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U.S. tops ‘unfathomable’ milestone of 100,000 Covid hospitalizations: ‘We’re all on edge’

“We made it through the first week in the spring, and it is frustrating and exhausting to be going through this again,” Dr. Megan Ranney said….

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Medical staff members prepare to perform a percutaneous tracheostomy procedure on a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) during Thanksgiving at the United Memorial Medical Center on November 26, 2020 in Houston, Texas.

Go Nakamura | Getty Images

More than 100,000 people are currently in hospitals across the U.S. sick with Covid-19, as the pandemic pushes doctors, nurses and other health workers to their limits.

The current number of hospitalized patients underscores the scope and severity of the current phase of the U.S. outbreak. Never before had the number of hospitalized Covid patients surpassed 60,000, according to data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project, which is run by journalists at The Atlantic.

In fact, Dr. Janis Orlowski, chief health care officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges, said in a phone interview with CNBC that she doesn’t recall any disease sickening so many Americans all at once ever before.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen this number. We certainly never saw this number with HIV or any of the other new diseases that we’ve had,” Orlowksi said. “It’s an astonishing, astonishing number and the shame of it is it’s a number that we could have impacted and we didn’t.”

Crisis care

Earlier this week, Orlowski’s organization, the AAMC, announced that it is encouraging all health systems to prepare to deploy “Crisis Standards of Care,” which is typically used in severe situations such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

Orlowski explained that crisis care essentially means the rationing of care in hospitals. The goal is “to provide the best care possible to the largest number of people with the resources available,” AAMC said. But it also means difficult decisions will be made about whom to use scarce resources on, Orlowski added.

Hospitals in some parts of the country are already at the point of crisis care, Orlowski said, such as El Paso, Texas, parts of Utah, North Dakota and parts of Nebraska. She added that “most hospitals are going to be there in the next two weeks” if current trends persist or get worse, owing to a surge driven by Thanksgiving travel and gatherings.

The situation is further complicated, Orlowski said, by the backlog of elective surgeries that were delayed in the spring when hospitals prepared for an initial surge in Covid-19 patients. Most hospitals resumed elective surgeries over the summer, but with hospitalizations rising so rapidly some state officials are again warning that hospitals should be prepared to cancel elective procedures.

“What we have found is people suffered harm because of delays,” she said. “What we had thought in the fall is we’re going to be able to do some of those cases in the winter. Now I worry that we’re not going to be able to do those cases. … We’re headed into a bad, bad, bad two or three weeks.”

‘Exhausting’

Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and director of the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health, said that her hospital system in Rhode Island has about 1,000 beds. She said she struggled to imagine 100 more systems like hers all filled with Covid patients.

“We’re running out of beds, and we’re also going to run out of staff,” she said. “Our health-care system is full even in normal times, so to add an extra 100,000 patients on top of our existing burden of disease and injury is almost unfathomable.”

The situation in Rhode Island is bad, Ranney said, but she’s heard from colleagues elsewhere of dire situations, where health workers have to ration care, like in “low-income countries.” Ranney said her time training in East Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer helped her prepare for the current crisis.

“I witnessed decisions being made about patients being put on ventilators that I never thought I would experience in the United States,” she said.

The staff in Ranney’s hospital work hard every day and come prepared to “do battle with Covid-19, but it is exhausting,” she said.

“We’re all on edge. We made it through the first week in the spring, and it is frustrating and exhausting to be going through this again,” Ranney said. “It feels sometimes hopeless. … And it feels even more hopeless because we don’t see any sign of the surge stopping.”

She added, however, that no matter how bleak the situation seems, she and her colleagues won’t be giving up. Vaccines, and hope, are on the horizon, she said.

‘Surge with no staff’

Dr. Syra Madad, senior director of the systemwide special pathogens program at New York City Health + Hospitals, said the country is in a “very dire moment.”

“This is a surge with no staff,” she said. “This is widespread, and it’s happening all at the same time, and everybody’s getting hit simultaneously. Before, we were able to share resources and assets, whether it’s staffing, whether it’s supplies, whether it’s the bed space, but now that’s something that is a luxury.”

Hospitalizations aren’t rising as rapidly in New York City as they did in the spring, Madad said, but hospital systems across the state are preparing for a potential surge. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that the state is implementing emergency measures to help hospitals cope with what he called “a new phase in the war against Covid.”

One of these measures is the identification of retired nurses and doctors in case their service is needed as hospitals fill up.

“You can add as many beds as you want, but if you have nobody to man those beds and actually be able to provide patient care, then that is absolutely useless,” she said. “Staffed beds are everything. Beds by itself are nothing.”

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen this number. We certainly never saw this number with HIV or any of the other new diseases that we’ve had,” Orlowksi said. “It’s an astonishing, astonishing number and the shame of it is it’s a number that we could have impacted and we didn’t.”

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/03/us-tops-unfathomable-milestone-of-100000-covid-hospitalizations.html

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Even computer experts think ending human oversight of AI is a very bad idea

The UK government is thinking of scrapping the right to ask for a human to review decisions made entirely by AI systems, but some experts are warning that it is not the right way to go.

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The right to a human review will become impractical and disproportionate in many cases as AI applications grow in the next few years, said a consultation from the UK government.

Image: iStock / Getty Images Plus

While the world’s largest economies are working on new laws to keep AI under control to avoid the technology creating unintended harms, the UK seems to be pushing for a rather different approach. The government has recently proposed to get rid of some of the rules that exist already to put breaks on the use of algorithms – and experts are now warning that this is a dangerous way to go.

