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Video: New data demonstrates vaccine safety, says CDC director

TimesVideoNew Data demonstrates vaccine safety, says CDC director. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said data from a study of Covid-19 vaccinations in the United States shows that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are safe and that serious side effects are rare.

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Travel to the Dominican Republic: New data show a rebound in tourism on the Caribbean island

The Dominican Republic appears to be emerging from the shackles of the coronavirus pandemic as air ticket data shows an increase in travelers, according to ForwardKeys, a leading travel analytics firm.

Data shows that the Dominican Republic’s international tourism, which fell more than 90 percent at one point in July 2020 compared to the same period last year, has risen again to 36.3 percent less year-over-year. .

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Not only is the nearly 55 percent gain extraordinary, the Dominican Republic has a higher rate of return visitors than the rest of its Caribbean neighbors, which are also attracting tourists again and have gone down from 80 percent in July. 2020 at 48.9 percent.

Obviously not ideal for any tourist destination, but it is a sign that tourism is slowly receding. That is particularly true for the Dominican Republic after its government developed a comprehensive “Plan for the Responsible Recovery of Tourism”.

“The Dominican Republic is a very good example of how governments should handle this current Covid-19 crisis,” said Olivier Ponti, Vice President of Insights for ForwardKeys, in a statement. “The other important point worth mentioning is keeping the borders open. Like Mexico and other Caribbean destinations, intra-regional travel greatly benefited travelers eager to escape the US. “

The top three cities from which travelers flew to the Dominican Republic were New York, Miami, and Boston. And the data also pointed to an interesting trend that many visitors were single or traveling alone.

“There are a few reasons why the Dominican Republic attracts individual travelers. First, solo travelers tend to be more active, so they are drawn to the hiking, kayaking, surfing, wildlife, and bird watching that abound in the destination, ”says David Collado, Minister of Tourism of the Dominican Republic. “As people return to travel, these socially distant activities that take place in our beautiful large open National Parks and long beaches are particularly attractive. It is also a very safe and welcoming country, which is always a key consideration for individual travelers. “

To that end, the Dominican Republic has launched a new commercial to help attract more tourists.

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Intelligence analysts use location data from smartphones in US without warrant, memo says

WASHINGTON – A military wing of the intelligence community buys commercially available databases of location data from smartphone apps and searches them without a warrant for Americans’ past movements, according to an unclassified note obtained by the New York Times.

Defense Intelligence Agency analysts have searched a commercial database for movements of Americans in five investigations over the past two and a half years, agency officials revealed in a note they wrote for the. Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon.

The disclosure highlights an emerging loophole in privacy law in the digital age: In a landmark 2018 decision known as the Carpenter ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution requires the government to obtain a warrant to require telephone companies to provide location data. on their customers. But the government can buy similar data from a broker instead – and don’t think it needs a warrant to do so.

“The DIA does not interpret Carpenter’s decision as requiring a judicial warrant approving the purchase or use of commercially available data for intelligence purposes,” the agency’s note said.

Mr Wyden has made it clear that he intends to propose legislation to add safeguards for Americans to commercially available location data. In a Senate speech this week, he denounced the circumstances “in which the government, instead of getting an order, simply goes out and buys the private records of Americans from those shady, unregulated business data brokers who are just plain wrong. above the law.

He called this practice unacceptable and an intrusion on constitutional rights to privacy. “The Fourth Amendment is not for sale,” he said.

The government’s use of commercial location information databases is under increasing scrutiny. Many smartphone apps log their users’ locations, and app makers can aggregate the data and sell it to brokers, who can then resell it, including to the government.

We know that the government sometimes uses this data for law enforcement purposes on national soil.

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that law enforcement was using this data. In particular, he found that two agencies of the Department of Homeland Security – Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection – used the data to patrol the border and investigate immigrants who were subsequently arrested.

In October, BuzzFeed reported the existence of a legal notice from the Department of Homeland Security stating that it was legal for law enforcement to purchase and use smartphone location data without a warrant. The inspector general of the ministry opened an internal examination.

The military is also notorious for sometimes using location data for intelligence purposes.

In November, the technology blog of Vice’s Motherboard reported that Muslim Pro, a Muslim prayer and Quran app, sent the location data of its users to a broker called X-Mode who then sold it to entrepreneurs in the defense and the US military. Muslim Pro then said it would stop sharing data with X-Mode, and Apple and Google said they would ban apps that use the company’s tracking software on phones running their mobile operating systems. .

