Origami, the art of paper folding, has been around for thousands of years. But what does the ancient art of origami have to do with the coronavirus? For Jiangmei Wu, an assistant professor of design at IU, the technique has turned into a way to create and provide face masks critically needed to slow COVID-19 infection. Wu, a renowned artist, first got the idea when the virus hit Hong Kong, where her brother was living. In a few hours, Wu had used a technique she was working on for a lampshade, to design a face mask that can be adjusted to fit a person face but still fits the face tightly. Wu created a video demonstrating the no-sew technique and partnered with an organization in South Carolina to give away the masks. She is also working with potential business partners to manufacture the mask.
Protecting communities against the coronavirus has been a top priority for most policy makers and healthcare workers and. But one population has been hit disproportionately hard by the virus: African Americans. In fact, African Americans are still contracting the illness – and dying from it – at rates twice as high as would be expected based on their share of the population. IU researchers Tamika Zapolski and Ukamaka Oruche recently published recommendations to address racism and reduce racial disparities in health care services. One of the first steps, Zapolski said, is for health care professionals to become more aware of their implicit bias. Doctors and nurses should also be more attentive and collaborative when communicating with patients, Zapolski said, and hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices should provide more flexibility in delivering services. Oruche said health inequity for African Americans is not a new phenomenon, but COVID-19 has shined a light on the problem. Furthermore, racism is not isolated to health care services, and it remains pervasive throughout our society. But she said by taking some tangible steps, providers can begin to solve the problem.
Finally, contact tracing is one of the tools being used against covid-19, but in the age of the smartphone, technology presents a new way to improve the process. But who should control how the apps work - sovereign countries or Silicon Valley companies? And should the apps be mandatory or voluntary? Contact tracing is a controversial topic and it can seem like a trade-off between privacy and health, but is it really? IU Vice President for Research Fred Cate recently sat down with the Economist’s Babbage podcast to discuss the privacy issues for digital contact tracing, noting there are a lot of privacy issues if you do it wrong but there don’t have to be many at all if you do it right. In other words, you are collecting very sensitive information, knowing where people are, who they are interacting with and even their health status. On the other hand, Cate said as long as the information is only being used for the limited purposes of protecting public healthy most of our laws around the world permit that expressly. Cate said contact tracing doesn’t have to be a big deal, provided you do it right. The goal, Cate said, can be a way to protect the health of the entire society and the health of its members.