2022 Healthy New Year COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Blog

China eases Covid rules after wide protests of lockdowns

November 28, 2022 Chinese authorities eased some anti-virus rules but affirmed their severe “zero Covid” strategy Monday after protesters demanded President Xi Jinping resign in the biggest show of opposition to the ruling Communist Party in decades.

Read more in this Associated Press article by Joe McDonald in STAT Health.

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over…but It’s Never Over — Emerging and Reemerging Infectious Diseases

November 26, 2022 As I prepare to step down from my dual positions at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), where I have been a physician-scientist for 54 years and the director for 38 years, a bit of reflection is inevitable. As I think back over my career, what stands out most is the striking evolution of the field of infectious diseases and the changing perception of the importance and relevance of the field by both the academic community and the public. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director NIAID, in his office in 1984. Dr. Fauci in 1984.

Read more in this perspective article by Anthony Fauci in the New England Journal of Medicine.

COVID-19 disrupts gut microbiome

November 22, 2022 COVID-19 disrupts the gut microbiome, allowing pathogenic bacteria to thrive. It can also affect the lining of the gut, which may allow these bacteria to enter the bloodstream and lead to dangerous secondary infections.

SARS-CoV-2 infection can disrupt the gut microbiome to allow harmful bacteria to flourish.

Read more in this article by Brain Doctrow in NIH Research Matters.

Pfizer CEO says Covid vaccine will remain ‘free for all Americans,’ overlooking indirect costs

November 18, 2022 The U.S. government has thus far paid Pfizer $30 per shot, making the vaccines available to all Americans for free. But with government purchases ending, Pfizer has decided to implement a private-market price in the range of $110 to $130 per dose, starting in 2023.

Read more in this article by Adam Feuerstein in STAT Pharma.

‘I pushed back’: Fauci on how his response to Trump on Covid turned him into ‘public enemy No. 1’

November 15, 2022 As he faces the possibility of increased scrutiny from what is likely to be a Republican-controlled House, Anthony Fauci on Tuesday signaled he is willing to go to the mat to justify the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and viral research programs.

“I’d be more than happy to discuss anything that we’ve done over the last several years with this outbreak, since I have nothing to hide and I can defend everything we’ve done,” Fauci said.

Anthony Fauci

Read more in this article by Andrew Joseph in STAT Health.

Lessons from polio about the need to vaccinate kids against Covid-19

November 11, 2022 In children who are not vaccinated against polio, 70% of poliovirus infections cause no symptoms at all. The 25% who develop symptoms have nothing more than a low-grade fever and a sore throat, a minor illness indistinguishable from a common cold. In this regard, polio is a lot like Covid-19, causing mostly symptoms that go unrecognized or are mild.

Read more in this article by Lynn R. Goldman and Amanda D. Castel in STAT First Opinion.

Free sunscreen, ear plugs — and Covid shots? At the NASCAR race, vaccinations are still a tough sell

November 7, 2022 Under the bright lights of the Phoenix Raceway, as 100,000 people gathered to watch NASCAR drivers hurtle toward this year’s championship, a small battalion of nurses and trainees took on an even more daunting challenge: convincing attendees to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

At three tents, dotted around the sprawling raceway complex and a nearby campground, about a dozen nurses, paramedics, and student nurses handed out free sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and ear plugs — all the NASCAR essentials — while exhorting visitors to tack on a Covid vaccination. Armed with smiles and fliers about the updated booster, they approached attendees gently, stressing the convenience: The tent is right there, no wait, it’ll be over in a minute.

Read more in this article by  Sarah Owermohle in STAT Health.

How the world can end Covid-19 as a public health threat

November 3, 2022 The journal Nature published today global consensus recommendations to end Covid-19 as a public health threat. It took a panel of almost 400 independent-thinking scientists, doctors, and representatives of community groups from more than 100 countries (we were among the co-chairs) some 14 months to develop and agree on these recommendations. There have been times when we wondered if it was worth the effort.

Read more in this article by Jeffrey V. Lazarus, Adeeba Kamarulzaman, and Agnes Binagwaho in STAT First Opinion.

NIH-funded study shows blood pressure levels rose during pandemic

November 1, 2022 Adults with hypertension saw a small, but consequential, rise in their blood pressure levels during the first eight months of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the number of times they had their blood pressure measured dropped significantly, according to a study supported by the National Institutes of Health.  

Read more in this news release from NIH.

With hospitalizations ticking up, flu season appears off to an early start

October 28, 2022 In its weekly FluView report, the CDC estimated that there have already been 880,000 influenza illnesses, 6,900 flu hospitalizations, and 360 deaths caused by flu this season, which started at the beginning of October. It is unusual for the CDC to have enough data to issue estimates on the burden of flu this early in the season. 

Image of Flu Virus. Source: CDC.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

Listen: Home health care is facing devastating ‘clawbacks’

October 26, 2022 Terry Wilcox’s grandmother lived in an isolated house at the top of a hill overlooking the magical mountains and valleys of the Ozarks until, as she tells it, “the day we literally had to drag her off of it.” Wilcox, like many others in her generation, has been in the tricky position of having to take care of aging parents and in-laws in addition to her young twins.

Read more in this article by Patrick Skerrett in STAT First Opinion Podcast.

Keeping families out of ICUs no longer makes sense as the pandemic eases

October 24, 2022 On, December 9, 2020, my mom, brother, and I waited in a cold, wintery drizzle outside the local hospital in my hometown in southern Colorado, anxiously hoping to be allowed to see my dad for the last time. After contracting Covid-19, he had been in the intensive care unit (ICU) for nearly a month and his condition had deteriorated to the point that we were summoned to the hospital to say our goodbyes.

Read more in this article by Neel Vahil in STAT First Opinion

Study Shows Benefits of COVID-19 Vaccines and Boosters

October 18, 2022 As colder temperatures settle in and people spend more time gathered indoors, cases of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses almost certainly will rise. That’s why, along with scheduling your annual flu shot, it’s now recommended that those age 5 and up should get an updated COVID-19 booster shot [1,2]. Not only will these new boosters guard against the original strain of the coronavirus that started the pandemic, they will heighten your immunity to the Omicron variant and several of the subvariants that continue to circulate in the U.S. with devastating effects.

Read more in this post from Lawrence Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D. in the NIH Director's Blog.

FDA authorizes updated Covid-19 boosters for kids as young as 5

October 12, 2022 The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized updated Covid-19 boosters for kids as young as 5. Previously, the newer versions of the shots — which target both the original strain of the coronavirus as well as the dominant BA.5 form of the Omicron variant — were only available to adults and kids as young as 12.

Read more in this article by Andrew Joseph in STAT Health.

A doctor’s humbling journey treating long Covid: ‘The second we think we know what we are doing, we fall flat on our face’

October 10, 2022 I first met Wes Ely in 2016, when I wrote about ICU delirium and Ely’s attempts, as a critical-care physician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, to urge fellow health care workers to rethink the use of heavy sedation in ICUs. His research was an attempt to limit the crippling cognitive and physical impairments he saw develop in many critical-care patients long after they left the hospital, something he came to call post intensive care syndrome, or PICS.

Read more in this article by Usha Lee McFarling in STAT Health

Understanding Long-Term COVID-19 Symptoms and Enhancing Recovery

October 4, 2022 Many people are living with the long-term effects of a COVID-19 infection, known as the post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), including Long COVID. These people continue to experience debilitating fatigue, shortness of breath, pain, difficulty sleeping, racing heart rate, exercise intolerance, gastrointestinal and other symptoms, as well as cognitive problems that make it difficult to perform at work or school.

Read more in this post from Walter J. Koroshetz, M.D., National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Doctors who knowingly spread Covid-19 lies should be held accountable

September 27, 2022 More than two years into the pandemic, Covid-19 misinformation still runs rampant. Some comes from doctors spreading lies about unproven — and actually harmful — “treatments” for Covid-19 and promoting anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. Physicians account for three of the 12 individuals thought to be responsible for up to 73% of anti-vaccine content on Facebook. These physicians have been highly influential in their claims that, for example, masks suppress the immune system and that, after getting the vaccine, “becoming sterile [is] almost a certainty.” These lies have real and potentially deadly consequences.

Read more in this article by Juliana E. Morris in STAT First Opinion.

‘I’m deeply concerned’: Francis Collins on trust in science, how Covid communications failed, and his current obsession

September 19, 2022 Former NIH director and current White House science adviser Francis Collins told a group of journalists late last week about his passion for both the Cancer Moonshot and the new biomedical research agency known as ARPA-H. But he also revealed his pain at seeing people spurn mRNA Covid vaccines developed with breathtaking speed and lamented that he and other health officials failed to communicate the ever-changing science behind Covid recommendations.

Dr. Francis Collins

Read more in this article by Elizabeth Cooney in STAT Health.

Complexity of Covid vaccine program leads to concerns about potential for error

September 14, 2022 At a Sept. 1 meeting, Grace Lee and other members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — an expert panel that advises the CDC on vaccine policy — voiced serious concerns about the challenges of keeping as many as 11 different brands and formulations of vaccine straight as doctors offices, clinics, and pharmacies across the country give a primary series to young children, regular booster shots to older children, and new two-strains-in one or bivalent boosters for people over the age of 12.

COVID vaccine being adminstered.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

Push to double up on Covid booster and flu shot may have a downside, experts caution

Sept. 9, 2022 Making things simple and pairing Covid shots with another health intervention makes it easier for people, Brewer said — even if the combination benefits one of the interventions more than the other.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health

White House signals most people will only need annual Covid booster

Sept. 6, 2022 As part of its push to encourage vaccine-weary Americans to get the updated Covid shot, the White House put forth a new selling point Tuesday: to view it as a first annual shot, akin to the annual flu shot.

Ashish Jha, White House Covid response coordinator Ashish Jha, White House Covid response coordinator

Read more in this article by Andrew Joseph in STAT Health.

Restoring trust in public health: There are no shortcuts

Aug. 29, 2022 CDC took a bold step in mid-August toward rebuilding trust in public health. Rather than relying on rebranding or a slick, feel-good advertising campaign, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky plainly admitted the agency should have done a better job during the pandemic. She publicly committed to overhauling the agency to move faster, communicate more clearly, and, if possible, regain some of the credibility it has lost among many Covid-weary Americans.

Rochelle Walensky, CDC Director

Read more in this article by Mark R. Miller and Julia Haskins in STAT First Opinion.

What Fauci’s exit tells us about the ongoing fight against Covid

Aug. 24, 2022 There was a time when Anthony Fauci thought he would retire when the Covid-19 pandemic was over. He told himself he’d spend a year as President Biden’s top medical adviser and that Covid-19 would be settled by then. That, he admits now, may never happen. But this December, he announced this week, will have to be good enough.

Anthony Fauci

Read more in this article by Sarah Owermohle in STAT Politics

‘A poster child’ for diversity in science: Black engineers work to fix long-ignored bias in oxygen readings

August 19, 2022 Like many people who are Black, Kimani Toussaint was concerned when he learned that the pulse oximeters relied on so heavily by physicians to treat and monitor Covid-19 patients didn’t work as well on darker-skinned patients.

Read more in this article by Usha Lee McFarling in STAT Health

In an effort to address its missteps during Covid, CDC plans an ‘ambitious’ agency overhaul

August 17, 2022 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency that has had its reputation battered by a series of missteps in the Covid-19 pandemic, and a slow response to the monkeypox outbreak, will undergo an “ambitious” overhaul, Director Rochelle Walensky announced Wednesday.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

CDC eases Covid-19 quarantine and testing guidelines as it marks a new phase in pandemic

August 11, 2022 People who are not up to date with their Covid-19 vaccines and who are exposed to someone infected with the coronavirus no longer need to quarantine, according to updated recommendations issued Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Instead, they should just wear a mask for 10 days in indoor settings and test on day 5,  according to the guidance. They were previously recommended to stay home.

Read more in this article by Andrew Joseph in STAT Health.

PCR testing can help clarify confusion over Covid-19 rebound and isolation

August 10, 2022 The re-emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus after treatment — also known as Paxlovid rebound — is increasingly recognized by clinicians. It may happen when a reservoir of virus is suppressed by antiviral therapy but not eradicated by it. This rebound suggests that new strategies, such as increasing treatment time from 5 to 10 days, should be evaluated, since the virus can apparently linger in individuals who have no symptoms, with or without treatment.

Read more in this article by Robert B. Darnell in STAT First Opinion

Covid has settled into a persistent pattern — and remains damaging. It may not change anytime soon

August 4, 2022 While Covid is not nearly the threat it once was, transmission of the coronavirus remains at sky-high levels. At the same time, the death rate has dropped thanks to vaccinations and improved treatments, and the overwhelming majority of people in the United States have developed some level of protection, from shots, a previous infection, or some combination of the two.

Read more in this article by Andrew Joseph in STAT Health.

Paxlovid rebound happens, though why and to whom are still a mystery

August 2, 2022 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sounded the alert about rebound Covid in May. It described patients with Covid who, after being treated with the antiviral Paxlovid, initially became symptom-free and in many cases had negative tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, but then got sick again. The same phenomenon occurs with another antiviral oral medication to treat Covid, Lagevrio (molnupiravir) and at the same rates, but Lagevrio may not be as effective as Paxlovid and therefore has not yet become as much of a household name.

Read more in this article by Joan Bregstein in STAT First Opinion

Encouraged by right-wing doctor groups, desperate patients turn to ivermectin for long Covid

July 26, 2022 A horse dewormer and treatment for some human parasites, ivermectin was initially promoted, despite the lack of research, as a way to treat or prevent Covid infections. Now it is increasingly being marketed for long Covid, pushed by physicians with ties to political groups spreading anti-vaccine and anti-science messaging. There’s no credible evidence that supports ivermectin’s use for this purpose, and doctors at long-hauler clinics say they frequently see patients who’ve tried the drug without relief. But anecdotes of ivermectin working as a miracle cure swirl around social media, repeatedly referenced on Facebook groups for people suffering from long Covid.

Read more in this article by Olivia Goldhill in STAT Investigation.

As new variant spreads, a crucial drug to protect the most vulnerable goes vastly underused

July 22, 2022 Jennifer Padgett has spent 2 1/2 years terrified for her immunocompromised daughter, Hannah. Hannah catches pneumonia like mosquito bites; what could Covid wreak? So Padgett was shocked last month when, during a Google search on new variants, she learned there was a drug — called Evusheld — available to protect patients like her daughter, a 23-year-old childhood cancer survivor whose immune system can’t make enough antibodies. Even more startling: It had been available since December. How had she never heard of it?

Read more in this article by Jason Mast in STAT Health.

Health care’s high rollers: As the pandemic raged, CEOs’ earnings surged

July 18, 2022 Health care’s top executives sat comfortably atop their perch during the second year of the pandemic, cushioned more than ever by the rising fortunes of their stock ownership.

The CEOs of approximately 300 health care companies collectively took home more than $4.5 billion in 2021, according to a STAT analysis of hundreds of financial filings. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals CEO Leonard Schleifer represented 10% of that total on his own, pulling in an astounding $453 million.

Read more in this article by Bob Herman, Kate Sheridan, J. Emory Parker, Adam Feuerstein, and Mohana Ravindranath in STAT Special Report.

New competencies on diversity, equity, and inclusion for medical education across the continuum

July 14, 2022 Consider the chilling results of a 2016 study, in which half of medical students and residents surveyed held one or more erroneous beliefs, such as “Black people’s nerve endings are less sensitive than white people’s.” Such inaccurate assumptions, as well as biases built into some algorithms that guide how care is provided, are detrimental to patients.

Read more in this article by David J. Skorton and Henri R. Ford in STAT First Opinion.

COVID-19 Boosters This Fall to Include Omicron Antigen, but Questions Remain About Its Value

July 8, 2022 The FDA convened its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) to discuss whether to add an Omicron component to boosters for the fall. In order to have enough doses by early October, “we will need to very rapidly move to let companies know what that selection will be,” Marks reminded the panelists. How many doses will be enough isn’t clear.

Read more in this article by Rita Rubin, MA in JAMA Medical News and Perspectives.