Mr Wyden’s new memo, written in response to inquiries from privacy and cybersecurity assistant in his office, Chris Soghoian, adds to this emerging mosaic.

The Defense Intelligence Agency appears to primarily purchase and use location data for investigations of foreigners abroad; one of its main missions is to detect threats to US forces stationed around the world.

But, the memo says, the unidentified broker (s) the government buys smartphone location data from in bulk does not separate US and foreign users. Rather, the Defense Intelligence Agency processes the data as it arrives to filter out records that appear to be on national soil and place them in a separate database.

Agency analysts can only query this separate database of American data if they receive special approval, the memo said, adding: “Permission to query the location data of American devices has been granted.” five times in the past two and a half years for authorized purposes. “

Mr Wyden questioned Avril D. Haines, President Biden’s new director of national intelligence, about what he called “abuse” of commercially available location information during his confirmation hearing this week. Ms Haines said she was not yet aware of the matter, but stressed the importance of the government being open about the rules under which it operates.

“I would like to try to spread, essentially, a framework that helps people understand the circumstances in which we do this and the legal basis on which we do it,” she said. “I think this is part of what is essential to promote transparency in general so that people understand the guidelines under which the intelligence community operates.”

Mr Wyden’s upcoming legislation on the matter seems likely to be drawn into a larger oversight debate that erupted in Congress last year before temporarily grounding after erratic statements by President Donald J. Trump, as he fueled his grievances over the Russia investigation, threatening to veto the bill and fail to specify what would satisfy him.

With Mr Biden now in office, lawmakers are expected to pick up on this unresolved issue. The legislation has focused on reactivating several provisions of the Patriot Act that have expired and whether to put new safeguards on them, including a ban on using a part known as Section 215 for collect web browsing information without warrant.

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Daily coronavirus cases in the United States are higher than ever, but the holidays are skewing the data.

The United States reported at least 291,300 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, a single-day high but inflated due to delays in reporting during the holidays.

Nineteen states did not report any data on Friday, a holiday for New Year’s Day. The remaining states reported a total of more than 147,000 new cases on Friday. The near-doubling of cases on Saturday can mainly be explained by the fact that many states are reporting cases for Friday and Saturday, with one state, Michigan, also reporting cases for Thursday. Other states will wait until Sunday or Monday to report cases from the past few days, which will continue to skew the totals.

Regular data reporting is expected to resume towards the end of next week.

According to a New York Times database, the country’s previous one-day high was 280,514 new cases on December 11, although that number was also inflated due to 43,000 cases that were added from ‘a backlog in Texas. The highest number of new cases in a single day without data anomalies was 251,191 on December 18.

Regardless of the holiday notification delays, the United States has experienced the world’s worst outbreak during most of the pandemic and is experiencing a new outbreak of infections even as vaccine distribution begins. The flood is particularly severe in Los Angeles County, the largest in the United States, where the seven-day average of new cases peaks at 16,193, about 12 times the seven-day average for November 1, which was 1.347.

And with fears that another wave of cases will surge after travel and holiday gatherings, the country took another milestone on Saturday that was once unthinkable, surpassing the total of 350,000 deaths. At the same time, more than 123,000 patients with Covid-19 have been hospitalized, a slight drop from Thursday’s record level.

Distribution of the vaccine in the United States is taking longer than expected, with staff shortages during the holidays and other resource issues that have delayed the campaign into its third week. More than 4.2 million people in the United States have received a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, well below the target that federal authorities have set themselves to give to at least 20 million people get their first vaccines before the end of December.

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Our digital lives are driving a brick and mortar boom in data centers

Goldman Sachs announced an investment of up to $ 500 million in data center infrastructure in October, and private equity firms Blackstone and KKR recently announced investments in data centers.

Data center-focused real estate investment trusts generated 19% returns in the first half of 2020, according to a recent report from JLL – one of only two REIT sectors to have seen growth. (The other sector, industrials, produced a modest return of 2%.) By comparison, returns for hotel and resort REITs fell 49%, retailers fell 37%, and floor space fell 49%. office space by 25%.

“It’s recognition that this is no longer a niche real estate market,” Lynch said.

Data centers have become an essential part of the digital infrastructure that connects people and businesses to each other and to the rest of the world, said Jon Lin, president for the Americas region at Equinix, one of the largest global data center companies.

