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‘Build it and they will come:’ How a Black Canadian coach inspired a generation of hockey players

Cyril Bollers’ ultimate goal in coaching is to reach the NHL. But for now, he’s happy leading Team Jamaica. 

“I think there’s been a lot of frustration in the past with me that I have all the certifications … I just don’t know why I haven’t been given that opportunity,” Bollers said. “But there’s other coaches that are in the same boat of colour that haven’t been given that opportunity either. So I’m not going to say it’s just me, but for me, my goal is to one day coach for Team Canada.”

The 52-year-old doesn’t expect to make a jump straight to the NHL or Olympics, and speculates that the reason he hasn’t advanced much, despite recommendations from the likes of Hockey Hall of Famer Paul Coffey, is a lack of connections at the next level.

“I don’t want to say it’s colour, especially with hockey being for everyone. Other people may — I don’t. I just want to say that the opportunity hasn’t arisen yet and I’m hoping it does. So based on that, I’m continuing to network,” Bollers said.

Bollers is the president of Skillz Black Aces, a Toronto-based program that helps bring hockey to underprivileged and BIPOC youth. It has produced NHLers such as Anson Carter, Wayne Simmonds and brothers Anthony and Chris Stewart.

Born in Guyana, Bollers now lives in Scarborough, Ont., after moving to Canada when he was four. He was inspired to become a coach when his son was six and playing house-league hockey for a coach who heavily favoured his own son.

Soon, coaching became a passion. He’s since worked with the Toronto Red Wings and Marlboros of the GTHL and the Pickering Panthers of the OJHL.

“I was told that I couldn’t because of the colour of my skin, which fuelled the fire, which promoted the education in regards to quality certificates, which gave me the opportunity to prove others wrong,” Bollers said.

In addition to his work with the Black Aces, Bollers has also served for the past four years as head coach and general manager of Team Jamaica — a country that doesn’t contain so much as a single ice rink.

Bollers also works with the Black Canadian Coaches Association in hopes of reaching a broader base of BIPOC coaches throughout the country to serve as a mentor and to help create a network between coaches and sports organizations.

Legacy with Black Aces

But it was with the Black Aces where Bollers helped inspire a generation of BIPOC players, many of whom followed him to Team Jamaica.

“I guess when they say build it and they will come, that’s what it was. Everybody wanted to become a Skillz Black Ace,” Bollers said.

The program began around 20 years ago, partially the brainchild of former NHL goalie Kevin Weekes, as a camp that would run a few times per year. Bollers helped build it into more of a team that would enter — and quickly dominate — tournaments against top competition.

A Skillz Black Aces team is seen above at a tournament. (Courtesy Cyril Bollers)

In addition to a heavy majority of BIPOC players, Bollers led a group of five Black coaches on the bench. The team consistently stunned its opponents with blazing speed and won way more often than it lost.

For parents of colour, the Black Aces was an opportunity to show their children there are other hockey players who look like them.

“And that was the main thing was he was not an outsider or ‘that one kid’ with this group,” said Mark Francis, whose son Peyton played for the Aces and now plays centre for the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers.

Loren Francis heard racist comments from the stands when she watched her son play on predominantly white teams. Since Loren is white, other parents did not realize she was Peyton’s mom. When the Black Aces opportunity arose, Mark and Loren were intrigued.

“I thought this was going to be more like a how-to-play hockey type of thing,” Mark said. “And then we went out and I was shocked because not only were the kids very highly skilled, but [Bollers’] coaching methods, I would say, were top notch.”

Bollers leads a player through a drill. (Courtesy Cyril Bollers)

Vancouver Canucks forward Justin Bailey is another Black Aces alumnus. Born in Buffalo, N.Y., a 12-year-old Bailey was hesitant about joining a team across the border where he didn’t know anyone.

It took some convincing from his mother, Karen Buscaglia, and the decision was an instant success.

“People embraced their differences. And they had fun music playing in the locker room. And it was the first time that I could look at him and I could see he just had a blast. And obviously hockey was predominantly white, so he had never been exposed to anything like that,” Buscaglia said.

While a fun atmosphere certainly existed around the Black Aces, both Francis and Buscaglia say Bollers ran a tight ship where discipline among players — things like walking in an orderly fashion and politeness — impacted players’ ice-time.

The Black Aces, counting one edition of the team featuring one of Bollers’ three sons, often faced racism from other teams, including hearing the N-word uttered against them on the ice.

“We used to laugh at it because we were so good we would beat people. And for me, I would just tell the guys, ‘They can’t beat you on the ice. They’re going to try to beat you with their words. But words are just words,'” Bollers said.

Equal success with Jamaica

As a white player born in the Caribbean, Ethan Finlason had a slightly different experience when he joined Bollers’ Team Jamaica. Finlason played inline hockey in his home country of the Cayman Islands before eventually moving to Canada to pursue ice hockey.

