Chart: The Swiss Cheese Model of Respiratory Pandemic Defense


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Source : The New York Times

Supermarket Model to Guide Safer Shopping Amid Pandemic

A Skoltech team has developed a model for assessing infection risks for supermarket customers. The researchers believe that their model will help formulate scientifically backed rules for safe shopping during the pandemic. The paper was published in PLOS One.

The team included professor Maxim Fedorov, who serves as Skoltech’s Vice President for Artificial Intelligence and Mathematical Modeling, and a research group led by professor Nikolai Brilliantov — the Director of the Skoltech Center for Computational and Data-Intensive Science and Engineering (CDISE).

The composite model presented in the paper incorporates a social forces model that describes customer motions and interactions with other shoppers or obstacles and is known to realistically reproduce waiting lines and congestions in confined spaces, such as stairs, and customers’ behavior during emergency evacuation. The approach is based on calculating several “forces” (see image), each describing a customer’s tendency to maintain a comfortable speed, approach a target, avoid obstacles, etc.

Other components describe the purchasing strategy and retail space layout. Customers are known to behave differently, depending on the place they visit: a small shop, a supermarket, or a cafe. The team used customer behavior scenarios specific to supermarkets and several layouts with varying numbers of intersections and bottleneck widths. Finally, the team proposed a model of infection transmission by virus-containing aerosol droplets.

The researchers used their composite model in multivariate numerical simulations to assess infection risks depending on several factors, such as average customer density, social distancing, behavior scenarios, use of masks, and retail space geometry. It turned out that the infection rate is primarily determined by social distancing, and to a much lesser extent, by the supermarket layout or customer strategy.

Curiously enough, the team discovered that increasing customer density has only a slight positive effect on sales, so filling the store to the limit makes little sense not just epidemiologically but economically, too.

“The functional version of our model, which we have made publicly available, can be used to assess the effects of various factors on the risk of infection. For example, you can optimize a store’s operations in the pandemic environment by controlling customer flow, relocating specific items, and reconfiguring the retail area. Although our selection of layouts did not reveal a noticeable effect of space configuration on infection spread, geometry may be an important factor in other cases,” Alexey Tsukanov, a co-author of the paper, comments.

Source: EurekAlert!

Pandemic Cuisine: Odd Pairings, Old favorites on the Menu

Leanne Italie wrote . . . . . . . . .

Whether it’s kimchi, beets or broccoli, the pandemic has had a strange impact on food cravings that goes beyond the joy of comfort eating.

Nearly a year into isolation, many people are embracing foods long forgotten or rejected for taste, texture or smell. Some have forced themselves to re-evaluate health-focused foods to help boost their immune systems. And with home cooking at a high, there’s a new adventurousness in the kitchen.

For Maeri Ferguson, 31, in Brooklyn, it’s all about pears.

After recovering from COVID-19, she spent months without normal taste and smell. So many foods she loved just didn’t satisfy. Now, Ferguson can again sense sweetness, saltiness and spiciness, but most foods lack nuance in flavor.

Not pears.

“My whole life I always passed on pears. Not because I didn’t like them. They just intimidated me,” Ferguson said. “I didn’t understand the differences between varietals, how to determine ripeness. I knew what a bad, unripe pear tasted like but not a good one.”

During the pandemic, a friend gave her a handy slicer as a gift and she pushed herself to figure out how to spot a good pear. It was one of the first foods she could truly taste.

“I’m a full convert,” Ferguson said. “I’ll never forget biting into a juicy, red pear and finally tasting that sweet flavor and just the faintest tartness. It was a profound experience, and one that made me treasure a food I used to only tolerate.”

While Ferguson may not have pear sales soaring, a big pandemic winner is fermented foods.

Anastasia Sharova, a chef in Stuttgart, Germany, runs Happybellyfish.com, an online cooking school focused on healthy food. It added fermentation classes in late 2019, then the pandemic hit. Suddenly, interest in making kimchi, miso and sauerkraut rocketed. Kombucha was already a trend and helped popularize home fermenting.

“Health became the priority number one for many last year,” Sharova said. “Second, everyone got extra time at home, so it was finally possible to try out new things in the kitchen that require time. Third, food fermentation is perceived as a hobby on its own and it’s a great community activity, even if your community is on Zoom or just within your own family.”

Thirty-year-old Alicia Harper is now in the fermentation camp. The New York City nutritionist was well-versed in the health benefits but wasn’t personally a fan before the pandemic.

“I found the fermented taste to be too strong for me and the fermented smell was off-putting. Since trying them again recently, my opinion has completely changed. I have now grown to love the taste and smell,” she said. “The pandemic really has made me appreciate my health more.”

Anne Alderete is enjoying something she never thought she would: natto. Made of fermented soy beans, natto is popular in Japan but considered too slimy and stinky for some.

“I’ve smelled it many times since I’m half Japanese and lived in Tokyo after college for seven years,” said the 47-year-old Alderete in Los Angeles. “I long wanted to understand the magic I was just not tasting. I was reminded of dirty old socks.”