“We are the basis, in many ways, of this digital infrastructure,” he said.

This infrastructure is no longer the sole responsibility of technology companies. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012 prompted many companies in various industries in New York City, such as finance and media, to rethink their information technology as protection against disaster or damage. future. Today, office closures and remote working arrangements brought on by a pandemic are prompting companies to reassess where and how they house their central nervous system.

“Many companies had previously switched to cloud-based services, but the lockdown forced them to move to the cloud much faster,” said Keith Snyder, equity analyst at CFRA Research, an investment research firm.

The demand for space in data centers is also being fueled by the growing number of businesses that use cloud services to manage their operations without having to purchase, maintain and update hardware and software. Many providers of these services want to have electronic outposts close to their customers’ servers.

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Richer, whiter areas are more likely to get help after fires, data shows

WASHINGTON – Richer, whiter neighborhoods hit by wildfires are more likely to get help to reduce the risk of future fires, new data suggests, latest evidence that racial and economic inequalities expose some Americans to the worsening effects of climate change.

The findings, released Wednesday by Resources for the Future, a Washington-based research group, show that after a wildfire, the federal government is more likely to take action to reduce the severity of future fires in the same area, but only when nearby communities are whiter or have higher than average incomes.

“Some communities are better able to rally government support,” said Matthew Wibbenmeyer, economist and researcher at Resources for the Future who wrote the article with Sarah Anderson and Andrew Plantinga, professors at the University of California at Santa. Barbara. “It can change the amount of risk communities face.”

The research follows one of the most destructive wildland fire seasons in American history. Over time, the combination of rising temperatures and longer dry spells has made fires more frequent and intense. In California alone, fires have consumed more than 4 million acres, more than double the previous annual record, destroying more than 10,000 structures.

Forest fires disproportionately affect poorer households and people of color, who are often more physically exposed, less likely to have insurance and may struggle to rebuild, according to previous research. The latest findings suggest that government decisions after a fire also make a difference, prioritizing some places over others.

One of the most important ways for the federal government to reduce the risk of forest fires is through so-called “fuel treatment” projects: reducing the amount of flammable vegetation in fire-prone areas, using either heavy machinery or by burning it with a carefully controlled fire, defined intentionally and for this purpose. But these projects are expensive, and Congress provides the government with funds to treat only a small portion of the land at risk of fire each year.

Dr Wibbenmeyer and his colleagues wanted to know if experiencing a forest fire would increase a community’s chances of getting a fuel project. They examined more than 41,000 census blocks that were within 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) of a wildfire between 2000 and 2011 and found that most neighborhoods were not more likely to benefit of a fuel project than before.

But in areas that were wealthier or had a smaller proportion of people of color, the story turned out to be different. Places where all or almost all of the residents were white saw their odds of getting fuel treatment increased by 30%. And those probabilities increased by 40% in places where few or no households were below the poverty line.

“This article shows that similar events can produce very different political outcomes for different types of communities,” the researchers wrote.

The data does not answer the question of why federal agencies seem to prioritize fuel projects that benefit these communities, Dr. Wibbenmeyer said. The difference could reflect the preferences of the staff within these agencies, or the fact that wealthier areas can apply political pressure better, pushing these agencies to place them at the top of the list.

More than 90% of federal fuel processing projects completed during the period in question were carried out by three agencies, according to the newspaper: the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service and the National Park Service. Officials from all three agencies said wealth or race had no influence on their decisions about which projects to pursue.

“In collaboration with local stakeholders, science-based risk assessments are carried out by teams of wildland firefighters to strategically determine how best to protect people, communities and infrastructure,” Jessica Gardetto, spokesperson of the Bureau of Land Management, which administers one-tenth of all land in the United States, said via email.

Christopher Peters, chairman of the Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples, which aims to help Native American communities, said Native Americans are disproportionately exposed to forest fires because of where they live, but find it more difficult to bring federal agencies to reduce the risk of fire on neighboring lands. . “When it comes to putting the dollars where they are, they provide services to non-Aboriginal communities,” said Peters.

Kimiko Barrett, researcher and policy analyst at Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit forest fire policy consultancy in Montana, said the government’s fight to fight fire risks more equitably stems in part from ‘an outdated understanding of who is in danger.