He was met with hostility from other kids who said he should quit because he was Caribbean. Then a goalie from his academy team stayed behind to watch one of the team’s games.

“The Canadian goalie was shocked that Jamaicans could skate,” said Ethan’s father Andrew. “And I don’t know where this bias comes from. I mean, most of these kids grew up in Canada. But they’re tremendous athletes. They have a tremendous coach. But there’s this stigma that they shouldn’t be able to play.”

Team Jamaica players are seen above in 2014. (Courtesy Cyril Bollers)

In 2019, Jamaica went 5-0 en route to winning the championship at the LATAM Cup, an international tournament pitting top Latin American and Caribbean teams.

But Jamaica can’t be fully sanctioned by the IIHF until it builds a rink. When that happens, more resources could be poured into the program and the pitch to NHL players of Jamaican descent, like the Subbans, can begin.

“I’m sure that once that’s happened, we can just place a call to Karl [Subban] and then Karl will round up the boys and then we’ll take it from there. But I think until it’s fully sanctioned, we don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” Bollers said.

When that finally happens, Bollers said his admittedly lofty goal is to qualify for the Olympics.

Between the Black Aces and Team Jamaica, Bollers’ hands are plenty full in the world of hockey, even as he continues to eye a pro position. He can take solace in the fact that if nothing else, his teams simply win.

“They used to come and watch us play because we were fast, we were strong, it was entertaining hockey. But more importantly we could coach, and I think what people forget is I’m a hockey coach by choice, Black by nature.”

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CBC | Sports News

China, Russia agree to build lunar research station together

China and Russia said they will build a lunar research station, possibly on the moon’s surface, marking the start of a new era in space co-operation between the two countries.

A statement posted on the website of the China National Space Administration Wednesday said the International Lunar Research Station would also be open to use by other countries, but gave no timeline for its construction.

It described the project as a “comprehensive scientific experiment base with the capability of long-term autonomous operation.”

The moon’s surface was captured by the lander-ascender of the Chang’e-5 spacecraft on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020 as it landed on the moon. The proposed moon research station is described as a ‘comprehensive scientific experiment base with the capability of long-term autonomous operation.’ (China National Space Administration/Xinhua via AP)

The station would be “built on the lunar surface and/or on the lunar orbit that will carry out … scientific research activities such as the lunar exploration and utilization, lunar-based observation, basic scientific experiment and technical verification,” the statement said.

It said a memorandum of understanding on the project was signed Tuesday by Zhang Kejian, administrator of the China National Space Administration, and Russian space agency Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin.

China’s space program has worked with Russia, but not NASA

China drew heavily on Russian expertise in the early years of its space program, but has largely forged its own path since launching its first crewed mission in 2003. Despite that, China’s Shenzhou spaceships closely resemble Russia’s Soyuz capsules and the CNSA has worked with countries around the world, apart from the U.S.

Congress bans almost all contacts between NASA and China over concerns about technology theft and the secretive, military-backed nature of China’s space program.

WATCH | A look at China’s recent moon mission:

China says the lander-ascender of its Chang’e-5 probe separated from the orbiter-returner and landed on the moon to collect samples, as this animated video shows. 1:03

Russia and China will “adhere to the principle of ‘co-consultation, joint construction, and shared benefits,’ facilitate extensive co-operation in the ILRS, open to all interested countries and international partners, strengthen scientific research exchanges, and promote humanity’s exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purpose,” the Chinese statement said.

Russia is a participant in the International Space Station but its space program has been somewhat eclipsed by those of China, the U.S., India and others. In its most recent development, Russia successfully test-launched its heavy lift Angara A5 space rocket for the second time in December after lengthy delays and technical problems.

China has planned four crewed missions this year to work on its first permanent orbiting space station, the core module of which could be launched as soon as next month.

China has already launched two smaller experimental space stations, placed a rover on the little-explored far side of the moon in 2019 and has a spacecraft, the Tianwen-1, in a parking orbit around Mars in anticipation of landing a rover on the surface in the coming months. If it succeeds, China would become only the second country after the U.S. to put a spacecraft on Mars.

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CBC | World News

Alberta tried to build ‘a wall of defence’ around its most vulnerable citizens. It has crumbled

The Alberta Legislature was suspended in the spring due to COVID-19 and, when it resumed in late May, Premier Jason Kenney spoke at length about the province’s strategy to “come out of this crisis stronger than ever.”

“Perhaps the most important strategy as we move forward is building a wall of defence around the most vulnerable — seniors in particular,” he said at the time.

That wall was hastily erected, as public health officials and operators of seniors’ living facilities scrambled to adapt to the confounding behaviour of the still-novel coronavirus. Some cracks developed through the spring and summer but the wall, more or less, held.

Then came the second wave, bigger and wider, dwarfing everything the province had seen before.