Estimates of long Covid are startlingly high. Here’s how to understand them

July 6, 2022 It’s important to remember that long Covid is an evolving umbrella term for an array of symptoms that vary in both number and degree. Some housebound people are assailed by brain fog that completely robs them of concentration, while others find memory aids help them get through their workdays. Some former athletes can’t complete a 6-minute walk test, while others can gradually return to activity if they monitor their heart rate.

Read more in this article by Elizabeth Cooney in STAT Health.

COVID-19 was third leading cause of death in the United States in both 2020 and 2021

July 5, 2022 COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States between March 2020 and October 2021, according to an analysis of national death certificate data by researchers at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. The study appears July 5 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Read more in this article by Meredith S. Shiels from National Institutes of Health.

FDA recommends vaccine makers update Covid-19 shots to target Omicron

June 30, 2022 The Food and Drug Administration is advising vaccine makers to reformulate their Covid-19 shots to target the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants as well as the original strain of the virus, the agency announced Thursday, as it seeks to provide people with broader protection against the evolving coronavirus.

Read more in this article by Andrew Joseph in STAT Health

FDA panel to advise on whether — and how — Covid vaccines should be updated

June 27, 2022 It seems almost a given that the FDA will tell manufacturers that it is time to change the composition of Covid vaccines, with an eye to a rollout of updated vaccines to be administered in the autumn. But how and to what are questions that still need answering.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

Covid-19 vaccines prevented nearly 20 million deaths in a year, study estimates

June 23, 2022 Covid-19 vaccines cut the potential global death toll by more than half in the first year they were available, according to a study published Thursday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Read more in this article by Akila Muthukumar in STAT Health.

Comparing the Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines for young children

June 20, 2022 We can’t tell you which is best for your child. But we can tell you that in this age group, the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines probably differ more than they do in any other age group on the vaccination spectrum.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell and Matthew Herper in STAT Health.

FDA authorizes Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers

June 17, 2022 The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid vaccines for use in children as young as 6 months of age, setting the stage for a government push to make the shots available for the youngest children.

Read more in this article by Matthew Herper in STAT Health.

Tracking an FDA advisory panel meeting on Covid vaccines in young children

June 15, 2022 The Food and Drug Administration is widely expected to issue long-awaited emergency use authorizations of the pediatric formulations of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna Covid vaccines within the next couple of days. Before it does, though, its independent vaccine advisers will weigh the evidence on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines at a meeting Wednesday.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell and Matthew Herper in STAT Health.

Newest Omicron Covid-19 lineages gaining ground in United States

June 14, 2022 The United States appears to be in the midst of another biological baton pass between Covid-19 variants. The Omicron lineage BA.2 and its spinoff, BA.2.12.1, drove cases this spring, building into waves of infections in places like the Northeast and parts of California. Now, two other forms of Omicron, BA.4 and BA.5, are eating into the BA.2 group’s dominance.

Read more in this article by Andrew Joseph in STAT Health.

Using AI to Advance Understanding of Long COVID Syndrome

June 7, 2022 The COVID-19 pandemic continues to present considerable public health challenges in the United States and around the globe. One of the most puzzling is why many people who get over an initial and often relatively mild COVID illness later develop new and potentially debilitating symptoms. These symptoms run the gamut including fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog, anxiety, and gastrointestinal trouble.

Read more in this article by Lawrence Tabak, DDS, PhD in NIH Director's Blog.

‘Too little too late’: Unpacking Biden’s moves to improve federal prisons’ response to Covid-19

June 3, 2022 The Biden administration is trying to finally unsnarl the federal Bureau of Prisons’ response to the coronavirus pandemic, but experts say its latest moves also underscore just how much is still broken about the government’s response to Covid-19 in prisons.

A photo showing the crowded conditions in San Quentin prison in California. CA Dept of Corrections.

Read more in this article by Nicholas Florko in STAT Health.

Immune modulator drugs improved survival for people hospitalized with COVID-19

June 2, 2022 A large randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial led by the National Institutes of Health shows that treating adults hospitalized with COVID-19 with infliximab or abatacept – drugs widely used to treat certain autoimmune diseases – did not significantly shorten time to recovery but did substantially improve clinical status and reduce deaths.

Read more in this news release from NIH.

Faulty oxygen readings delayed Covid treatments for darker-skinned patients, study finds

May 31, 2022 Widely used pulse oximeters, which measure oxygen levels by assessing the color of the blood, have been under increasing scrutiny for racial bias because they can overestimate blood oxygen levels in darker-skinned individuals and make them appear healthier than they actually are. A 2020 study comparing oxygen levels measured by the devices with readings taken from “gold standard” arterial blood samples found pulse oximeters were three times less likely to detect low oxygen levels in Black patients than in white patients. 

A photo of a finger with a pulse oximeter.

Read more in this article by Usha Lee McFarling in STAT Health.

Monkeypox outbreak poses ‘moderate risk’ to global public health, WHO says

May 30, 2022 The ongoing monkeypox outbreak currently poses a moderate risk to global public health, the World Health Organization said Sunday in a statement that nevertheless raised the specter of the virus becoming entrenched as a pathogen that spreads from person to person.

Photo of a monkeypox lesion on a person's hand.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

Coronavirus hasn’t developed resistance to Paxlovid. How long can that last?

May 27, 2022 When the patient came back 10 days later, coughing repeatedly and complaining of headache, Davey Smith feared the worst.

Smith had prescribed the patient Pfizer’s new antiviral pill, Paxlovid, on the previous visit, after a Covid-19 test came back positive. A resurgence of symptoms probably meant one thing, especially after Smith tested the patient and got another positive.

“I was pretty sure it was resistance,” said Smith, an infectious disease physician at the University of California, San Diego. “I’m a virologist, I combat resistance all the time.”

Read more in this article by Jason Mast in STAT Health.

Viruses that were on hiatus during Covid are back — and behaving in unexpected ways

May 25, 2022 For nearly two years, as the Covid pandemic disrupted life around the globe, other infectious diseases were in retreat. Now, as the world rapidly dismantles the measures put in place to slow spread of Covid, the viral and bacterial nuisances that were on hiatus are returning — and behaving in unexpected ways.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

As reports of ‘Paxlovid rebound’ increase, Covid researchers scramble for answers

May 24, 2022 Almost 90% effective at preventing hospitalizations from Covid-19, Pfizer’s antiviral pill has quickly become one of the most powerful additions to the pandemic arsenal since the advent of mRNA vaccines. But as it’s become more widely available, a growing number of people have found the drug only temporarily effective.

In these cases, a patient diagnosed with Covid-19 was typically prescribed Paxlovid, took it, felt better, perhaps even tested negative, and then suddenly tested positive days or even more than a week later. For some, the resurgences were asymptomatic. But for others, they were as bad or worse than the original illness.

Read more in this article by Jason Mast in STAT In The Lab.

Does Paxlovid help people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19? Show us the data!

May 18, 2022 Among antiviral agents for Covid-19, Pfizer’s Paxlovid has emerged as the clear winner for two reasons: First, as a pill, Paxlovid is easy to administer, compared to the infusions required for monoclonal antibodies and remdesivir. Second, Paxlovid appears to be highly effective, with a clinical trial showing an 89% relative reduction in hospitalizations or death among high-risk patients who receive it.

 Source: Kches16414. Wikipedia. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

I say “appears to be” because there’s a problem: The single trial supporting the FDA’s emergency use authorization of Paxlovid included only unvaccinated people who had never previously had Covid-19. Since 76% of U.S. adults are now vaccinated, and an estimated 58% of Americans have already had Covid, the trial supporting Paxlovid is not directly applicable to a majority of Americans. This means that doctors treating people with the disease don’t know to what degree — if any — Paxlovid will benefit their vaccinated patients. 

Read more in this article by Paul Fenyves in STAT First Opinion

What happens when the government stops buying Covid-19 vaccines?

May 17, 2022 The federal government has distributed Covid-19 vaccines and treatments for free so far, but most likely, the handouts won’t last forever.

At some point, Covid-19 vaccines and treatments will be bought and sold just like other drugs and medical products. But big questions loom about how and when the transition will happen, about how bumpy it will be.

Read more in this article by Rachel Cohrs in  STAT Health.

The ‘five pandemics’ driving 1 million U.S. Covid deaths

May 10, 2022 There’s no question that the Covid vaccines, which became widely available in spring 2021, have saved lives. The death rate for unvaccinated Americans peaked during the Omicron wave at around 26 per 100,000. For the vaccinated, that rate was 10 times lower, peaking around 2 per 100,000. For those with a booster dose, that rate was further halved.

Read more in this article by J. Emory Parker in STAT Health

White House documents detail a looming squeeze on Covid-19 boosters

May 6, 2022 The White House could run out of Covid-19 vaccines if it moves forward with plans to encourage all adults to get a second Covid-19 vaccine booster dose by roughly Sept. 1, according to a tranche of budget documents sent to Congress that have not previously been made public.

Read more in this article by Rachel Cohrs in STAT Exclusive.

Biden administration starts Covid treatment push, focusing on Pfizer’s Paxlovid

April 26, 2022 On Friday, Ashish Jha, the new White House coronavirus response coordinator, tweeted that the administration would this week take a series of actions to increase the use of the Pfizer drug. “Paxlovid is extraordinarily effective at preventing bad outcomes,” he said. “We’re getting it out to the American people.”

A photo of a package containing the COVID antiviral Paxlovid. Source: Kches16414. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.    

See more in this article by Matthew Herper in STAT Health.

‘Without a word for what we know’: The unfathomable loss of a million U.S. Covid deaths

April 25, 2022 That’s what sticks with me as the American Covid death count ticks up towards a million, with worldwide statistics even harder to fathom. It isn’t just the staggering number of them that makes them unknowable. Every one of them is unknowable, in more ways than one, surpassing our understanding in every person left bereaved. We need a kind of impossible math for that, not stadiums and airplanes, but an equation multiplying absence by a figure that is itself unimaginable.

Read more in this article by Eric Boodman in STAT Health.

Covid hasn’t given up all its secrets. Here are 6 mysteries experts hope to unravel

April 19, 2022 It seems painfully naïve now, the early thought that the SARS-CoV-2 virus would not mutate all that quickly. Instead, scientists have churned through more than half the letters of the Greek alphabet to label the unexpected array of mutation-laden variants that have emerged. 

Read more in this article in STAT Special Report

Federal judge voids U.S. mask mandate for planes, other travel

April 18, 2022 A federal judge in Florida struck down the national mask mandate covering airlines and other public transportation Monday, and the Biden administration said the rule would not be enforced while federal agencies decide how to respond to the judge’s order.

Read more in this article by Curt Anderson from the Associated Press in STAT Health.

India’s drug regulator has ignored red alerts on Covaxin, imperiling millions of lives

April 15, 2022 In a shocking turn of events, the World Health Organization warned United Nations agencies against procuring Covaxin, India’s indigenously developed and manufactured Covid-19 vaccine, just five months after granting approval to the made-in-India vaccine. The warning came after a WHO inspection of a manufacturing facility owned by Bharat Biotech International Ltd. revealed “deficiencies in good manufacturing practices.”

Read more in this article by Dinesh Thakur in STAT First Opinion

The ‘successful failures’ of Apollo 13 and Covid-19 vaccination

April 11, 2022 More than two years into the pandemic, it’s clear that the country has failed its primary mission of saving lives. The U.S. is now approaching a devastating 1 million deaths from Covid-19, an incomprehensible loss of life. But within this massive failure there has been a public health success: The tireless work, ingenuity, and collective action of scientists, public health practitioners, and clinicians in both the public and private spheres — reminiscent of what NASA scientists and engineers did, but on a much larger scale — has led to what is arguably the single most successful vaccination program in U.S. history.

Read more in this article by Christopher M. Worsham and Anupam B. Jena in STAT First Opinion

Antibodies recognize new SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant after booster

April 5, 2022 After a booster vaccination, levels of antibodies in the blood that could bind to and neutralize a new Omicron subvariant increased substantially. The quick spread of this new subvariant, called BA.2, is likely due to its greater infectiousness rather than its ability to evade the immune system.

An older man receiving a CVOID-19 booster shot.

Read more in this article by Sharon Reynolds in NIH Research Matters.

Tomorrow’s COVID safety guidelines will be different from today’s – but that doesn’t mean yesterday’s were wrong

April 1, 2022 Typically, meaningful changes to federal health policy happen at a glacial pace. But the modern world has never faced a public health crisis that has changed as quickly as the pandemic. The constant back and forth of rules can be frustrating, but policy changes aren’t usually a sign of mistakes. Rather, they show that for the most part, policymakers are getting things right over and over again.

Read more in this article in by Michael Williams in The Conversation.

Pandemic took a toll on teen mental health, CDC report says

March 31, 2022 More than 4 in 10 U.S. high school students said they felt persistently sad or hopeless during the pandemic, according to government findings released Thursday.

Several medical groups have warned that pandemic isolation from school closures and lack of social gatherings has taken a toll on young people’s mental health.

Read more in this article by Mike Stobbe in STAT Health.

Unexpectedly united: The parallel plights of two communities 2,000 miles apart wracked by the pandemic

March 28, 2022 I constantly straddle two disparate worlds. One is in Boston, where I work for one of the country’s best health care systems and serve as a professor at Harvard Medical School. The other is in northern New Mexico, where I am a member of the Taos Pueblo tribe.

A photo of buildings on the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico.   A photo of apartment buildings in downtown Chelsea, Massachusetts.

While these two communities could not be more different in population, culture, or geography, the Covid-19 pandemic has linked them in an unfortunate but all-too-common way: both are beset by racism and racial disparities in health care.

Read more in this article by Tom Sequist in STAT First Opinion.

‘I fear the long-term effects’: Before his death, a nurse warned of the pandemic’s toll on health care workers

March 23, 2022 In early 2020, Michael Odell sensed that Covid-19 would hit hard. A young intensive care nurse who traveled to hospitals needing an extra hand, he told his family that demand for people like him was surging.

A photo of Michael Odell, RN, who died by apparent suicide during the COVID pandemic. Photo illustration from Handout via STAT.

By April 2, 2020, just a few weeks into what had become an atmosphere of fear and mass death, he was worried about the toll on health care workers. He had been standing in for families barred from the bedside, watching repeated scenes of patient after patient deteriorating.

Read more in this article by Andrew Joseph in STAT Health.

White House begs Congress for Covid funding amid concern about Omicron sister variant

March 15, 2022 The White House is begging Congress for more funds to help with Covid-19 surveillance, testing, and treatments — a call that could be bolstered by the emerging signs of an increase in Covid-19 cases in Europe.

Read more in this article by Rachel Cohrs and Andrew Joseph in STAT Politics.

‘Haven’t we learned anything?’: Experts warn of disastrous consequences if pandemic funding dries up

March 11, 2022 The failure of Congress this week to approve additional pandemic response funding could have potentially devastating consequences, prominent Covid-19 experts are warning, leaving the federal government unable to invest in more therapeutics, vaccines, testing, and other initiatives.

Read more in this article by Rachel Cohrs in STAT Politics.

Nurses, more powerful and visible after Covid, capitalize on new clout in Washington

March 9, 2022 Since the start of Covid-19, nurses have been hailed as heroes. But two years into the pandemic, they want more than their neighbors banging on pots and pans.

Instead, the country’s roughly 4 million nurses are using the attention — and the accompanying political clout — to spotlight their sometimes-oppressive working conditions. Amid the country’s health emergency and ongoing shortage of health workers, they’re scrambling to make sure the moment doesn’t slip away.

See more in this article by Lev Facher in STAT Politics

Public health experts sketch a roadmap to get from the Covid pandemic to the ‘next normal’

March 7, 2020 Anew report released Monday charts a path for the transition out of the Covid-19 pandemic, one that outlines both how the country can deal with the challenge of endemic Covid disease and how to prepare for future biosecurity threats. The report plots a course to what its authors call the “next normal” — living with the SARS-CoV-2 virus as a continuing threat that needs to be managed. 

