The Latest: England blames computer glitch for 16,000 ‘lost’ virus cases

LONDON — An epic fail of a simple computer program “lost” nearly 16,000 coronavirus cases in England for more than a week, British public health officials said.

Everyone who tested positive was informed. But the cases were left out of the daily totals between Sept. 25 and Friday and ignored by contact tracers during that time. Given the average number of in-person contacts, that means as many as 50,000 people may have been exposed without being called about it.

By Monday morning, only half of the 16,000 who tested positive had gotten a contact tracing call. The other half “should be contacted as soon as possible,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who was excoriated in the House of Commons by lawmakers.

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Commuters at London’s Waterloo Station on Sept. 24 after Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a range of new restrictions to combat the rise in coronavirus cases in England. After a recent gaff, only half of the 16,000 who tested positive had gotten a contact tracing call as of Monday. The other half “should be contacted as soon as possible,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Victoria Jones/PA via AP

The accounting error – blamed on operators entering data in an Excel spreadsheet program – was another serious stumble for the British government, at a crucial moment, when it is daily trying to decide where to tighten regional restrictions to slow a second wave of the virus.

After the error was spotted and the lost cases accounted for, the government’s report of new daily infections nearly doubled – from 12,872 on Saturday to 22,961 on Sunday – sparking renewed angst among officials in London and England’s north, where most of the new cases were centered.

Michael Brodie, the interim head of Public Health England, said the issue was identified late

England lost 16,000 new coronavirus cases, blames computer glitch

The glitch was no mere rounding error in the government’s accounting, but another serious stumble at a crucial moment, when the British government is daily trying to decide where to tighten regional lockdowns to slow a second wave of the virus.

After the error was spotted and the lost cases accounted for, the government’s report of new daily infections nearly doubled — from 12,872 on Saturday to 22,961 on Sunday — sparking renewed angst among officials in London and England’s north, where most of the new cases were centered.

Michael Brodie, the interim head of Public Health England, said the issue was identified late Friday in the computer process that communicates positive results from labs to the country’s reporting dashboards. Some data files containing positive results had exceeded the maximum file size, he said, according to the BBC.

“We fully understand the concern this may cause,” Brodie added, “and further robust measures have been put in place as a result.”

While health authorities said the glitch had not affected the pandemic response at the local level, 10 Downing Street announced an investigation and politicians in the opposition Labour Party described the episode as “shambolic.”

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson told the Guardian newspaper the missing data was the latest in a “pandemic of incompetence from the government.”

Anderson said, “There are mistakes and there are really serious mistakes. This is a highly significant mistake that tells me the system is not fit for purpose.”

Paul Hunter, a professor of health protection at the University of East Anglia, told BBC Radio, “I think the thing that surprised me was the size of it — almost 16,000 results — going missing over the course of a week is quite alarming, I think.”

Hunter said for contact tracing to effective, people who were in

Diversity training startup lost a client to Trump’s ban, CEO says

  • Paradigm CEO Joelle Emerson said in a tweet Thursday that a recent executive order from the Trump administration banning certain types of diversity training at federal contractors already caused her to lose a a client.
  • Emerson said the type of training her startup provides does not violate the executive order, but that this company ended it just to “play it safe.”
  • She said that other companies are holding off on diversity training altogether because of confusion over the order.
  • Paradigm is especially known for providing training to Silicon Valley startups and big tech firms, which have historically struggled to achieve representation of minorities in their workforces and C-suites.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The CEO of a diversity training consulting firm said Thursday that her company has already lost a client due to President Trump’s recent executive order.

 

“We just lost our first client as a result of the executive order on diversity training,” tweeted Paradigm CEO Joelle Emerson. “I’m sure it won’t be our last. Seems it’s having exactly its intended impact. I wish I could say I feel proud to be on the right side of history, but I just feel scared.”

Trump issued an executive order on September 22 that expanded a previous ban on certain types of racial sensitivity training at federal agencies. This September order also banned such training at contractors that want to do business with the government. A leaked memo on the ban, published by Business Insider’s Dave Levinthal, warned that government contractors who violate the ban will face “potential sanctions for noncompliance.”

Some in the corporate world voiced concerns that the move was a step backward for diversity in the workplace, including Aubrey Blanche of Australian startup Culture Amp, who described the orders as

The Lost Art Of Software

Director of Engineering at Sabal Tech, Inc., overseeing the design and implementation of software that exceeds our customers’ expectations.

“You might not think that programmers are artists, but programming is an extremely creative profession. It’s logic-based creativity.” — John Romero

When we think of software engineers, we envision people with highly technical minds. We may go on to assume that these people did great in math and science courses. We tend to draw these conclusions because we’ve been conditioned to think of software development as a purely technical task. This is not the case, however, and I would even go as far as stating that the development of software is mostly an artistic craft with some highly technical elements sprinkled in.

A successful software product is not engineered once, deployed and forgotten. Rather, it is the result of an ongoing creative process, with its goalposts continually getting pushed further and further away. Every new requirement, experience or technology helps reshape what is considered to be the “final product.” I find that, all too often, many organizations fail to recognize the creativity involved in developing software products. This failure can lead to missed opportunities, curtailed innovation and losing the edge in an increasingly competitive landscape.

The shift away from thinking of programming as an art rather than pure technology did not happen overnight. Think about all of the common terms borrowed from manufacturing that are typically applied to software engineering: builds, architecture, development, defects and even engineering. We’ve even done this in academia when referring to disciplines such as computer science. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not implying that there is nothing scientific or technical about developing software. However, emphasizing only the technical aspects of software development forces it to abide by a strict set of rules that