There have been record infection levels across all age groups recently, but people over 80 have been especially hard hit. Adjusted for population size, their current rate of infection is second only to young adults in their 20s and 30s.

Back in September, Alberta was recording fewer than a dozen new cases per week among people aged 80 and over. Last week, there were more than 400. More Albertans in this age range have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in November and December than during the entire rest of the pandemic

Deaths, too, have surged to unprecedented levels. November was, by far, the deadliest month on record, accounting for 241 of the 640 deaths on record.

December could be on track for even more. Health officials see the high infection rate among seniors as a harbinger of more deaths to come, even with the new and much stricter public health restrictions the government announced Tuesday.

The pattern of cases and deaths

Alberta successfully curbed a surge in cases among senior citizens in the spring, many of whom were infected in supportive-living or long-term care homes. Another surge in the summer was also beaten back.

But each incursion took its toll. Outbreaks among senior citizens were followed by a spike in deaths. Those over the age of 80 faced especially grim odds. For one in four, a COVID-19 infection ended up being fatal.

Then came a period of relative calm. Alberta went a full week in mid-September without recording a single COVID-19 death.

But the viral spread started ramping up again in October, gained momentum in November and came crashing into December, with new records being set almost daily for infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, says the recent surge among seniors, in particular, is connected to the rising number of outbreaks at long-term care and supportive-living facilities.

As of Tuesday, 146 of these facilities had active outbreaks. This list has been continually growing, pushing the rate of new infections among Albertans aged 80-plus ever higher.

On average over the past week, there have been more than 46 new daily cases per 100,000 people in this age range. That’s more than five times the rate during the peak of the spring and summer surges.

“The number of cases in that older population is absolutely a concern,” Hinshaw said Monday.

“I would anticipate, of course, that with rising numbers in that very vulnerable population, it may well be an indication of an increase in the most tragic outcome — in terms of deaths.”

Until recently, daily death tolls in the double digits were a rarity in Alberta.

Now, they have become the norm.

The majority of these deaths have come among seniors who reside in long-term care facilities and supportive-living sites.

As of last week, Hinshaw said they accounted for 64 per cent of COVID-19 deaths in the province.

Calls for change

This problem may be especially acute in Alberta at the moment, but it hasn’t been unique to the province.

Revera, one of the country’s largest operators of seniors’ residences and long-term care homes, called this week for provincial governments across Canada to adopt widespread surveillance testing to help blunt the devastating impact of COVID-19 on older Canadians in group-living accommodations.

Extendicare, another major operator, made a similar plea last week in Alberta, specifically.

“We must act now. There is no time to waste,” the company’s chief medical officer, Matthew Morgan, told The Globe & Mail, calling for mandatory weekly testing of care-home staff.

The Alberta NDP took things a step further, calling on the province to start administering rapid COVID-19 tests twice a week to every resident and staff member in long-term care facilities.

“To be blunt, if we can test hockey players each and every day, if we put value on doing that, then surely we can do the same or better for residents who are living in fear in continuing care,” NDP Leader Rachel Notley said.

Hinshaw said Monday the province planned to launch some “point of care” rapid testing in other settings as a pilot project, and would look at expanding this kind of testing to long-term care facilities in the future.

But Hinshaw also said that truly protecting seniors will require reducing the spread of the virus across all age groups. 

“When we do have rising case numbers and rising transmission in the community, we see that increasing pressure on those long-term care and supportive-living facilities,” she said.

WATCH | Hinshaw on Alberta’s rising cases:

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health answers a question about the high rate of infection among people over the age of 80. 1:44

“And it’s very, very challenging to keep any introduction of virus out.”

To that end, Alberta just took its most extreme measures since the spring.

For the past month, physicians in the province have been calling for a “circuit-breaker” lockdown to curb the alarming increase in hospitalizations and deaths, but Kenney has resisted, saying such a move would damage the economy and impinge on personal freedoms.

On Tuesday, though, the premier relented and ordered the strictest measures the province has seen since the spring, including the closure of all casinos and gyms, an end to dine-in service at restaurants and bars, and the imposition of a provincewide mask mandate.

Kenney said his government was reluctant to take these measures but believes they are necessary, given “the hard, mathematical reality of the exponential spread of this virus.”

Failing to act, the premier said, “means more deaths, especially amongst our most elderly and vulnerable.”

Those measures don’t fully take effect until Sunday, however, and even once they do, it will take weeks for their effects to to be seen in terms of the hospitalization and deaths data.

Given the incubation period of the virus and the time it takes for people to get tested and have their results come in, the COVID-19 case data we’re seeing today reflects infections that happened a week or two ago.

On top of that, Hinshaw has said “hospitalizations typically lag behind the rise in cases by about a week to 10 days.” And deaths can lag behind even longer, due to additional delays in reporting.

