Build a COVID-19 Self Assessment Tool with Google Forms

How to create a self-assessment form for COVID-19 that your employees and students must complete prior to entering the work premises. The form will automatically send a confirmation email to the respondent based on the results of their self-assessment.

Published in: Google Forms

Businesses and schools worldwide are using Google Forms to build COVID-19 self-declaration forms that employees, students and visitors must complete every day before they can attend work. Here is a sample COVID-19 Health Screening Form – if the answer is “yes” to any of the questions, the person is expected to stay home.

After a respondent submits the form, a confirmation email is sent to them instantly with the Email Notifications add-on. The email is like a clearance certificate detailing whether the person can attend work or not. If they are allowed entry, the email also contains a dynamic QR Code that can be scanned and verified at the entry point.

Send Conditional Notification Emails

The conditional notifications feature of the Google Forms add-on automatically determines if the respondent should be sent the “Allowed to enter premises” email or not. It looks at the form’s answers and compares them with the specified criteria to make this choice.

COVID-19 Health Screening Questionnaire

For instance, if the employee has entered a value greater than 100.4 in the temperature field, they are sent the “Work from home” email. Similarly, they are not allowed to attend work if they selected any value other than “None of the above” for the symptoms question.

To enable this workflow with Google Forms, you are required to create two email rules – one rule for employees that have passed the self-assessment test and the other rule for people who are required to work from home based on their self-assessment.

Rule 1: Allowed to Attend Work

Create a new rule for the respondents and set the conditional notifications as shown in the screenshot.

Allowed to Attend Office

You can put {{Email Address}} in the email field and this will be replaced with the respondent’s email address that is submitted in the form entry. If you have a Google Form that is restricted to your school or organization, the email address of the submitter will be automatically recorded in the form entry.

For the email template, you can use the QR Code function that will add a dynamic image in the outgoing email with the form answers.

Email Template

Rule 2: Work from Home

To save time, duplicate the previous rule and edit the conditional notification to send a different email to people who aren’t considered fit to attend office and should continue working from home.

If you compare this conditional logic screen with the previous one, you’ll notice that it uses OR instead of AND with different criteria indicating that if either of the conditions is true, the email should be sent.

Any condition matches

Demo Check-in Google Form

If you would like to test this self-assessment tool, fill this COVID-19 Google Form and you’ll receive an instant confirmation email with the result. Here’s a copy of the email sent by the Google Form when the respondent passes the self-assessment.

Check the Form Notifications user guide to learn more about the features of the add-on.

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New AI Tool Promises Faster, More Accurate Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Researchers have developed a new artificial intelligence algorithm that can accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s by detecting subtle differences in language.

According to researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, the algorithm promises to accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s without the need for expensive scans or in-person testing.

In fact, they say the software not only can diagnose Alzheimer’s, at negligible cost, with more than 95 percent accuracy, it is also capable of explaining its conclusions, allowing physicians to double check the accuracy of its diagnosis.

“This is a real breakthrough,” said the tool’s creator, K.P. Subbalakshmi, founding director of the Stevens Institute of Artificial Intelligence and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Charles V. Schaeffer School of Engineering. “We’re opening an exciting new field of research, and making it far easier to explain to patients why the A.I. came to the conclusion that it did, while diagnosing patients. This addresses the important question of trustability of A.I .systems in the medical field”

It has long been known that Alzheimer’s can affect a person’s use of language, according to the researchers. People with Alzheimer’s typically replace nouns with pronouns, such as saying “He sat on it” rather than “The boy sat on the chair.” Patients might also use awkward circumlocutions, saying “My stomach feels bad because I haven’t eaten” instead of simply saying “I’m hungry.”

By designing an explainable A.I. engine that uses attention mechanisms and convolutional neural network — a form of A.I. that learns over time — Subbalakshmi said she and her students were able to develop software that could not only accurately identify well-known telltale signs of Alzheimer’s, but also detect subtle linguistic patterns previously overlooked.

The research team trained the algorithm using texts produced by both healthy subjects and Alzheimer’s sufferers as they described a drawing of children stealing cookies from a jar. Using tools developed by Google, Subbalakshmi and her team converted each individual sentence into a unique numerical sequence, or vector, representing a specific point in a 512-dimensional space.