An illustration of 3 coronavirus particles.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

The pandemic: a series of failures, a few miracles — and a lesson for next time, global health experts say

March 3, 2022 From a lack of preparation, to “an inability to look past the moment,” and stymied creativity in facing the nation’s public health crisis, U.S. leaders have repeated the same mistakes, year over year, said Mina during a panel discussion at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics on Thursday. 

A photo of Dr. Michael Mina, Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, Department of Epidemiology Dr. Michael Mina, Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, Department of Epidemiology

Read more in this article by Isabella Cueto in STAT Health.

As Omicron recedes, White House shifts to a more targeted Covid strategy

March 2, 2022 The threat of the Omicron variant is receding and cities around the country are lifting their mask mandates, but the Biden administration isn’t ready to declare an end to the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, the White House is out with a new plan focused on continued, commonsense public health measures like expanding access to coronavirus therapies and improving ventilation in indoor spaces.

Read more in this article by Lev Facher in STAT Politics

Pfizer Covid vaccine is less effective in kids 5 to 11, study finds

February 28, 2020 Newly emerging data suggest the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine works substantially less well at preventing infection and hospitalizations in children aged 5 to 11 than it does in those aged 12 to 17 — a finding that is raising questions about whether the companies chose the wrong dose for the younger children.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health

CDC issues long-awaited new guidance on when to wear masks

February 25, 2022 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued long-awaited new guidance Friday on when Americans should consider wearing masks to protect themselves against Covid-19. Under the new guidance, roughly 70% of the U.S. population can now contemplate removing their masks.

Woman with mask.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

The nation hasn’t made much progress on health equity. These leaders forged ahead anyway

February 24, 2022 Diversifying the physician workforce, long seen as one key to reducing the nation’s racial and ethnic health disparities, was a major focus of the landmark National Academies report “Unequal Treatment,” which 20 years ago examined how systemic racism leads to poorer medical care for people of color in the U.S. STAT reported Wednesday that little progress has been made to address the problems highlighted in the report, and that, despite a pandemic that reinforced the depth and reach of these inequities, complacency could still win out, or new crises, such as the current nursing shortage, could get in the way.

Read more in this article by Usha Lee McFarling in STAT Special Report.

State legislatures renew the push to roll back Covid-related public health measures

February 22, 2022 State legislators are mobilizing anew to roll back public health measures meant to contain the spread of Covid-19.

They are introducing bills in both liberal and conservative states that target measures like vaccine and mask requirements, which have become political lightning rods throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Several state lawmakers are also pushing legislation that would prevent hospitals and nursing homes from restricting visitors during outbreaks.

Read more in this article by Nicholas Florko in STAT Health.

Pandemic predictions are tricky. Except this one: U.S. hospitals are not ready for the new normal

February 21, 2022 Hospitals are contending with critical staffing shortages, less institutional memory, and lower morale to band together and fight the next surge. The good will of health care workers that has gotten the country through the past two years is drying up. Health care workers are also “done” — done with having our sense of duty and commitment to patient care taken for granted.

A photo of an exhausted nurse slumped in a hospital corridor.

Read more in this article by Céline Gounder in STAT First Opinion.

Coronaviruses are ‘clever’: Evolutionary scenarios for the future of SARS-CoV-2

February 16, 2022 In the ongoing struggle of SARS-CoV-2’s genes versus our wits, the virus that causes Covid-19 relentlessly probes human defenses with new genetic gambits. New variants of this coronavirus with increasing transmissibility have sprung up every few months, a scenario that is likely to continue.

An illustration of COVID, the road ahead.

Read more in this article by Donald S. Burke in STAT First Opinion.

Why Covid-19 vaccines are a freaking miracle

February 14, 2022 Two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s easy to lament all that has come to pass. The devastating losses. The upending of what we regarded as normal ways of life. The sheer relentlessness of it all.

But let’s stop for a moment and consider something else that may have escaped you: You have witnessed — and you are a beneficiary of — a freaking miracle.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

Pfizer and FDA pull back from plan to expedite review of Covid-19 vaccine in young children

February 11, 2022 Plans to attempt to authorize the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine for children under 5 before full data are available appear to have run aground.

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday canceled a key meeting of its vaccines advisory committee that had been slated for next Tuesday to discuss the submission, saying that the delay “will give the agency time to consider … additional data.”

A photo of a mother with her toddler.

Read more in this article by Matthew Herper, Nicholas Florko, and Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

Dogs can be trained to sniff out COVID-19 – a team of forensic researchers explain the science

February 9, 2022 With up to 300 million scent receptors, dogs are among the best smell detectors in the animal world. The human nose, by comparison, contains only around 6 million scent receptors. Dog brains also devote 40% more brain space than humans to analyzing odors.

A photo of a detector dog.

Read more in this article by Kenneth Furton, Julian Mendel, and Kelvin Frank in The Conversation

Covid-19 challenge trial results are (finally) in: Here’s what should happen next

February 9, 2022 Why would anyone volunteer to be intentionally infected with SARS-CoV-2? It’s not as crazy as it sounds.

This trial is one of a long line of challenge trials in which volunteers sign up to receive a known pathogen. Such trials have been essential in developing vaccines for malaria, typhoid, and cholera and have established key facts about influenza, yellow fever, and the common cold.

A colorized photo of a cell infected with COVID-19.

Read more in this article by Josh Morrison in STAT First Opinion.

‘Good, not great’: Some long Covid patients see their symptoms improve, but full recovery is elusive

February 8, 2022 How long does long Covid last? And what does it mean to achieve full recovery?

If you ask Joni White, she’ll tell you she just wants to feel like herself again — or something close to it. And she’s almost there.

Read more in this article by Elizabeth Cooney in STAT Health.

NIH-funded study suggests COVID-19 increases risk of pregnancy complications

February 7, 2022 Pregnant women with COVID-19 appear to be at greater risk for common pregnancy complications — in addition to health risks from the virus — than pregnant women without COVID-19, suggests a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

A photo of a young pregnant woman.

Read more in this press release from the National Institutes of Health.

Effectiveness of Face Mask or Respirator Use in Indoor Public Settings for Prevention of SARS-CoV-2 Infection — California, February–December 2021

February 4, 2022 During February–December 2021, using a face mask or respirator in indoor public settings was associated with lower odds of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection, with protection being highest among those who reported wearing a face mask or respirator all of the time. Although consistent use of any face mask or respirator indoors was protective, the adjusted odds of infection were lowest among persons who reported typically wearing an N95/KN95 respirator, followed by wearing a surgical mask. 

A graph comparing the effectiveness of cloth, surgical, and N95 masks in preventing COVID.

Read more in this research article by Kristin L. Andrejko, et al in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

High-risk individuals should get priority access to Covid therapies. That isn’t happening

February 4, 2022 Ms. S, a primary care patient in one of our clinics (M.L.B.), recently called in with loss of taste and a terrible cough, worse than her regular breathing problems. She said she had gone out to play bingo the past weekend with friends, her first outing in weeks. Two days later, one of her friends called and told Ms. S she had tested positive for Covid-19. “What do I do now?” she asked.

Read more in this article by Caroline Behr and Michael L. Barnett in STAT First Opinion.

Despite Biden’s big promises and a far better understanding of the virus, Covid-19 is still raging through the nation’s prisons

February 2, 2022 Nearly 3,000 incarcerated people have died of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, including roughly 300 in federal custody. People in prison are roughly three times more likely to die of Covid-19 than the general population, after adjusting for the fact that the prison population skews younger.

Read more in this article by Nicholas Florko in STAT Health.

Moderna wins full approval for its Covid-19 vaccine, as Novavax seeks authorization for its version

January 31, 2022 The approval of Moderna’s vaccine, Spikevax, makes it the country’s second fully licensed vaccine to protect against SARS-CoV-2. It’s also the first product the Cambridge, Mass., biotech has brought through licensure in the United States. The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, Comirnaty, became the first to be fully approved in August.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

Early data indicate vaccines still protect against Omicron’s sister variant, BA.2

January 28, 2022 New data show that vaccines still protect against a spinoff of the Omicron variant, a welcome sign as the world keeps a close eye on the latest coronavirus iteration.

COVID test swab.

BA.2, as the sublineage is known, is part of the broader Omicron umbrella. Scientists are paying more attention to it as it begins to eat into the dominance of the more common Omicron strain, which is technically called BA.1.

Read more in this article by Andrew Joseph in STAT Health.

Patchwork system for rationing a Covid drug sends immunocompromised patients on a ‘Hunger Games hunt’

January 27, 2022 The first thing to know about M. is that for her, there was no pre-Delta surge of optimism. She has multiple sclerosis. Every six months, she gets an infusion to destroy her B-cells-gone-haywire and slow the havoc they’re wreaking on her spinal cord and brain. Those are the same B cells that would normally unleash an army of protective antibodies in response to a vaccine. Without them, her best bet to survive Covid was to avoid it — one long, anxious lockdown, as if nothing had changed since March 2020.

There was a new glimmer of possibility — a prophylactic treatment called Evusheld, which might give her six months’ worth of the helpful antibodies her own body couldn’t make. The trouble was getting some.

Read more in this article by Eric Boodman in STAT Health.

Mix-and-match trial finds additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine safe, immunogenic

January 26, 2022 In adults who had previously received a full regimen of any of three COVID-19 vaccines granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) or approved by the FDA, an additional booster dose of any of these vaccines was safe and prompted an immune response, according to preliminary clinical trial results reported in The New England Journal of Medicine. The findings served as the basis for recommendations by the FDA and CDC in late fall 2021 to permit mix-and-match COVID-19 booster vaccinations in the United States. Additional data from the ongoing Phase 1/2 trial, sponsored by the NIAID are expected in the coming months.

Read more in this article from NIH. 

It’s too early to tell whether CBD helps against Covid-19 — but researchers worry that won’t stop CBD makers

January 25, 2022 The scientists stressed the caveats that early-stage research demands: the compounds they had studied showed hints — in cells in lab dishes and in animals — of being able to combat the coronavirus. Definite answers could only come from clinical trials.

But the compounds were CBD and other marijuana and hemp derivatives, so the news took off. Kimmel and Colbert cracked jokes. The studies received coverage in outlets from Fox News to The Daily Beast.

Read more in this article by Nicholas Florko and Andrew Joseph in STAT Health.

To get to a ‘new normal,’ public health must focus on all respiratory viruses

January 20, 2022 Much of the response to Covid-19 to date has been reactionary. Travel restrictions were implemented after a new variant had already breached the country. The use of higher-quality masks was recommended months after the emergence of increasingly more infectious variants — Alpha, Delta, then Omicron — and well after shortages had subsided. The need to ramp up the availability of rapid antigen tests was recognized during the sixth wave of Covid and amid the winter holidays.

To reach a state of normalcy, leaders must look beyond the latest crisis and proactively prepare for an unknowable future, instituting policies and building programs that will guard against all respiratory viruses that pose threats to public health, society, and the economy.

Read more in this article by Céline Gounder, Rick A. Bright and Ezekiel J. Emanuel in STAT First Opinion.

U.S. would seek global approach to updating Covid-19 vaccines, official says

January 18, 2022 If the Food and Drug Administration decides to update Covid-19 vaccines to take better aim at Omicron or other variants, it is unlikely to go it alone.

Instead, a senior FDA official told STAT, the agency expects to take part in an internationally coordinated program aimed at deciding if, when, and how to update Covid-19 vaccines. The approach would ensure decisions are not left solely to individual vaccine manufacturers.

An illustration showing a coronavirus particle.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

At Davos, a ‘good news, bad news’ message emerges about Covid-19

January 17, 2022 As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc, an expert panel at the World Economic Forum delivered a mix of good news and bad news on Monday: More variants will emerge, but vaccine production is accelerating and research is progressing toward a combined shot that may be able to attack these different variants.

AN illustration of COVID nanotechnology.

On one hand, the world needs to prepare for newer strains that could be more vexing, or the “worst case scenario,” said Annelies Wilder-Smith, a professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Omicron will not be the last variant. There’s a high probability we will have another variant coming up. The question is when and will it be less dangerous?”

Read more in this article by Ed Silverman in STAT Pharmalot

A cascade of Omicron-driven shortages puts U.S. hospitals in a bind

January 13, 2022 A vaccinated elderly man who’d tested positive for Covid after cold-like symptoms began spreading through his family. But his family couldn’t find him an open slot for an infusion of monoclonal antibodies. His granddaughter, Krystal Tejeda, called and called. “I couldn’t get an answer from anybody. Mailbox full, mailbox full,” she said. He was sent home after his first two ER visits. On the third, he was admitted, his skin going purple.

Four coronavirus particles.

Read more in this article by Eric Boodman and Isabella Cueto in STAT Health.

Is It Flu, COVID-19, Allergies, or a Cold? Staying Healthy This Winter

January 12, 2022 Feeling sick can be especially concerning these days. Could your sniffles be caused by COVID-19? Or the flu? A cold? Or maybe allergies? “Distinguishing COVID from flu can be difficult because the symptoms overlap so much,” explains Dr. Brooke Bozick, an NIH expert on respiratory diseases that affect the lungs.

Read more in this article from NIH News in Health.

Doctors have an arsenal of Covid-19 treatments, but setbacks and shortages are undercutting options

January 7, 2022 On paper, the list of outpatient treatments for Covid-19 seems reassuring.

Two oral antivirals have arrived, companies have churned out monoclonal antibody treatments, and all of them, to varying degrees, can help prevent patients from getting so sick they need to be hospitalized.

But shortages and setbacks have undercut those options — at a time when more people than ever are getting sick. Supply of some of the treatments, particularly the prized new oral treatment Paxlovid, is extremely constrained. The ascendance of the Omicron variant has nullified the power of some of the monoclonal antibodies.

Read more in this article by Andrew Joseph in STAT Health.

Study raises doubts about rapid Covid tests’ reliability in early days after infection

January 5, 2022 Anew study raises significant doubts about whether at-home rapid antigen tests can detect the Omicron variant before infected people can transmit the virus to others.

The study looks at 30 people from settings including Broadway theaters and offices in New York and San Francisco where some workers were not only being tested daily but were, because of rules at their workplaces, receiving both the antigen tests and a daily test that used the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, which is believed to be more reliable.

A photo of the Abbott COVID home test kit.

Read more in this article by Matthew Herper in STAT Health.

A WHO official weighs in on Covid, vaccines, and mistakes that were made

January 3, 2022 As we have several times over the past few years, STAT turned to Mike Ryan, head of the health emergencies program at the World Health Organization, looking for some insight about where we’ve been and where we’re heading. He and his team first learned a new virus appeared to be circulating in Hubei province, China, in the waning days of 2019, and have worked flat out since then trying to help the world navigate the worst pandemic in a century. 

A photo of Mike Ryan, head of the health emergencies program at the World Health Organization.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

3 big questions about the Biden administration’s Covid response in 2022

January 1, 2022 2021 was supposed to be the year the pandemic ended. At least in the United States, anyway, where health officials administered roughly 500 million vaccine doses, more than any other country besides China or India. President Biden declared last spring that by summer, the country would be “closer than ever to declaring our independence from this deadly virus.”

Things didn’t quite go to plan. U.S. health officials are currently reporting well over 238,000 new infections each day. The emergence of the Delta variant last summer, and the Omicron variant more recently, threw a wrench into the administration’s grand plans to bring back “normal” life.

Read more in this article by Lev Facher in STAT Health.

Forecasting the Omicron winter: Experts envision various scenarios, from bad to worse

December 27, 2021 What’s obvious about Omicron is its record-setting spread. Harder to grasp is the extent to which it is intrinsically more contagious than previous variants, versus the extent to which it’s simply better at infecting vaccinated and previously infected individuals. 

Read more in this article by Megan Molteni in STAT Health.

FDA authorizes Merck’s Covid-19 pill, but stresses its use should be limited

December 23, 2021 The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday granted emergency authorization to Merck’s molnupiravir, an antiviral pill shown to reduce hospitalization and death in cases of Covid-19, but only in cases where other FDA-authorized Covid treatments are not accessible or clinically appropriate. The approval comes a day after the FDA authorized an antiviral pill from Pfizer for much broader use in patients as young as 12. 

