Drones could help fight coronavirus by air-dropping medical supplies

By Stephanie Bailey, CNN Business

These are dangerous times for people with chronic health conditions. They often need to visit hospitals for treatment or to collect medication, but during the pandemic that means increased risk of exposure to coronavirus.

In Africa, a US startup says it is reducing that risk by using drones to deliver medical supplies to local clinics, and freeing up hospital beds in the process.

Zipline, based in San Francisco, has used drones to deliver blood and medical products to hospitals and health centers in Rwanda since 2016. Last year, it expanded to Ghana and now it wants to accelerate plans to begin deliveries in the United States.

Air drop

Zipline has two distribution centers in Rwanda and four in Ghana, built to speed up the transport of medical supplies in areas with poor roads and a lack of refrigerated vehicles.

Doctors order products from their phones and drones make the deliveries within a 50-mile range, in an average of 30 minutes, according to Zipline. The drones can carry packages weighing almost 4 pounds (1.8 kilos) and drop them to a designated area on the ground using a simple paper parachute.

Zipline says that it has already delivered over 60,000 units of blood, critical medicines and vaccines for measles, polio and other diseases. Now the company is working with the governments of Rwanda and Ghana to support their coronavirus response efforts, explains Zipline co-founder and CEO Keller Rinaudo.

In Ghana, Zipline’s distribution centers hold stocks of emergency personal protective equipment (PPE), allowing health authorities to target their distribution. It has also started delivering Covid-19 test samples from hospitals in rural Ghana to laboratories in the cities of Accra and Kumasi.

“We are stocking a whole bunch of Covid-19 products and delivering them to hospitals and health facilities, whenever they need them instantly,” Rinaudo told CNN Business.

Vaccines and test kits will be added to Zipline’s inventory when available.

Zipline says that delivering medical supplies to local clinics frees up hospital beds for coronavirus patients, because people with other health conditions can get treatment, such as blood transfusions for example, closer to home.

Rinaudo hopes the drones will soon be able to deliver directly to designated neighborhood drop-off points and even to people’s homes.

“Suddenly there’s a dramatic need to extend the reach of the hospital network and the healthcare system closer to where people live,” said Rinaudo. “You can do that … via instant delivery services.”

Expanding to the US

​Launched in 2016, Zipline is worth $1.25 billion and has close to 300 employees, according to the company, with Goldman Sachs among its investors.

Rinaudo says global public health leaders have visited Zipline’s African distribution centers to see how the technology could work in America. Zipline was already planning to launch in the United States later this year and is now hoping to provide coronavirus assistance there, too.

Access to specialty drugs for non-coronavirus patients can be a problem in rural US communities. Zipline hopes that by distributing products that would otherwise only be available at hospitals, it can protect patients and free up beds, just as it’s doing in Africa.

It could also distribute test kits, PPE, and vaccines, once available.

Rinaudo explains that Zipline has been working with the Federal Aviation Administration for over a year to get its aircraft certified to fly in US commercial air space.

The company already has two distribution centers in California which it uses as test facilities, and they can immediately begin deliveries once its aircraft are certified.

“The good news is that there is technology like this available,” said Rinaudo. “The US is falling behind and Covid-19 will be a good chance for us to step into the future and start building infrastructure for the 21st century.”


Five household items you can use to work out your whole body

By Dana Santas, CNN

After weeks of being homebound, many people are missing the benefits of their gym memberships.

As a mind-body coach in professional sports, I train athletes who are used to unlimited access to fitness training tools. Like so many of us, however, a lot of athletes don’t have home gyms, so I’ve been hosting Zoom video sessions to show them ways they can still train their entire bodies with less. In fact, using only bodyweight and some common household items, you can do a total-body workout at home to get yourself moving and feeling better.

This 10-move routine uses a backpack, broomstick, chair, towel and water bottles to help you fine-tune movement, build functional strength and alleviate areas of chronic tension. The workout takes your body through all planes of motion: sagittal (forward/backward), frontal (side to side) and transverse (rotating), as well as fundamental movements like squat, hinge, push and pull.

The exercises are divided into two groups of five, starting with more challenging lower-body exercises. Go through two to four rounds of Group I exercises before moving on to two to four rounds of Group II. Between rounds, take at least a minute of rest and drink plenty of water.