Such an approach allows even complex sentences to be assigned a concrete numerical value, making it easier to analyze structural and thematic relationships between sentences, Subbalakshmi explained.

By using those vectors, along with handcrafted features that experts identified, the A.I. system gradually learned to spot similarities and differences between sentences spoken by healthy people or those with Alzheimer’s. That led it to determine with “remarkable accuracy” how likely any given text was to have been produced by an Alzheimer’s sufferer, Subbalakshmi said.

The system also can easily incorporate new criteria that may be identified by other research teams in the future, so it will only get more accurate over time, she noted.

“We designed our system to be both modular and transparent,” Subbalakshmi explained. “If other researchers identify new markers of Alzheimer’s, we can simply plug those into our architecture to generate even better results.”

In theory, A.I. systems could one day diagnose Alzheimer’s based on any text, from a personal email to a social media post, she said.

First, though, an algorithm would need to be trained using many different kinds of texts produced by known Alzheimer’s sufferers, rather than just picture descriptions, and that kind of data isn’t yet available, she added.

“The algorithm itself is incredibly powerful,” Subbalakshmi said. “We’re only constrained by the data available to us.”

In coming months, Subbalakshmi hopes to gather new data that will allow her software to be used to diagnose patients based on speech in languages other than English. Her team is also exploring the ways that other neurological conditions, such as aphasia, stroke, traumatic brain injuries, and depression, can affect language use.

“This method is definitely generalizable to other diseases,” said Subbalakshmi. “As we acquire more and better data, we’ll be able to create streamlined, accurate diagnostic tools for many other illnesses too.”

Subbalakshmi and her doctorate students Mingxuan Chen and Ning Wang presented her work at the 19th International Workshop on Data Mining in Bioinformatics at BioKDD 2020.

Source: Stevens Institute of Technology

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FBI hiring outside contractor to overhaul use of FISA spying tool

Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Christopher Wray. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 3:35 PM PT – Friday, October 30, 2020

The FBI has said it’s hiring a private firm to revamp its policies regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, a controversial tool used to spy on Americans.

Companies reportedly had until this week to bid on a contract, but critics have questioned the move over concerns sensitive data could be leaked while working with an outside contractor.

This came after the agency came under scrutiny over errors it made while wire-tapping former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Former Trump Campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Bureau was looking to examine Page over alleged links to possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.

MORE NEWS: DHS To Launch 24/7 Virtual War Room For Election Security

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‘White matter lesion’ mapping tool identifies early signs of dementia — ScienceDaily

A new tool for analyzing tissue damage seen on MRI brain scans can detect with more than 70 percent accuracy early signs of cognitive decline, new research shows.

The findings by imaging specialists at NYU Grossman School of Medicine center on small bright spots on scans called white matter hyperintensities. Increased numbers and size of the intense-white spots seen on the mostly gray images of the brain have long been linked to memory loss and emotional problems, especially as people age.

More spots on MRI and their occurrence in the center of the brain have also been shown to correlate with the worsening of dementia and other brain-damaging conditions, such as stroke and depression, say the study authors. The spots represent fluid-filled holes in the brain, lesions that are believed to develop from the breakdown of blood vessels that nourish nerve cells.

Current methods for grading white matter lesions rely on little more than the “trained eye,” researchers say, using an imprecise three-point scale, with a score of 1 meaning minimal white spots, while grades of 2 or 3 suggest more significant disease. The new tool was developed, researchers say, in an effort to provide a uniform, objective method for calculating the spots’ volume and location in the brain.

In the new study, publishing in the journal Academic Radiology online Oct. 27, the NYU Langone team randomly selected 72 MRI scans from a national database of elderly people, the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. Equal numbers were from elderly men and women, mostly white and over age 70, with normal brain function, or showing some mild cognitive decline, or suffering from severe dementia.

Using the latest MRI techniques for accurate mapping of the brain’s surface, the team then used computer software to calculate the precise position and volume measurements for all observed white matter lesions. Specifically, they tabulated volumes, which are three-dimensional measurements in liters, based on each lesion’s distance from both side surfaces of the brain, with normal ranges between 0 milliliters (no lesions seen) and 60 milliliters (some lesions). Volumes greater than 100 milliliters indicated severe disease. When researchers cross-checked their measurements, they found that seven out of 10 calculations correctly matched the patient’s actual diagnosis.