Alberta’s wall of defence has crumbled. Repairs are about to get underway. But we won’t know until late December, or possibly early 2021, how effective the patch job is.

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CBC | Health News

Pressure mounts on federal government to help fix, build long-term care homes as pandemic takes deadly toll

The catastrophic impact of COVID-19 on the long-term care sector likely was made worse by the outdated design and crowded conditions found in some facilities, experts say — and they blame governments for failing to fund renovations and new construction.

Jodi Hall, chair of the Canadian Association for Long Term Care (CALTC), said the pandemic’s tragic toll has drawn public attention to a problem that’s been around for years – chronic underfunding of long-term care homes by all levels of government. She’s calling on Ottawa to step up.

Many existing nursing homes maintain four-bed, hospital-like wards, with residents separated only by a curtain. Older facilities also have shared washrooms and bathing areas, crowded dining rooms and narrow hallways.

“It raises a lot of challenges from an infection control perspective,” Hall told CBC.

“There are many lessons to be learned and, as we look to the future, this is one that we can’t continue to overlook.”

About 80 per cent of all COVID-19-related deaths in Canada have been in long-term care facilities. The Canadian Armed Forces has deployed more than 1,250 personnel to help care for residents in seniors’ homes in Quebec and Ontario, where there have been severe outbreaks.

Hall said homes with more modern designs and practices would have “assisted a stronger response” to the pandemic. Last month, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) rolled out a guidance document on infection prevention and control in long-term care homes — but Hall said some of those guidelines are “basically impossible” to follow in outdated facilities.

The CALTC has submitted four consecutive requests for federal funding in pre-budget presentations, but to date no investments have been promised.

She recently wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several key ministers, saying it’s “imperative” that the federal government address the problem.

Shared rooms can be ‘devastating’

“Any existing outbreak management plan in a long-term care home, including the isolation of symptomatic residents, is hindered by the inadequate space and layout available in long-term care homes today. We are seeing how devastating these shared rooms can be during an outbreak,” she wrote.

“(Infrastructure) Minister Catherine McKenna has announced funding for shovel-ready projects and she is quoted as saying that her office is prepared to be flexible with its program rules in order to get money out the door to address the impact of COVID-19 on the Canadian economy. To date, however, we have not seen any support from the federal government on this issue.”

McKenna has said the government will take a flexible approach to finding projects that are “shovel-worthy” and can get started fast to help drive an economic recovery.

Her spokesperson David Taylor said the pandemic has emphasized the importance of protecting vulnerable seniors and supporting long-term care facilities.

“The government of Canada supports health care by providing the provinces and territories with long-term, predictable funding through the Canada Health Transfer, the largest major transfer of federal funding to provinces and territories,” he said in an email.

“The government is working closely with the provinces and territories to determine how it can provide additional support for health care, including public sector long-term care facilities, during these exceptional times.”

Less than 40 per cent of long-term care residential homes are private, for-profit projects; the rest are public, non-profit or a mix. Long-term care facilities fall under provincial jurisdiction, but Hall said capital project funding at the provincial level has been insufficient. She is not proposing any specific funding model but does want to see Ottawa support infrastructure improvements.

An Armed Forces member walks out of CHSLD Yvon-Brunet on April 18. About 125 military nursing officers, medical technicians and support personnel were sent to help after Quebec asked Ottawa for assistance. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Pat Armstrong, a sociology professor at York University who led the 10-year international project Re-imagining Long-term Residential Care, said Canada needs a national long-term care law separate from the Canada Health Act. She said federal funding for long-term care facilities could be tied to certain conditions, such as improving the physical infrastructure of facilities.

While we won’t know for certain until there is a post-pandemic review of individual outbreaks, Armstrong said the outdated designs of many of the facilities — some of which were built in the 1960s — likely contributed to the fast spread of the virus.

“If you have four people in a room that only has curtains and is crowded, people are going to cough and spit and people with dementia are less likely to be able to carry out the hand sanitizing … or covering mouths. So the more crowded you are, the more likely it is to happen,” she said.

Infection control challenges

Many homes don’t have the capacity to properly separate those who have symptoms from those who do not, making infection control a challenge.

Armstrong said the lack of proper public funding for improved facility design reflects the low value Canadians attach to caring for the elderly – something she hopes will change after the pandemic finally ends.

“If we’re ever going to have an opportunity to put pressure on, thinking about how we care for our elderly, now is the time,” she said. “I think that we owe it to the people who have died that we learn something from this to make it better.”

NDP health critic Don Davies said the federal government has a responsibility to address the “disgraceful” state of long term care in Canada.

“Too many governments have ignored this important area of care for too long. We need to work at all levels to comprehensively address the deficiencies,” he said.

Davies said the federal government could help fund nursing homes by creating a dedicated federal transfer to the provinces and territories, while requiring that the funds be used for long-term care.

