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This article was published on April 7, 2020

How to make lemonade out of shit

How to make lemonade out of shit
Tristan Greene
Story by

Tristan Greene

Editor, Neural by TNW

Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: He/him

Coronavirus in Context is a weekly newsletter where we bring you facts that matter about the COVID-19 pandemic and the technology trying to stop its spread. You can subscribe here.

Hey all you cool cats and…

Nope. I’m not going to do it. I’m staying out of that debate. Though I will say that “Tiger King” is a tour de force that’ll almost certainly make you feel better about yourself and your life choices. I’m not a Netflix shill, I just know good TV when I see it. And I agree with nearly every other critic out there in saying it’s the perfect television experience for the pandemic.

But that’s all I’ll say about it, you’ll get no spoilers out of me. I did, however, just find out that a tiger named Nadia at the Bronx Zoo contracted COVID-19 from humans. As far as the experts know it’s the first case of an animal testing positive for COVID-19 in the US.

This isn’t good. There are somewhere around 4,000 tigers left in the wild – a figure that’s risen in recent years thanks to recovery efforts. But, as we’ve continued to encroach on wild territory we’ve continued to change the ecosystem these remaining big cats survive in. And that means, if we can transmit COVID-19 to tigers, it’s possible that we could set off an outbreak in the wild just like the one at the Bronx Zoo.

It’s not all bad though. The lessons we’re learning from sick animals about transmission will have immediate impacts on the development of a vaccine, but they’ll also have long-term effects. We’re rapidly developing technology to identify and track coronavirus and these tools will only get better once the pandemic ends and the engineers, developers, and scientists can finally get together and come up with a strategy to protect us from the next virus. This pandemic sucks, but we can make lemonade in the form of better future insights.

Oh, and don’t worry about Nadia the tiger. The zoologists and researchers at the Bronx Zoo are monitoring the situation. She originally presented with a dry cough and a loss of appetite in late March but veterinarians expect her to make a full recovery. Six other cats at the zoo, including lions and other tigers, reportedly have similar symptoms but haven’t been tested. Interestingly, the zoo’s pumas, leopards, and other big cats reportedly appear hale and healthy.

Researchers have been quick to point out there’s no evidence indicating animals can give the virus to humans. But it’s clear we can give it to at least some of them. I think the take-away here is that we need to observe social distancing from wild animals in perpetuity.

We also need to stay away from each other, at least for the time being. If you’re struggling with that, here’s some advice from the Hollywood star with the highest-grossing films total of all-time:

By the numbers

Last week we compared COVID-19 to the 1918 “Spanish Flu” pandemic. This week we’re looking at what % of the population has been tested in the three countries with the most cases as of April 7. (Source: Worldometers)

  • Italy: 721,732 people tested, which is 1.19 percent of the population
  • Spain: 355,000 people tested, which is 0.76 percent of the population
  • United States: 1,955,040 people tested, which is 0.6 percent of the population

Tweet thread of the week

What to read

Apple’s making face masks, the haunting sounds of COVID-19, and why virus-laden bats are a good thing… 

  • Scientists wanted to use Africa as a testing ground for coronavirus vaccines. Horrific. (BBC)
  • I’m not sure if I’d be comforted or disgusted if Apple called it the “iMask,” but I’m glad it’s making millions for medical workers.
  • Poland’s tracking citizens with coronavirus, which makes sense… but does it really need the location data for six years? (Politico)
  • Tesla’s making medical ventilators out of new car parts and it’s pretty cool to watch how they’re doing it tbh.
  • Unfortunately, Tesla’s ventilators may not arrive in time for the apex of the coronavirus in New York. (New York Post)
  • Even worse, they may be the wrong kind of ventilator. Some experts think they could actually make things worse. Yikes! (Forbes)
  • These badass photographers aren’t letting the quarantine stop them from.. checks notes… playing Red Dead Redemption 2? Seriously though, this is art.
  • Leave the bats out of it. Actually don’t, we need them if we’re going to win against this virus. Just stop blaming them for it! (CNN)
  • Scientists at MIT made a beautiful, haunting song out of the coronavirus using AI.
  • Good news everybody! Bill Gates is being financially irresponsible because he wants to save lives and develop a coronavirus vaccine ASAP.


We know, we know… there are a million articles out there on how to stay sane at home: What yoga moves to do, what sourdough bread to bake, how to pick up a phone and actually call someone… so we’re adding to the noise!

In this section, one of our writers will share one weird internet thing they’ve been obsessing over while in lockdown. Next is from TNW’s own Cara Curtis:

As we venture into one whole month of isolation, I’ve tried — and mastered — many hobbies, from painting to gaming. I even cut my own bangs. But my next project is my most exciting yet, and that’s… knitting. 

I recently bought a beginner DIY blanket kit and haven’t put my needles down since. It’s agonizingly therapeutic (the agony coming from my early onset arthritis). Now, the kit is great, but even in isolation, I don’t have time to read every step of how to perfectly cast on a stitch or loop in a new ball, it’s just too confusing. So, I’ve consumed approximately 20 hours worth of knitting tutorials on YouTube. 

My favorite channel, and the company I bought the kit from, is WOOLANDTHEGANG. Their videos break down every step effortlessly whilst proving some ASMR-esque feels, all while making me forget about this whole coronavirus thing going on right now. 

There’s no better time to pick up a hobby and find your inner 80-year-old woman.

That’s it

We’ll be back next Tuesday. Until then, try to avoid misinformation. The best way to do this is to not take advice from people on the internet.
For now, here’s some links to help you identify, combat, and refute misinformation:
  • Here’s How to Fight Coronavirus Misinformation (The Atlantic)
  • The Coronavirus Disinformation System: How It Works (Bellingcat)
  • People’s uncertainty about the novel coronavirus can lead them to believe misinformation, says Stanford scholar (Stanford)
  • How to spot coronavirus fake news – an expert guide (The Conversation)

Stay healthy and take care of each other.

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