“Amounts of white matter lesions above the normal range should serve as an early warning sign for patients and physicians,” says study lead researcher Jingyun “Josh” Chen, PhD, a research assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at NYU Langone Health.

Chen cautions that the white matter brain measures alone are not sufficient to certify a finding of early dementia, but should be considered along with other factors, including a history of brain injury, memory loss, and hypertension, as clear features of cognitive decline and/or other brain and blood vessel diseases.

“Our new calculator for properly sizing white matter hyperintensities, which we call bilateral distancing, offers radiologists and other clinicians an additional standardized test for assessing these lesions in the brain, well before severe dementia or stroke damage,” says study senior investigator Yulin Ge, MD, a professor in the Department of Radiology at NYU Langone.

With a standardized tracking and measuring tool, says Chen, it is now possible to monitor the growth of white matter lesions relative to that of other tau and beta-amyloid proteins also believed to be potential causes of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The buildup of either substance could also prove or disprove one or more of the theories about what biological processes actually lead to various forms of dementia.

Chen says the team plans to broaden and test their measuring tool on an additional 1,495 brain scans to include a more diverse group from the same database.

Physicians can access the tool, which is available without cost online at

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A tax-smart savings tool for loved one with a disability

The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 (ABLE Act) allows states to set up ABLE account programs. In turn, you can establish a tax-favored ABLE account to cover qualified disability expenses of a family member or loved one named as the designated account beneficiary. Here’s what you need to know about how ABLE accounts work and the tax advantages they offer.   

An ABLE account must be set up under a qualified ABLE program that’s established and maintained by a state or state agency. As explained later, earnings from ABLE account investments can accumulate federal-income-tax-free, tax-free withdrawals can be taken to pay qualified expenses for the disabled account beneficiary. So, this is a tax-smart way to save for and pay expenses for a loved one with disabilities.  

Tax-law ground rules 

1. Only cash contributions are allowed. 

2. The annual contribution limit equals the annual federal gift tax exclusion. For 2020, the gift tax exclusion is $15,000. It is periodically increased for inflation, but only in $1,000 increments. So, the exclusion for 2021 will almost certainly remain at $15,000. In turn, the general contribution limit for ABLE accounts for 2021 will almost certainly remain at $15,000. 

3. For 2018-2025, the designated ABLE account beneficiary can contribute an additional amount based on compensation or self-employment income. More on that later. 

4. There’s a 6% penalty tax on excess contributions, so you don’t want to go over the annual limit. 

5. You can change the investment direction of an ABLE account up to twice each calendar year.

6. You can establish and contribute to an ABLE account under any state’s ABLE program, regardless of where you live or where the designated account beneficiary lives. 

Observation: If these rules remind you of the guidelines for Section 529 college savings accounts, you are not mistaken. 

Who can be an ABLE account designated beneficiary?

The designated beneficiary must be an eligible individual

* An individual is an eligible individual for the tax year if during that year he or she is entitled to benefits based on blindness or disability under the Social Security disability insurance program or the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, and that blindness or disability occurred before age 26 or  

* The individual has filed a disability certification with the IRS or has a signed physician’s diagnosis stating that: (1) the individual has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that causes marked and severe functional limitations and that can be expected to result in death, or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months, or is blind and (2) the disability or blindness occurred before the individual reached age 26. 

Key point: The before-age-26 rule eliminates the possibility of setting up ABLE accounts for individuals who become blind or disabled later in life. 

Tax treatment of contributions

Contributions to an ABLE account are not deductible for federal income tax purposes. However, state income tax benefits may be available.  

Contributions must be made in cash, and any person can make a contribution for the benefit of the designated account beneficiary. There are no income limits for the account beneficiary or the contributor. Billionaires can contribute. 

Total contributions to a designated beneficiary’s ABLE account in a year are generally limited to the annual federal gift tax exclusion for that year. For 2020, the exclusion amount is $15,000, so that is the general limit on contributions to an ABLE account in 2020. However, in 2018-2025, additional amounts can potentially be contributed, thanks to a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) provision explained below.  

Additional contributions for 2018-2025

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the annual limit on ABLE account contributions is increased for 2018-2025. Once the general contribution limit has been reached ($15,000 for 2020), the designated ABLE account beneficiary can himself or herself contribute an additional amount up to the lesser of: (1) the applicable federal poverty line for a one-person household for the prior year or (2) the designated beneficiary’s compensation for the contribution year. For the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia, the 2019 poverty line for a one-person household was $12,490.  