Messages of hope and thanks to health-care workers are posted along the walkway to the Madonna Care Community in Ottawa, a long-term care facility experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19, on Sunday, May 3, 2020. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

In its pre-budget submission of January 2020, before the outbreaks began in Canada, CALTC requested funding for the “construction, renovation and retrofit of 400 long-term care homes to meet current design standards and the needs of today’s seniors, especially those living with dementia, by 2023.”

It said long-term care facilities aren’t meeting current demand; many seniors are stuck in hospitals while they wait for an available bed. CALTC said the average daily cost of a hospital bed is $ 1,800, compared to $ 200 in a long-term care home.

A Conference Board of Canada study in 2017 projected that another 199,000 long-term care beds would be needed by 2035 — a vast increase over the 255,000 beds available in 2016.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) projected in 2017 that Canada’s population of people aged 65 and older would jump by 68 per cent in 20 years. It predicted the number of people aged 75 and older would double over the same time period.

Conservative infrastructure critic Luc Berthold said the provinces depend on reliable infrastructure funding from the federal government, but the Liberals have not lived up to their promises.

“This inability to work with the provinces is precisely part of the problem that has caused infrastructure funding — like that for long term care facilities — to languish,” he said.

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CBC | Health News

Maingear Will Build Ventilators for the Fight Against COVID-19

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The boutique PC manufacturer Maingear has announced that it has retrofitted its factories to build ventilators rather than high-end PCs. The newly announced Maingear LIV is intended to be produced at scale at roughly a quarter of the cost of an emergency ventilator. Given that Maingear is headquartered 15 miles from New York City, the ongoing pandemic is a major concern.

Here’s how Maingear self-describes the product:

The Maingear Liv combines redundant power circuits, multiple safety features, and a unique coupling device which contains and drains exhaled aerosolized virus from the patient while allowing routine maintenance under severe conditions. Each unit has preset standard values for use by untrained personnel, as well as dedicated software which is controlled via touch screen interface, giving access to fine adjustments in addition to the manual regulation controls on the device. Working with its board of advisors, Maingear looks to garner support for fast FDA approval under these extreme circumstances.

Maingear CEO Wallace Santos took to YouTube to explain the product and discuss its features:

I’m going to list some features of the unit, but if I’m being honest, I don’t exactly have an encyclopedic knowledge of comparative ventilator mechanics. The Maingear Liv can begin providing oxygen within 1.5s and is capable of delivering between 40 percent and 100 percent O2. PEEP (Positive End Expiratory Pressure) is 0-14 cmH2O, while V2 will support 0-30 cmH2O. It can support 12-30 breaths per minute (V2: 45 BPM) and the first stage operating pressure ranges from 2.5 bar (min) to 8 bar (max) with an optimal 4 bar setting. The device also includes alarms for:

Low lung volume
Low flow of lung air
Low lung pressure
Difference between inspiratory and expiratory lung volume
Poor mechanical lung compliance
Absent or low pressure CO2 from main supply
Loss of electrical power

Maingear is hoping to make contact with healthcare providers and doctors who need ventilators and formed a Medical Advisory Board to guide its initial ventilator design. The company intends to ship internationally as soon as possible and is seeking rapid FDA approval for the new device.

Santos said:

It was clear once this situation began to escalate that something had to be done. Within days of assembling our team, we had our first prototype ventilator ready to go. Besides the lack of medical supplies and equipment, we think there will be a shortage of medical professionals who can operate these devices especially in field hospitals, so we also made it incredibly simple to use. Now we need help getting the word out to the appropriate people.

Demand for ventilators is expected to crest across the United States in the coming weeks, with many states forecasting urgent shortfalls and calling for aid from any quarter as they scale up the medical system to deal with the pandemic. I am completely unqualified to comment on the Maingear Liv’s design and the ongoing production difficulties across the global economy are going to make it more challenging to build just about anything, including ventilators.

What strikes me about this effort is that it’s the first OEM-led project I’ve heard of intended to provide relief at the human scale. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with the surge of support flowing into HPC and distributed computing projects to analyze COVID-19, but what Maingear is doing here will directly help individuals who might otherwise die without treatment. Obviously the ventilators need to be tested to make certain they perform as promised under trauma care conditions, but this is a noteworthy project for any company. More details on the Liv are available here.

Now Read:

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ExtremeTechExtreme – ExtremeTech

U.S. federal agency says it’s prepared to build as many as 340 makeshift hospitals

U.S. officials want to build hundreds of temporary hospitals across the country to cope with the thousands of new coronavirus cases being diagnosed daily after the United States endured its deadliest day yet on Monday with 575 fatalities.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which converted a New York convention centre into a 1,000-bed hospital in the space of a week, is searching for hotels, dormitories, convention centres and large, open spaces to build as many as 341 temporary hospitals, the chief of corps said on Tuesday.

