Good News Monday #25: The voice, the court, the study

So… The Staycation was an exhausting success. We swam, we camped, we went to the zoo, we bicycled, and we canoed. All within a few miles of home. And, all with comfortable social distancing.

I remain impressed with the Lincoln Park Zoo and all the visitors we encountered. We made an “entry reservation,” so visitors to this free zoo were metered into the zoo. Staff marked the six-foot distances all over the place, so we could easily maintain our distances. Chicago people seem mindful about wearing masks.

Closer to home, the local IHOP hostess told me that patrons are not so respectful. “We’re doing everything we can, so we don’t have to close down again,” she told me. Besides personal safety, I wish more people thought about protecting the workers and the businesses.

Here’s a few of my favorite pics from our Staycation:

My expanded “bubble” includes kids and grandkids. Just in case, I’m back in self-imposed quarantine for two weeks, preparing for a visit to Mom. Maybe I’m being over-cautious, but I have eight siblings, and I don’t want to be the one responsible for getting Mom sick.

I hoped you missed my Good News last week while I vacationed. Here’s a bit of good news that came my way while I lounged around.

COVID-19 may be detected in the voice.

Wouldn’t that be lovely if we could test for COVID-19 by monitoring speech signals? After all, we can tell when someone is getting a cold just by the way they sound. Maybe COVID-19 can be recognized using speech signals. Maybe that will work even in pre-symptomatic people.

Thomas Quatieri, an engineer, had an aha moment while watching the news. Thomas has been working on what he calls ‘vocal biomarkers’ to detect ALS and Parkinson’s disease.

Thomas had a ton of samples at his fingertips with YouTube interviews of celebrities who contracted COVID-19. Sure enough, his team found tell-take differences in the speech signals between those interviews recorded before and those recorded during the celebrities’ interviews.

If Thomas’s hunch is correct, we could have testing in a flash. That sure would be good news. Especially for anyone who has undergone or seen someone get tested using that foot-long swab up the nose. (Okay, it’s really more like 6 inches. Still, that’s a pretty dastardly experience.)

“A sensing system integrated into a mobile app could pick up on infections early, before people feel sick or, especially, for these subsets of people who don’t ever feel sick or show symptoms,” says Jeffrey Palmer, who leads the research group. “This is also something the U.S. Army is interested in as part of a holistic Covid-19 monitoring system.” Even after a diagnosis, this sensing ability could help doctors remotely monitor their patients’ progress or monitor the effects of a vaccine or drug treatment.

MIT News

Read more about what engineers are doing here.

Turnaway Study

Diana Greene Foster, a demographer, followed over a thousand women for five years. Half of the women were refused an abortion, half weren’t.

Diana wanted to see how the women faired, as time went by. She interviewed them twice a year for the five years. Diana says that the two groups were very similar demographically. Of the women who were denied the abortions, 70% carried the pregnancy to term. (Others either miscarried or sought a late term abortion elsewhere.)

The Good News here is:

  • There was no long-term differences between women who receive and women who were denied an abortion in depression, anxiety, PTSD, self-esteem, life satisfaction, drug abuse, or alcohol abuse.
  • 95% of the women who had an abortion continued to feel it was the right decision for them.
  • Those women who were turned away and had a child no longer wish they had been able to end the pregnancy.

That last part is super-good news. I’m sure we all agree that children should be loved. There’s a whole lot more about the study that I’m sure you want to read. The New Yorker article I read is here. You can find the link to the Diana’s study there, too.

SCOTUS agrees with me (at least sometimes)

Okay, that might not be good news for everyone, but it’s sweet relief for me. Here’s a few of the things that SCOTUS and I agree about:

  • Trump does not have absolute immunity.
  • States cannot impose undue burden on women seeking an abortion.
  • Trump cannot unilaterally stop protection for Dreamers.
  • Church schools can have access to the same state funding as other private schools.
  • Civil rights applies to the LGBTQ+ community, too.

All in all, it’s good news that the Supreme Court seems to be acting independently and in accordance with legal precedence. Logical decisions almost always make me smile. That’s just how I roll.

Ahhh… It’s good to be back writing again! A little respite really got my creative juices flowing.

What’s on your good news radar this week? More is always better.