Example 1: Additional contribution based on wages

Yolanda, age 30, is an individual with a disability who is the designated beneficiary of an ABLE account. She lives in Colorado. In 2020, she is employed and earns $20,000 in wages for the year. No retirement plan contributions are made on her behalf.

In 2020, Yolanda’s parents contribute the general maximum of $15,000 to her ABLE account. Yolanda herself can make an additional 2020 contribution of up $12,490: the lesser of: (1) her $20,000 of compensation for 2020 or (2) the $12,490 federal poverty line for a one-person household for 2019. 

Bonus: saver’s credit 

Thanks to another TCJA provision, contributions made by the designated ABLE account beneficiary to his or her account in 2018-2025 are potentially eligible for the federal income tax Retirement Savings Contributions Credit. This is the so-called Saver’s Credit, and it can be up to 50% of the ABLE account contribution, subject to a credit maximum of $1,000. In general, an ABLE account beneficiary is potentially eligible for the Saver’s Credit if he or she is age 18 or older, is not claimed as a dependent on another person’s Form 1040, and is not a student.

Example 2: Claiming the saver’s credit

Same facts as in the preceding example. Yolanda can potentially claim a Saver’s Credit of up to $1,000 for 2020, based on her 2020 contributions to her ABLE account. 

Tax treatment of distributions

Distributions from ABLE accounts are federal-income-tax-free to the extent they do not exceed the designated beneficiary’s qualified disability expenses for the year. 

Qualified disability expenses 

These are any expenses related to the designated account beneficiary’s blindness or disability. They include: education; housing; transportation; employment training and support; assistive technology and personal support services; health, prevention, and wellness services; financial management and administrative services; legal fees; expenses for oversight and monitoring; funeral and burial expenses; and other expenses that are specified by IRS regulations. As you can see, qualified disability expenses include basic living expenses and are not limited to expenses for which there is a medical necessity or expenses that solely benefit the designated account beneficiary. 

Nonqualified distributions 

Distributions in excess of the designated account beneficiary’s qualified disability expenses are included in the account beneficiary’s gross income and are also hit with a 10% penalty tax. The amount included in gross income is based on the ratio of nonqualified distributions for the year to total distributions for the year. 

In effect, when distributions for the year exceed qualified disability expenses, the distributions are treated as consisting of: (1) a pro-rata tax-free return of principal amount from account contributions and (2) a pro-rata taxable amount from accumulated account earnings.

ABLE account investment options

State-run ABLE programs generally offer investment options similar to those offered by state-run 529 college savings plans. For example, you may be able to select an “aggressive growth” portfolio consisting of mutual funds from well-known providers, a “moderate growth” portfolio, or a “conservative income” portfolio. As stated earlier, you can change an ABLE account’s investment direction as often as twice in each calendar year. 

Rollovers are allowed

ABLE account distributions can be rolled over federal-income-tax-free within 60 days to another ABLE account for the benefit of the designated beneficiary or an eligible individual who is a member of the designated beneficiary’s family, as defined. 

Beneficiary changes are allowed

You can change an ABLE account’s designated beneficiary federal-income-tax-free, as long as the new beneficiary is an eligible individual who is a family member of the original beneficiary.

Tax results when account beneficiary passes away

Upon the death of the ABLE account’s designated beneficiary, the remaining ABLE account balance is first paid out to cover any outstanding qualified disability expenses of the designated beneficiary. 

Next, any remaining balance is paid to reimburse the state Medicaid plan for medical assistance paid for the designated ABLE account beneficiary after the account was established (net of any premiums paid from the account to a Medicaid Buy-In program), but only if the state files a claim for such reimbursement. Because of this payback provision, it may be advisable to keep only a limited amount of funds in an ABLE account. Additional funds can be kept in a special needs trust that is not subject to any payback provision. 

Any remaining ABLE account balance is distributed to the estate of the deceased designated ABLE account beneficiary or other beneficiary named to receive ABLE account funds after the death of the designated ABLE account beneficiary. To the extent such post-death distributions consist of ABLE account earnings, they are included in the recipient’s income for federal income tax purposes, but no penalty tax is owed.