“The scope is immense,” Lt.-Gen. Todd Semonite told Good Morning America on Tuesday. “We’re looking right now at around 341 different facilities across all of the United States.”

Semonite said eight facilities were currently being built up around the country, without specifying exact locations. He said the agency is using analytics to pinpoint potential locations, with staff in contact with governors and local officials around the U.S.

“I’ve got a bunch of engineers in a back room who are looking at where we do see us having big shortages in two or three weeks,” he said.

Some hospitals overwhelmed

The U.S. caseload increase has seen some overwhelmed hospitals that are running out of doctors, nurses, medical equipment and protective gear.

The number of U.S. deaths climbed past 3,000 with 575 coronavirus-related fatalities reported on Monday, as the overall caseload rose to more than 163,000, according to a Reuters tally of official statistics.

National Guard troops set up beds on March 29 as a medical station at the Los Angeles Convention Center, a site that normally hosts meetings, trade shows and exhibitions. (Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti via The Associated Press)

The U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert said Tuesday there were “glimmers” that social distancing efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus were having an impact, even though the nation was still in a very dangerous situation.

“We’re starting to see glimmers that that is actually having some dampening effect,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the  National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN in an interview. “But that does not take away from the seriousness … We clearly are seeing cases going up.”

Fauci cautioned that while stay-at-home restrictions were starting to produce some results, Americans remained at risk.

“We really have to hang in there and abide by the mitigation strategies. We do believe it’s working.”

NYC mayor fears ‘horrible onslaught’

The engineering arm of the U.S. army joined with New York state officials to convert New York’s Jacob Javits Convention Center into a facility to treat non-coronavirus patients. The conversion will relieve the pressure on hospitals treating patients with COVID-19, the respiratory ailment caused by the novel coronavirus.

In addition, construction of a 68-bed field hospital began on Sunday in Manhattan’s Central Park. Provided by the Mount Sinai Health System and non-profit organization Samaritan’s Purse, the makeshift facility is expected to begin accepting patients on Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The converted convention centre is blocks away from the pier where the U.S. navy hospital ship Comfort docked on Monday. The floating hospital will take up to 1,000 non-coronavirus patients starting on Tuesday. Another temporary New York hospital is planned for the Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the U.S. Open tennis championship is played.

The U.S. navy ship Comfort arrived in New York City on Monday. The ship can be equipped with 1,000 hospital beds. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

The temporary hospitals are aimed at freeing all of the city’s 20,000 hospital beds for coronavirus patients, de Blasio said. The city is still short on doctors and nurses, and de Blasio asked the U.S. military for help.

“We are going to need a lot more military presence. We’re going to need a lot more help from the federal government, including medical personnel from the military, very, very quickly,” de Blasio told NBC’s Today.

“I told that to President Trump. We need folks by Sunday, starting this Sunday, to get ahead of that horrible onslaught we expect in the next week or two.”

WATCH l New York pleads for relief, front-line workers at risk:

Even as a U.S. navy hospital carrying 1,000 beds sails into New York City, the state pleads for more health-care workers and relief as hospitals are overrun with COVID-19 cases and deaths. 2:02

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in his daily briefing Tuesday that the state was “still headed up the mountain.”

“When will it be over? Nobody knows. But I can tell you it’s not going to be soon,” he said.

The latest state figures, according to Cuomo, were as follows:

  • 1,550 deaths, an increase of 332 since the previous day’s reporting.
  • 10,900 hospitalizations, an increase of 1,412.
  • 4,975 discharges from hospital, an increase of 771.
  • 57 per cent of known cases are in the New York City area.

Hospitalizations rising elsewhere

In Los Angeles, the USNS Mercy, similar to the Comfort, is already treating patients. Throughout California, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations had nearly doubled over the past four days and the number of ICU patients had tripled, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

Authorities in New Orleans were setting up a field hospital at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the same site where thousands of Hurricane Katrina refugees gathered in 2005, to handle an expected overflow of patients.

U.S. health officials are urging Americans to follow stay-at-home orders until the end of April to contain the spread of the virus, which originated in China and has infected about three-quarters of a million people around the world.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said he was frustrated to see people gathering in large groups, defying state orders and federal social distancing guidelines.

“People need to stay at home,” Adams told Fox News. “We’re working around the clock to get supplies to cities across the country – to mayors and to governors. But we are not going to supply our way out of this problem. The way we solve this problem is by everyone coming together, stopping the spread, by eliminating large gatherings, staying at home.”

