Today’s Coronavirus Tracker

Current statistics on the spread of COVID-19 worldwide and a roundup of conference, travel, and business news and information.

Promoting a Surge of Volunteering

With a job market in disarray and an immediate public health need, a wide variety of organizations and major companies—including the Yale School of Public Health, Amazon Web Services, ADP, and LinkedIn—are using their ample resources to help train a growing number of volunteers to help out.

The nonprofit consortium Volunteer Surge announced on Monday a plan to help train a million volunteer health workers who can take on some tasks that would generally be handled by more traditional healthcare workers—with the goal of helping to lighten the load for a health system facing unprecedented pressures, explained Sten Vermund, M.D., Ph.D., the dean of Yale’s School of Public Health.

“Our entire healthcare system, especially in hard hit areas, is now under siege by COVID–19. Doctors, nurses and hospitals, as well as state and city health authorities, are overwhelmed with the epidemic,” Vermund said in a news release. “Task-shifting, which allows tasks to be delegated from doctors and nurses to trained health workers, can reduce the burden on our system and save lives by allowing scarce medical workers to focus on the more serious COVID–19 care operations while trained health care volunteers pick up other tasks.”

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Some of these tasks can be managed at home through phone calls or digital means; others may require ground support. But the goal is to bring lots of people together during a difficult time.

The new collaboration includes a mix of corporate and nonprofit collaborators. On the nonprofit end, Rotary International and the Association of Flight Attendants have already pledged to take steps to have their members take on volunteer roles, while the disaster-relief nonprofit Resilience Force will help coordinate ground response as needed. On the for-profit side, Salesforce, Absorb LMS, Amazon Web Services, and the payroll processor ADP will each offer tools that will help create a training platform for volunteers as well as a way to coordinate a network of workers. Yale, meanwhile, will develop a 30-hour volunteer nursing assistant course, and LinkedIn will use its platform to promote the program.

The potential of paying volunteers is a goal of the program: ADP, through its WorkMarket subsidiary, is designed to manage payments for tasked-based work, and another partner is GoFundMe Charity, which organizers aim to leverage to help fund stipends for volunteers.

The effort has high-profile celebrity supporters as well—former NBC and Fox anchor Megyn Kelly will help manage the effort’s marketing and communications, while former U.S. Army Chief of Staff George W. Casey Jr., has helped to guide coordination of the effort.

Recent Headlines

Zoom’s Sudden Rise Presents Test for New California Privacy Law (Law360, 04/03/20) “Zoom Video Communications Inc. is facing at least two putative class actions centered on these alleged shortcomings. The complaints, filed in federal court during the past week by California residents Robert Cullen and Samuel Taylor, accuse Zoom of violating several Golden State laws, including the state’s new Consumer Privacy Act, by quietly gathering and sharing personal information with third parties like Facebook. Under the CCPA, which took effect on Jan. 1, companies are required to clearly inform consumers at or before the point of collection about what categories of personal information will be collected and for what purposes this data will be used.”

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America’s $350 Billion Emergency Loan Program for Small Businesses May Run Out of Money (Quartz, 04/06/20) “Hundreds of lenders were still trying to get approval to access the SBA system after it went live on Friday, according to Independent Community Bankers of America. The agency’s systems were overwhelmed by the traffic, while banks remained ‘frustrated with a myriad of unanswered questions and lack of clear instruction,’ the trade group said. The amount of money available is likely to be far too little.”

Less Driving, Fewer Accidents: Car Insurers Give Millions in Coronavirus Refunds (The Wall Street Journal, 04/06/20) “One of the largest car-insurance companies in the country, Allstate Corp., and a smaller Midwestern auto insurer are refunding hundreds of millions of dollars to their policyholders, citing a dramatic drop in accident claims from Americans hunkered down in their homes. Allstate said it would dispatch $600 million in shelter-in-place payback checks, while American Family Mutual Insurance Co. said it is returning $200 million to its smaller policyholder base.”

Current Incidence Statistics

Source: Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Data sources include the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, and National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China, as well as local authorities, medical sources, and news reports.