The bottom line

If the tax rules for ABLE account contributions and distributions remind you of the guidelines for Section 529 college savings accounts, you are not mistaken. However, unlike 529 accounts, it’s probably fair to say that ABLE accounts have been underappreciated and underutilized to date. But you are now in the know. You understand why an ABLE account can be a helpful financial planning tool if you want to help out a family member or loved one with a disability.   

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Facebook’s new tool to stop fake news is a game changer—if the company would only use it

When an explosive—and most likely fake—story about Joe Biden’s son began to circulate online this week, Facebook did something unusual: It decided to restrict its spread while it investigated the story’s accuracy.

This marked the first prominent deployment of a tool the company has been testing for several months. Facebook calls the tool a “viral content review system,” while some news outlets and research outfits have referred to it as a “circuit breaker.” Whatever its name, the tool has enormous potential to limit a tsunami of false or misleading news on topics like politics and health.

The circuit breaker tactic is a common sense way for the social network to fix its fake news problem, but it may also run counter to Facebook’s business interest. This means that it’s too soon to say whether Facebook’s actions on the Biden post will be a one-off occurrence or a new embrace of civic accountability by a company that has long resisted it.

The promise of viral circuit breakers

Not every post on Facebook is treated equally, as most people are aware. Instead, the site’s algorithm amplifies the reach of those most likely to elicit a reaction. That’s why a picture of a new baby from a long-ago acquaintance will vault to the top of your Facebook feed, even if you haven’t seen any other posts by that person for years.

While the algorithm rewards pictures of newborns and puppies, it is also inclined to promoting news stories—including fake ones—likely to elicit a reaction. That’s what occurred prior to the 2016 election when stories from sites in Macedonia, masquerading as U.S. conservative news sites, went viral on Facebook. (The sites in questions were run by teenagers seeking to make money from ads.)

Today, the problem of fake news circulating on Facebook is just as prevalent—and possibly more dangerous. This week, the New York Times listed four false election stories circulating widely on Facebook, including a baseless rant about an impending Democratic coup that has been viewed nearly 3 million times. Another example, this one trending in left-wing circles, is a fake report about a mysterious cabal that’s blocking mailboxes to discourage voting. And last month, Facebook users circulated stories (likewise fake) that radical leftists were setting the wildfires in the West. The ensuing hysteria led to sheriffs’ offices and firefighters wasting critical time and resources on nuisance calls.

Until now, Facebook has responded to this sort of viral misinformation by pointing to its team of fact checkers it employs, which can result in Facebook taking down some stories or placing a warning label on them. Critics, however, say the process is feckless because any response typically comes days later—meaning the stories have already reached an enormous audience. Or, as the axiom goes, “[Facebook’s] lie has gone halfway around the world before the truth has had a chance to get its pants on.”

This situation led the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank, to include circuit breakers as its first recommendation in a landmark report on how social media platforms can reduce misinformation. The idea has also been endorsed by GMFUS, another policy think tank.

“Circuit breakers like those used by high-frequency traders on Wall Street would be a way for them to pause algorithmic promotion before a post does damage,” says Karen Kornbluh, a policy expert at GMFUS. “It gives them time to decide if it violates their rules. They don’t need to take it down, but they can stop promoting it.”

Circuit breakers thus appear to be the best of all worlds: They allow Facebook to limit the spread of misinformation without taking the draconian step of removing a post altogether.

And indeed, that’s what Facebook did on Tuesday when spokesperson Andy Stone declared that the company was responding to the suspect Hunter Biden story by “reducing its distribution” while fact checkers investigated its veracity. It deployed a circuit breaker.

But it’s far from clear if circuit breakers will be a regular part of Facebook’s misinformation strategy, or if the Hunter Biden decision will stand instead as a rare exception to Facebook’s practice of letting fake news flow freely on its platform.

Can Facebook change a viral business model?

Facebook’s use of a circuit breaker is one of several encouraging steps the platform has taken this month to limit misinformation, including a ban on posts that deny or distort the Holocaust. But there are reasons to be skeptical.

As a scathing new profile of Facebook in the New Yorker observes, “The company’s strategy has never been to manage the problem of dangerous content, but rather to manage the public’s perception of the problem.”