Important note: Always consult your physician before starting any new exercise program. Use caution and stop if you feel any pain, weakness or lightheadedness.

Set the stage

Settle into a space that has some natural light to help uplift your mood as you tackle the workout; if possible, face a window.

Before beginning your workout, do a quick warm-up, like a yoga or mobility flow. Try one of my Minute MoFlows.

Fill your backpack with enough water bottles so it’s heavy enough to be challenging but light enough for you to maintain form throughout all of your reps.

Group I exercises

Backpack squat: 5 to 10 reps

This squat promotes total-body strength with a particular emphasis on the legs, glutes and core.

Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart. Hold the backpack close to your chest, which gives you a manageable center of mass and promotes core stabilization.

Although it might be tempting to throw your backpack on your back, don’t. Because the weight of the backpack sits lower than a barbell would, it could strain your back.

Squat down between your legs as deeply as possible without pain. Keep your chest and head up with the back straight. Return to the starting position.

Broomstick single-leg hinge: 5 to 10 reps

The hinging movement promotes strength in your posterior chain (the back of your legs, glutes and back).

From a standing position, hold the broomstick horizontally against the front of your legs, which should be shoulder-distance apart, with arms straight. Begin a single-leg hip hinge by extending one leg behind you and hinging forward with a flat back. Keep the broomstick in line with your shoulders. Slowly hip hinge and stand back up with both feet on the ground.

Repeat exercise on the other leg.

Chair split squat: 5 to 10 reps per side

The squatting movement promotes total-body strength with a particular emphasis on the quads, glutes and core.

Place a folded towel on a chair. Standing in front of the chair, facing forward, bend one knee upward and put the top of your foot on the towel with the other leg out in front.

If balance is an issue, use the broomstick for added stability.

Keeping your torso upright, bend your forward knee as you would in a lunge, allowing your back knee to naturally bend toward the floor without touching. Keep your weight in your forward leg, with that leg powering the movement up and down.

Repeat exercise on the other side.

Towel lateral lunge: 5 to 10 reps per side

The lateral squatting movement promotes total-body strength with a particular emphasis on hips, legs and core.

Stand with one foot on your towel (or a paper plate if your workout area is carpeted). Hold your broomstick in your opposite hand for support.

Slide your leg out into a lateral lunge, keeping your chest up. Then pull your leg back up to standing. Repeat exercise with the other leg.

If you feel strong and stable enough, try these without using the broomstick for support.

Backpack walking lunge: 10 to 20 reps

The squatting movement promotes total-body strength with a particular emphasis on the legs, glutes and core.

Hold the backpack horizontally across your chest to help stabilize your core. Step forward into a lunge position with your back knee dropping low to the ground without touching. Try not to let your forward knee go past your toes. Drive through your front foot and bring your back leg forward to standing. Alternate sides as you continue to “walk” forward.

If you don’t have enough space to move forward while lunging, simply step forward into a lunge and then back to standing, alternating legs.

Group II exercises

Towel plank leg sweep: 5 to 10 reps per side

This core exercise with a lateral movement emphasizes hip stability and mobility.

From a plank position, place one foot on a towel (or a paper plate if your workout area is carpeted). With your core tight and back flat, sweep your leg out to the side as far as you feel comfortable without losing your form. Then return the leg to your starting position.

Repeat exercise with other leg.

Water bottle shoulder press: 10 to 20 reps

The pushing movement promotes strength in the arms, shoulder girdle and core.

Sitting on an armless chair with your feet flat on the ground, hold a water bottle in each hand with your arms bent at 90 degrees and elbows in line with your shoulders. This is your starting position. Press the water bottles straight up above your head and then return to the right-angle starting position.

Chair dip: 5 to 10 reps

This pushing movement promotes strength in the arms (triceps), shoulder girdle and core.

To set up for this exercise, begin by sitting on the chair with your hands holding the front edge. Supporting yourself with your arms, slowly walk your feet out in front, keeping your knees bent and your hips up. This is the starting position.

Bend your elbows to slowly lower your hips as far as is comfortable and then push back up to starting position. You should feel the the back of your arms powering the movement, and there should be a stretch in the front of your shoulders.

Use care with this exercise to avoid putting too much strain on your shoulders if they feel significantly tight.

Water bottle lateral raise: 10 to 20 reps

The lateral pulling movement promotes strength in the shoulder girdle and core.