Read more in this article by Mathew Herper in STAT Biotech

Top regulator says need for Omicron vaccine depends on staying power of variant

December 22, 2021 Whether Americans will need additional vaccines specifically tailored to the rapidly spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus may depend on how long it circulates in the United States, a top regulator told STAT in an interview Wednesday.

A chart showing levels of protection provided by vaccination against the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Read more in this article by Nicholas Florko in STAT Health.

NCI chief worries Covid’s ‘hellacious impact’ on cancer care could persist long term

December 21, 2021 Eighteen months ago, as the pandemic’s first wave was tearing through the U.S., Ned Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute, sounded the alarm that, based on 10-year modeling, delaying cancer screening and care could turn one public health crisis into another.

National Cancer Institute COVID-19 research. National Cancer Institute

Read more in this article by Elizabeth Cooney in STAT Health.

Will we always need Covid-19 boosters? Experts have theories

December 15, 2021 With the world facing the latest in a seemingly endless stream of coronavirus variants — and with bullish talk from manufacturers about a need for even more vaccine shots — you wouldn’t be alone if you were wondering: Are Covid boosters always going to be a fixture in our future?

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

Fauci says Omicron-specific version of Covid-19 vaccines may not be necessary

December 10, 2021 Anthony Fauci isn’t convinced Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers are going to need to produce an Omicron-specific version of their vaccines.

Rather, the long-time director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases suggested to STAT in an interview Thursday, it’s possible the current vaccines will provide enough protection against the new variant for most vaccinated and boosted individuals.

Anthony Fauci

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 shot loses power against Omicron variant, but booster restores protection

December 8, 2021 People who have received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are likely susceptible to infection from the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, but a third shot restores antibody activity against the virus, the companies said Wednesday.

A photo of a container with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Read more in this article by Andrew Joseph in STAT Health.

Growing use of home Covid-19 tests leaves health agencies in the dark about unreported cases

December 7, 2021 It’s a story that’s becoming commonplace in the era of rapid home Covid testing: People who test positive are almost never counted by public health agencies charged with bringing the pandemic to heel. While home tests have distinct advantages — they’re convenient and quickly inform people of their infection status so they can take steps to avoid spread the virus — most who test positive don’t come to the attention of health officials unless they are sick enough to see a doctor.

COVID rapid testing program.

Read more in this article by Kathleen McLaughlin in STAT Health

Second U.S. case of Omicron variant indicates domestic transmission

December 2, 2021 Health officials on Thursday reported the country’s second Covid-19 infection from the Omicron variant in a Minnesota resident who notably did not travel internationally recently, unlike the first case.

Read more in this article by Andrew Joseph in STAT Health.

First case of Omicron coronavirus variant identified in the U.S.

December 1, 2021 U.S. health officials on Wednesday reported the country’s first case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, in a person in California. The Covid-19 case was identified by the California and San Francisco health departments in a person who had traveled to South Africa and returned on Nov. 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a release. The individual, who was fully vaccinated with the Moderna shot but had not received a booster, had mild symptoms and has since recovered, federal and local officials said. 

Read more in this article by Andrew Joseph in STAT Health.

The Omicron variant underscores the global stakes of Covid-19 vaccine inequity

November 29, 2021 The sudden emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is adding pressure on vaccine makers to ensure their shots are available worldwide, but it remains unclear whether the companies will provide the intellectual know-how and technology that could help boost global production.

Read more in this article by Ed Silverman in STAT Pharmalot.

Covid antivirals could be pandemic game-changers. But Americans might struggle to access them

November 23, 2021 Antiviral drugs for treating Covid-19 have been hailed as a pandemic “game-changer” — a tool that could, perhaps, finally help life return to normal. But basic gaps in the U.S. health system could mean that two new treatments from Pfizer and Merck won’t make much of a difference after all.

Read more in this article by Lev Facher in STAT Health.

Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine was 100% effective in kids in longer-term study

November 22, 2021 Pfizer and BioNTech announced Monday that their Covid-19 vaccine was 100% efficacious in preventing infections in 12- to 15-year-olds, measured from seven days to four months after administration of the second dose of the vaccine.

A photo of children in masks.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

CDC expands eligibility for Covid-19 booster shots to all adults

November 19, 2021 An expert committee that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on vaccines voted 11-to-0 on Friday to recommend Covid-19 booster shot eligibility be thrown open to all adults 18 and older.

COVID vaccine administration.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

GOP opposition to vaccine mandates extends far beyond Covid-19

November 17, 2021 Right-wing politicians’ resistance to vaccine mandates is extending far beyond Covid-19 immunizations, a startling new development that carries vast implications for the future of public health. For months, Republicans like Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte have railed against Covid-19 vaccine mandates. More recently, though, right-wing state legislators have floated proposals to ban requirements for all immunizations — not just coronavirus.

Montana governor Greg Gianforte. Greg Gianforte. Source: Wikipedia

Read more in this article by Lev Facher in STAT Politics.

Long-term study of children with COVID-19 begins

November 15, 2021 NIH-supported research will track effects of COVID-19 infection on children over three years.

Read more in this article from National Institutes of Health.

Isolated in Uganda: How Covid-19 evacuations highlight unfairness of global health partnerships

November 12, 2021 There has been talk for decades about how the most challenging global health problems must be tackled together as a global community. As health workers in Uganda mark almost two years of fighting Covid-19 largely on their own, we wonder whether solidarity will indeed be the new norm, or whether withdrawals will be once again be repeated when another pandemic hits.

Read more in this opinion article by Stephen Asiimwe, Edith Nakku-Joloba, and Aggrey Semeere in STAT First Opinion.

Understanding health care consumer preferences is key to effective Covid-19 vaccination messaging

November 10, 2021 Health care, like politics, is local. The performance of certain procedures or the prevalence of particular conditions vary from community to community. So do individuals’ preferences on how they choose to obtain care. One thing that doesn’t vary as much is the trust people have in their providers.

Doctor and patient discussing vaccination.

Read more in this article by Sanjula Jain and Jarrett Lewis in STAT First Opinion.

Israeli Study Shows How COVID-19 Immunity Wanes over Time

November 9, 2021 If you were among those who got your vaccine on the early side—good for you. If it’s been more than six months since your original shots, and if you are in one of the risk groups, you should consider a COVID-19 booster shot to remain optimally protected in the months ahead. 

NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins

Read more in this article by Dr. Francis Collins in the NIH Director's Blog.

Not all Covid waves look the same. Here’s a snapshot of the Delta surge

November 8, 2021 At first, Joyce Dombrouski thought it might just be some kind of blip. Maybe it was Montana’s summer tourists. But then, at one point this August, St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula had 30-plus Covid inpatients — “and we thought 30, a year ago, was a horrific number,” said Dombrouski, the chief executive of Providence Montana.

Blueprint of virus-like particles.

It just kept growing. Three or four admissions a day, then five or six, then seven. The hospital was nearing capacity. There were more Covid patients in the ICU than the team had seen before, and they tended to be younger now. “Our median age has dropped to the mid-40s, and at the start of the pandemic, it was between 70 to 80,” Dombrouski went on. Then, her team got a call from Oklahoma, three wide western states away, asking if St. Patrick could take a transfer patient.

Read more in this article by Eric Boodman in STAT Health.

Experimental Pfizer pill prevents Covid hospitalizations and deaths

November 5, 2021 An experimental antiviral pill developed by Pfizer reduced the risk of death and hospitalization by 89% in patients who were newly diagnosed with Covid-19 in a large study, the company said Friday. The development of oral medicines that can be used to treat Covid early on could blunt the impact of the pandemic.

Read more in this article by Matthew Herper in STAT Health.

‘There was no plan’: Throwing spaghetti at the wall to overcome Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy

November 2, 2021 There’s a remarkable range of incentives and other methods devised to overcome Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy. While some of these ideas have stuck like spaghetti thrown against a wall, it’s not clear which are most effective. Even when researchers have demonstrated the success of certain strategies, they haven’t been widely adopted.

Vaccine Shots Heard Round the World

Read more in this article by Theresa Gaffney in STAT Health.    

***See our 10-unit CE course on Vaccine Hesitancy: Meeting the Challenge.

FDA authorizes Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11

October 29, 2021 The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization to the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech Friday for children ages 5 to 11, a significant step toward making the vaccine available to millions of school-age children.

Children at school eating outside.

Read more in this article by Matthew Herper in STAT Breaking News

In a groundbreaking move, Merck and the Medicines Patent Pool ink a licensing deal for a Covid-19 pill

October 27, 2021 In a notable bid to widen access to Covid-19 remedies, Merck (MRK) has agreed to license its widely anticipated antiviral pill to the Medicines Patent Pool, which in turn can now strike deals with other manufacturers to provide versions of the drug to 105 low and middle-income countries.

Read more in this article by Ed Silverman in STAT Pharmalot.

Moderna says its low-dose Covid vaccine works for kids 6 to 11

October 25, 2021 Moderna said Monday that a low dose of its Covid-19 vaccine is safe and appears to work in 6- to 11-year-olds, as the manufacturer joins its rival Pfizer in moving toward expanding shots to children.

Children receiving the COVID vaccine.

Read more in this article by Lauran Neergaard in STAT Health.

Don’t give Covid-19 long-haulers the silent treatment

October 22, 2021 “I feel like I’m getting the silent treatment and it’s killing me,” Pamela Bishop confided in me about her months-long interactions with physicians as she tried to get answers about a strange array of symptoms that have plagued her since recovering from Covid-19.

As Covid-19 survivors and families careen into the months and years ahead, those with long Covid — long-haulers, as they’ve come to be known — face uncertainty and confusion given the array of unexplained and fluctuating symptoms that are remote from their original illness.

Read more in this opinion article by E. Wesley Ely in STAT Opinion.

Half doses, third doses, kids’ doses: Covid vaccine delivery goes next-level difficult

October 21, 2021 The U.S. Covid-19 vaccine rollout is about to get a lot more complicated.

Woman receiving a COVID vaccine.

When the shots arrived late last year, the message from health officials was simple: Get vaccinated when you become eligible, and get whichever jab is offered to you. But with boosters becoming available for select groups of people, and a lower-dose shot for young children expected shortly, the campaign is moving from a simple set of instructions to more of a messy flow chart for people organizing and delivering the jabs.

Read more in this article by Andrew Joseph and Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

FDA authorizes booster shots of Moderna, Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines

October 20, 2021 In newly issued emergency use authorizations for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines — and in a revision to the previous authorization of the Pfizer and BioNTech booster — the agency made clear that people do not have to get a third dose that matches their primary series.

“The available data suggest waning immunity in some populations who are fully vaccinated,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement. “The availability of these authorized boosters is important for continued protection against Covid-19 disease.”

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell and Matthew Herper in STAT Health.

Interferon does not improve outcomes for hospitalized adults with COVID-19

October 18, 2021 A clinical trial has found that treatment with the immunomodulator interferon beta-1a plus the antiviral remdesivir was not superior to treatment with remdesivir alone in hospitalized adults with COVID-19 pneumonia. In addition, in a subgroup of patients who required high-flow oxygen, investigators found that interferon beta-1a was associated with more adverse events and worse outcomes. 

Read more in this news release from NIH.

Three lessons for the effort to scale up Covid-19 rapid tests

October 15, 2021 In Ann Arbor, Mich., as in many other cities across the country, you’d be hard-pressed to find a rapid Covid-19 test today — they’re not available at the nearby Walmart or at local pharmacies.

A model of the COVID-19 virus.

But four months ago, Washtenaw County, Mich. was swimming in rapid tests, after a federal pilot program dumped more than 450,000 of them into Ann Arbor and neighboring Ypsilanti through the county health department. Back then, it took two full months to distribute all of the free tests to residents.

Read more in this article by Maddie Bender in STAT Health.

FDA advisory panel unanimously endorses Moderna’s Covid vaccine booster for some groups

October 14, 2021 A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted unanimously Thursday in favor of authorizing booster shots of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine to people 65 and older, those 18 to 64 with risk factors for severe Covid-19, and those whose jobs put them at high risk for serious complications of Covid-19, such as health care workers.

Read more in this article by Matthew Herper and Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

A primer on what we know about mixing and matching Covid vaccines

October 12, 2021 Later this week an expert committee that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will hear about the results of a clinical trial that could influence how Covid vaccines are used in this country at some point in the future. The trial, conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is a so-called mix-and-match trial, testing the Covid vaccines authorized in the U.S. in combinations with each other.

COVID vaccine.

The goal of the trial was to see whether using a different vaccine as a booster shot improves protection. So does getting a dose of Pfizer vaccine after getting a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine trigger production of more antibodies than a second dose of the J&J would? Are the messenger RNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna virtually interchangeable, or does switching even there produce a broader set of immune responses?

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

‘Naively ambitious’: How COVAX failed on its promise to vaccinate the world

October 8, 2021 Around the world this spring, country after country awaited their first Covid-19 vaccine shipments. They’d been promised deliveries by COVAX, the ambitious global collaboration set up to give people in rich and poor nations equitable access to the shots, but now, the vaccines were failing to arrive. In many cases, COVAX officials wouldn’t even answer the phone or respond to emails from top diplomats when asked what was happening.

Read more in this article by Olivia Goldhill and Rosa Furneaux in STAT Special Report.

More than 140,000 U.S. children lost a primary or secondary caregiver due to the COVID-19 pandemic

October 7, 2021 New study highlights stark disparities in caregiver deaths by race and ethnicity, calls for urgent public health response.

Parents with a young child.

One U.S. child loses a parent or caregiver for every four COVID-19 deaths, a new modeling study published today in Pediatrics reveals. The findings illustrate orphanhood as a hidden and ongoing secondary tragedy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and emphasizes that identifying and caring for these children throughout their development is a necessary and urgent part of the pandemic response – both for as long as the pandemic continues, as well as in the post-pandemic era.

Read more in this article in NIH News Releases.

At a rural ICU, Covid-19’s summer surge put telehealth to the test

October 5, 2021 When a patient is admitted to Whitfield Regional Hospital's ICU, its hospitalists can call for a consult with one of University of Alabama at Birmingham's tele-specialists, who usually pipe into the room via a rolling cart. As the Whitfield team conducts a physical exam, the remote doctor pivots the cart’s camera to see the patient and bedside monitors.

A doctor talking to a patient using telemedicine.

After establishing the initial care plan, UAB’s doctors will call in every day to make rounds on certain patients, circling back to make recommendations — say, a patient is going into renal failure, and the next step is to place a dialysis catheter — and adjust settings on equipment like ventilators. And whenever one of Whitfield’s hospitalists has a question or a patient takes a turn for the worse, the remote physician will be there to answer. It’s a model the providers sometimes call “round and respond.”

Read more in this article by Katie Palmer in STAT Health Tech.

NCI study highlights pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Latino adults

October 4, 2021 The global COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Latino individuals in the United States, causing more deaths by population size, both directly and indirectly, in these groups compared with white or Asian individuals. The findings, from a large surveillance study led by researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), appeared October 5, 2021, in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Read more in this article from NIH.

What we know — and don’t know — about Merck’s new Covid-19 pill

October 4, 2021 The announcement that a pill from Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics kept Covid patients out of the hospital made headlines and moved stocks late last week. But as is so often true when data are released by press release, there are still many questions left unanswered.

Read more in this article by Matthew Herper in STAT Pharma.

Merck’s antiviral pill reduces hospitalization of Covid patients, a possible game-changer for treatment

October 1, 2021 An investigational antiviral pill reduced the chances that patients newly diagnosed with Covid-19 would be hospitalized by about 50%, a finding that could give doctors a desperately needed new way to treat the sick, the drug maker Merck announced Friday.

A five-day course of molnupiravir, developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, reduced both hospitalization and death compared to a placebo. In the placebo group, 53 patients, or 14.1%, were hospitalized or died. For those who received the drug, 28, or 7.3%, were hospitalized or died.

Read more in this article by Matthew Herper in STAT Health.

A new study points to the power of wearables to predict even presymptomatic infections, suggesting use one day against Covid-19

September 29, 2021 Anew study that infected willing participants with common cold and flu viruses provides the most rigorous evidence yet that wearable health monitors could predict infections, even before a person starts experiencing symptoms.