In the case of circuit breakers, the company has been cagey about how widely they are being deployed. In an interview with Fortune, a Facebook spokesperson noted that, in most cases, few will notice when the company uses them. The spokesperson, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also cited a recent example—one involving an audio post suggesting right-wing activists run over protesters with cars—of the circuit breaker working.

But the spokesperson did not explain why the circuit breakers did not slow down the four fake stories cited by the New York Times, or provide any data about how often they have been used. Instead, she said, the system served as a backup for Facebook’s policy-based moderation tools, which she claimed do an effective job of screening for noxious content—a proposition that many critics would disagree with.

Facebook’s reluctance to elaborate is perhaps understandable. Republicans, responding to Facebook’s decision to temporarily limit the Biden story, warned they will make it easier for people to sue the company over the content its users post. In a hyper-partisan climate, any steps Facebook takes may leave it open to accusations of bias and political retaliation.

Meanwhile, Facebook has another incentive not to use circuit breakers in a meaningful way: Doing so would mean less “engagement” on its platform and, by extension, less ad money. In the view of one critic cited in the New Yorker profile, Facebook’s “content-moderation priorities won’t change until its algorithms stop amplifying whatever content is most enthralling or emotionally manipulative. This might require a new business model, perhaps even a less profitable one.”

The critic, a lawyer and activist named Cori Crider, went on to suggest that Facebook is unlikely to make such a change in the absence of regulation. The company, meanwhile, has yet to offer a convincing answer about how it plans to reconcile this tension between an ethical duty to limit the spread of misinformation, and the fact it makes money when such misinformation goes viral.

Kornbluh of GMFUS says this tension is what leads Facebook and other social media platforms to err on the side of waiting—meaning harmful posts can earn millions of views before any action is taken. She argues that this approach must change, and that circuit breakers offer the potential to do enormous good with little harm.

“A circuit breaker approach wouldn’t force them to deny anyone the right to post—but would deny them amplification,” she says.

More must-read finance coverage from Fortune:

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Dirty money – Britain’s new anti-corruption tool is proving useful—in certain cases | Britain

JUDGING BY HIS social-media posts, Mansoor Mahmood Hussain (pictured) was a successful businessman whose shrewd property deals allowed him to enjoy a lavish lifestyle, which included collecting high-performance cars and hobnobbing at VIP parties with the likes of Beyoncé and Simon Cowell. Investigators looking into criminal gangs in the north of England reached a different conclusion: they suspected Leeds-based Mr Hussain of being a major money-launderer who had helped gangsters, including Mohammed Nisar “Meggy” Khan, a convicted murderer, rinse tens of millions of pounds.

Despite intelligence linking Mr Hussain to organised crime, the National Crime Agency (NCA) struggled to gather the exhaustive evidence needed to bring money-laundering charges. So it turned to a newish legal tool called an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO). This turns the tables on those suspected of buying assets with dirty money, forcing them to open their books and prove their wealth came from legitimate sources. Mr Hussain has agreed to hand over 45 properties worth £10m ($12.9m). He could yet face a criminal investigation.

The NCA says the result is a “significant” step forward for UWOs, which Britain introduced in 2018. Ireland and Australia already had such provisions. It marks the first time a British case involving a UWO has led to assets being recovered. Criminal money-laundering cases are difficult to prosecute; money trails can be horribly tangled, making it hard to connect the loot to the original crime. The UWO process, administered under civil law, involves a lower burden of proof and puts the onus on the suspect to prove that their wealth was not ill-gotten.

When Britain’s crime-busters started wielding UWOs, anti-corruption campaigners hoped that they would be a powerful weapon against a different type of ne’er-do-well: dodgy “politically exposed persons”, or PEPs—such as kleptocrats and their associates from places like Russia, Central Asia and Africa—who plough corrupt foreign capital into swanky British properties. Such swag is largely responsible for the “London laundry” tag bestowed on the capital.

Here, however, the NCA has found the going tougher. Of the three other UWO cases brought so far, two have involved PEPs. The one that drew more attention was against Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of a banker from Azerbaijan: £22m-worth of assets, including a London mansion, were frozen. Ms Hajiyeva lost an appeal, but the case grinds on. The other case, involving properties owned by the daughter and grandson of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the former president of Kazakhstan, was thrown out in June. The court found that the NCA had not provided sufficient evidence that the use of offshore entities to hold assets suggested financial shenanigans rather than being for legitimate reasons, such as privacy or legal tax mitigation, says Jonah Anderson of White & Case, a law firm.

