Brainstorming COVID-19 Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, April 8 at noon Pacific for the Brainstorming COVID-19 Hack Chat!

The COVID-19 pandemic has been sweeping across the globe now for three months. In that time it has encountered little resistance in its advances, being a novel virus with just the right mix of transmissibility and virulence that our human immune systems have never encountered. The virus is racking up win after win across the world, crippling public health and medical systems, shutting down entire economies, and forcing billions of people into isolation for the foreseeable future.

While social distancing is certainly an effective way to limit the spread of the disease, it feels more like hiding than fighting. Bored and stuck at home, millions of fertile minds are looking for an outlet for this frustration, a more affirmative way to fight the good fight and build solutions that the world sorely needs. And thus we’ve seen the outpouring of designs, ideas, and prototypes of everything from social distancing helpers to personal protective equipment (PPE) hacks.

In this Hack Chat, we’ll try to provide a framework around which hackers can start to turn their ideas into COVID-19 solutions. There are a ton of problems right now, but the most acute and most approachable seem to revolve around making sure healthcare providers have the PPE they need to do their job safely. Hacking at the edges of managing social distancing seems doable, too, both in terms of helping people keep a healthy distance from each other and in managing the isolation that causes. And let’s not forget about managing boredom; idle hands lead to idle minds, and staying healthy mentally is just as important as good handwashing and nutrition.

Join us on Wednesday for this group-led Hack Chat and bring your best ideas for attacking COVID-19 head-on.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, April 8 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

15 thoughts on “Brainstorming COVID-19 Hack Chat

  1. Given the amount of discussion this topic seems to generate online, you might want to organize this hackchat a little bit better – maybe split it into topics and give them timeslots, maybe just make the HC longer than one hour… I’m just afraid the chat might get overloaded and it will be hard to even go through the transcript =D Oh, and I definitely should get the HackChat-IRC gateway back up&running for this.

  2. 1. Governments are the ones shutting down entire economies and forcing billions of people into isolation.

    2. Is social distancing an effective measure against the disease? I would like to see research to support that.

    1. 1. that is a matter of fact, yes. I’d add that, it seems, they’re in the best position to take meaningful action at the moment.

      2. you will find some relevant research (as well as research advocating for everybody to wear masks) here:

      IANAD, but this is how I understand the reasoning. The tl;dr is that the virus is not airborne, but is present in the tiny water droplets that we exhale (you can see them when you breathe out in winter, the “steam” is all the water you breathe out). Those don’t stay in the air for very long, but if you and somebody else stand next to each other, you’ll be breathing in air that somebody else breathes out – the air full of water droplets that might contain viruses, be that one of the flu viruses or SARS-CoV-19. To add to that, even if the breathing wasn’t a vector, if the person that you’re next to suddenly coughs or sneezes, there will be a lot of liquid travelling at a high speed that’d go straight from the respiratory system, viruses and all – the further you are from the other person, the less likely it is that you get some into your respiratory system (or eyes).

      Just how effective it is? Well, if the reasoning I presented is correct, it’s at least somewhat effective, as it impacts one of the two transmission vectors – first is what I’ve described and second is “touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your face”. It won’t make all the difference, but it’s one of the main methods that we can use when limiting the rate of COVID-19 spread. Everybody wearing masks would likely be more effective (again, here: ), but social distancing is a decent alternative when we don’t have enough masks to give out.

      1. Thank you for the link to studies on masks, which are probably a lot more important than WHO has been telling everyone.

        But I’m playing devils advocate in questioning whether social distancing in particular is effective at what it is intended to do.

        If it’s intended to reduce the death rate or the total number of deaths, do we know that it does that?

        If it’s intended to reduce the numbers of severe cases to minimize overloading hospital ICUs, do we know that it does that?

        What we do know is that some of the most severe social isolation schemes are being used in the places where the disease is hitting the hardest. Which is the cause and which is the effect?


        New estimates place official figures at 6% of actual case numbers detected on average. This ranges from 1.7% in spain to about 50% in South Korea. This is also one of the reasons for the apparently rapid spread. The post-hoc rationalization is that the disease spreads very efficiently by aerosol etc, when in reality it had a long head start without anyone noticing, and a long incubation time before people worst cases started to crop up.

        So the whole hoopla about masks and social distancing/quarantines is a little bit too much and a little bit too late. On the upside, with so many people already infected, most countries are well on their way to herd immunity.

  3. What about a face mask with tubing connected to vape coils to kill/inactivate anything floating around?

    Would need a battery capable of running for a while, maybe on a belt? Would also probably have to cool the air afterwards….

      1. I think he’s talking about running them dry, which may be viable, since they can run to a couple of hundred watts, then you’d want something like a car heater core to get the air down to breathable temperature again. Still when they talk about heat sterilisation of covid-19 at 70c, they do that for half an hour, not the 100 milliseconds it takes to blow past a small heater.

      2. If you want a portable system, think rebreather + a small oxygen tank. The virus won’t survive the compression to oxygen tank.

        Air is a poor conductor of heat and it takes a lot of energy just to heat up to kill the virus and cool back down for breathable air.

    1. Wouldn’t a HEPA filter and small fan feeding the mask be as effective and a lot less energy intensive? That said, use your normal lung power and wear a mask, cheap, effective and with no necessity to be powered.

  4. Hello everyone,

    To prevent people touching their faces a RFID sticker can be embeded inside mask. So anytime someone unconsciously try to touch face RFID reader wrestband vibrates.

    What do you think about this?

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