For decades, Dr Barrett said, most people moving around fire-prone areas were white and well-off. But the rising cost of housing in cities and suburbs is increasingly pushing low-income and minority families into these areas, she said, and all levels of government need to change their policies on housing. fire to reflect this growing economic and racial diversity.

That could mean offering more help clearing vegetation, better evacuating non-English speakers from dangerous areas, or subsidizing improvements to make homes less prone to fires, Dr Barrett said. But first, policymakers need to recognize that the current system is not always fair and that the problem is getting worse as climate change accelerates.

“Things are going fast,” she said. “People have to adapt very, very quickly, on a scale that the federal bureaucracy is not used to.

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Moderna vaccine is highly protective and prevents severe Covid-19, data shows

WASHINGTON – The coronavirus vaccine made by Moderna is very protective, according to new data released Tuesday, paving the way for its emergency clearance this week by federal regulators and the start of its distribution across the country.

The Food and Drug Administration intends to clear the vaccine for use on Friday, people familiar with the agency’s plans said. The move would give millions of Americans access to a second coronavirus vaccine as early as Monday.

Data included in an FDA review confirms Moderna’s earlier assessment that its vaccine had a 94.1% effectiveness rate in a trial involving 30,000 people. The side effects, including fever, headache and fatigue, were unpleasant but not dangerous, the agency found.

The success of Moderna’s vaccine has become all the more crucial in the fight against the pandemic as other vaccination efforts have failed. The encouraging news comes at a time when the record number of coronavirus cases is crushing hospitals and the steadily rising death toll, which hit a grim threshold of 300,000 on Monday.

The release of the data is the first step in a public review process that will include a one-day meeting on Thursday by an independent expert advisory committee. They will hear from Moderna, FDA scientists and the public before voting on whether to recommend authorization. The panel is expected to vote yes, and the FDA generally follows expert recommendations.

The distribution of around six million doses could then begin next week, adding significantly to the millions of doses already shipped by Pfizer and BioNTech, the companies that developed the first coronavirus vaccine to receive emergency clearance on Friday. latest. Healthcare workers received the first injections of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday, which has a 95% effectiveness rate.

The rollout of the vaccine has been eagerly awaited and is one of the most ambitious vaccination campaigns ever carried out in the United States.

The federal government signed agreements last summer with Moderna and Pfizer to deliver a total of 200 million doses in the first quarter of 2021. Because both vaccines require two doses, these contracts guaranteed sufficient doses for 100 million people. .

Last week, the government announced it had purchased an additional 100 million doses of Moderna for the second quarter, bringing the number of Americans who can be vaccinated to 150 million. But that still leaves the question of how and when the estimated 180 million other Americans will be covered.

Both vaccines will be provided free to the public.

Moderna’s vaccine has become a symbol of the triumphs of government scientists during the pandemic. After China released the genetic sequence for the new virus in early January, scientists at Moderna and the National Institutes of Health were able to focus on designing a vaccine in just two days. Unlike Pfizer, Moderna has a close relationship with Operation Warp Speed, the federal program designed to get a vaccine to market quickly. Nearly $ 2.5 billion in federal funds helped Moderna buy raw materials, expand its factory, and increase its workforce by 50%.

Moderna’s success contrasts with two other large-scale projects that the United States hoped to increase its vaccine supply for: one from pharmaceutical companies Sanofi from France and GlaxoSmithKline from Great Britain, and another from Anglo-Swedish drug maker AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

AstraZeneca and Oxford ended up using two different doses in clinical trials in Britain and Brazil. At one level, the efficiency was 62 percent, and at the other it was 90 percent. It is not clear from these confusing results when AstraZeneca will have sufficient data to obtain emergency use authorization.

Meanwhile, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline received disappointing results from their vaccine in early clinical trials. Although it produced a promising immune response in volunteers under the age of 50, it failed to do so in older people. The companies are currently planning a new round of trials with a different version of the vaccine. The delay means they are unlikely to deliver vaccines before the end of 2021.

Moderna’s vaccine worked in both white volunteers and communities of color. There was also no significant difference between its protection for men and women, or between healthy volunteers and those at risk for severe Covid-19 who had conditions like obesity and diabetes. For people 65 and older, the trial provided an estimated efficacy of 86.4 percent, lower than the overall estimate of 94.1 percent. But the apparent difference was not statistically significant.

