Drastic measures to battle COVID-19, and other news for week of March 16

coronavirus mask, market, down arrow
Unable to stem the tide of the coronavirus, financial markets continue to reel while businesses tried their best to maintain a semblance of normal operation. The U.S. government passed emergency measures to fund coronavirus treatment efforts and aid those affected by the crisis. (Pixabay)

In the face of ever-increasing numbers of coronavisus cases, financial markets continue to reel while businesses tried their best to maintain a semblance of normal operation. The U.S. government, under fire for not responding to the crisis fast enough, passed emergency measures to fund coronavirus treatment efforts and aid those affected by the crisis.

The growing uneasiness over COVID-19 continues to send the financial markets into a panic, with stocks tumbling despite the U.S. Federal Reserve slashing interest rates to zero in an effort to revive the economy. While markets stabilized slightly late this week, news remained grim as the U.S. Labor Department said initial unemployment claims jumped by 70,000 for the week of March 14, with numbers likely to soar higher as more businesses lay off employees.

For the last month, electronics companies have modified their business forecasts to account for the effects of the crisis. This week, market research firm IDC projected a 6% decline in semiconductor revenue in 2020, which would amount to $26 billion. But the firm also warned that revenue could decline as much as 12%.

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The U.S. government stepped into high gear this past week to battle the crisis. After signing an $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus funding bill earlier this month, President Trump sent Congress a $46 billion request that, among other things, would reportedly include direct funding for agencies helping to fight the coronavirus and reverse cuts proposed just last month to the Centers for Disease Control.

On top of that, there’s now a $1 trillion economic stimulus package on the table that would send $1,000 to most Americans within the next few weeks. The bill would purportedly help millions of restaurant and bar workers laid off the past few weeks as state and local authorities have ordered those places to close, as well as gig economy workers such as freelancers and drivers for ride-sharing services, who have seen their incomes dry up.

Coronavirus has taken its toll on the educational system, forcing schools to quickly move to online learning curriculums. For engineering education, the move has been a learning experience for educators, who now must interact with students from a distance and have had to redesign courses—which often have laboratory as well as classroom content—to an online format.

The electronics industry is also embracing online learning. National Instruments said it would make its entire online curriculum, including Certified LabVIEW Developer and Architect, free of charge and available online at any time, through April 30.

Product development may not be foremost in people’s minds during the current crisis, but it is still occurring. Apple, one of the first companies to announce it would be affected by COVID-19, this week unveiled a new iPad PRO tablet that incorporates the fast A12Z Bionic chip and a robust LiDAR scanner that improves the device’s utility for applications such as video and augmented reality.

News related to AI (artificial intelligence) also continues. Intel announced in a presentation Wednesday its Pohoiki Springs chip chassis will be available to members of the Intel Neuromorphic Research Community for use in accelerating their research workloads.

Pohoiki Springs has 768 Loihi research chips inside a chassis with 100 million neurons, giving it the neural capacity of a small mammal’s brain.

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