Feb 22, 2020 - Technology

NYPD aims to ease process of removing DNA from city's database

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The New York Police Department plans to limit DNA collection from juveniles and ease restrictions on removing samples from the city's digital database, New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea told the Wall Street Journal this week.

The big picture: U.S. law enforcement has access to DNA in databases outside of the criminal justice system. Through genealogy websites with millions of users like FamilyTreeDNA and GEDmatch — the latter of which automatically opts users out of law enforcement collection — police can use DNA to identify suspects, the New York Times reports.

Details: The NYPD plans to audit more than 80,000 samples managed by the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner's Local DNA Index System by removing samples that are over two years old and those not "linked to a continuing case of conviction," the WSJ reports.

  • With the changes, a court order will no longer be required for people acquitted in criminal cases to remove their DNA samples from the database, after they give documentation of a court's final decision in their case.
  • NYPD investigators would only be able to collect DNA from juveniles when they are being investigated for sex crimes, felonies, hate crimes or firearm crimes under the new plan.

Go deeper: Ancestry.com refused court request to give police DNA database access

Go deeper

Dual-use dilemma in synthesizing the coronavirus

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A lab in North Carolina is working to synthesize a sample of the coronavirus from its genetic code, according to MIT Technology Review.

Why it matters: Creating a pathogen from scratch would allow researchers to rapidly experiment on it without waiting for live samples from an outbreak zone. But it also raises the risk that someone could eventually try to re-create a dangerous virus as a weapon.

Go deeperArrowFeb 26, 2020 - Health

De Blasio says coronavirus outbreak will be "a lot worse" in April and May

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that "all Americans deserve the blunt truth" and that the current trajectory of the coronavirus outbreak suggests it will be "a lot worse" in April and May.

Driving the news: De Blasio ripped into President Trump for his response to the outbreak in New York City, claiming he "will not lift a finger to help his hometown." The mayor called on the military to be mobilized and for Trump to use the Defense Production Act to produce medical supplies like ventilators.

Go deeperArrowMar 22, 2020 - Health

Ex-FDA chief: "Wuhan-style outbreak" in NYC would overwhelm the system

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb warned on CBS News' "Face the Nation" Sunday that if the coronavirus outbreak in New York City reaches the level it did in Wuhan, China, it would "overwhelm" the health care system.

Why it matters: New York State currently has the most reported coronavirus cases in the country. Gottlieb said he is concerned that the U.S. could have many "Wuhan-style" outbreaks because Americans are "more mobile," making it more difficult to confine the virus to one metropolitan area like China was able to.

Go deeperArrowMar 15, 2020 - Health