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Astrophysicist Tries to Build Coronavirus Wearable, Ends Up With Magnets Lodged in Nose

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Being a smart person does not preclude making foolish mistakes. Case in point: Australian astrophysicist Daniel Reardon. With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Reardon decided to tinker with a magnetic system that would warn people not to touch their faces. A noble idea, yes, but what followed was a comedy of errors that ended with Reardon in the hospital with four magnets stuck in his nose

As doctors are frequently reminding us lately, touching your face can cause infection via virus particles on your hands. It’s good advice to follow, but we all absentmindedly do it from time to time. Dr. Reardon’s idea was to use a magnetic field detector and neodymium magnets to set off an alarm if the wearer’s hand got too close to their face. Reardon studies pulsars and gravitational waves, but he admits to having no particular experience with electronic circuitry. Therein lies the problem. 

Reardon started by putting two small magnets inside his nostrils and two on the outside to hold them in place. This allowed him to test the magnetic field detector, moving it toward and away from his face. The fatal flaw in his plan was using powerful rare-earth magnets. He attempted to remove the magnets with another magnet, but the shape of the nostril prevents the sandwiched magnets from sliding out. As he attempted to pluck the magnets from his nose, he lost his grip and all the magnets became stuck to each other. This left Reardon with three powerful magnets in his left nostril and one in the right, all stuck together with his septum in between. “At this point, I ran out of magnets,” Reardon said.

If this happened to you (and don’t go thinking you’re too smart to get yourself in this situation—Reardon is an astrophysicist, after all), you’d probably go for pliers or tweezers to try and get the magnets out. That’s what Dr. Reardon attempted, but the magnets just magnetized the pliers, making it impossible to grab them. 

Luckily, Reardon’s partner works at a Melbourne hospital and took him to the emergency room so all her coworkers could get a laugh. Dr. Reardon was a good sport about it, and the staff was able to remove the magnets. The emergency room discharge paperwork shows that Reardon denied there are any more magnets in his nose. Thank goodness. We at ExtremeTech applaud Dr. Reardon’s outside-the-box thinking. 

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Build This ‘Doom Eternal’ 1080p Gaming PC for Under $500

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The 2016 reboot of Doom did better than most reboots, garnering almost universal praise from reviewers and players alike. The sequel, Doom Eternal, is hitting consoles and PC later this month with more character upgrades, new multiplayer modes, and improved graphics. If your gaming rig is getting long in the tooth, you can build an entirely new system suitable for 1080p gaming in Doom Eternal for surprisingly little money. 

We’ve gone over the minimum requirements for Doom Eternal and selected parts based on many years of combined system building experience. For under $ 500 (not including Windows or peripherals), you can get ready to frag demons in full HD on March 20th.

Bethesda says you only need a Ryzen 3 to run Doom Eternal, but you won’t have a lot of headroom. The Ryzen 3 chips also have integrated graphics that you won’t need since we’re getting a real GPU. Luckily, the AMD Ryzen 5 1600 AFSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce is a steal at about $ 85. The “AF” refers to the version of the 1600 with AF in its model number instead of AE. It’s essentially a 2nd gen Ryzen 2600 with a lower clock speed. It comes with a passable heatsink, too. We’re pairing that with a Gigabyte B450 AORUS M motherboard.SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce This $ 85 microATX board is pretty basic, but it’s reliable and has a few nice extras like USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports and advanced fan management. 

The GPU will do most of the heavy lifting in Doom Eternal, so we saved a little budget to boost this part. Bethesda says you need at least a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti or AMD Radeon RX 470. AMD’s GPU prices are extremely competitive at the low-end right now, so we went with a Radeon XFX RX 570 (around $ 130).SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce That should give you enough power to avoid stuttering even when there’s a lot of action, provided you don’t try to max the visual settings. 

You’ll want at least 8GB of RAM for Doom Eternal, and we didn’t push the envelope too much here. The Patriot Signature RAMSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce comes as a 2x4GB dual-channel kit for $ 39, which should give your system a little boost compared with a single-channel 8GB stick. It has solid reviews on Amazon with 4.3 stars. You only need 50GB of storage for Doom Eternal, but SSDs are cheap, and Windows 10 on a spinning drive is ludicrously slow. The ADATA SU635 240GB SSDSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce supports 6Gbps speeds, and it has stellar reviews. It’s a steal at under $ 40. 

People often overlook the importance of the power supply, which is especially problematic in gaming machines that are going to draw more power. We decided to go with the Corsair CX Series 450 Watt PSUSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce because it’s a well-regarded brand, it has a high-efficiency certification, and it’s semi-modular for just $ 59. This will be a simple build, so you’ll only need to plug in a few of the power cables. That should help maintain airflow in the case. Speaking of the case, we chose the Cooler Master N200,SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce which is $ 50 and comes with two reliable fans pre-installed. If you’re going to change up some part of this build, the case will be the easiest. There are plenty of different styles, but this one is clean, understated, and it’s large enough to accommodate larger video cards and water cooling radiators if you ever decide to go that route. This will bring the total (before tax and shipping) to $ 480-490 at current prices. 

