Health care providers may be overprescribing antibiotics in an effort to ward off infections in COVID patients confined to the hospital for prolonged periods of time. The pandemic is increasing demand for robot workers in the food services industry. Google has been accused of tracking users via app even after they opt out.

Pandemic may be worsening antibiotic resistance.

The COVID-19 pandemic could be worsening antibiotic resistance that turns minor infections into life-threatening emergencies, warns research from the University of Georgia.

The average COVID-19 patient is in the hospital for at least a week, and many end up on ventilators, exponentially upping their chances of developing a secondary bacterial infection. Many health care providers are prescribing more antibiotics in an effort to ward off these infections, while others are hoping the drugs may help to save lives until a more effective COVID treatment is found, even when there is no detectable bacterial infection.

“There is no doubt that there are more infections occurring in hospitals that are bacterial-based because of COVID,” said antibiotic expert Stephen Trent, a UGA Foundation Distinguished Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “There’s no doubt that it increases antibiotic use. And there’s no doubt that that is going to be a major problem worsening the antibiotic resistance problem we already have.”

The more exposure to antibiotics bacteria gets, the quicker it can evolve to overcome the drugs commonly used to treat it. That means something as seemingly minor as a urinary tract infection can turn deadly. The CDC calls antibiotic resistance one of its top public health concerns, killing tens of thousands in the U.S. and more than 700,000 people worldwide each year. Reports from the United Nations predict that by 2050, 10 million people will die from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections each year if nothing is done to stop the crisis.

Source: Pandemic could make drug resistance epidemic worse, University of Georgia

Is a robot after your job?

The global pandemic seems to be accelerating the trend of replacing human workers with robots, at least in the food service industry. Robots that can cook—from flipping burgers to baking bread—are in growing demand as restaurants try to put some distance between workers and customers.

In the fall, White Castle plans to begin testing a robot arm that can cook French fries and other foods. Made by Miso Robotics, the robot, dubbed Flippy, can free up employees for other tasks like disinfecting tables or handling deliveries while also offering a touch-free environment that minimizes contact.

Robot food service is not a new trend, but it is expected to grow thanks to recent COVID outbreaks among restaurant employees and patrons.

One example is Blendid, which sells a robot kiosk that makes a variety of fresh smoothies that can be ordered via smartphone app. While only a handful of the kiosks are currently operating around San Francisco, Blendid said it recently has started contract discussions with hospitals, corporations, shopping malls and groceries.

Another California company, Chowbotics, is the maker of Sally, a robot about the size of a refrigerator that makes a variety of salads and bowls. Chowbotics says that since the pandemic started, sales have jumped more than 60 percent, with growing interest from grocery stores, senior living communities and even the U.S. Department of Defense.

Meanwhile, taking the robot-worker trend to the next level, a robot designed to look and act like a female clerk has started providing services to the public at a government office in Siberia, issuing certificates to testify that people have a clean criminal record and no record of drug use.

The humanoid robot, with long blond hair and brown eyes, has been designed to look like an average Russian woman, according to Promobot, the company behind the project. The robot’s facial features were generated by artificial intelligence based on analyzing the appearance of several thousand females.

The robot can recreate more than 600 human facial expressions by moving its eyes, eyebrows and lips and other mechanical muscles covered with artificial skin, Promobot says. The robot can ask and answer generic questions and is connected to a scanner and a printer. It also has access to a document database and fully replaces a registry office employee.

Sources: Demand for robot cooks rises as kitchens combat COVID-19; Humanoid clerk helps to cut red tape in Russia

Is Google tracking your movements via app?

A new lawsuit seeking class action status alleges that Google records what people are doing on hundreds of thousands of mobile apps even when they follow the company’s recommended settings for stopping such monitoring.

The complaint accuses Google of violating federal wiretap law and California privacy law by logging what users are looking at in news, ride-hailing and other types of apps despite them having turned off “Web & App Activity” tracking in their Google account settings. The data collection allegedly happens through Google’s Firebase, a set of software popular among app makers for storing data, delivering notifications and ads, and tracking glitches and clicks.

Google uses some Firebase data to improve its products and personalize ads and other content for consumers, according to the lawsuit.

Source: Google faces lawsuit over tracking in apps even when users opted out