So far, two potential differences between vaccines have emerged from FDA reviews, but the results may reflect a lack of data rather than real differences. The Pfizer-BioNTech trial showed that their vaccine began to protect against the coronavirus around 10 days after the first dose. Moderna’s vaccine trial, on the other hand, did not find such a striking effect after the first dose.

But fewer cases of Covid-19 occurred among trial participants in the early days of the Moderna trial, making it more difficult to measure the differences between the vaccinated group and the placebo group. Either way, health officials have said that for both vaccines, two doses are essential for full protection.

A second difference concerns the ability to prevent serious illness. Moderna has produced more evidence that its vaccine can do this, according to the journal. In his trial, 30 volunteers developed severe cases of Covid. All were in the placebo group, with no cases among those vaccinated.

In the Pfizer-BioNTech trial, the results were less convincing. There were 10 serious cases in the placebo group and one in the vaccinated group. These numbers are too small to assess the vaccine’s ability to prevent serious disease.

“The data available for these results did not allow any definitive conclusions to be drawn,” the FDA said.

Documents released on Tuesday made it clear that side effects were particularly common after the second dose, but usually only lasted a day. Experts say people may need to take time off work after being vaccinated.

During the Moderna trial, researchers also kept an eye out for volunteers who developed new disorders. In a multi-month trial with 30,000 volunteers, it’s normal for some to suffer from conditions unrelated to the vaccine, health experts say. Comparing the rates between people who receive the vaccine and the placebo – as well as general baseline rates – can help identify serious concerns and rule out coincidences.

During the Moderna trial, three vaccinated participants developed a form of temporary facial palsy called Bell’s palsy, while one participant on the placebo also experienced it. Bell’s palsy, which can last for weeks or more, can be triggered by viral infections and other causes. Some 40,000 people develop the disease each year in the United States. Years of intense research have failed to find evidence that any vaccine routinely recommended in the United States causes Bell’s palsy.

In the review published Tuesday, the FDA said, “There is insufficient information currently available to determine a causal relationship with the vaccine.”

In the Pfizer-BioNTech trial, four cases were detected in the vaccine group, including one in a person with a history of the disease, and none in the placebo group.

Dr Peter Marks, the FDA’s main vaccine regulator, said Monday in an interview with JAMA that the cases of Bell’s palsy in the trial were likely not caused by the vaccine and that the apparent difference between the two groups of volunteers was a matter of luck.

“Our working assumption is simply that this is a base rate imbalance, as we’ve seen in other essays,” he said.

In its review of the Moderna vaccine released Tuesday, the FDA said it plans to recommend tracking Bell’s palsy cases as the vaccines roll out.

“We’re going to be asking questions about this, just to close this question,” Dr Marks said on Monday.

The FDA analysis did not find any serious allergic reactions to the Moderna vaccine. The same was true in the Pfizer-BioNTech clinical trial, but when vaccinations began in Britain outside of this trial, two people with a history of severe allergies had a serious and potentially fatal reaction called anaphylaxis.

British health officials have said people with a history of anaphylaxis should avoid the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

But in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that people with severe allergies can be vaccinated safely, with close monitoring for 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine.

Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are similar in their ingredients, but not the same, so it is not clear whether an allergic reaction to one would occur with the other. Both are made up of genetic material called mRNA enclosed in a bubble made from a mixture of fats. The two companies use different fats.

Moderna has requested permission to vaccinate people 18 years and older, like those in her study. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was cleared for people as young as 16 years old because the trial had younger volunteers. Both companies are conducting trials on children as young as 12 and plan to start studying even younger children.

Sharon LaFraniere contributed to the reporting.

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A state scientist has questioned the virus data from Florida. Now his house has been ransacked.

MIAMI – The complicated story of how a Florida data scientist responsible for managing the state’s coronavirus numbers ended up with state police officers wielding guns in his home this week started seven long months ago, when scientist Rebekah D. Jones was taken away from her. post in the Florida Department of Health.

Ms Jones had helped build the dashboard of statistics showing how the virus was spreading rapidly in a state that had been reluctant to impose broad restrictions.

Two months later, Ms Jones was sidelined and then sacked for insubordination, a dispute she said came to a head when she refused to manipulate the data to show rural counties were ready to reopen after coronavirus lockouts. The specter of possible censorship by the administration of Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican allied to President Trump, has exploded in the frenzied cycle of pandemic news, and Ms Jones’ challenge has come to symbolize growing questions about the management of the pandemic by Florida.

