AI tool predicts which coronavirus patients get deadly 'wet lung'

Doctors are learning on the fly about COVID-19, and one AI tool appears able to help steer them in the right direction.

Researchers in the US and China reported on Monday they developed an artificial intelligence tool that is able to accurately predict which newly infected patients with the coronavirus go on to develop severe lung disease.

Once deployed, the algorithm could assist doctors in making choices about where to prioritise care in resource-stretched healthcare systems, said Megan Coffee, a physician and professor at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine who co-authored a paper on the finding in the journal Computers, Materials & Continua.


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The tool discovered several surprising indicators that were most strongly predictive of who went on to develop so-called acute respiratory disease syndrome (ARDS), a severe complication of the COVID-19 illness that fills the lungs with fluid and kills about 50 percent of coronavirus patients who get it. 

The team applied a machine learning algorithm to data from 53 coronavirus patients across two hospitals in Wenzhou, China, finding that changes in three features – levels of the liver enzyme alanine aminotransferase (ALT), reported body aches, and hemoglobin levels – were most accurately predictive of subsequent severe disease.

Using this information along with other factors, the tool was able to predict risk of ARDS with up to 80 percent accuracy.

By contrast, characteristics that were considered to be hallmarks of COVID-19, such as a particular pattern in lung images called “ground glass opacity,” fever, and strong immune responses, were not useful in predicting which of the patients with initially mild symptoms would get ARDS. 

Neither age nor sex were useful predictors either, even though other studies have found men over 60 to be at higher risk.

“It’s been fascinating because a lot of the data points that the machine used to help influence its decisions were different than what a clinician would normally look at,” Coffee said.

AI in medicine

Using AI in medical settings isn’t a brand new concept – a tool already exists to help dermatologists predict which patients will go on to develop skin cancer, to give just one example. 

What makes this different is that doctors are learning on the fly about COVID-19, and the tool can help steer them in the right direction, in addition to helping them decide which patients to focus on as hospitals become overwhelmed, said co-author Anasse Bari, a computer science professor at NYU.

The team is now looking to further refine the tool with data from New York and hope it is ready to deploy sometime in April. 

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Coronavirus: People staying at home ‘making a difference’ to COVID-19 fight

People staying at home to stop coronavirus spreading faster across the UK are “making a difference”, a top government official has said.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, tried to encourage the public to carry on social distancing as the country enters week two of lockdown.

He said the measures were vital to significantly cut the number of people passing on COVID-19, on the same day the UK death toll rose to 1,415.

It is seven days since Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a historic address to the nation and told the public to stay home to save lives and protect the NHS.

Since then, most businesses have been urged to close and let employees work from home and police have been given powers to issue £60 fines for “non-urgent” travel.

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Italy sees 812 more coronavirus deaths, but new cases fall steeply

ROME (Reuters) – The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has risen by 812 in the last 24 hours, the Civil Protection Agency said on Monday, reversing two days of declines.

Italy, the world’s hardest hit country which accounts for more than a third of all global fatalities, saw its total death tally rise to 11,591 since the outbreak emerged in northern regions on Feb. 21.

More positively, the number of new cases rose by just 4,050, the lowest amount since March 17, reaching a total of 101,739.

However, the decline in new infections may be partly explained by a reduction in the number of tests, which were the fewest for six days.

Italians have been under nationwide lockdown for three weeks and officials said the restrictions, which were due to end on Friday, look certain for at least two more weeks.

“We have to agree on this with other regions, but I think we are talking about (maintaining the block) until at least mid-April,” Attilio Fontana, head of the worst-affected Lombardy region, told reporters.

The governor of the southern region of Puglia said on Saturday the restrictions should stay until May.

Underscoring the dangers of the disease, the national doctors’ association announced the deaths of 11 more doctors on Monday, bringing the total to 61.

Not all of them had been tested for coronavirus before they died, it said, but it linked their deaths to the epidemic.

Lombardy, which is centered on Italy’s financial capital Milan, accounts for almost 60% of the total deaths in Italy and some 40% of cases.

Fontana said the unprecedented curbs on movement, gatherings and business activity were preventing an exponential rise in cases, and needed to be kept in place.

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“We’re on the right track, we’re maintaining a (chart) line that’s not uphill, but it’s not downhill either,” he said.