Cases against PEPs were never going to be easy. They have plenty of money to hire the best lawyers, and many offshore structures are impenetrable. UWOs may prove more useful in domestic-crime cases than those involving international corruption. Gangsters beware.

This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Please explain”

Reuse this contentThe Trust Project

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Premier Doug Ford unveiling new online tool to allow Ontarians to track COVID-19 cases in schools

Ontarians will soon be able to track any cases of COVID-19 in schools.

With millions of students already returning to classrooms for the first time in six months, Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government is set to unveil a new online tool to monitor coronavirus cases.

Similar to the tracking used in long-term-care homes since early in the pandemic, the forthcoming “dashboard” on the Ministry of Education website will give the public information about cases in schools.

It will disclose which schools have COVID-19 cases and whether students, teachers or support staff are infected.

“We will be reporting moving forward,” Ford told reporters Wednesday after a Mississauga meeting with Quebec Premier François Legault.

“This is our second day now going back to school. They’re rolling this out over the next week or two. But we’ll be reporting it,” he said.

“It’s so important that we report every single case as we did with long-term care. We’ll do the same in schools.”

Ford stressed he believes “in being transparent” with Ontarians.

“I’ve said from day one, what I know, you’ll know,” the premier emphasized.

“Even before school opened, I was reporting on how many kids under 19 (were infected). That was concerning when I saw numbers of of 20, 21, 25 the other day for kids under the age of 19.”

But Ford said the government has no plans to identify private workplaces that may have COVID-19 cases unlike some other provinces.

“We release the numbers every single day, and we’ve never had a request for the exact locations. If you’re saying should I target certain companies, if there’s an outbreak in a company? I don’t believe in targeting companies if there is one case or two cases,” he said.

“If there is a massive outbreak, I think the media will cover that. But we’re there to support the companies.”

On Thursday, Ontario reported 170 new cases of COVID-19, up from 149 Wednesday, but down from 185 Tuesday and 190 on Monday. There was one death reported, the first since Sunday.

“Locally, 28 public health units are reporting five or fewer cases, with 14 reporting no new cases,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter.

“There are 55 cases in Toronto today, with 28 in York, 22 in Peel and 12 in Ottawa,” said Elliott.

Across the province, 24,669 coronavirus tests were conducted Wednesday, the most since Sunday.

Queen’s Park says 2,814 people have died from the virus since the outbreak struck in March, but the Star has determined there have been at least 2,855 COVID-19 deaths in Ontario.

The difference of at least 41 deaths is because some were not included in official tallies early in the pandemic.

There are 54 COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals, 15 in intensive care units. Of those, nine are on ventilators.

Even with the recent uptick, the rate of infection remains well below the worst of the pandemic.

At its height in April, Ontario was averaging nearly 600 cases daily.



The vast majority of the province’s COVID-19 patients have since recovered, and the recent rise in cases has not yet resulted in a significant jump in hospitalizations or deaths.

There are now 1,567 active cases of the virus, a number that has been rising in recent weeks and the most since July 28.

The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases, meaning they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie



Do you plan on using the new COVID-19 online tool for schools? What do you hope to gain from the tool?

Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.

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How many coronavirus cases have there been in your area? Use our tool to find out

The coronavirus pandemic has reached most corners of the country, infecting more than 344,000 Britons and killing more than 41,500 people.

After a nationwide lockdown that lasted almost four months, many restrictions on daily life were lifted on July 4.

However, the Government’s strategy has now turned to focus on local lockdowns, targeting areas which have suffered outbreaks. On June 30, Leicester became the first UK city to be plunged back into lockdown

Officials also introduced new measures in Blackburn and Oldham. On July 30, Boris Johnson ordered swathes of the north of England back into partial lockdown, banning people in Greater Manchester, Bradford and Blackburn from holding indoor meetings with different households. From midnight on August 8, residents in Preston were not allowed to meet other households indoors or in the garden.

But on August 28, it was announced that more than one million people would be lifted out of local lockdown.

People in parts of Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire will be allowed to mix with family and friends from outside their household from September 2.

