Meet the Brown University economist who argues that K-12 schools aren’t super-spreaders of the coronavirus

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ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 26,294 confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday, after adding 167 new cases. The most recent overall daily test-positive rate was 1.7 percent, but the first-time positive rate was 5.5 percent. The state announced three more deaths, bringing the total to 1,130. There were 112 people in the hospital.

Today is supposed to be the first day of full in-person learning for every public school in Rhode Island, but it’s still unclear exactly how many of our schools aren’t quite ready to reopen.

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If you’re paying close attention to education in the age of the coronavirus, you might want to check out Brown University economist Emily Oster’s piece in The Atlantic on how schools don’t appear to be the super-spreaders of the virus that some predicted.

Oster agreed to answer a few questions for Rhode Map on the research she is doing.

Q: Your research shows infection rates have been quite low among both students and staff, but do we have a sense of whether kids just aren’t the super-spreaders we thought they might be, or if all the precautions that have been taken (like staggered schedules) are helping to prevent a spread?

Oster: My guess is that it is both. Schools in our data are taking a lot of precautions (especially masks), which likely matters a lot. Based on other data (Florida, for example), we haven’t seen huge outbreaks even though they are taking fewer of these.

But this is the kind of question we hope our data can help answer. Our next big analysis task, once we pull in another round of data, is to look at changes in case rates over time and correlate them with precautions. I’m especially eager to do this by age group. It


Google Meet is getting breakout rooms, but only for some education customers to start

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Google’s Meet videoconferencing service is getting breakout rooms, but they’ll only be available to Google Workspace Enterprise for Education customers at first, according to a Google blog post (via 9to5Google). With the feature, teachers and educators will be able to break their classes into smaller groups for things like projects or focused discussions.

graphical user interface

© Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google will let you make up to 100 breakout rooms in a single call. Once you’ve decided how many breakout rooms you want, Google will randomly group up the people on the call into rooms, but moderators can manually add people to other rooms if they want. Meeting moderators can also hop between rooms to check in on groups.


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If breakout rooms are something you might want to try out, but you aren’t an Enterprise for Education customer, you might be able to use them sometime soon — the feature will be coming to other Google Workspace editions “later this year,” according to Google. (Google Workspace, if you haven’t heard, is Google’s recent rebranding of G Suite.)

Videoconferencing rival Zoom already offers breakout rooms to all users (and has since 2015), so Google is playing catch-up with this feature. Zoom users can only split up into 50 different rooms, though, which is half of the 100 possible rooms offered by Google Meet.

Google Meet has steadily added features over the course of this year to compete with Zoom and other videoconferencing services as usage of those tools has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Live: Watch U regents meet, vote on cutting three sports

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The University of Minnesota Board of Regents is holdings its monthly meeting starting at 9:15 a.m. Friday and one of the items on the agenda is the elimination of teams in three men’s sports: track and field, tennis and gymnastics.

Discussion started at last month’s meeting, but the 12-member board decided to delay the vote for a month.

There are other items on the agenda not related to the program cuts, so an exact time when the discussion and vote will be taken isn’t known. You can tap here for a link to the meeting agenda.

Here are previous stories about the athletic department’s proposed cuts.

Angry donors say they’ll stop supporting U.

Discussion at last month’s meeting.

The original story about plans to cut the three teams.

Star gymnast Shane Wiskus and others reacted to the cuts.

The university is also planning to cut 41 women athletes to save money.





The Meet Group Teams with ConnectSafely to Further Safer Dating Education

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To Provide Consultation on Safety, Privacy, and Security Issues Related to Technology

The Meet Group, Inc., a leading provider of interactive dating solutions, announced it is collaborating with ConnectSafely, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating technology users about safety, privacy, and security.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201008005285/en/

“We’re proud to be joining forces with ConnectSafely, an organization we have known for many years as a leader in creating a safer and better internet,” said Geoff Cook, Chief Executive Officer of The Meet Group. “Educating our members about how to date safely is core to our safety initiatives. Earlier this year we introduced a safety education pledge requirement, released safer dating tips for dating in a pandemic with our Safer Dating Advisory Board of epidemiologists and infectious disease experts, and shared full-screen reminders of our content standards to streamers before they go live.”

“ConnectSafely is pleased to be helping The Meet Group assure that people who use its services are doing so as safely as possible,” said Larry Magid, Chief Executive Officer of ConnectSafely. “There is a long history of people successfully finding partners through online dating and the vast majority have done so safely. But, as with all online activities, there are risks that can be avoided by knowing how to protect your privacy, security and personal safety while enjoying the many benefits of online dating. User education, along with best practices by dating services are the keys to safer use of dating services like the ones operated by The Meet Group.”

A leader in promoting online safety, The Meet Group collaborates actively with industry partners, peers, NGOs, and law enforcement. Earlier this year, The Meet Group announced it is collaborating with several online safety and dating organizations, including the Online Dating Association, the


Meet the 2020 SN 10 scientists

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In the midst of a pandemic that has brought so much worry and loss, it’s natural to want to help — to do some small part to solve a problem, to counter pain, or to, importantly, remind others that there is beauty and wonder in the world. Scientists have long been doing just that. Many are chasing answers to the myriad challenges that people face every day, and revealing the rewards in the pursuit of knowledge itself. It’s in that spirit that we present this year’s SN 10: Scientists to Watch.

For the sixth consecutive year, Science News is featuring 10 early- and mid-career scientists who are pushing the boundaries of scientific inquiry. Some of the researchers are asking questions with huge societal importance: How do we prevent teen suicide? What are the ingredients in wildfire smoke that are damaging to health? Is there a better way to monitor earthquakes to save lives? What about finding new ways to diagnose and treat diseases?

Others are trying to grasp how weird and wonderful the natural world is — from exploring how many supermassive black holes are out there in space to understanding the minuscule genetic details that drive evolution. For instance, SaraH Zanders, one of this year’s SN 10, is unveiling the drama that unfolds when life divvies up its genetic material.

A couple of the scientists on this year’s list have also taken steps to support people from groups that are underrepresented in the sciences. These researchers see how science benefits when people from diverse backgrounds contribute to the pursuit of answers.

All of this year’s honorees are age 40 and under, and all were nominated by Nobel laureates,

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