Read more in this article by Maddie Bender in STAT Health Tech.

Who Is Eligible for a COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shot?

September 27, 2021 COVID-19 Vaccine booster shots are available for the following Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine recipients who completed their initial series at least 6 months ago:

65 years and older
18+ who have underlying medical conditions
18+ who work in high-risk settings
18+ who live in high-risk settings

An illustration of 5 people who have received a COVID booster shot.

Get more info here from CDC. 

See how much Covid-19 relief money health care providers in your state got

September 24, 2021 Congress set up a massive, $178 billion fund in 2020 meant to help mitigate the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on health care providers, known as the Provider Relief Fund.

By far, the largest payments were made to the nation’s biggest hospital systems. Fully five of the top 10 recipients of cash were New York City-area hospitals or health systems; together, they received some $3.1 billion. The New York and Presbyterian Hospital (usually styled “NewYork-Presbyterian”) alone brought in $631 million, topped only by the $1.2 billion that went to the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, a group that operates New York City’s sprawling system of public hospitals and clinics.

Read more in this article by J. Emory Parker in STAT Politics.

Biden’s global summit Covid-19 targets are woefully inadequate and must be corrected

September 22, 2021 President Biden has asked for endorsement of a set of targets and commitment to directly address one or more of them. These targets fall terribly short of the ambition that’s needed to stop this global pandemic. The targets also downplay the obligations of rich countries to reverse the horrific consequences of vaccine, testing, and therapeutics apartheid that they — and the biopharmaceutical industry — have engendered.

Read more in this article by Brook K. Baker in STAT First Opinion.

‘Delta has been brutal’: Covid-19 variant is decimating rural areas already reeling from the pandemic

September 21, 2021 Health inequities in rural communities across the South are continuing to determine who is most vulnerable to Covid-19 now that the Delta variant is bringing a new surge in deaths.

Several states, including Florida and Georgia, have experienced the highest levels of hospitalizations to date in recent months, as the highly contagious variant sweeps through the country, and within those states, rural areas are especially hard-hit.

Photos of 4 people for the COVID inclusion diversity group.

Read more in this article by Olivia Goldhill in STAT Health.

Winter is coming, again: What to expect from Covid-19 as the season looms

September 20, 2021 One of the amazing things about the control measures countries used to slow Covid transmission is the effect they had on the swarm of other viruses that cause colds and flu-like illnesses every fall and winter. Rhinoviruses, the most common cause of the common cold, continued to spread. But respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human coronaviruses, adenoviruses, and mother of all influenza-like illnesses, influenza itself, all but disappeared.

An illustration of an influenza virus.

With kids back in school, mask-wearing more sporadic, and people abandoning Covid controls because they’re frankly just sick of them, these bugs are coming back. They may hit us especially hard when they do, because our immune systems are out of shape from the 20-month hiatus.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

Tracking the FDA advisory panel meeting on Covid-19 booster shots

September 17, 2021 Do most Americans already need Covid-19 booster shots, or at least will they soon? Those questions have been hotly debated in the public square over the past few weeks. But today, they’ll be debated in a formal setting where the discussion may affect whether the Biden administration carries through on an announced plan to offer adults booster jabs several months after they received their second shot of vaccine.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell  and Matthew Herper in STAT Health

Beyond ‘vaccinopia’: Rapid tests should play a larger role in Biden’s Covid-19 plan

September 16, 2021 America is suffering from a serious case of vaccinopia: an inability to look beyond shots in arms when considering how to manage the pandemic. This was made clear by President Biden’s new Covid-19 plan, which emphasizes vaccine mandates while providing insufficient support for rapid tests, which we believe to be the most promising — and most underused — tool in the armamentarium against the coronavirus.

We are strong proponents of the Covid-19 vaccines, which have proven to be impressively effective and safe. In an ideal world, every eligible American would have been vaccinated by now. But we do not live in an ideal world. 

Read more in this article by Daniel P. Oran and Eric J. Topol in STAT First Opinion

FDA scientists strike skeptical tone on need for Covid-19 vaccine booster at this time, likely fueling debate

September 15, 2021 Food and Drug Administration scientists have expressed skepticism about the need for additional doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for all people who have received it.

The assessment by the agency’s staff, included in documents released Wednesday, sets up a high-stakes debate over who will need an additional booster dose — and when they will need it — at the meeting of experts being convened by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday.

See more in this article in STAT Health by Matthew Herper and Helen Branswell.

FDA vaccine regulators argue against Covid-19 vaccine boosters in new international review

September 13, 2021 A group of international experts — including, notably, two outgoing Food and Drug Administration vaccine regulators — argues in a new paper against offering Covid-19 vaccine boosters to the general population.

See more in this article in STAT Health by Andrew Joseph.

How the Delta variant’s remarkable ability to replicate threw new twists into the Covid-19 pandemic

September 9, 2021 One of the key reasons the Delta variant has ignited new surges of Covid-19 infections across the United States is its remarkable ability to make copies of itself.

That skill has helped make Delta far more transmissible than any other iteration of the coronavirus seen thus far. But its replication prowess could also be at the heart of the other twists Delta has thrown into the pandemic, including the increase in breakthrough infections with the variant and why it potentially causes severe Covid-19 more often.

See more in this article in STAT Health by Andrew Joseph.

It’s easy to judge the unvaccinated. As a doctor, I see a better alternative

August 27, 2021 I don’t ask “Why?” when a patient with Covid-19 tells me they are unvaccinated for the same reason I don’t ask why someone whose alcohol level is four times the legal limit decided to drive, or the badly burned grandmother with emphysema lit a cigarette with oxygen prongs below her nose. Nor do I ask it when I find myself elbow deep in a bag of chips after an overnight shift even though I am fighting high blood pressure.

We humans are beautifully flawed creatures with inexplicable needs and impulses that run counter to our best interests.

Read more in this article by Jay Baruch in STAT First Opinion.

Covid-19 vaccines flirted with perfection at first. Reality is more complicated

August 25, 2021 When Covid-19 vaccines were reported last fall to be roughly 95% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 infections, the world rejoiced — and even veteran scientists were blown away. Very few vaccines are that protective. Those made to fend off viruses like SARS-CoV-2 — viruses that invade the nose and throat, like flu — typically aren’t at the high end of the efficacy scale.

With the more transmissible Delta variant of SARS-2 circulating, it is increasingly apparent that, even if mRNA vaccines like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s offer impressive protection against severe Covid infections, they aren’t going to prevent infections in the upper respiratory tract of some proportion of vaccinated people.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health.

FDA grants full approval to Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer, BioNTech

August 23, 2021 The Food and Drug Administration on Monday granted full approval to the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, a long-awaited development that public health officials hope will persuade some people who remain hesitant about the vaccine to get the shot.

A photo showing a bottle of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell and Andrew Joseph in STAT Health.

‘It’s soul-draining’: Health workers deployed to Covid hot zones are overwhelmed by deaths among the unvaccinated

August 18, 2021 For a fleeting moment this summer, many thought their near-constant relief trips to besieged hospitals might finally be over. Much of America had been vaccinated. Covid-19 case rates were lower than they’d been at any point since the pandemic began. Now, though, they are being asked to upend their lives yet again — leaving behind their homes, jobs, and families to care for patients like the ones at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, almost all of whom decided against vaccination.

A nurse in a critical care unit treating a COVID patient.

Read more in this article by Lev Facher in STAT.

What’s safe to do during summer’s Covid surge? STAT asked public health experts about their own plans

August 17, 2021 To try to cut through the fog, STAT contacted three dozen epidemiologists, immunologists, and other infectious disease experts around the country to see how they are navigating the risk of Covid in these uncertain times.

Read more in this article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health

NIH scientists develop faster COVID-19 test

August 16, 2021 Scientists at the National Institutes of Health have developed a new sample preparation method to detect SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The method bypasses extraction of the virus’ genetic RNA material, simplifying sample purification and potentially reducing test time and cost. 

Read more from NIH here.

COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding

August 11, 2021 COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people aged 12 years and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future. 

A photo of a pregnant woman.

Read more from CDC here.

WHO calls for a temporary moratorium on administering booster shots of Covid-19 vaccines

August 4, 2021 The World Health Organization called Wednesday for a temporary moratorium on the use of Covid-19 vaccine booster shots by wealthy countries, saying the global priority should be on increasing supplies of first doses to countries that are still struggling to protect health workers and older adults.

Read more in this article in STAT Health by Helen Branswell.

People chasing Covid-19 vaccine boosters create headaches for the health care system

August 3, 2021 The buzz around booster shots for Covid-19 vaccines has intensified in recent weeks as Pfizer has sought approval for a third shot of its vaccine regimen, and Israel, the United Kingdom, and Germany have greenlit additional shots. Federal officials in the United States say that booster shots are not needed yet. But some anxious patients are nonetheless trying to get them — either by asking a health care provider willing to prescribe an extra shot, or by lying about their earlier vaccination.

Read more in this article in STAT Health by Rachel Cohrs.

For many, the belated realization that Covid will be ‘a long war’ sparks anger and denial

August 2, 2021 The prospect of contending with a prolonged outbreak phase — and adjusting again to a constantly evolving roster of restrictions — has brought back another feature of pandemic living in America: anger.

Read more in this article in STAT Health by Megan Molteni.

FDA, under pressure, plans ‘sprint’ to accelerate review of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for full approval

July 30, 2021 Pfizer’s vaccine is currently cleared under a so-called emergency use authorization, which allows the company to sell the vaccine for as long as Covid-19 is considered a public health emergency. But with Covid-19 still raging, and its spread now fueled by the Delta variant, lawmakers and prominent health experts have urged the FDA to expedite full approval of Pfizer’s vaccine, saying it would be a powerful tool in convincing the unvaccinated to get their shots and in giving businesses and other entities a stronger legal foundation to impose vaccine mandates.

Read more is this article by Nicholas Florko in STAT.

Efficacy of Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine slips to 84% after six months, data show

July 28, 2021 The efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech fell from 96% to 84% over six months, according to data released Wednesday, a decline that could fuel Pfizer’s case that a third dose will eventually be required. The data, which has not been reviewed by outside scientists, suggest the vaccine was 91% effective overall at preventing Covid-19 over the course of six months.

A bottle contain the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine.

Read more in this article in STAT by Damian Garde  and Matthew Herper.

CDC recommends masks indoors even for some vaccinated against Covid-19

July 27, 2021 Federal health officials advised Tuesday that even people who’ve had their Covid-19 shots wear masks in public indoor settings in areas with widespread transmission of the coronavirus, a major setback in the progress in the U.S. epidemic that reflects a surging variant and the country’s ongoing struggles to increase vaccination rates.

Mask showing proper fit.

Read more in this article by Andrew Joseph in STAT.

A new way to visualize the surge in Covid-19 cases in the U.S.

July 26, 2021 The month of July has seen Covid-19 cases in the United States increase at the fastest pace since last winter, marking the start of the latest wave of infections to afflict the nation. A new STAT analysis of Covid-19 case data reveals this new wave is already outpacing the spring and summer waves of 2020.

Read more in this article in STAT by Emory Parker.

Why is Delta such a big deal? And other burning questions about the next phase of the Covid-19 pandemic

July 23, 2021 In the United States, where the variant is estimated to be causing more than 4 out of 5 new infections, largely among the unvaccinated, the outbreaks in places like Arkansas and Missouri have once again placed health systems under stress. They’ve also led to more questions about whether Delta even poses a threat to people who are vaccinated and complicated the discussion about what precautions schools need to reopen fully in the fall.

Read more in this article by Andrew Joseph in STAT here.

Delta variant surges to 83% of sequenced Covid-19 cases in the U.S., CDC says

July 20, 2021 The rapidly spreading Delta variant now accounts for 83% of sequenced Covid-19 cases in the United States, the nation’s public health leaders said Tuesday, and in parts of the country with low vaccination rates, it may be responsible for up to 90%.

Read the article by Elizabeth Cooney in STAT here.

How Delta is pushing the U.S. into a new phase of the Covid-19 pandemic

July 19, 2021 With the highly transmissible Delta variant now circulating — mostly among the unvaccinated — the United States is seeing spikes in infections that have turned into increases in hospitalizations in some communities.

Read more in this article by Andrew Joseph in STAT.

mRNA Vaccines May Pack More Persistent Punch Against COVID-19 Than Thought

July 13, 2021 In the new study, researchers monitored key immune cells in the lymph nodes of a group of people who received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine. The work consistently found hallmarks of a strong, persistent immune response against SARS-CoV-2 that could be protective for years to come.

COVID memory B-cell.

Read more in this article from NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins.

Adjuvant developed with NIH funding enhances efficacy of India’s COVID-19 vaccine

June 29, 2021 An adjuvant developed with funding from the National Institutes of Health has contributed to the success of the highly efficacious COVAXIN COVID-19 vaccine, which roughly 25 million people have received to date in India and elsewhere. 

Read the news release from NIH here.

India’s doctors--at home and abroad--face Covid’s unrelenting toll 

June 26, 2021 Ravaged by Covid-19, India is desperately trying to contain a pandemic that has infected nearly 30 million people and claimed--officially--nearly 400,000 lives. Others put the toll closer to 4 million deaths. Medical teams, traumatized by their experiences, recently called it a “a war zone.”

A map of COVID cases in India

 Read the article by Lipi Roy, Reshma Gupta, and Bhavna Lall in STAT First Opinion here. Map of cumulative COVID-19 cases in India by states and UT. Data source: MoHFW

Symptoms of Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, and Suicidal Ideation Among State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Public Health Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

June 25, 2021 Increases in mental health conditions have been documented among the general population and health care workers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health workers might be at similar risk for negative mental health consequences because of the prolonged demand for responding to the pandemic and for implementing an unprecedented vaccination campaign. 

Depressed man.

See the entire report in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report here.

New Metric Identifies Coronavirus Hotspots in Real Time

June 24, 2021 NIH-funded researchers have discovered a clever workaround to detect more accurately where COVID-19 hotspots are emerging. Published in the journal Science, the new approach focuses on the actual amount of virus present in a positive COVID diagnostic test, not just whether the test is positive or negative. What’s even better is these data on a person’s “viral load” are readily available from polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests that are the “gold standard” for detecting SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. In fact, if you’ve been tested for COVID-19, there’s a good chance you’ve had a PCR-based test.

New method accurately identifies COVID hotspots.

Read the article by Dr. Francis Collins in the NIH Director's Blog here.

NIH begins study of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy and postpartum

June 23, 2021 A new observational study has begun to evaluate the immune responses generated by COVID-19 vaccines administered to pregnant or postpartum people. Researchers will measure the development and durability of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in people vaccinated during pregnancy or the first two postpartum months.

Read the entire news release from NIH here.

NIH study suggests COVID-19 prevalence far exceeded early pandemic cases

June 22, 2021 In a new study, National Institutes of Health researchers report that the prevalence of COVID-19 in the United States during spring and summer of 2020 far exceeded the known number of cases and that infection affected the country unevenly. For every diagnosed COVID-19 case in this time frame, the researchers estimate that there were 4.8 undiagnosed cases, representing an additional 16.8 million cases by July alone. 

Access the full news release from NIH here.

Two-Thirds of the Public Say the U.S. Should Play a Major Role in Distributing COVID-19 Vaccines Globally, But Not Most Republicans

June 3, 2021 Two-thirds of the public (66%) say that the U.S. should play at least a “major role” in distributing COVID-19 vaccines to other countries, including about a quarter (27%) who say it should play a “leading role.”

Read the article from the Kaiser Family Foundation here.

A pandemic upside: The flu virus became less diverse, simplifying the task of making flu shots

June 2, 2021 In the eight years leading up to the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the subtypes of influenza A viruses started acting bizarrely. Flu viruses continuously evolve, to evade the immune defenses humans develop to fend them off. But after 2012, H3N2 started to behave differently.

Read the article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health here.