More than 17.6 million tests for Covid-19 have been processed in the UK and the Government’s plan to tackle the pandemic involves a number of gradual phases, but experts warn there could be a second wave on the horizon, particularly as infection rates have been rising across Europe. 

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Public Health England release a daily update on how many confirmed cases of coronavirus there are in each English local authority.

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American Airlines touts a new tool to combat COVID. But does it really make flying safer?

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American Airlines announced federal approval of a new disinfectant that the airline says it will use on some flights to improve protection against surface transmission of the coronavirus. The product will be integrated into what American calls its Clean Commitment, an effort to keep its planes safe enough to draw back travelers.

But the evolving science on COVID-19 points to ongoing uncertainty about whether it’s safe to fly—and about the airline industry’s broader prospects.

The new approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is for a product called SurfaceWise2, produced by Dallas-based Allied BioScience. The disinfectant will be applied using electrostatic sprayers, which add an electromagnetic charge to particles of cleaner, making them better adhere to surfaces. Electrostatic disinfectant spraying is already widely used by airlines, including American competitors Southwest and Delta.

The key difference is that SurfaceWise2 is effective for up to a week with a single application. That may be as much of a boon to labor efficiency as safety. Existing disinfectant sprays are similarly effective, but are applied by airline staff after every flight.

Founded in 2005 and privately held, Texas-based Allied secured a large new investment in April premised on its work on anti-COVID products. According to Allied, the new EPA approval makes SurfaceWise2 the only coating approved for long-term continuous disinfection of COVID-19. Its effectiveness has also been supported in independent lab tests.

But the EPA approval, issued on an emergency exemption basis, is quite limited. For one year, the product can be used by American Airlines flights that pass through airports in Texas, and by two physical therapy clinics operated in Texas by Total Orthopedics Sports & Spine. Speaking to the press today, EPA chief Andrew Wheeler said other entities that want to use the product may apply separately for an emergency exemption via their state authorities. Allied BioScience told CNBC it will pursue broader approval that would make its disinfectant more easily available.

More effective disinfection on planes should reduce the transmission of coronavirus via surfaces, such as armrests, where virus left behind by an infected person can stay alive for hours. The World Health Organization warns that COVID-19 can cause an infection if it’s carried from surfaces to the eyes, nose, or mouth.

The bigger risk: The air you breathe

Better surface disinfection, however, increasingly pales next to worries about air quality on passenger flights. There is now strong scientific consensus that COVID-19 is primarily spread by direct social contact, with surface transmission playing a smaller role. And there is increasing evidence that micro-droplets exhaled by infected individuals can remain airborne and infectious for hours.

That is particularly worrying in the case of airliners, in which many passengers are confined in a small space. Restaurants, offices, and other businesses have been severely curtailed during the pandemic because gathering people in closed spaces increases the risk of infection.

Despite appearances, most airliners are considerably safer than eating indoors in a restaurant. American says that on all planes in its fleet, air is either replaced with outside air, or scrubbed using hospital-grade HEPA filtration, every two-to-four minutes. That’s nearly twice the average replacement rate in an office building. Additionally, air is recycled only within horizontal ‘zones,’ reducing spread along the length of a plane. American says these features have been standard since the late 1990s.

Nonetheless, there is clear evidence of airborne transmission risk on passenger flights. A 2003 study of the transmission of the SARS coronavirus on a passenger plane found that a single symptomatic person spread the virus throughout the cabin of the plane, infecting as many as 22 others. More recently, a study of COVID-19 transmission on a March 2020 international flight found possible transmission at a distance of up to two rows.

All major U.S. carriers now require masks, which reduce the distance exhalations spread. But American has rolled back one of the most significant measures to control the spread of COVID: since July 1, it has not blocked off seats to maintain greater social distancing during flights. United and Spirit airlines have also rolled back those policies, despite evidence that they are very effective at reducing transmission risk. Delta and Southwest, by contrast, have said they will continue blocking seats until at least the end of September.

Continued uncertainty about safety has become an existential threat for individual airlines, and is expected to upend the airline industry as we know it. S&P Global has estimated air travel demand will be down 55% for 2020, and won’t recover until 2024.

Those declines have triggered huge cuts across the industry. One running tally lists more than 20 airline bankruptcies globally so far this year. And major U.S. carriers have been forced to reduce service. Last week, American announced it will cut service to 15 U.S. cities, and has signaled that more cuts could be coming.

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