Sitting on an armless chair with your feet flat on the ground, hold your water bottles in each hand at your sides. Slowly raise your arms laterally, stopping at shoulder height. Use a slow and controlled movement up and down.

For an added challenge, hold at the top for 2 to 3 seconds.

Broomstick seated twist: 5 to 10 reps

This rotating core exercise strengthens thoracic spine mobility.

Begin seated on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, holding the broomstick horizontally at shoulder height. Rotate your upper body to one side as far as you can without losing your lower body position. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds before returning to your starting position.

Repeat the exercise, rotating to the other side.

If sitting on the floor with your legs out in front is too challenging, you can do this exercise while seated in an armless chair.

Dana Santas, known as the “Mobility Maker,” is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and mind-body coach in professional sports, and is the author of the book “Practical Solutions for Back Pain Relief.”


How one hospital system is using technology to reduce health care providers’ exposure to coronavirus

By Clare Duffy, CNN Business

Video calling has, for many, been key to staying connected with friends, family and coworkers as coronavirus forces people to stay apart. Now, the technology is being used to connect health care providers and patients in hospitals.

Northwell Health, a New York health care system, is expanding a program to outfit coronavirus patients’ rooms with Amazon Echo Shows, two-way video calling devices that allow providers to check in with patients on video, rather than in person. The tool helps reduce providers’ exposure to the virus. It could also cut down on the use of vital personal protective equipment at a time when the nation’s stockpile of protective equipment has been largely depleted.

Northwell is the largest health care provider in New York state, which has been the epicenter of the US outbreak of coronavirus. The virus has now infected more than 742,000 Americans, and health care workers are especially at risk.

The video chat tool is just one in a number of health care applications for technology that have emerged or grown amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump administration expanded telehealth benefits to Medicare patients. Apple and Google are working on an ambitious plan to use their technologies to track the spread of coronavirus, considered a key step in containing the spread of the pandemic.

Other hospitals have found similar uses for video calling tools, too. Health care workers at Massachusetts General Hospital attached iPads to IV poles to create makeshift video portals to communicate with patients in isolation rooms, Lee Schwamm, vice president for virtual care at Mass General’s parent, Partners HealthCare, said last month.

At North Shore University Hospital on Long Island, the Northwell Health facility that has been piloting the technology, the video calling devices are helping doctors “maintain a human connection with their patients,” said Al Caligiuri, North Shore’s chief clinical information officer.

“We can communicate with them, we can answer questions, we can decrease foot traffic in the room and minimize the exposure to staff, and reduce the use of (personal protective equipment) over time,” Caligiuri said.

Coronavirus patients have the devices — equipped with a screen, front-facing camera and microphone — sitting on a bedside table in their hospital room. When doctors or other providers want to talk, they can initiate a “drop-in” from their own device in another room, which allows them to pop up on the patient’s screen.

The tool doesn’t require patients to push any buttons or interact with the devices other than looking at the camera and responding, something the hospital considered when thinking about what would be user-friendly for very sick and weak patients.

In-person, physical interactions between providers and patients are still necessary for examinations and treatments. But Caligiuri said the tool is helping with other kinds of exchanges, such as asking patients about their health history or how they feel after receiving a medication. The hospital has configured the devices to comply with federal telehealth guidelines on privacy and data protection practices, Caligiuri said.

While North Shore University Hospital was the first to test the technology, Northwell has now deployed around 2,800 devices across more than a dozen of its facilities in recent weeks and has plans to further expand the use of the technology.

Some of the devices were provided by Amazon as part of a broader donation of $5 million worth of devices to hospitals, schools and other organizations. Additional Echo Shows have been bought by the hospital system as it expands use of the technology, Caligiuri said.

Before coronavirus hit, Northwell had an existing partnership with Amazon to get information to patients through Alexa devices at their homes.

Caligiuri said patients have responded positively to the video technology, especially at a time when most coronavirus patients are not allowed to have visitors. And he said the hospital is already thinking about ways to continue using the technology even after the coronavirus outbreak abates.

“The beauty of this is … around that human connection,” Caligiuri said. “(Patients are) lying in a room with uncertainty around the future. Just having the ability to see the faces of the clinicians, to have that interaction. I think that has really been one of the major pluses.”