HAMNET Report 5th July 2020

The ARRL News noted on 30th June that well-known contester, DXer, and National Contest Journal (NCJ) Editor Scott Wright, K0MD, has been “substantially” stepping back from ham radio while offering his expertise to the US convalescent plasma COVID-19 Expanded Access Program. The study began in early April under the leadership of Dr Michael Joyner, MD, of the Mayo Clinic; Dr Peter Marks, MD  PhD, and Dr Nicole Verdun, MD, of the US Food and Drug Administration; Dr Arturo Casavedall, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, and Wright, who is with the Mayo Clinic. Dr Marks’ call-sign is AB3XC.

“The US Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access Program is a collaborative project between the US government and the Mayo Clinic to provide access to convalescent plasma for patients in the US who are hospitalized with COVID 19,” Wright told ARRL. The work has been referenced during White House press briefings and in congressional testimony. The US government-supported study collects and provides blood plasma recovered from COVID-19 patients, which contains antibodies that may help fight the disease. The Mayo Clinic is the lead institution for the program.

“My role was to organize the infrastructure and the research approach, and to help lead the set-up of the data collection and of the website teams, while overseeing the study conduct and regulatory compliance,” Wright explained.

According to a June 18th  Washington Post  article, “A large study of 20,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients who received transfusions of blood plasma from people who recovered, found the treatment was safe, and suggests giving it to people early in the disease may be beneficial.”

Nice to see two physicians there, who are radio amateurs, involved in the program.

Southgate Amateur Radio News says that The Hindu newspaper reports on the role of amateur radio volunteers during the Coronavirus quarantine in Bengaluru.

As the number of COVID-19 positive cases increase, so do those of people placed under home quarantine. A special task force has been constituted in Bengaluru to ensure that citizens placed under home quarantine follow the protocol for it. Among the citizens who have volunteered to help the task force are 260-odd HAM (amateur) radio operators in the city.

They work in shifts, coordinating with booth-level and ward-level squad members to keep a watch on home quarantined people. While most of them are operating out of their homes, three static centres have been set up in the Vasanthapura, H.B.R. Layout, and Jayanagar localities.

“We had earlier set up HF and VHF stations at the State war room. But we have decided to cut down on our movement considering the high risk involved. We are all keeping a watch in our neighbourhoods, apart from providing back-up communication to the squad and task force,” said S. Sathyapal, director of the Indian Institute of Hams.

A Forbes magazine article reports radio amateurs across North America spent last weekend doing emergency communications practice.

For twenty-four hours over the weekend of June 27 and 28, 2020, thousands of amateur radio operators across the United States and Canada set up temporary emergency communications centres where everything had to be done without external services. This meant they had to erect their own temporary antennas, provide their own emergency power and operate their equipment in temporary locations. Their goal was to prove that they can communicate with each other in times of an emergency when there’s no infrastructure available.

These amateur radio operators devote seemingly endless hours preparing their radio equipment, computers, cables and antennas required to conduct radio communications in today’s demanding environment. What’s more, these radio operators volunteered their time, provided their own equipment and transported it to a remote site without electrical power, frequently without shelter and with only the supplies they could carry. And this time, they were doing it in the middle of a pandemic where they met crowd size requirements and social distancing laws.

“They do this for the same reason we always exercise,” said former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “It’s better to have it break in practice than break during real emergencies.”

Your writer watched some videos of last week’s Field Day activities, and was distressed to see the relaxed attitude to social distancing taking place. This relaxed attitude is being evidenced also in the extreme rate at which new cases of Covid-19 are increasing in number in large parts of that country. Some states have again ordered lockdowns, and the mandatory wearing of face coverings, which of course are the right things to do.

Poor Brazil is taking strain under the influence of severe weather since 30th June, with heavy rain, strong winds, and loss of life, while at the same time becoming the country in the Americas with the second highest Covid-19 rates, after the US. Other countries experiencing heavy rain and flooding include Myanmar, China, and India, and to a lesser extent, European Georgia, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, United Kingdom and Ukraine.

And just to complete a HAMNET Bulletin devoted more or less completely to the infernal coronavirus, a Science News report by Erin Garcia de Jesus says that lockdowns implemented in some countries to reduce transmission of the coronavirus were extremely effective at controlling its rapid spread, and saved millions of lives, two new studies suggest.

Shutdowns prevented or delayed an estimated 531 million coronavirus infections across six countries — China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, France and the United States — researchers from the University of California, Berkeley reported on June 8th  in Nature.

And shutdowns saved about 3.1 million lives across 11 European countries, scientists at Imperial College London estimate in a separate study. In Europe, interventions to reduce the coronavirus’ spread brought infection rates down from pre-intervention levels by an average of 81 percent, the team reports also in Nature on June 8th.

The problem remains that there is no cure for Covid-19, and the only two things that will prevent this thing from just dragging on, are the development of a vaccine that everyone must get, or the inexorable increase in patients surviving the disease until 70% of the world’s population has had it, and when herd immunity will cause the number of new cases to dwindle away to nothing. There is no forecast possible for how long either of these will take. In the meantime, maintain safe distancing, wash your hands often, and wear a mask properly.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.