A perilous point’: Global agencies call for $50 billion investment to combat Covid-19

June 1, 2021 In a plea to halt the Covid-19 pandemic, four global agencies are calling for investments of up to $50 billion – mostly from wealthy nations — to boost manufacturing capacity and supplies and ease trade rules to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines and other medical products.

Read the entire article by Ed Silverman in STAT Pharmalot here.

Shuttered hospitals, soaring Covid-19 deaths: Rural Black communities lose a lifeline in the century’s worst health crisis

May 26, 2021 The abrupt withdrawal of care that affected a rural corner of Georgia has played out across the United States. A record 19 rural hospitals closed in 2020 — more than in any other year. Communities close to these shuttered hospitals experienced disproportionate fatalities, according to a STAT analysis: Covid-19 death rates in counties where hospitals closed were 37% higher than in their states overall.

Read more in this article by Olivia Goldhill in STAT here.

How the Covid pandemic ends: Scientists look to the past to see the future

May 19, 2021 We’re approaching the year-and-a-half mark of the globe’s collective experience with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Covid-19 pandemic it has triggered. At this point, it’s fair to assume people the world over are asking themselves the same two questions: How will this end? And when?

Read the article by Helen Branswell in STAT Health here.

Nanoparticle vaccine against various coronaviruses

May 18, 2021 A nanoparticle-based vaccine protected monkeys against SARS-CoV-2 and elicited antibodies that could neutralize a range of coronaviruses. The findings provide a platform for further development of a vaccine to prevent future coronavirus outbreaks.

Cells infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (yellow). Colorized scanning electron micrograph of cells infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (yellow), isolated from a patient sample. The tentacle-like protrusions from the cells are filapodia, which extend from infected cells and attach to neighboring cells, helping the virus to spread. NIAID Integrated Research Facility, Fort Detrick, Maryland

Read more in NIH Research Matters.

Human Antibodies Target Many Parts of Coronavirus Spike Protein

May 18, 2021 For many people who’ve had COVID-19, the infections were thankfully mild and relatively brief. But these individuals’ immune systems still hold onto enduring clues about how best to neutralize SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Discovering these clues could point the way for researchers to design highly targeted treatments that could help to save the lives of folks with more severe infections.

Antibodies target the coronavirus spike protein. Caption: People who recovered from mild COVID-19 infections produced antibodies circulating in their blood that target three different parts of the coronavirus’s spike protein (gray). Credit: University of Texas at Austin

Read the article by Dr. Francis Collins in the NIH Director's Blog here.

What do we do with the masks now? Be grateful for them — and for science

May 14, 2021 In this milestone moment, it’s far from clear whether our Covid-era masks will become faded relics like the yellowing World War II ration books from my parents’ childhood, or the fallout shelter instructions from mine. Will they be souvenirs of a forgotten battle won, or seasonal necessities to be hauled out each winter flu season, along with sweaters, galoshes, and gloves? Too soon to say.

Woman with mask.

Read the entire article by Todd S. Purdum in STAT here.

White House aims to give 70% of American adults at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose by July 4

May 4, 2021 The Biden administration on Tuesday set a new goal for the ongoing U.S. Covid-19 vaccination campaign: giving at least one shot to 70% of the adult population by July 4.

Woman getting a COVID vaccination.

Read the article by Lev Facher in STAT here.

Do public health officials need to be political activists? A fight over an HIV crisis renews the question

April 30, 2021 Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, governors in Republican-controlled states like Texas and Arizona have sought to ban local governments from imposing disease-prevention measures like mask mandates or school closures.

In many cases, the pushback has forced local health officials to decide between honoring the desires of the community they serve, or following the science and advocating directly against their own constituents and the mayors or county leaders they work for.

Read the entire article by Lev Facher in STAT Politics here.

NIH to invest $29 million to address COVID-19 disparities

April 29, 2021 To bolster research to help communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19, the National Institutes of Health is funding $29 million in additional grants for the NIH Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities. This funding was supported by the American Rescue Plan. 

Read more here.

In Covid’s grip, India gasps for air: ‘If there is an apocalypse, this has to be one’

April 27, 2021 Working hard to keep her composure, Lavanya Sharma tweeted a short video on April 25. “Please please please help,” the teenage girl from New Delhi’s Uttam Nagar neighborhood wrote atop her post as her mother lay gasping for breath and her oximeter blinked a dangerously low reading of 52/100. Sharma’s frantic calls for help didn’t get an official response until the next day, when an ambulance finally arrived to take her mother to the hospital.

A photo of funeral pyres in India due to the COVID pandemic.

Read more in this article by Vikas Dandekar in STAT First Opinion here.

Yes, vaccines block most transmission of COVID-19

April 25, 2021 The latest data show that getting a shot not only protects vaccinated individuals, it reduces the chance they can spread the virus to others.

I got my COVID-19 vaccine sticker.

Read more in National Geographic Science here

Study Demonstrates Saliva Can Spread Novel Coronavirus

April 22, 2021 COVID-19, can actively infect cells that line the mouth and salivary glands. The new findings may help explain why COVID-19 can be detected by saliva tests, and why about half of COVID-19 cases include oral symptoms, such as loss of taste, dry mouth, and oral ulcers. These results also suggest that the mouth and its saliva may play an important—and underappreciated—role in spreading SARS-CoV-2 throughout the body and, perhaps, transmitting it from person to person.

Human salivary gland cells. SARS-CoV-2 (pink) and its preferred human receptor ACE2 (white) were found in human salivary gland cells (outlined in green). Credit: Paola Perez, Warner Lab, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, NIH

Read the report by Francis Collins in the NIH Director's Blog here

Study Finds 1 in 10 Healthcare Workers with Mild COVID Have Lasting Symptoms

April 20, 2021 It’s become increasingly clear that even healthy people with mild cases of COVID-19 can battle a constellation of symptoms that worsen over time—or which sometimes disappear only to come right back. These symptoms are part of what’s called “Long COVID Syndrome.”

Read the post by Dr. Francis Collins in NIH Director's Blog here

Tom Frieden on COVID: CDC Fumbles, Blood Clots, and New Approaches

April 15, 2021 We didn't think SARS would hit us, or MERS, or that H1N1 would come from Central America or that Ebola would spread in an area of Africa that it had never been in before. And what that tells us is one essential thing: that we need a pluripotent public health system. We need to be ready for any threat. And that means rapid detection and rapid response.

Read the entire interview in Medscape here

Learning from History: Fauci Donates Model to Smithsonian’s COVID-19 Collection

3D print of the COVID virus.

April 15, 2021 See the video here

Why would a Covid vaccine cause rare blood clots? Researchers have found clues

April 13, 2021 A week after receiving the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, a 37-year-old woman in Norway went to the emergency department with fever and persistent headaches. A CAT scan of her head showed a blood clot in blood vessels involved in draining the brain, but her levels of platelets, involved in clotting, were low. She was treated with platelet infusions and a blood thinner, but had a bleed in her brain the next day. She underwent surgery to relieve the pressure on her brain but died two days later.

AstraZeneca laboratory equipment.

Read more in this article by Matthew Herper in STAT Health here.

Vaccine Hesitancy vs. Vaccine Resistance

April 13, 2021 For most countries the development of a safe and effective vaccination for COVID-19 is seen as the long-term solution to the COVID-19 pandemic. A critical step in extinguishing the pandemic will be vaccination of a high proportion of the population in the context of increasing misinformation, vaccine hesitancy and lack of trust in science.

A photo of a container with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Read the entire research article by Edwards, Biddle, Gray, and Sollis in PLOS ONE here.

COVID-19 Response and Resources from the Hopi community

April 12, 2021 The virus does not move, people move it… if people stop moving, the virus stops moving and dies.

Uma haak umùu kikiy ang sun huruyese’ naavaasye’ hakimuy qatsiyamuy ayo’ o’yani. Stay Home. Stay Safe. Save Lives.

Read more here

In the Covid-19 vaccine push, no one is speaking Gen Z’s language

April 8, 2021 Useful Covid-19 information isn’t reaching the Instagram generation. There’s almost no messaging specifically tailored to them from federal or state public health officials. There’s hardly anything official on Tik Tok. And even the limited efforts to reach them where they are — like Instagram’s links to its “Covid-19 information center”— aren’t working.

Read the article by Nicholas Florko in STAT Health here.

Antibody Persistence through 6 Months after the Second Dose of mRNA-1273 Vaccine for Covid-19

April 6, 2020 Ongoing studies are monitoring immune responses beyond 6 months as well as determining the effect of a booster dose to extend the duration and breadth of activity against emerging viral variants. Our data show antibody persistence and thus support the use of this vaccine in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Read the editorial post in NEJM here

Covid-19: With Big Vaccine Push, Navajo Nation Has Tamed Virus

April 6, 2021 The Navajo Nation, which once had one of the worst coronavirus case rates in the United States, recently reached an extraordinary milestone: zero cases and zero deaths in a 24-hour period.

See the article in the New York Times here.

Analysis-In mutant variants, has the coronavirus shown its best tricks?

April 4, 2021 The rapid rise in different parts of the world of deadly, more infectious coronavirus variants that share new mutations is leading scientists to ask a critical question - has the SARS-CoV-2 virus shown its best cards?

Read this article by Kate Kelland and Julie Steenhuysen in Reuters here.

The Race to Vaccinate

April 2, 2021 COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 infections and serious COVID-19 illness. Once fully vaccinated, a person’s risk of infection is reduced by up to 90%.

See more at COVID Data Tracker Weekly Review

Resistance from health experts and business owners could doom ‘vaccine passports’ even before they launch

April 1, 2021 When it comes to decrying the concept of “vaccine passports,” conservatives have company. The idea’s detractors now include certain business owners, who fear customer backlash and the hassle or danger of enforcing the policy, and even prominent public health advocates, too.

Read the article by Lev Facher in STAT Politics here

How COVID is Affecting Communication

March 31, 2021 An innovative, non-fogging mask--the Communicator Mask from Safe'N'Clear. Check it out here!

A photo of a woman wearing a Safe'N'Clear mask.

Dramatic Drop in Common Viruses Raises Question: Masks Forever?

March 31, 2021 Masks and physical distancing are proving to have major fringe benefits, keeping people from getting all kinds of illnesses — not just covid-19. But it’s unclear whether the protocols will be worth the pain in the long run.

Photos of 6 people wearing masks.Source: CDC

Read the article by Blake Farmer in Kaiser Health News here.

Why indoor spaces are still prime COVID hotspots

March 30, 2021 Risks shoot up when virus particles accumulate in buildings, but it’s not clear how best to improve ventilation.

Read the article by Dyani Lewis in Nature here.

‘Right now I’m scared’: CDC director warns of a coming spike in Covid-19 case counts

March 29, 2021 As Covid-19 cases begin again to spike throughout the United States, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky issued an urgent plea to Americans Monday to continue following public health measures. “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope, but right now I’m scared,” said Walensky, who noted she has begun experiencing a “recurring” feeling of “impending doom.”

A photo of CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH.

Read the article by Nicholas Florko and Andrew Joseph in STAT Politics here.

HISTORY SHOWS THE DANGERS OF BREAKING COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS

The Spanish flu provides an important — and terrifying — lesson in why we need to stay vigilant.

A photo from the 1918 flu pandemic with a trolley conductor refusing entry to a man not wearing a mask. The 1918 flu pandemic--no mask, no service.

Read the article in The Conversation here

A user’s guide: How to talk to those hesitant about the Covid-19 vaccine

March 27, 2021 As the Covid vaccine supply increases throughout the U.S., the next hurdle to reaching herd immunity will be convincing those who are hesitant about vaccines to receive their shots. Surveys show Black and Hispanic adults are more likely to be “waiting to see” before they get a vaccine (but are also less likely to say they definitely won’t take one than white adults). For more (and to earn CEs, see ATrain's course on Vaccine Hesitancy). 

Doctor discussing COVID vaccine with patient.

Read the article in by Usha Lee McFarling in STAT here

Sexual harassment against female nurses: a systematic review

March 26, 2021 Although not related to COVID, nevertheless, and interesting study about sexual harassment. The prevalence of sexual harassment against female nurses is high. Female nurses are being sexually harassed by patients, patient families, physicians, nurses, and other coworkers. The harassment is affecting mental, physical, emotional, social and psychological health of female nurses.

Read the research article by Kahsay et al., in BMC Nursing here

After leading a corporate turnaround, a swashbuckling CEO flies AstraZeneca into turbulence

March 23, 2021 It took eight years, a failed hostile takeover, and a sweeping scientific turnaround for AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot to become one of the drug industry’s leading lights. Now, after 11 bumbling months of Covid-19 vaccine development, the French-born executive finds himself at the center of a multinational credibility crisis, moving from scandal to scandal as his rivals bask in global acclaim.

Read the article in STAT by Matthew Herper and Damian Garde here.

‘I Wanted to Go in There and Help’: Nursing Schools See Enrollment Bump Amid Pandemic

March 23, 2012 Last December, Mirande Gross graduated from Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, with a bachelor’s degree in communications. But Gross has changed her mind and is heading back to school in May for a one-year accelerated nursing degree program. The pandemic that has sickened more than 27 million people in the United States and killed nearly 500,000 helped convince her she wanted to become a nurse.

Read the article in Kaiser Health News here.

HOW MICROBIOLOGISTS CRAFT STUNNING ART USING PATHOGENS

A drawing of a koi carp using microbes on a agar dish.

March 22, 2021 This drawing of a koi fish and lotus flower by Arwa Hadid, an undergraduate student at Oakland University in Michigan, won first place in the professional category in the 2019 American Society for Microbiology Agar Art Contest. (Arwa Hadid / American Society for Microbiology)

AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine shows better-than-expected efficacy in U.S. trial

March 22, 2021 AstraZeneca said Monday that the Covid-19 vaccine it developed with the University of Oxford reduced both mild and serious forms of the disease, paving the way for a likely U.S. authorization of the vaccine.

A photo of COVID AstraZeneca lab equipment. Source: AstraZeneca

Read the entire article by Matthew Herper in STAT here.

Dolly Parton sings and gets COVID vaccine shot

A photo of Dolly Parton. Source: Wikipedia

Why your arm might be sore after getting a vaccine

March 19, 2021 Pain and rashes are normal responses to foreign substances being injected into our bodies. But how much pain you experience after a shot depends on a lot of factors.

Read the entire article by Emily Sohn in National Geographic here.

What is Going on With the AstraZeneca/Oxford Vaccine?

March 16, 2021 Everyone will have heard of the situation in Europe right now, with a whole list of countries suspending dosing of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine. Sweden and Latvia joined that list today .But getting clarity on this is another thing entirely.

Read the entire article in by Derek Lowe in Science Translational Medicine here.

The curious case of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine

March 15, 2021 AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine is facing a crisis of confidence, with one European country after another, as if seized by a fit of panic, temporarily suspending its use over concerns about reports of blood clots in people who received it.

Read the entire article by Matthew Herper in STAT here

Most COVID-19 hospitalizations due to four conditions

March 11, 2021 A study estimated that nearly two-thirds of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. could be attributed to obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart failure. The findings give insight into how underlying conditions contribute to hospitalizations during the pandemic.

A photo of a man in a hospital bed.

Read the entire report NIH Research Matters here.

‘Then the world caved in’: 9 experts describe the day they realized Covid-19 was here to stay

March 10, 2021 This week marks two pandemic “anniversaries” — the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020, and former President Trump declared it a national emergency two days later.

Tragically, there have been more than a half million deaths in the United States and more than 2.6 million globally since then.

Read the entire article by Patrick Skerrett in STAT here.

Avoiding a ‘gender recession’: New report details how the pandemic has impeded women’s STEMM careers

March 9, 2021 The pandemic has significantly impeded the careers of women in academic science, technology, math, and medicine fields, according to a new report.

Read the entire article by Theresa Gaffney in STAT here.

CDC says fully vaccinated Americans can spend time together indoors and unmasked

March 8, 2021 People who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can now spend time together indoors and unmasked, according to new Biden administration guidance.

Fully immunized Americans can also visit with low-risk individuals from other households even if they haven’t yet received a vaccine. And if vaccinated individuals are exposed to Covid-19, there’s no need to either quarantine or get tested for the disease, according to new recommendations released Monday from the CDC.