We didn’t include a Windows 10 license in this build, but you can buy an OEM key from any major retailer for about $ 100. If you already have a key for your old PC, you can probably get Microsoft to activate it on your new system. You might be tempted to pick up a new monitor, but even an older panel you have sitting around should be fine — this rig won’t demand a 144Hz display. This computer will be a breeze to upgrade, though. If you slap in a new GPU, it should be able to support your gaming for years to come. To recap, here’s what we recommend. 

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1600 AF (YD1600BBAFBOX)
  • GPU: Radeon RX 570 (RX-570P427D6)
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte B450 AORUS M
  • RAM: Patriot Signature Premium DDR4 8GB (PSP48G2666KH1)
  • SSD: ADATA SU635 240GB SSD
  • PSU: Corsair CX Series 450 Watt
  • Case: Cooler Master N200

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SpaceX Gets Approval to Build Starship in LA

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SpaceX can move forward with its plans to build rockets in Los Angeles following a unanimous vote by the LA City Council. The 12-0 vote paves the way for Elon Musk’s spaceflight company to use a large tract of land at the Port of Los Angeles to conduct research and build components for the upcoming Starship rocket. This spacecraft could eventually take humans to the moon and Mars. 

Residents of LA will be either relieved or saddened to hear that SpaceX’s activities at the Port of Los Angeles will not include launching giant rockets. It will only conduct research, design, and construct the rockets in LA. Still, this will be a big time-saver for SpaceX — the new facility will be close to the company’s LA headquarters. Until now, most work on the Starship has taken place at the SpaceX test facility in Texas. 

SpaceX first leased the site in 2018, agreeing to pay $ 1.7 million in annual rent. The contract also includes a provision whereby SpaceX can expand its site from 12.5 acres to 19 acres. So, the LA operation can grow along with the Starship program, and Musk is hoping it’ll grow quite large indeed. SpaceX backed out a lease two years ago when it decided to do the initial Starship development in Texas, but this move brings Starship production closer to home. 

The Starhopper prototype hovering at SpaceX’s Texas facility.

The Starship is SpaceX’s next-generation vehicle, intended as a way to reach new destinations in the solar system and to replace the Falcon 9 for short-range trips. SpaceX has even pitched the Starship as a super-fast method to get from one place to another on Earth. The Starship has been tested in a limited form as the “Starhopper” vehicle, which proved the company’s new Raptor engines work as intended. The next step is an orbital test flight, which should take place later this year. 

Musk seems most interested in the Starship as a way to get people to and from Mars — technically, he’s more into the going-to-Mars part. He envisions the Starship ferrying colonists to the red planet where they will live out their days and build a new human society. He says a ticket to Mars will cost a few hundred thousand dollars, but there will be loans available to those who come up short. Although, maybe don’t accept a billionaire’s offer to work off a large loan on another planet. That’s a sci-fi dystopia waiting to happen.

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MIT Devises ‘Electroadhesive Stamp’ to Build Ultra-Complex Circuit Boards

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If you’ve ever peeked inside a modern electronic gizmo, you know that circuit boards are getting deviously complex. You simply can’t rely on humans to assemble these devices anymore, but even robots are nearing their limits. Researchers at MIT have developed a new technology that could help robots manipulate the tiniest of tiny components, and they call it an electroadhesive stamp. 

Some modern devices contain chips and other components no wider than a human hair, and there’s still a drive to make circuit boards even denser. Robots can place these objects with incredible precision, but a traditional grasper can’t manipulate anything smaller than roughly 50-100 micrometers. At such small scales, surface forces have a stronger influence than gravity. A robot might be able to pick up something small, but it could stick to the gripper instead of staying where it’s supposed to be. 

The electroadhesive stamp developed by MIT could allow a robot to pick up and set down a component as small as 20 nanometers. That’s about 1,000 times narrower than a human hair. The stamp uses a type of electroadhesion to grab hold of small objects with the aid of carbon nanotubes. You might remember those — they were everyone’s favorite advanced material until graphene came along. They’re still pretty useful here, though. 

The nanotubes that make up the stamp are covered with a layer of aluminum oxide. Then applying voltage, the nanotubes become polarized. The positive charge at one end can induce the opposite polarization in nearby conductive materials. For example, a microscope electronic component. With the voltage on, the stamp picks up the component when they come in contact. When the team turns off the power, the stamp loses its stickiness, and the component drops off. The team likens this to scotch tape that you can turn on and off at will. 

In laboratory testing, the electroadhesive stamp was able to pick up films of nanowires, micro-LEDs, and small clusters of metal or ceramic nanoparticles. These are all far too small for current robotic graspers to place on a circuit board. This is not the only potential fix for our robotic grasper issues, but it seems like a strong contender based on the early testing. This technology could eventually play a role in the construction of futuristic electronic devices with circuit diagrams that are impossible to manufacture right now.

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