The arrival of state agents at her Tallahassee home on Monday to execute a search warrant in a criminal investigation marked a dramatic new chapter in the saga of Ms Jones, who, deep down, has always returned to the same basic question: Can Floridians, who are now in the midst of yet another alarming rise in coronavirus infections and deaths, trust state data?

“It’s not really unexpected,” she said of this week’s raid. “You shoot down a governor, he will come for you. Six months ago, I was just a scientist trying to do my job.

Ms Jones’ May sacking became a national tipping point as Mr DeSantis touted Florida’s early success in battling the virus – a victory lap that proved to be premature, given that infections and deaths increased later in the summer and are on the rise again. Mr DeSantis introduced Ms Jones as a disgruntled ex-employee who is not an epidemiologist and whose claims about a lack of data transparency were unfounded.

The row with the governor made Ms Jones, 31, a celebrity cause. By June, she had built her own dashboard to compete with the state’s, funded in part by donations from hundreds of thousands of new social media followers.

Ms Jones has spent months publicly urging health department workers to speak out against what she says is manipulating and obscuring viral data to make Florida look better than it actually is. In July, she filed a formal whistleblower complaint.

But questions remain as to why she was fired. State officials insist his claims about hiding viral data are false. She was fired, they said, because she made unilateral decisions to change the virus dashboard without approval.

“Our data is available,” DeSantis said when Ms. Jones was fired. “Our data is transparent. In fact, Dr Birx has spoken on several occasions about how Florida has the absolute best data, ”he added, referring to Dr Deborah L. Birx, White House Coronavirus Response Officer , who had praised the state scorecard when Ms. Jones oversaw it.

“So any hint to the contrary is just a typical partisan narrative trying to be spun off,” DeSantis concluded.

The new dashboard Ms Jones has put in place shows data on virus cases that had been buried deep in PDFs on the state’s website and usually shows more cases than count. reported by the state. It also includes information from other agencies, such as hospitalization rates from the Agency for Health Care Administration that are not shown on the state dashboard.

But hers remained mainly an operation on a woman. Although several of her former colleagues have recently left the department, they have not publicly said why they stopped working there, nor have they joined Ms Jones’ cause.

The story took a surprising new turn on Monday morning, when officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement appeared at the door of Ms Jones’ townhouse.

“Come outside!” one of the officers barked as he walked out and raised his hands. “Outside!”

The first officer intervened and ordered Ms Jones’ husband to come downstairs. Two other officers followed with firearms. One of them pointed his gun up where Ms Jones’ 11-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter were sleeping.

“He just pointed a gun at my children!” Yelled Mrs. Jones.

Officers had come to serve a search warrant for Ms. Jones’ computers and other electronic devices. Mrs. Jones posted a 31-second music video of the agents’ arrival on Twitter Monday afternoon, creating new outrage against Mr. DeSantis, who in the eyes of his supporters has continued to try to minimize the virus.

The research was part of a criminal investigation into unauthorized messages sent last month to a group of health department employees using an internal emergency alert system.

“It’s time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead,” read the messages – about 1,750 of them – sent on November 10. “You know it’s wrong. You don’t have to be part of it. Be a hero. Speak up before it’s too late.

According to an affidavit supporting the search of the townhouse, investigators traced the messages to Ms Jones’ Internet Protocol address, a unique number sequence assigned to every computer connected to the web.

She denied having anything to do with the messages. Florida reported 17,460 coronavirus deaths at the time and said it would never have rounded that number down.

According to the affidavit, the users of the Emergency Alert Group account shared the same username and password, which cybersecurity experts said left the system vulnerable to a breach that could be difficult to trace.

“This is classic bad security practice, and it’s an example of why – it’s hard to revoke access and assign actions to those responsible,” said J. Alex Halderman, professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan.

Stephen S. Dobson III, Ms. Jones’ criminal defense attorney, said the system password was written on at least three Department of Health boards. He implied that Ms. Jones’ IP address had been “spoofed” or spoofed by someone else.

“And the FDLE are just exaggerating to come up with guns, pointing guns at people,” he said.

In the seized electronic devices, which included computers, cell phones and USB drives, was information from contacts within the health department to whom Ms Jones had promised confidentiality, she said.