Now, she devours store-bought natto nearly every week. Among her favorite ways to eat it is spread on a thick slice of toast topped with cheese and melted in the broiler.

“I feel somewhat virtuous when I eat natto because the health benefits are many, but it’s also because it’s brought me closer to my roots,” Alderete said.

The long shelf life of many fermented foods is another draw.

While health concerns and comfort foods have played a role, one expert thinks that changes in the way we eat also come from having more time at home to digest an onslaught of news about nutrition and the food chain.

“The pandemic has allowed many of us to finally acknowledge some uncomfortable truths about the food system,” said Ryan Andrews, a registered dietician who wrote a book on plant-based eating.

“People have learned about the unsafe working conditions in meatpacking plants, the unfair wages of farm laborers, the chronic diseases we all face related to diet, the inhumane ways in which we raise factory-farmed animals and the immense ecological toll of industrialized agriculture,” said Ryan, an adviser for Precision Nutrition, which certifies nutrition coaches.

Suddenly, he said, “The organic lentil and mushroom soup that didn’t sound so appealing pre-pandemic became part of the weekly meal routine.”

At the same time, an analysis of Google searches by the market research firm Semrush on the weird and wonderful in changing food interests during the pandemic pointed to comfort. The company found a 17% increase in searches for “peanuts and coke” in December when compared to December 2019, and a 33% rise for “prosciutto and melon.” It found a 95% hike for “bacon and jam.”

At WoodSpoon, a New York-based app that connects home chefs with hungry customers, the comfort trend is more than a little evident. Before the pandemic, there was strong interest in healthy offerings and less processed foods. After, it was all about the babka, pasta and short rib.

“In challenging times like this, diners are looking for authentic, homemade food and want to support local chefs. The trend has been happening for some time, and the pandemic took it to the next level,” said Oren Saar, WoodSpoon’s co-founder and CEO.

Beets never got a chance from Caroline Hoffman, 25, until the pandemic arrived and she forgot to buy tomatoes for pizza sauce one day. She blended up some beets instead and away she went, overcoming her grossness factor.

“I’m now hooked. I’ve made beet hummus, beet pasta and just plain beet salads. I’m unsure why I hadn’t discovered this before but now I buy a weekly bag like it’s cereal,” said Hoffman, in Chicago.

Others are reconnecting with their childhood favorites, revisiting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or whipping up grilled cheeses to eat with canned tomato soup. You can count raisins in as well.

Harry Overly, the “chief imagination wrangler,” president and CEO for Sun-Maid, said the raisin company saw a 1.4% increase in the last year in the number of U.S. households that started eating raisins.

“We absolutely see, especially in the past year, how consumers lean into nostalgia and reconnect with brands they remember from their childhood,” he said.

It’s not raisins Rex Chatterjee is after at home in the Hamptons beach town of Amagansett, New York. The treat of choice for Chatterjee, 34, and his wife is Oreos and rosé. He admits to dunking on occasion.

“The combination,” he said, “is wonderful and comes with our highest recommendation.”

Source: AP

Hate Masks? Try this Space Age Helmet Instead for Safe Air-travel

Lilly Smith wrote . . . . . . . . .

Ground control to Major Tom: Sanitize your hands and put your helmet on. Pandemic gear that looks straight-up celestial has come to Earth.

A new, fully enclosed helmet called Air by Microclimate has been released by Hall Labs, a Utah-based tech, material science, and manufacturing incubator. The helmet looks like what an astronaut might wear to space: Washable black fabric secures it tightly around the neck and attaches to a clear acrylic half-dome, which curves over the face from the back of the head to below the chin. It’s currently available for pre-order for $199, and will ship beginning in mid-October.

Michael Hall, the managing director of Hall Labs, first thought of the idea for a new “wearable” while skiing with his family, according to a Microclimate spokesperson. Hall wasn’t able to see his kids’ faces when covered with ski masks and goggles, and the equipment got wet and cold. So he hatched an idea for this helmet, which creates a “microclimate” around the head. Microclimate then adapted the design when the pandemic hit, the spokesperson says. The company now positions the helmet as a safer and more comfortable way to travel.

The helmet is equipped with a built-in ventilation system powered by fans, so it should be relatively comfy and shouldn’t fog up. Incoming and outgoing airflow is filtered through replaceable HEPA filters, which they say filters 99.97% of particles as small as .03 microns, the same particulate size as an N-95 mask. The helmet weighs about two pounds.

Improvements are in the works, too. The company is further developing the hearing capabilities, which are currently muffled by the fans, according to the website. It’s also looking into adding a straw port so you can drink from your personal bubble. It’s not intended for everyday, medical, or educational use — rather for air travel — and, based on their photos of dudes in suits and peacoats, for young business types specifically. But no need to alert NASA of your plans—this mask is just for air travel here on Earth.

Source : Fast Company

Estimated Total Deaths by Pandemic as a Percentage of the Global Population

Source : Deutsche Bank