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Is it safe to fly now? One preflight PCR test could be the answer

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A study conducted earlier this year shows there may be a way to reduce the number of Covid infections on board commercial airplanes to virtually zero.

Results of the study appeared in a peer-reviewed article published on Sept. 1 in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings medical journal. The article — a joint effort by Mayo Clinic, the Georgia Department of Public Health and Delta Air Lines — showed that that one polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test performed within 72 hours of flying decreased the rate of infected travelers onboard to 0.05%. That’s five people for every 10,000 passengers.

At the time of the study, the rate of infection in the U.S. was 1.1% — or about 1 in every 100 people.

‘A pretty darn low number’

The findings analyzed data from Delta’s preflight testing program which ran from December 2020 to May 2021.

Here’s how Delta’s testing program worked: Passengers on select flights from New York City and Atlanta could fly to Italy, without having to quarantine upon arriving, if they tested negative for Covid-19 via a PCR test within 72 hours before the flight, a rapid antigen test prior to departure, and a rapid antigen test upon landing.

Data from Delta’s preflight testing program provides new information on testing feasibility, testing accuracy and passenger infection rates on commercial flights.

Mario Tama | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Of the 9,853 people who tested negative via the PCR test, four tested positive at the airport via rapid antigen tests. The diagnoses were confirmed via a rapid molecular test, and these people were not allowed to fly.  

Of the passengers who flew to Italy, one tested positive upon landing.

This translates to one case detection per 1,970 travelers “during a time of high prevalence of active infection in the United States,” according to the article.

“That’s a pretty darn low number,” said Dr. Aaron J. Tande, the lead author of the article and an infectious disease specialist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

The study suggests one PCR test within three days of flying renders subsequent testing at the airport largely unnecessary, especially when combined with onboard masking requirements and increasing vaccination rates among flyers.

‘Limitations’ of the study

The journal article mentions several “limitations” which may have affected the study’s results, including the role preflight tests had on traveler behavior. Participants with suspected Covid infections may have chosen not to travel. Others may have been more diligent about wearing masks and self-isolating knowing that they had to test negative in order to fly, said Tande.  

“I can’t say that that’s what made the number of tests that were positive so low — or was it truly that the 72-hour test was so good,” he told CNBC. “But … the end result is that it’s a safer flight for people, and that’s what we want.”

If you repeated the study now… I think you would see a significant decrease in the rate of infection on board.”

Dr. Aaron J. Tande

Mayo Clinic

Tande said that the findings are based on the Covid-19 strains that were circulating in the United States in the first half of 2021, not the more contagious delta variant that dominates now.

“I don’t think that you could say that if you repeated the study now — with a different rate of community infection and a different virus — that you would get exactly the same result,” he told CNBC. “I think you would see a significant decrease in the rate of infection on board.”

Safer but less feasible options

The pilot program considered five testing strategies, two of which may have detected even more infected flyers.

For example, a single rapid molecular test at the airport may have found more infections because it minimizes the time between testing and flying, and thus could catch infections which occur during that time. Adding on a 72-hour PCR preflight test would likely find even more, according to the study.

Though airports weren’t designed for large-scale medical testing, many set up makeshift facilities last year, such as Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport shown here.

Alessia Pierdomenico | Bloomberg | Getty Images

However, one preflight PCR test is the “better approach” because it is more feasible, said Tande. PCR tests are widely available, more “sensitive” — meaning they are better at detecting positive cases – and they take the logistics of testing out of airports, he said. Advance testing also gives infected travelers time to reorganize their plans, rather than surprising them just before their flights depart.

Testing or vaccinated flights?

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Elon Musk reposted 28-year-old’s meme, it sold as an NFT for $20,000

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It’s no secret that billionaire Elon Musk loves memes. He frequently reposts them on Twitter, where he has 61 million followers.

Though some dislike his reposting, as he often neglects to give the original meme creators credit, others have profited from Musk’s practice, including self-proclaimed “hobby artist” Eva Beylin.

Beylin was thrilled when Musk reposted her meme on Wednesday. “The ultimate prize of memeology is for the ultimate meme lord to use your meme,” Beylin, 28, tells CNBC Make It.

Even though Musk didn’t give her any attribution, “I am over the moon,” she says, adding that she’s a big fan of Musk.

Beylin’s meme, which she named “Love in The Time of Web3,” depicts a cartoon couple admiring the prices of bitcoin and ether, which are $69,000 and $4,200, respectively, in the meme. While the price of bitcoin hasn’t hit $69,000, the numbers are an obvious nod to meme culture.

As the director of The Graph Foundation, which supports blockchain data protocol The Graph, Beylin is passionate about Web3, which is the decentralized iteration of the internet that powers blockchain-based applications like NFTs.