The Law Enforcement Department denied that officers pointed their guns at anyone and released body camera footage on Thursday showing how officers repeatedly knocked on Ms Jones’ door and shot called his cell phone to announce the search warrant. They first wondered if no one was home and then, after seeing people inside, whether they should break down the door to get in. Ms Jones came to the door about 23 minutes after officers arrived, they said. (Ms Jones said it was not clear from the start whether they had a search warrant.)

“Officers have given Ms. Jones ample time to come to the door and resolve this matter in a civil and professional manner,” Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Richard L. Swearingen said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Mr DeSantis said the governor was not aware of the investigation until Ms Jones made the raid public.

Florida publishes quite a bit of coronavirus data, but Mr DeSantis and his administration have also contributed to the perception that the state has not been fully transparent.

Very early on, state agencies refused to disclose information on the number of hospitalizations and cases of coronavirus in long-term care facilities, and only provided it after news agencies threatened to lawsuits. Florida still does not provide a complete list of outbreaks in businesses and other public places.

County health administrators have been limited in what they are allowed to say. The state’s surgeon general has made few public appearances since he acknowledged in April that social distancing and other measures would most likely have to be in place until the advent of a vaccine, during ” probably a year, if not more ”.

But Ms. Jones has not been universally accepted as a whistleblower. Some critics have dismissed his lack of public health training. Others have been made uncomfortable by the attention she sought – sometimes by tagging late-night host Stephen Colbert, for example, in her Twitter posts.

Its dashboard shows a higher total number of cases than official state records because it includes the number of positive antibody tests, which the health ministry and outside epidemiologists do not recommend. Ms Jones reacted defensively to some of their criticism on Twitter.

The search warrant served this week did not represent Ms Jones’ first contact with the law. She has faced a number of criminal charges in Florida, including criminal mischief and violation of a domestic violence injunction, all involving a relationship with one of her students when she was a graduate assistant at the Florida State University. None of them resulted in a conviction, but last year Tallahassee prosecutors charged Ms Jones with cyberstalking the man.

Her attorney wrote in a court file this week that Ms Jones had agreed to a plea deal in the case, but prosecutors canceled it after Monday’s raid.

At the state health department, Ms. Jones earned a salary of $ 47,999. Since her termination, she has raised over $ 250,000 in a GoFundMe account created by her sister and also founded a for-profit company that accepts undisclosed donations.

This week, she opened a new GoFundMe account, this time to fund her legal defense. His video of the raid has been shared over 137,000 times, including by actors, scientists and members of Congress.

The fundraising call quickly exceeded its initial goal of $ 150,000. She raised her goal to $ 1 million, then lowered it to $ 500,000, saying she would need the money for bail, if she was arrested, and to take care of her family.

“It will also help find a new place to live outside of Florida so I can continue to do this important reach outside of Ron DeSantis’ administration,” she said in a text message. “I can do this job from anywhere.”

Susan C. Beachy contributed to the research.

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Video: Police footage shows raid on Florida data scientist

Body camera images released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show a search conducted Monday at the home of Rebekah D. stationed at the Florida Department of Health. By Storyful.

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Intensive care beds almost reach nationwide capacity, new data shows




Share of occupied ICU beds

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Use two fingers to pan and zoom. Tap for more details.


Source: New York Times analysis of US Department of Health and Human Services data.·Note: Displays the average number of patients over 7 days per service area of ​​the hospital.

In El Paso, hospitals reported that only 13 of 400 intensive care beds were unoccupied last week. In Fargo, ND, there were only three. In Albuquerque, there were none.

More than a third of Americans live in areas where hospitals are sorely lacking in intensive care beds, federal data shows, revealing a newly detailed picture of the nation’s hospital crisis in the deadliest week in the world. Covid-19 epidemic.

Hospitals serving more than 100 million Americans said they had less than 15% of intensive care beds still available last week, according to a Times analysis of data reported by hospitals and released by the Department of Health and Human Services .

Many areas are even worse off: One in 10 Americans – across much of the Midwest, South, and Southwest – lives in an area where intensive care beds are either completely full or less than 5% of beds are available. At these levels, experts say maintaining existing standards of care for the sickest patients can be difficult, if not impossible.

“Our primary care can’t offer a lot, especially when you arrive in these truly rural counties that are currently hit hard by the pandemic,” said Beth Blauer, director of the Centers for Civic Impact at Johns University. Hopkins.