In a consultation that was launched earlier this year, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) invited experts to submit their thoughts on some new proposals designed to reform the UK’s data protection regime.

Among those featured was a bid to remove a legal provision that currently enables citizens to challenge a decision that was made about them by an automated decision-making technology, and to request a human review of the decision.

SEE: Report finds startling disinterest in ethical, responsible use of AI among business leaders

The consultation determined that this rule will become impractical and disproportionate in many cases as AI applications grow in the next few years, and planning for the need to always maintain the capability to provide human review becomes unworkable.

But experts from the BCS, the UK’s chartered institute for IT, have warned against the proposed move to scrap the law.

“This rule is basically about attempting to create some kind of transparency and protection for the individuals in the decision making by fully automated processes that could have significant harms on someone,” Sam De Silva, partner at law firm, CMS and the chair of BCS’s law specialist group, tells ZDNet. “There needs to be some protection rather than rely on a complete black box.”

Behind the UK’s attempt to change the country’s data protection regulation lies a desire to break free from its previous obligation to commit to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The “right to a human review”, in effect, constitutes the 22nd article of the EU’s GDPR, and as such has been duly incorporated into the UK’s own domestic GDPR, which until recently had to comply with the laws in place in the bloc.

Since the country left the EU, however, the government has been keen to highlight its newly found independence – and in particular, the UK’s ability to make its own rules when it comes to data protection.

“Outside of the EU, the UK can reshape its approach to regulation and seize opportunities with its new regulatory freedoms, helping to drive growth, innovation and competition across the country,” starts DCMS’s consultation on data protection.

Article 22 of the GDPR was deemed unsuitable for such future-proof regulation. The consultation recognizes that the safeguards provided under the law might be necessary in a select number of high-risk use cases – but the report concludes that as automated decision making is expected to grow across industries in the coming years, it is now necessary to assess whether the safeguard is needed.

A few months before the consultation was launched, a separate government taskforce came up with a similar recommendation, arguing that the requirements of article 22 are burdensome and costly, because they mean that organizations have to come up with an alternative manual process even when they are automating routine operations.

The taskforce recommended that article 22 be removed entirely from UK law, and DCMS confirmed in the consultation that the government is now considering this proposal.

According to De Silva, the motivation behind the move is economic. “The government’s argument is that they think article 22 could be stifling innovation,” says De Silva. “That appears to be their rationale for suggesting its removal.”

The consultation effectively puts forward the need to create data legislation that benefits businesses. DCMS pitched a “pro-growth” and “innovation-friendly” set of laws that will unlock more research and innovation, while easing the cost of compliance for businesses, and said that it expects new regulations to generate significant monetary benefits.

For De Silva, however, the risk of de-regulating the technology is too great. From recruitment to finance, automated decisions have the potential to impact citizens’ lives in very deep ways, and getting rid of protective laws too soon could come with dangerous consequences.

SEE: Programming languages: Python just took a big jump forward

That is not to say that the provisions laid out in the GDPR are enough. Some of the grievances that are described in DCMS’s consultation against article 22 are legitimate, says De Silva: for example, the law lacks certainty, stating that citizens have a right to request human review when the decision is solely based on automated processing, without specifying at which point it can be considered that a human was involved.

“I agree that it’s not entirely clear, and it’s not a really well drafted provision as it is,” says De Silva. “My view is that we do need to look at it further, but I don’t think scrapping it is the solution. Removing it is probably the least preferable option.”

If anything, says De Silva, the existing rules should be changed to go even further. Article 22 is only one clause within a wide-ranging regulation that focuses on personal data – when the topic could probably do with its own piece of legislation.

This lack of scope can also explain why the provision lacks clarity, and highlights the need for laws that are more substantial.

“Article 22 is in the GDPR, so it is only about dealing with personal data,” says De Silva. “If we want to make it wider than that, then we need to be looking at whether we regulate AI in general. That’s a bigger question.”

A question likely to be on UK regulators’ minds, too. The next few months will reveal what answers they might have found, if any.

The consultation determined that this rule will become impractical and disproportionate in many cases as AI applications grow in the next few years, and planning for the need to always maintain the capability to provide human review becomes unworkable.

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/even-computer-experts-think-ending-human-oversight-of-ai-is-a-very-bad-idea/

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The Briefing: Hailo Lands $136M Series C

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

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Here’s what you need to know today in startup and venture news, updated by the Crunchbase News staff throughout the day to keep you in the know.

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Hailo lands $136M for AI chips

Tel Aviv-based Hailo, a startup developing AI accelerator chips for edge devices, announced that it raised $136 million in a Series C funding round led by Poalim and entrepreneur Gil Agmon. The round brings Hailo’s total funding to $224 million.

— Joanna Glasner

SupportLogic raises $50M Series B

San Jose -based SupportLogic closed a $50 million Series B funding round led by WestBridge Capital Partners and General Catalyst. Existing investors Sierra Ventures and Emergent Ventures also participated in the round.

SupportLogic’s AI-based platform allows businesses to act on customer communications in real-time in order to offer better customer service and support.

Founded in 2016, the company has raised approximately $62 million to date, according to Crunchbase data.

— Chris Metinko

SaaS

GitLab raises IPO range: San Francisco-based GitLab, a provider of development and collaboration tools for programmers, raised the proposed share price range for its upcoming IPO. The company now plans to raise around $700 million by offering 10.4 million shares at a price range of $66 to $69, up from the prior range of $55 to $60.

— Joanna Glasner

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Stay up to date with recent funding rounds, acquisitions, and more with the Crunchbase Daily.

— Joanna Glasner

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/briefing-10-12-21/

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