“Love in The Time of Web3” got a lot of attention following Musk’s tweet. That night, Beylin listed it as an NFT, or nonfungible token, on marketplace Zora, and two days later, it sold for five wrapped ether, which is about $19,800 at current pricing, to an anonymous buyer.

“It is surreal,” Beylin says.

Though it was Beylin’s idea to create the meme, she did not design the image of the cartoon couple or edit the prices of bitcoin and ether.

Beylin was inspired to create the meme after seeing a post by another Twitter user who edited the cryptocurrency prices and tweeted it as a joke.

To compensate the user, who is known as @shegenerates, Beylin gave her 20% of the proceeds from the NFT sale. Shegenerates was fine with Beylin using her edit, she tells CNBC Make It.

“Personally, I have [Musk] blocked on Twitter, so I only saw it after Eva [Beylin] posted about him sharing it. I wish I got all those likes myself because I can only imagine how much serotonin my brain would make with all that attention, but memes are permissionless, so it’s just cool to see things I shared around,” Shegenerates says.

Beylin doesn’t know the creator of the image depicting the cartoon couple. And because of the legal gray area that NFTs exist in, it’s not clear whether the use of this image infringes on any potential copyright laws.

With her cut of the sale, Beylin plans to reinvest in other artists by buying their NFTs.

“As a hobby artist, I’d never be able to reinvest in art or have my art paid for [without NFTs]. So, my thing has always been reinvesting back into NFTs,” she says.

The buyer of “Love in The Time of Web3” has already relisted the meme for 69.42 wrapped ether, or about $275,000. Though it’s less than the buyer’s asking price, a bidder already offered 6.94 wrapped ether, or about $27,500, for the meme.

If it resells, Beylin will earn a 15% royalty, she says.

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Don’t miss: This 12-year-old coder helped develop an NFT collection that made over $5 million in 3 weeks



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Xpeng launches flying car that can also operate on roads

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HT Aero, an affiliate of Chinese electric carmaker Xpeng Inc., launched a new vehicle capable of flying in the air and driving on roads. The launch of HT Aero’s 6th–generation model happened at the Xpeng Tech Day on Sunday, October 24, 2021.

Xpeng

GUANGZHOU, China — HT Aero, an affiliate of Chinese electric vehicle maker Xpeng Inc., launched a new flying car on Sunday that it says can also drive on roads.

The company says it plans for a rollout in 2024.

HT Aero’s vehicle will have a lightweight design and a rotor that folds away, the company said. That will allow the car to drive on roads and then fly once the rotors are expanded.

The vehicle will have a number of safety features including parachutes, the company said.

HT Aero is backed by Xpeng and its founder He Xiaopeng. The company raised $500 million last week from a number of outside investors including high-profile venture capital firms.

Flying cars — also called electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles — have garnered a lot of interest from automakers and start-ups.

However, there are a number of challenges for these vehicles to become wide-scale including regulation and safety issues.

HT Aero’s new land and air vehicle was launched at Xpeng’s Tech Day where the company also took the wraps of the latest version of its advanced driver assistance system called XPILOT 4.0.

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Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey says ‘hyperinflation’ will happen soon in the U.S. and the world

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Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and co-founder & CEO of Square, speaks during the crypto-currency conference Bitcoin 2021 Convention at the Mana Convention Center in Miami, Florida, on June 4, 2021.

Marco Bello | AFP | Getty Images

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey weighed in on escalating inflation in the U.S., saying things are going to get considerably worse.

“Hyperinflation is going to change everything,” Dorsey tweeted Friday night. “It’s happening.”

The tweet comes with consumer price inflation running near a 30-year high in the U.S. and growing concern that the problem could be worse that policymakers have anticipated.

On Friday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell acknowledged that inflation pressures “are likely to last longer than previously expected,” noting that they could run “well into next year.” The central bank leader added that he expects the Fed soon to begin pulling back on the extraordinary measures it has provided to help the economy that critics say have stoked the inflation run.

In addition to overseeing a social media platform that has 206 million active daily users, Dorsey is a strong bitcoin advocate. He has said that Square, the debit and credit card processing platform that Dorsey co-founded, is looking at getting into mining the cryptocurrency. Square also owns some bitcoin and facilitates trading in it.

Responding to user comments, Dorsey added Friday that he sees the inflation problem escalating around the globe. “It will happen in the US soon, and so the world,” he tweeted. Dorsey is currently both the CEO of Twitter and Square.

It’s one thing to call for faster inflation, but it may be surprising to some that Dorsey used the word hyperinflation, a condition of rapidly rising prices that can ruin currencies and bring down whole economies.

Billionaire investor Paul Tudor Jones and others have called for a period of rising inflation. Jones told CNBC earlier in the week that he owns some bitcoin and sees it as a good inflation hedge.

“Clearly, there’s a place for crypto. Clearly, it’s winning the race against gold at the moment,” Jones said Wednesday.

But most of the major investors have not gone so far as to call for hyperinflation like Dorsey.

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