A sharp increase in the number of patients with Covid-19 can overwhelm small hospitals, she said. “This disease progresses very quickly and can get very ugly very quickly. When you don’t have this ability, it means people will die. ”

The new data set, released on Monday, marks the first time the federal government has released detailed geographic information on Covid-19 patients in hospitals, which public health officials have long said would be crucial to respond to the epidemic and understand its impact.

Where hospitals are at full capacity

High population areas

All hospital service areas

Covid patients
for 100k ▼
Covid intensive care patients
for 100k
Hospital
occupation
ICU
occupation
National average 30 5 59% 72%
White Plains, New York 175 31 79% 79%
Troy, Michigan. 135 15 79% 87%
Abington, Pennsylvania. 132 30 77% 102%
Fort Thomas, Ky. 121 31 146% 82%
Amarillo, Texas 117 42 78% 94%
Saginaw, Mich. 117 23 98% 99%
Oak Lawn, Illinois. 112 23 71% 78%
Paterson, NJ 110 17 71% 50%
Jonesboro, Ark. 109 28 78% 94%
Altoona, Pennsylvania. 103 19 94% 94%

Note: The locations shown represent hospital service areas and national averages correspond to service areas for which data exists. Percentages greater than 100 can occur when hospitals report patients beyond their normal limits.

Hospitalization figures collected by the Covid Tracking Project show that the number of people hospitalized with the virus across the country has doubled since early November. But existing state-level figures have masked vast differences within states, making it difficult to recognize local hot spots.

The new data shows that some areas – like Amarillo, Texas, Coral Gables, Florida, and Troy, Michigan – are experiencing rates of severe illness caused by Covid-19 that are approaching levels seen in New York City during the worst weeks of spring. .



Covid-19 patients per 100,000 inhabitants

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Political leaders in many states are stepping up measures to try to slow the spread. Last week, California issued stay-at-home orders for areas where hospitals have exceeded 85% of intensive care occupancy rates. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, where intensive care units are full statewide, is expected to announce soon that hospitals can ration care based on who is most likely to survive.

Doctors and researchers said the shortages were already causing serious damage.

In North Dakota, which for weeks this fall had the nation’s worst per capita infection rate, the number of unoccupied intensive care beds statewide has occasionally dropped to single digits in early November. In the small town of Minot, the local hospital, Trinity Health, has dedicated more than an entire floor of its six-story hospital to patients with coronavirus.

Other North Dakota hospitals would normally accept transfers to help ease the burden, but when Chief Medical Officer Dr Jeffrey Sather called for help he found everywhere else to be full, too.

Patients kept arriving, piling up in his emergency room. “There is no place for them,” he said at the time.

Survival rates for the disease have improved as doctors have learned which treatments work. But hospital shortages could reverse those gains, risking death rates to rise again as patients cannot receive the level of care they need.

Thomas Tsai, assistant professor of health policy at Harvard University, said that when resources are severely limited, healthcare workers already facing burnout are forced to make emotionally wrenching decisions about who gets cares.

There is evidence that doctors are already limiting care, Dr Tsai said. In recent weeks, the rate at which Covid-19 patients go to hospital has started to decline. “This suggests that there are stricter rationing and triage criteria for those admitted, as hospitals remain full,” he said.

In California, where a shortage of hospital beds triggered a lockdown across much of the state by Monday, hospital workers are bracing for the next few months. More than 10,000 Covid-19 patients are now hospitalized in the state, more than 70% above levels from two weeks ago, and the effects of the Thanksgiving holiday may not have been fully felt yet.

At the University of California San Diego Medical Center, only nine intensive care beds were unoccupied Monday. The atmosphere at the hospital was one of resignation, said Dr Chris Longhurst, deputy chief medical officer. For months, health workers have seen much of the public ignore their advice to take precautions and avoid the spread of the virus, he said, and now, inevitably, they are seeing more and more people arrive sick at their doorstep.

“A lot of healthcare workers have worried about that, about the lack of compliance, and now we’re seeing it play out, and you kind of feel resigned,” he said. “You have to go to work every day and help people who need hospital care, but we want this to stop beforehand.”

So far, policymakers have relied heavily on test and case data to make policy decisions, especially whether schools and businesses should stay open. But the new, detailed hospital data can lead to a rapid change in what executives consider when making decisions, said Ms. Blauer, of Johns Hopkins.

“If you live in a place where there is no intensive care bed for 100 miles, you have to be extremely careful about the social interaction you allow the community to take,” she says.