and “a heartbreaker.”

In the zoo’s farewell message, they explained that rising temperatures during the past decade have affected the health of the herd, which started growing in 1978 when the zoo acquired male and female oxen from breeders in Calgary and Winnipeg, Canada. The families went on to breed 65 calves. But by 2010, zoo workers “started noticing changes,” which they attributed to “increased summer heat and humidity.”

Since 2000, Minnesota has racked up many of its warmest days on record — with the average temperature having risen by 2 degrees since 100 years ago, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“It seems even Minnesota has now become too far south for this species to thrive,” the zoo wrote.

Zookeeper Cindy Bjork-Groebner said in a statement on the musk oxen, “We saw firsthand just how much the seasons and temperature and humidity played a role in how they thrived or not.”

Though musk ox is native to the arctic tundra, the Minnesota Zoo had long been home to the herd thanks to the state’s historically chilly climate during much of the year. However, the rising average summer temperatures have proven detrimental to the cold-weather creatures.

“You could tell they were thriving when the temperatures were colder, and then the minute the heat and humidity hit, that’s when I really started watching and could notice changes,” Bjork-Groebner said.

The decision to euthanize the two last oxen was the result of “a long conversation between veterinarians, curators and zoo leadership,” added Dr. Taylor Yaw, manager of the zoo’s animal health department. “We have a responsibility to these animals. When it comes to a point that we can’t manage clinical health issues, this is the most humane choice we can make.”

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At Miss Universe pageant, Myanmar’s contestant pleads “our people are dying”

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Ma Thuzar Wint Lwin, Miss Universe Myanmar, holds up the "Pray for Myanmar" sign during Miss Universe pageant's national costume show, in Hollywood, Florida May 13, 2021

Myanmar’s Miss Universe contestant, Thuzar Wint Lwin, used the pageant on Sunday to urge the world to speak out against the military junta, whose security forces have killed hundreds of opponents since it seized power in a Feb. 1 coup.

“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said in a video message for the competition, where she was appearing in the finals at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

“I would like to urge everyone to speak about Myanmar. As Miss Universe Myanmar since the coup, I have been speaking out as much as I can,” she said.

Myanmar’s junta spokesman did not answer calls seeking comment.

Thuzar Wint Lwin is among dozens of Myanmar celebrities, actors, social media influencers and sports people who have voiced opposition to the coup, in which elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi was overthrown and detained.

At least 790 people have been killed by security forces since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group. It says over 5,000 people have been arrested, with some 4,000 still detained – including several celebrities.

Thuzar Wint Lwin did not make it to the last round of the Miss Universe competition, but she won the award for Best National Costume, which was based on the ethnic costume of her Chin people from northwestern Myanmar, where fighting has raged in recent days between the army and anti-junta militia fighters.

As she paraded with her national costume, she held up a placard that said “Pray for Myanmar”.

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