The head of the national health institute, Silvio Brusaferro, who is advising the government on how to handle the crisis, also said that for restrictions to be eased “the number of new cases has to fall significantly.”

“For sure the re-opening will happen gradually … we are even considering the British idea of ‘stop and go’, which envisages opening things for a certain amount of time and then closing them again,” he told La Repubblica daily.

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B.C. health officials to provide Monday update on coronavirus response

British Columbia health officials are scheduled to provide their daily update on the province’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic at 1:30 p.m. PT.

Global News will stream the event live here and on our Facebook page and carry it on BC1.

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At B.C.’s last update on Saturday, the province announced its 17th death and raised the count of provincially confirmed cases to 884.

The province reported that 396 people had fully recovered from the disease, meaning 471 confirmed cases remained active.

As of Saturday, 81 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 52 of them in intensive care — double the number of people in the ICU on Thursday.

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Dutch museum says Vincent van Gogh painting stolen in raid – The Denver Post

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A painting by Dutch master Vincent van Gogh was stolen in an overnight smash-and-grab raid on a museum that was closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, police and the museum said Monday.

The Singer Laren museum east of Amsterdam said that “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884” by the Dutch master was taken in the early hours of Monday. By early afternoon, all that could be seen from the outside of the museum was a large white panel covering a door in the building’s glass facade.

Museum General Director Evert van Os said the institution that houses the collection of American couple William and Anna Singer is “angry, shocked, sad” at the theft.

The value of the work, which was on loan from the Groninger Museum in the northern Dutch city of Groningen, was not immediately known. Van Gogh’s paintings, when they rarely come up for sale, fetch millions at auction.

Police are investigating the theft.

“I’m shocked and unbelievably annoyed that this has happened,” said Singer Laren museum director Jan Rudolph de Lorm.

“This beautiful and moving painting by one of our greatest artists stolen – removed from the community,” he added. “It is very bad for the Groninger Museum, it is very bad for the Singer, but it is terrible for us all because art exists to be seen and shared by us, the community, to enjoy to draw inspiration from and to draw comfort from, especially in these difficult times.”

The 25-by-57-centimeter (10-by-22-inch) oil on paper painting shows a person standing in a garden surrounded by trees with a church tower in the background.

It dates to a time when the artist had moved back to his family in a rural area of the Netherlands and painted the life he saw there, including his famous work “The Potato Eaters,” in mostly somber tones.

Later, he moved to southern France, where he developed a far more colorful, vibrant style of painting as his health declined before his death in 1890.

Police said in a statement that the thief or thieves smashed a glass door to get into the museum. That set off an alarm that sent officers rushing to the museum but by the time they got there the painting and whoever stole it were gone.

A team including forensics and art theft experts was studying video footage and questioning neighbors. Van Os said the museum’s security worked “according to protocol,” but he added: “Obviously we can learn from this.”

Before the closure, the museum was hosting an exhibition titled “Mirror of the Soul” with works by artists ranging from Jan Toorop to Piet Mondrian, in cooperation with Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.

The Singer Laren’s collection has a focus on modernism such as neo-impressionism, pointillism, expressionism and cubism.

It is not the first high profile theft from the museum. In 2007, thieves stole seven works from its sculpture garden, including a bronze cast of “The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin. The famous sculpture was recovered a few days later, missing a leg.

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Kelowna senior arrested after report of shots fired inside home

A 70-year-old Kelowna man was arrested after RCMP responded to a report of shots fired at an Okanagan home.

Kelowna RCMP said it received a report around 4:30 p.m. Saturday of a firearm being pointed at a man in the 700 block of Cadder Avenue in Kelowna.

Further information was provided that the firearm was subsequently discharged inside the residence, police said.

Kelowna RCMP set up containment around the home and all occupants safely exited the residence.

The 70-year-old suspect was arrested without incident, police said.

Officers allegedly located and seized a rifle from inside the residence.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the firearm was discharged at anyone,” Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy said.

“Regardless, it is extremely fortunate no one was injured as a result of this dangerous situation.”

The suspect was released on conditions for a future court date.

The matter has been referred to the BC Prosecution Service for charge approval.