Button saying "I got my COVID-19 vaccine".

Read the entire article by Lev Facher in STAT here.

‘This isn’t done’: Experts warn that no matter what our Covid end goal is, we have a ways to go

March 6, 2021 One year after an epidemiologist, a preparedness expert, and an infectious disease journalist presciently warned about the disruptions to come from the then-burgeoning Covid-19 pandemic, the same group cautioned on Friday that, despite recent vaccination successes, the world is not yet through the crisis, and it should prepare now for the twists the coronavirus could throw our way in the coming months.

Read the entire article by Andrew Joseph in STAT here.

How Long Does Protection Last After COVID-19?

March 2, 2021 After your body’s immune system fights off a virus, it keeps a memory of it. A study suggests that people’s immune systems remember COVID-19 for months after recovery.

Two men with masks talking on park bench.

Read more in this Health Capsule from NIH here.

FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine

February 27, 2021 The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency authorization for a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson, the third vaccine to be cleared for use in the United States and the first that requires only one dose.

The vaccine, which has not yet been tested in children or adolescents, was cleared for use in adults aged 18 and older.

Read the entire article by Helen Branswell and Rachel Cohrs in STAT here.

The same covid-19 mutations are appearing in different places

February 26, 2021 A beautiful graphic showing the various COVID-19 mutations appearing in different places at the same time.

A graph of COVID-19 mutations.

View the graphic from The Economist here.

Backed by Google, epidemiologists launch a sweeping Covid-19 data platform

February 24, 2021 Last January, Samuel Scarpino wasn’t sure what to make of Covid-19. The director of Northeastern University’s Emergent Epidemics Lab, he was soon pulled into working on a spreadsheet, started by a group of international epidemiologists, to collect and openly share granular data on individual Covid-19 cases around the world. Today, that project launched its complete website, Global.health, which will enable open access to more than 5 million anonymized Covid-19 records from 160 countries. Each record can contain dozens of data points about the case, including demographics, travel history, testing dates, and outcomes.

Read the entire article by Katie Palmer in STAT here or visit Global.health website.

Newly updated: NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines

February 20, 2021 Get the latest treatment guidelines--20 contact hours, $29. Treatment Guidelines covering all aspects of care and treatment of COVID-19 patients. Go to course . . .

COVID, the road ahead.

U.S. life expectancy fell by a year in the first half of 2020, CDC report finds

February 18, 2021 This happened during the 1918 flu pandemic also. 

Read the entire article by Rebecca Sohn in STAT here.

The myth of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Covid vaccines: Why false perceptions overlook facts, and could breed resentment

February 17, 2021 Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s health emergencies director, had a conversation recently with his mother, the kind that lots of public health people are having these days, much to their dismay. Ryan’s mother was concerned about one of the Covid-19 vaccines in use in Ireland, where she lives. The one made by AstraZeneca.

Clinical trials had shown the vaccine offered protection against the disease, but less than the vaccine made by Moderna or the one made by Pfizer and BioNTech. Ryan’s mother was worried the vaccine might not be good enough.

Ryan, never one to mince words, decided it was time for a come-to-Jesus chat with his 80-year-old mother. “Whatever vaccine they show up with, you take it,” he told her. “Because that is the best decision you can make on that day for your health.”

Read the entire article by Helen Branswell in STAT here.

As the pandemic ushered in isolation and financial hardship, overdose deaths reached new heights

February 16, 2021 Among the unrelenting death statistics flowing from the CDC last month, one grim non-Covid-19 statistic stood out: 81,003 deaths. That’s the number of people who died from drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending last June: a 20% increase and the highest number of fatal overdoses ever recorded in the U.S. in a single year.

A man who has overdosed being helped by a friend. Source: CDC

Read the entire article by Usha Lee McFarling in STAT here

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day

Is chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine useful in treating people with COVID-19, or in preventing infection in people who have been exposed to the virus?

February 12, 2021 Drugs used for other diseases were tried out in COVID-19, and this included chloroquine, used for malaria; and hydroxychloroquine used for rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus. The authors sought evidence of the effects of these drugs in treating people ill with the disease; in preventing the disease in people at risk of getting the disease, such as health workers; and people exposed to the virus developing the disease.

See the entire review Singh, Ryan, Credo, Chaplin, and Fletcher in Cochrane Library here.

Protecting Lower-Income Countries with COVID-19 Vaccines Requires Global Solidarity

February 11, 2020 The medical and moral imperative for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is why COVAX was created. Co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, together with the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, COVAX is a truly global solution.

Shots Heard Round the World graphic.

Learn more in this article by Anuradha Gupta, Deputy CEO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Improve How Your Mask Protects You

February 10, 2021

Do

  • Choose a mask with a Nose Wire

An illustration of a mask with a nose wire.

  • Use a Mask Fitter or Brace
  • Check that it Fits Snugly over your nose, mouth, and chin
  • Add Layers of material

An illustration of how to layer your masks.

  • Make sure you can see and breathe easily
  • Knot and Tuck ear loops of a 3-ply mask

Do Not

  • Do not combine 2 disposable masks

Do not combine 2 disposable masks.

  • DO not combine an N-95 with any other mask

Source: CDC

It’s not the ‘British variant.’ It’s B.1.1.7

February 9, 2021 When President Trump referred to the “Chinese virus,” the media were quick to point out problems with this terminology, lambasting it as xenophobic and racist. But as new variants appear, some media outlets are doing the same thing: talk of the “British,” “Brazilian,” and “South African” Covid-19 variants abounds. Even scientific journals are using this terminology.

But labeling viral variants by their geographic origin is incorrect. Just as the “China virus” should be called SARS-CoV-2 or the novel coronavirus, so too should new variants be described by their proper nomenclature: B.1.1.7, not “U.K. variant” and P.1, not the “Brazilian variant.”

Read the entire article by Katie Baca and Susana Bejar in STAT here.

‘What other variants might be out there?’ An expert on viral evolution on what’s happening with coronavirus mutations

February 8, 2021 Researchers like Emma Hodcroft, a molecular epidemiologist at the University of Bern, have been looking out for genetic changes to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic. The virus, like any virus, has picked up mutations as it spread, but it’s only been in the past few months that it has been altered in ways that could dramatically shift the dynamics of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Read the entire interview by Andrew Joseph in STAT here.

COVID-19: Its Effect on Specific Groups

February 6, 2021 This 7-unit course highlights 5 articles that describe the impact of COVID-19 on specific communities and groups: households, African-American communities, African American churches, Indigenous Peoples and communities, and men. It describes why crowded indoor environments with sustained close contact, such as households, are particularly high-risk settings.

Photos of 4 people for the COVID inclusion diversity group. 

It outlines why African Americans, compared with all other racial/ethnic groups, are more likely to contract COVID-19, be hospitalized for it, and die of the disease. It suggests strategies to promote emergency preparedness during the pandemic among African American churches, and discusses why the pandemic has disproportionally affected Indigenous Peoples. Finally, it notes that more men than women are dying of coronavirus disease worldwide, and attempts to understand why. 

Read the course here.

Which Masks are Better for COVID-19?

A chart showing which masks are better for COVID. 
Source: preventepidemics.org

Prevent Epidemics

February 5, 2021 PreventEpidemics.org by Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, is the world's first website to provide clear and concise country-level data on epidemic preparedness and the ability to find, stop, and prevent epidemics.

Excellent website!

Should you get the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant? Here's what experts say.

February 5, 2021 Pregnant people might hesitate to get vaccinated because there’s no data on how it works for them. Medical experts lay out what is known and how each person can weigh their own risks and benefits.

Read the entire article by Amy McKeever in National Geographic Science here.

With a seductive number, AstraZeneca study fueled hopes that eclipsed its data

February 3, 2021 A new paper released this week suggested that a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University not only protected clinical trial participants from developing disease, but also may significantly reduce transmission of the virus that causes the disease.

In the recent burst of data on Covid-19 vaccines, that suggestion stood out. The question of whether Covid-19 vaccines reduce transmission has been a critical and unanswered one, creating uncertainty over whether people who have been vaccinated will still be able to be infected by and transmit onward SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid, to those who have not yet been vaccinated. 

Read the entire article by Matthew Herper and Helen Branswell in STAT here.

Kids don’t need Covid-19 vaccines to return to school

February 3, 2021 The notion is out there that public school students should not return to in-person learning until they’ve been vaccinated. That proposition worries me. Here are five reasons why schools can and should open at 100% capacity before a vaccine for those under age 16 is available.

Three kids walking to school.

Read the entire article by Vinay Prasad in STAT here.

Comparing the Covid-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson

February 2, 2021 Last Friday, Johnson & Johnson announced that a one-dose vaccine being developed by its vaccines division, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, had been shown to be 66% protective against moderate to severe Covid infection in a multicountry study. But, importantly, it was 85% effective in protecting against severe disease. And there were no hospitalizations or deaths among people in the vaccine arm of a large clinical trial. 

Read the entire article by Helen Branswell in STAT here.

Eric Topol: a Favorite Source of Evidence-Based Information

January 29, 2021 Eric Topol is the Founder and Director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, Professor of Molecular Medicine, and Executive Vice-President of Scripps Research.

Visit Eric Topol's website here

J&J one-dose Covid vaccine is 66% effective, a weapon but not a knockout punch

January 29, 2021 Johnson & Johnson said Friday that its single-dose Covid-19 vaccine reduced rates of moderate and severe disease, but the shot appeared less effective in South Africa, where a new coronavirus variant has become common.

Read the entire article by Matthew Herper in STAT here.

Lasting immunity found after recovery from COVID-19

January 26, 2021 The immune systems of more than 95% of people who recovered from COVID-19 had durable memories of the virus up to eight months after infection. The results provide hope that people receiving SARS-CoV-2 vaccines will develop similar lasting immune memories after vaccination.

Read the entire article from the National Institutes of Health here.

Undercounting of Covid-19 deaths is greatest in pro-Trump areas, analysis shows

January 25, 2021 Tens of thousands of Covid-19 deaths are going unreported in the U.S., with far more missed in counties that strongly supported former President Trump, according to new research.

Read the entire article by Olivia Goldhill in STAT here.

Shots Heard Round the World

January 24, 2020 A private, thoroughly vetted, proudly evidence-based, rapid response network dedicated to combating anti-vaccine attacks on the social media pages, web sites, and review sites of providers, practices, hospitals, and whole health systems. If you stand up for vaccine science, we’ll stand up for you.

Shots Heard Round the World graphic.

Access Shots Heard Round the World here.

With painstaking effort, Black doctors’ group takes aim at Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy

January 22, 2021 In September, after the Food and Drug Administration authorized certain Covid-19 treatments based more on presidential puffery than on clinical data, some physicians decided to take matters into their own hands. Specifically, the National Medical Association, a professional society of African American doctors, formed its own in-house FDA to vet the data when the official one seemed not to be. At first, the task force was framed as a stand-in — another instance in the long history of Black leaders stepping in where the government had failed. And eventually, its members did review the results and endorse the emergency authorizations for both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines.

Read the entire article by Eric Boodman in STAT here.

Biden, in inaugural address, pledges the U.S. ‘can overcome’ Covid-19

January 20, 2021 Biden’s new administration, which has pledged that scientists and public health leaders will shape pandemic-response policy, is set to spend the day issuing a flurry of executive orders aimed at shifting the U.S. response to Covid-19. Chief among them: a long-expected move to remain part of the World Health Organization.

A photo of Joe Biden at his inaugural on Jan. 20, 2021. Patrick Semansky, POOL/AP

Read the entire article by Lev Facher in STAT here.

What we now know — and don’t know — about the coronavirus variants

January 19, 2021 The coronavirus variants are, in a word, confusing. By now, you have likely heard about different variants that first raised trouble in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, and now maybe California — though the jury is very much out on whether that last one is cause for concern. To make a messy alphabet soup even more jumbled, these variants have unwieldy names, and they each contain mutations with unwieldy names of their own.

Read the entire article by Andrew Joseph in STAT here.

Covid-19 deaths are the highest they’ve ever been — and the more infectious variants could make things much worse

January 15, 2021 They’ve raced through South Africa, the United Kingdom, and, increasingly, elsewhere, and now, new, more infectious variants of the coronavirus have gained toeholds in the United States. If they take off here — which, with their transmission advantages, they will, unless Americans rapidly put a brake on their spread — it will detonate something of a bomb in the already deep, deep hole the country must dig out of to end the crisis.

An illustration of COVID-19 virus particles.

Read the entire article by Andrew Joseph in STAT News here

Watch: How — and why — coronaviruses mutate

January 14, 2021 Like all viruses, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is mutating all the time. Recently some concerning mutations have emerged: the B.1.1.7 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom, which is thought to be approximately 50% more contagious, and the B.1.351 variant first seen in South Africa, which may also have potential to decrease the efficacy of vaccines. These variants are not believed to lead to more serious disease, but a more transmissible virus can put even more stress on an already overloaded health care system, and ultimately lead to more deaths.

Watch the video from STAT News here.

The new silicone elastometric half-piece respirator, VJR-NMU: A novel and effective tool to prevent COVID-19

January 13, 2021 A silicone N99 mask, named VJR-NMU N99 half-piece respirators. The VJR-NMU N99 respirators surpassed the expected levels of protection, and can be useful in the context of a global shortage of PPE. This is the first version of the masks, and further modifications are needed to improve user friendliness and provide adequate protection.

COVID N-99 Respirator

Biden’s Covid-19 team reconsiders pandemic plan in light of more infectious coronavirus variants

January 13, 2021 President-elect Biden will address growing concerns about new, more transmissible coronavirus variants as he lays out his plans to speed up the sluggish U.S. vaccine rollout in a press conference this week.

Read the entire article by Lev Facher in STAT here.

We lost to SARS-CoV-2 in 2020. We can defeat B-117 in 2021

January 12, 2021 We are barely a week into 2021 and already there are urgent warnings about a novel pandemic virus strain spreading surreptitiously and exponentially across the world.

This seems like déjà vu. But in a sense that’s a good thing: This is not just another chapter in the exhausting saga of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, which newly available vaccines will slowly bring under control.

Humanity wasn’t remotely prepared for our struggle with SARS-Cov-2 when it emerged late in 2019. So we lost to it.

A cell heavily infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus. A cell heavily infected with SARS-CoV-2. NIAID

Read the entire article by Kevin Esvelt and Marc Lipsitch in STAT here

Genetic Variants of SARS-CoV-2—What Do They Mean?

January 9, 2021 Over the course of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, the clinical, scientific, and public health communities have had to respond to new viral genetic variants. Each one has triggered a flurry of media attention, a range of reactions from the scientific community, and calls from governments to either “stay calm” or pursue immediate countermeasures. While many scientists were initially skeptical about the significance of the D614G alteration, the emergence of the new “UK variant”—lineage B.1.1.7—has raised widespread concern. Understanding which variants are concerning, and why, requires an appreciation of virus evolution and the genomic epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2.

Read the entire article by Adam S. Lauring, MD and Emma B. Hodcroft, PhD in JAMA here.

CDC reports more allergic reactions to Covid-19 vaccines, but cases remain few

January 8, 2020 Twenty-nine people in the United States have developed anaphylaxis after being vaccinated against Covid-19 since the vaccine rollout began, health officials reported Wednesday, with cases occurring after vaccination using both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines.

Gloved hand holding a vaccine bottle.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at present it looks like anaphylaxis cases are occurring at a rate of about 5.5 per 1 million vaccine doses given, though the agency cautioned that figure may change as the vaccination effort continues.

Read the entire article by Helen Branswell in STAT News here.

January 5, 2021 Nancy Messonnier, a top federal health official involved in the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, predicted on Tuesday that delays in the administration of the shots would improve soon, even as public health experts have piled up complaints about the slow rollout and about the gap between the number of doses distributed versus those actually going into people’s arms.

Nancy Messonnier, MD, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Source: NCIRD

Read the entire article by Andrew Joseph in STAT News here.

