April 13th marked the one-month anniversary of AUHSD schools closing down due to the rapidly-growing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and Thursday marked the one-month anniversary of the shelter-in-place order. Many of my friends I’ve talked to admitted to avoiding all news in an attempt to avoid the exclusively bad news they expected from major news outlets and the panic it brought. Personally, I’ve been reading the news every morning almost religiously, looking for any developments in the pandemic and, of course, the good news. While good news seems to be so few and far in between on mainstream news outlets, a quick search of “good news” on any search engine reveals the massive amount there actually is, whether it’s random acts of kindness, a large business doing their part, or a celebrity giving us hope and humour.
One celebrity trying to give us both hope and some laughs is John Krasinski, most famous for his role as Jim on The Office, who released the first episode of his new news show titled Some Good News on YouTube at the end of March. Three episodes have been released so far, varying from 15-20 minutes in length, and Krasinski releases new episodes every Sunday. In the very beginning of his first episode, he explains his motivations behind creating the show, saying: “For years now, I’ve been wondering ‘why is there not a news show dedicated entirely to good news?’…I reached out to all of you asking…for some good news…After reading those replies and the incredibly heartwarming stories that came with them, I thought…‘why not us? Why not now?’” He combines the traditional news show format with a talk show format, presenting little snippets of heartwarming things people have done for each other that were submitted to him through Twitter, interviewing a special celebrity guest and another guest from his good news segment over Zoom calls and putting his own–often satirical–twists on professional news elements. He masters the DIY feel that most shows airing from home are trying to achieve by filming in a homey-looking room instead of the clean, professional background that professional news shows and even YouTubers have; the logo displayed in the background are the letters SGN drawn and colored in by his daughters, he wastes no opportunity to make himself the butt of his own jokes, and he substitutes a theme song or intro for a spinning globe and the logo, and in later episodes, clips that viewers made for him to use and sent in.
One example of good news is that the LEGO Group, the Danish company that invented LEGOs, announced on April 9th that they started to produce protective face masks for healthcare workers working on the front lines of the pandemic in Denmark–and have been producing about 13,000 per day.
Furthermore, Rocco Scordella, owner of the Palo Alto restaurant Tootsie’s, began an “Adopt a Doctor or Nurse” program in early March to help feed healthcare workers and keep his restaurant afloat during the shelter-in-place order. His customers can come in and commission him to make meals for local hospitals and the employees. After Scordella announced the program, the community responded eagerly, and swarms of customers came to pay for meals for healthcare workers–with 750 requests on the first day. With the extra business coming in from the program, plus the business from his regular takeout and catering services, Scordella reported to KRON News that he was even able to rehire many of the employees laid off earlier in the pandemic.
Additionally, Governor Gavin Newsom has been working on a project called “Project Roomkey”, aiming to provide housing for California’s homeless population during the pandemic and shelter-in-place order. So far, Newsom reported on April 3rd that the State was able to obtain almost 7,000 hotel rooms for housing under Project Roomkey–but his goal, in the end, is to have 15,000 rooms to house every homeless person in California. In addition, he also negotiated to buy over 1,300 trailers from FEMA to use as housing–200 of them have already been allotted to Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley and other Bay Area cities–and is in the process of opening new shelters in San Francisco and San Jose–which plan to provide almost 1,000 beds to free up crowded shelters.
Even though shelter-in-place orders stopped many events, the need for blood donations remains. In 1983, the year they discovered HIV, the FDA enacted a lifetime ban against men who have had sex with other men for donating blood. It was an attempt to stop people from getting HIV through blood transfusions and made sense at that time. However, as the decades passed, technology was developed that allowed them to screen potential donors for HIV, but the ban stayed in place to make absolutely sure that HIV wouldn’t make it into the blood supply–which critics and LGBTQ+ advocates called discriminatory. When the FDA finally scrapped the lifetime ban in 2015, they replaced it with a 12-month ban, which was welcomed but still not enough for critics. Because of the pandemic, many blood drives were cancelled and social distancing orders scared more possible donors from donating, and the FDA realized they were running out of blood–red blood cells only stay viable for 42 days and platelets for 5. To meet the growing donor need, the FDA revised its ban on gay and bisexual men once more, lowering the period to 3 months. In addition, they released a statement confirming that the new restrictions would stay in place–even after the pandemic ended. In a statement released by Sarah Kate Ellis–the chief excutive and president of GLAAD, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ rights–said: “This is a victory for all of us who spoke out against the discriminatory ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.”
In a rare piece of non-COVID-19-related news, the study for the first trial of an experimental depression treatment was published on the Stanford University School of Medicine. The treatment, called Stanford Accelerated Intelligent Neuromodulation Therapy (or SAINT) involves sending targeted magnetic pulses into the patient’s brain in a way that was specifically designed for their brain. Twenty-one people participated in the study, and prior to it, all were diagnosed as severely depressed, had suicidal thoughts and didn’t respond to any depression treatments. The treatment involved 10 sessions for 10 minutes per day and stopped when the patient started to feel their depression lessen–which took 3 days on average, 5 days at the most–and the only side effects that were reported were fatigue and mild discomfort. After the study, the participants were tested for depression again, and 19 of them scored in the non-depressed range, and none of them had suicidal thoughts anymore. This therapy proved to have a 90% success rate–contrasting with the second-most successful treatment for this type of depression, Electroconvulsive therapy, with a 48% success rate. In the published study, the scientists said that they would perform a second, larger study to help confirm their results, but were confident they would get similar results.