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ISIS militants stage riot and escape from Syrian prison

Several members of the terrorist organisation sparked a riot in the Ghouiran prison, in the northeastern city of Hasakah, which is run by the US allied Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Guards were overwhelmed by the inmates, who knocked holes through the walls between cells and broke down internal doors, seizing control of an entire floor on Sunday. Syrian state media reported that 12 men had escaped the prison.

According to the UK based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least four ISIS militants had escaped.

Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF press office, tweeted: “Some of them managed to escape and our forces are searching to capture them.

“The situation is tense inside the prison currently.”

He added: “Anti-terror forces are dealing with the situation in the first floor to finish riots in the prison”.

An SDF official told Agency France Presse: “Security forces are on high alert.

“International coalition planes are flying over the prison and the region.”

The identities of the escapees are not known. It has been reported that the prison held “low-level ISIS members” who are primarily foreign nationals.

The prison facility, a former school in the Kurdish-controlled north Syria, is believed to hold nearly 5,000 prisoners.

Kurdish authorities run more than two dozen detention facilities across the region, holding about 10,000 ISIS fighters.

Among those detained are some 2,000 foreigners, including about 800 Europeans.

It is not clear if the riots were linked to fears over a potential coronavirus outbreak.

Prison riots have taken place in several cities around the world, with inmates protesting that overcrowding and poor health services leave them vulnerable.

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At least 23 people died and 83 injured last Monday after prisoners attempted to escape at La Modelo prison in Bogota, Colombia.

Earlier this month, prison riots in Italy left at least six people dead after reports emerged that the Government intended to ban prison visits in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.

The news provoked outrage in a number of Italian jails, leading to the deaths of six inmates at a prison in Modena.

The Modena riots sparked copycat riots at prisons in Salerno, Naples, Alessandria, Vercelli, Bari, Palermo, Foggia and Frosinone.

At Frosinone, south of Rome, 100 prisoners barricaded themselves into a section of the prison.

The inmates demanded the right to receive visits from their loved ones, and tried to negotiate with the prison management, the Agi news agency reported.

ISIS has warned its supporters to avoid travelling to Europe in response to the spread of coronavirus on the continent.

Earlier this month, an edition of the organisation’s al-Naba newsletter contained “sharia directives” urging its members to “stay away from the land of the epidemic” to avoid becoming infected.

It recommended readers “cover their mouths when yawning and sneezing” as well as to regularly wash their hands.

ISIS instructed those of its followers who had become ill with coronavirus not to leave the area, in order to prevent the disease from spreading.

They said the “healthy should not enter the land of the epidemic and the afflicted should not exit from it”.

The letter went on to describe the virus as a “torment sent by God”, adding that “illnesses do not strike by themselves but by the command and decree of God”.

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UK PM Johnson's adviser Cummings isolating with coronavirus symptoms

LONDON (Reuters) – The coronavirus outbreak at the heart of the UK government spread on Monday with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, self-isolating with symptoms just days after the British leader himself tested positive.

A Downing Street spokesman said Cummings, one of the most powerful men in the government, had developed symptoms of COVID-19 over the weekend and was staying at home.

Johnson on Friday became the first leader of a major world power to announce he had tested positive for the virus. His health minister, Matt Hancock, also tested positive and the government’s chief medical adviser, Chris Whitty, is self-isolating.

The spokesman said Johnson was working from his finance minister’s office in Number 11 Downing Street.

“He is chairing the daily meetings using video conferencing facilities, he’s working from the Chancellor’s office, he has been able to do everything that he needs to do lead the coronavirus response,” the spokesman told reporters.

“I can confirm that Dom (Cummings) is not in Number 10 today and that he is self-isolating after developing symptoms over the weekend,” the spokesman said. The spokesman was not able to confirm if Cummings was still working, but said he had not been tested for the virus and was not expected to be.

Cummings was seen sprinting out of Downing Street shortly after Johnson revealed he had tested positive. Downing Street did not respond to a request for comment on the adviser’s rapid departure.

Last week, Cummings denied a newspaper report which said he had prioritized herd immunity and the economy in the coronavirus crisis at the expense of pensioners dying.

Britain initially took a modest approach to containing the spread of the disease compared to Italy and France.

But Johnson imposed stringent controls after projections showed a quarter of a million people could die. He is now self-isolating.

Scientists say the virus’s incubation period is estimated at between one and 14 days, and there have been anecdotal accounts of people spreading the disease without having symptoms.

The spokesman said Downing Street had drafted in experienced former staffers, including Isaac Levido who helped mastermind Johnson’s election campaign, to help with work to fight the coronavirus.

Besides meetings in Downing Street, Johnson ventured beyond Downing Street last week. On Wednesday, a day before his positive test, Johnson answered questions at a weekly session in parliament’s House of Commons chamber.

Johnson also spoke with several lawmakers. Minister for Scotland Alister Jack, who sat next to Johnson before the session, said on Saturday he had developed a temperature and a cough and was now working from home in isolation.

Health officials said on Sunday that figures showed that 1,228 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) had died.

As of 0800 GMT on March 29, a total of 127,737 people in the UK have been tested, of whom 108,215 were confirmed negative and 19,522 were confirmed positive.

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Brighthouse collapses into administration with 240 stores and 2,400 jobs at risk

Major Brit rent-to-own chain Brighthouse has gone into administration with thousands of jobs now at risk.

The High Street retailer had axed 30 stores last month in a last ditch attempt to save the company from collapse.

It then had to close all 240 of its stores nationwide as part of the coronavirus lockdown.

But it has now gone into administration, although its 200,000 customers will still need to keep making payments.

Debt adviser Sara Williams told the BBC: "Now the company is expected to go into administration, customers need to think if they can manage to make the repayments.

"If their income has fallen because of coronavirus, they should ask for a payment break.

"And if the item is just too expensive, they should ask for a lower payment arrangement.

"They may be able to make an affordability complaint and get a refund of the interest they have paid on previous items."

Brighthouse is expected to appoint Grant Thornton as its administrator within days after its investors withdrew support for a proposed restructuring.

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A source close to BrightHouse shareholders had recently told Sky News that a potential collapse had become more likely in recent weeks.

It comes just months after the retailer announced plans to shut down 30 stores and axe 350 staff, having continued to struggle financially.

Three years ago, in 2017, the retailer was ordered to pay back a staggering £14.8million to customers after the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) found it had treated customers unfairly.

Then in 2018 the FCA announced plans to cap the amount of interest that rent-to-own retailers charge customers, which has hit the industry hard.

The cap, which means the maximum interest paid will be no more than the cost of the product itself, started in April 2018.

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Just five months later BrightHouse then reported a £2.2million slump – with a rise in pre-tax loses from £19.9million to £22.1million in the six months to September 29, 2018.

Rent-to-own customers make monthly payments on products at retailers like these until they have paid in full.

But the price can quickly mount up because of interest rates that can reach 99% a year.

The FCA’s rule change now means, for example, if a fridge costs £200, customers will pay no more than £400.

The change had come after the FCA found 400,000 people were paying an extra £23million a year on goods such as TVs and fridges due to overpricing and excessive interest charges.

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Spain’s coronavirus death toll hits 7,340 – and more than 12,000 health worker infected

More than 46,600 coronavirus patients have been hospitalised, with 16,780 recovered and discharged. Health chiefs say although the end of the pandemic is not yet in sight, there is a slowing down of the death, infection and recovery rate which gives “some glimmer of hope for containment.”

The figures released this morning by the Spanish Ministry of Health come as thousands more Spaniards are ordered to stay at home under the State of Emergency rules.

These have been extended today to cover all economic activities considered as non-essential to the running of the country.

These workers, including those on construction sites, have been told to stay at home until at least Thursday, April 10.

Essential services include health, security, telecommunications and the power sector.

Retail establishments selling food and drink will be allowed to remain open, as will chemists, newsagents, pet food shops, launderettes, food delivery businesses, power supply businesses and companies related to petroleum and natural gas, among others.

Workers told to stay at home will get paid but will have to make up the hours later on a phased basis.

The Spanish Government hopes the new measure will help contain the spread of coronavirus by reducing the number of people out and about.

It would like activity level to be “like that on a Sunday.”

Those industries which have to close from today have been given 24-hours grace in order to arrange for the finalisation of their activities.

The original State of Emergency was declared on March 14 so Spaniards are now entering their third week of confinement.

The latest figures also show 12,300 health workers on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus have been infected.

This is a breaking story. Please come back for more updates.

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