Britain takes a gamble with Covid-19 vaccines, upping the stakes for the rest of us

January 4, 2020 In an extraordinary time, British health authorities are taking extraordinary measures to beat back Covid-19. But some experts say that, in doing so, they are also taking a serious gamble.

In recent days, the British have said they will stretch out the interval between the administration of the two doses required for Covid-19 vaccines already in use — potentially to as long as three months, instead of the recommended three or four weeks. And they have said they will permit the first dose and second dose for any one person to be from different vaccine manufacturers, if the matching vaccine is not available.

Read the entire article by Helen Branswell in STAT here.

New COVID-19 Courses on ATrain Education

  1. An African American husband, wife, and 2 children.  African American Communities and COVID-19
  2. Houses in a neighborhood.  Household Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)
  3. FAITH logo.Leveraging African American Church Participation to Address COVID-19
  4. A photo of a man.  Men and COVID: Understanding Sex Differences

Peer-reviewed report on Moderna COVID-19 vaccine publishes

December 30, 2020 The investigational vaccine known as mRNA-1273 was 94.1% efficacious in preventing symptomatic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to preliminary results from a Phase 3 clinical trial. The vaccine also demonstrated efficacy in preventing severe COVID-19. Investigators identified no safety concerns and no evidence of vaccine-associated enhanced respiratory disease.

Anthony Fauci receiving a COVID vaccine. 
Anthony Fauci receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Source: NIH.

Read the entire article NIAID here.

Phase 3 trial of Novavax investigational COVID-19 vaccine opens

December 28, 2020 NIH- and BARDA-funded trial will enroll up to 30,000 volunteers.

Read the entire article in NIH News Releases here.

Little certain about UK COVID variant except continued spread

December 24, 2020 The new, highly mutated SARS-CoV-2 strain circulating in the United Kingdom is likely already sowing COVID-19 around the world, scientists say, fueling worries about recent surges that have swamped hospitals and whether it can thwart currently authorized vaccines.

A scan of a cell infected with coronavirus particles.

Read the entire article by Mary Van Beusekom in CIDRAP News and Perspective here.

Beware the Danger of "Vaccine Euphoria"

December 23, 2020 The advent of Covid-19 vaccines is a medical miracle, yet also a tantalizing and dangerous psychological milestone: It’s not the beginning of the end of the pandemic but, more likely, “the end of the beginning,” to borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill. The first day of distribution of vaccine in the United States illustrated the point. California accepted its initial delivery of 33,150 doses, just as it was beginning to average more than that number of new coronavirus cases every day."

Such realities, though grim, have been easy to overlook. Exuberant headlines about vaccines — Now two! Millions more doses! — have grabbed attention, as have rightfully joyous social media photos of healthcare workers receiving their inoculations.

“We get so kind of blinded by vaccine euphoria — the light at the end of the tunnel — that we underestimate how long that tunnel is, and how dangerous that tunnel is,” said Peter Sands, executive director of the Swiss-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has expanded its mission to combat Covid.

Read the entire article by Todd S. Purdom in STAT here.  

A side-by-side comparison of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines

December 22, 2020 What follows is a head-to-head comparison of the ones developed by Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, and by Moderna. Note that the chances of most individuals being able to “pick” one or the other are slim to none, especially in the initial rollout. The vaccine available is the one you’ll get.

Read the entire article by Helen Branswell in STAT here

Why it matters that the coronavirus is changing – and what this means for vaccine effectiveness

December 22, 2020 A new variant of SARS-CoV-2 is spreading rapidly in the United Kingdom, with over 1,400 cases since September. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, generally accumulates mutations slowly over time, but this new variant had accumulated many mutations quickly.

An illustration of COVID spike proteins. As the spike proteins on the surface the SARS-CoV-2 virus mutate the shape changes, which may affect the ability of the coronavirus to infect cells. Tharun15/iStock via The Conversation

Read the entire article by David Kennedy in The Conversation here.

A ‘duty to warn’: An ER doctor, shaped by war and hardship, chronicles the searing realities of Covid-19

December 21, 2020 As a Marine combat medic in Iraq’s Al-Anbar province, Cleavon Gilman saw bodies torn apart by IEDs. He heard agonizing screams, saw burned flesh and penetrating trauma. He stood in pools of blood, tending to fellow Marines with severed spinal cords, missing limbs, and intestines bulging through gaping wounds. He emptied the pockets of the dead, collecting baby pictures and ultrasound photos, removed dog tags, and stacked bodies, sometimes two and three at a time, into refrigerated trailers. He still has PTSD, though he returned from the war 16 years ago. Even so, that experience did not prepare him for the coronavirus.

A photo of Cleavon Gilman, MD.

Read the entire article by Usha Lee McFarling in STAT here. Source: Emergency Medicine Residents' Association

I wear a facemask because...

December 19, 2020. Source: CDC.

FDA grants authorization to Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, the second in the U.S.

December 18, 2020 The Food and Drug Administration on Friday issued an emergency authorization for a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Moderna, the second such vaccine to be cleared in the United States. Inoculations should begin within days, as was the case following last week’s authorization of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.

Read more about this momentous event in an article by Matthew Herper in STAT here.

The story of mRNA: How a once-dismissed idea became a leading technology in the Covid vaccine race

December 18, 2020 Before messenger RNA was a multibillion-dollar idea, it was a scientific backwater. And for the Hungarian-born scientist behind a key mRNA discovery, it was a career dead-end.

A photo of Katalin Karikó, an mRNA scientist.

Read entire article by Damian Garde in STAT here. Photo source: Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0.

10 reasons why Anthony Fauci was ready to be the face of the US pandemic response

December 17, 2020 Although perhaps only recently a household name, Fauci is no Tony-come-lately. Over the past four decades he’s played prominent roles as a scientist, physician, administrator and spokesman. You know what he’s been up to over the past several months. But what of his previous nearly 80 years? And what made him the figure he has become?

A photo of Anthony Fauci.

Read the article in The Conversation here.

'Like a Hand Grasping': Trump Appointees Describe the Crushing of the CDC

December 16, 2020 “Everyone wants to describe the day that the light switch flipped and the CDC was sidelined. It didn’t happen that way,” McGowan said. “It was more of like a hand grasping something, and it slowly closes, closes, closes, closes until you realize that, middle of the summer, it has a complete grasp on everything at the CDC.”

A photo of CDC headquarters.

Read the article by Noah Weiland in Yahoo News here.

Factors Associated with Positive SARS-CoV-2 Test Results in Outpatient Health Facilities and Emergency Departments Among Children and Adolescents Aged <18 Years — Mississippi, September–November 2020

December 15, 2020 Among children and adolescents aged <18 years in Mississippi, close contact with persons with COVID-19 and gatherings with persons outside the household and lack of consistent mask use in school were associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection, whereas attending school or child care was not associated with receiving positive SARS-CoV-2 test results.

Close contacts with persons with COVID-19 and gatherings contribute to SARS-CoV-2 infections in children and adolescents. Consistent use of face masks and social distancing continue to be important to prevent COVID-19 spread.

Where children are more likely to contract COVID.

Read the article by Hobbs et al., in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report here. Source: MMWR, December 15, 2020

“It feels like a beginning of the end.”-Christy, MICU nurse at U of U Health and first front line worker to get vaccinated in the state of Utah.

University of Utah nurse receiving a COVID vaccine.

December 15, 2020 “Lots of emotions. Excitement, joy. I’m still trying to process it all," says Christy Mulder, a MICU nurse 
@UofUHealth
 - ‘An overwhelming day’ as health care workers receive Utah’s first doses of COVID-19 vaccine

NIH-funded COVID-19 home test is first to receive over-the-counter authorization from FDA

December 15, 2020 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization (EUA) on December 15, 2020 for an innovative COVID-19 viral antigen test developed with support from the RADx Initiative. Ellume USA designed the test for use at home without a prescription. This is the first EUA awarded for an at-home COVID test that can be purchased over the counter.  Ellume developed the test with a $30 million contract and technical support from the RADx Tech program, managed by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, part of NIH.

FDA-approved COVID-19 home test kit.

Read the entire press release from NIH here. For more information about COVID-19 testing, please click here to see our COVID-19 CEU course. 

The COVID-19 vaccines rush: participatory community engagement matters more than ever

December 14, 2020 The announcement of effective and safe vaccines for COVID-19 has been greeted with enthusiasm. Discussions continue about the ethical challenges of ensuring fair access to COVID-19 vaccines within and across countries, and which groups should be prioritised. There are concerns about equity in access to COVID-19 vaccines. Estimates as of Dec 2, 2020, suggest direct purchase agreements have allowed high-income countries to secure nearly 4 billion confirmed COVID-19 vaccine doses, compared with 2·7 billion secured by upper and lower middle-income countries. Without such agreements, low-income countries would probably have to rely on COVAX, which would achieve only 20% vaccination coverage.

Read the entire article by Burgess et al in The Lancet here.

The coronavirus at 1: A year into the pandemic, what scientists know about how it spreads, infects, and sickens 

December 14, 2020 It’s dangerous enough that it dispatches patients to hospitals in droves and has killed more than 1.6 million people, but mild enough that most people shrug it off. It blocks one arm of the immune system from responding as it takes hold, but lures other parts into dangerous hyperdrive. It homes in on cells high up in the airway — think the nose and throat — but also burrows deeper into the lungs, maximizing infectiousness without ceding how sick it can make people.

“It’s sort of right in that sweet spot,” said Kristian Andersen, an infectious disease expert at Scripps Research Institute.

Read the entire article by Andrew Joseph in STAT here.

FDA grants historic authorization to a Covid-19 vaccine, setting stage for rollout

December 11, 2020 The Food and Drug Administration on Friday issued an emergency authorization for a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, a seminal moment in the effort to curb a pandemic that has so far infected an estimated 16 million people and killed nearly 300,000 in the United States.

Read the entire article by Helen Branswell in STAT here.

Baricitinib plus remdesivir shows promise for treating COVID-19

December 11, 2020 The combination of baricitinib, an anti-inflammatory drug, and remdesivir, an antiviral, reduced time to recovery for people hospitalized with COVID-19, according to clinical trial results published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

A cell heavily infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (yellow).

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of a cell heavily infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (yellow), isolated from a patient sample. Source: NIAID.

Read the entire article from the National Institutes of Health here

FDA advisory panel endorses Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

December 10, 2020 A panel of outside experts on Thursday recommended the Food and Drug Administration issue an emergency use authorization to the Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, a vaccine that appeared to be highly efficacious in a Phase 3 clinical trial.

Read the entire article in STAT here.

Secretary of the Army Announces New Policy of Zero Tolerance for Sexual Harassment

December 8, 2020 Following an investigation into harassment at Ft. Hood in Texas, Secretary of the Army Ryan D McCarthy stated that it had found “major flaws” at Ft. Hood and a command climate “that was permissive of sexual harassment and sexual assault.” He ordered that 14 officials, including several high-ranking leaders, be relieved of command or suspended and vowed sweeping reform that would extend far beyond Ft. Hood to affect more than 1 million soldiers and Army civilians nationwide. Mr. McCarthy invited those who don’t trust the chain of command to go directly to him.

Read the entire article by Sarah Mervosh and John Ismay in The New York Times here.

On the ground, the pledge to vaccinate 20 million against Covid-19 in December seems unrealistic

December 7, 2020 Hospitals across the United States are preparing for a Covid-19 vaccine distribution timeline that’s well behind official government targets as they face ongoing confusion about the process for inoculating frontline employees.

Read the entire article by Olivia Goldhill in STAT here.

‘There absolutely will be a black market’: How the rich and privileged can skip the line for Covid-19 vaccines

December 3, 2020 Athletes, politicians, and other wealthy or well-connected people have managed to get special treatment throughout the pandemic, including preferential access to testing and unapproved therapies. Early access to coronavirus vaccines is likely to be no different, medical experts and ethicists told STAT. It could happen in any number of ways, they said: fudging the definition of “essential workers” or “high-risk” conditions, lobbying by influential industries, physicians caving to pressure to keep their patients happy, and even through outright bribery or theft.

A roll of 100-dollar bills. 

Read the entire article by Olivia Goldhill and Nicholas St. Fleur in STAT here.

The Covid-19 vaccines are a marvel of science. Here’s how we can make the best use of them

December 2, 2020 Two vaccines developed with stunning speed — and showing remarkable initial efficacy — are poised to be approved for emergency use in the United States in December. A number of other vaccines are expected to follow.

Read the entire article by Helen Branswell in STAT here.

How nanotechnology helps mRNA Covid-19 vaccines work

December 1, 2020 Lipid nanoparticles are the fatty molecular envelopes that help strands of mRNA — the genetic messenger for making DNA code into proteins — evade the body’s biological gatekeepers and reach their target cell without being degraded. They are enabling some of the most advanced technologies being used in vaccines and drugs.

COVID Nanotechnology An illustration of a nanoparticle delivering its contents directly into a cancer cell. Source: National Cancer Institute

Read the entire article by Elizabeth Cooney in STAT here.

The PPE crisis didn’t go away: Across the U.S., grassroots supply networks are trying to fill the void

December 1, 2020 The failure of the federal government to procure adequate protective equipment for frontline workers is an ongoing tragedy. At the same time, a grassroots movement including organizations like Get Us PPE is trying to fill the void. With the pandemic projected to worsen in the coming months, the question is whether it will be enough.

A photo of a person's hands showing gloves and gown. Photo: CDC

Read the entire article by Irena Hwang in STAT here.

Data show hospitalized Covid-19 patients are surviving at higher rates, but surge in cases could roll back gains

November 23, 2020 Patients hospitalized with Covid-19 are surviving at higher rates than in the early days of the pandemic, gains that data and interviews with experts suggest are driven by a more refined understanding of the disease and how to treat it — and, crucially, less strain on hospitals that had been inundated at times. But clinicians warn that this progress won’t withstand what happens when crushes of patients again overwhelm hospitals, as is now occurring in dozens of U.S. states. With the country setting new records of hospitalizations daily, care is getting threatened, and death rates — not just deaths — could increase.

Read the entire article by Andrew Joseph in STAT here.

With strong data on two Covid-19 vaccines, we have more answers about the road ahead--and questions too

Novermber 16, 2020 Moderna, joined by U.S. government scientists, announced Monday that their mRNA vaccine candidate was 94.5% effective in preventing Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to an interim analysis of a 30,000-patient clinical trial. The news comes exactly one week after Pfizer and BioNTech said their respective Covid-19 vaccine candidate, also created using mRNA technology, was more than 90% effective in its own 60,000-patient clinical trial.

A 3D print of the COVID-19 spike protein. 3D print of a spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in front of a 3D print of a SARS-CoV-2 virus particle. The spike protein (foreground) enables the virus to enter and infect human cells. On the virus model, the virus surface (blue) is covered with spike proteins (red) that enable the virus to enter and infect human cells. NIH

Read the entire article by Adam Feuerstein, Damian Garde, and Andrew Joseph in STAT here.

Why a COVID-19 vaccine could further imperil deep-sea sharks

November 13, 2020 Shark liver oil helps make vaccines more effective, but increased demand for the substance could harm critically endangered species.

Bigeyed Sixgill Shark Photo by Jean-Lou Justine - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Read the entire article by Justin Meneguzzi in National Geographic here.

Press Conference: The Airborne Transmission of COVID-19

November 9, 2020 During the American Association for Aerosol Research's (AAAR) 38th Annual Conference, scientists convene to share insights on the airborne spread of the novel coronavirus.

Listen to the video here.Gilead faces pressure to relinquish valuable FDA voucher awarded with remdesivir approval

November 2, 2020 A prominent advocacy group is asking Gilead Sciences (GILD) to relinquish a valuable voucher that came with Food and Drug Administration approval of its remdesivir treatment for Covid-19, arguing the voucher is “an entirely unnecessary and an inappropriate incentive” for a drug that has “limited” effectiveness and is already generating huge profits.

Read the entire article by Ed Silverman in STAT here.

Preventing the Spread of SARS-CoV-2 With Masks and Other “Low-tech” Interventions

October 31, 2020 Modalities in the combination prevention “toolbox” against the spread of SARS-CoV-2 include wearing masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene, prompt testing (along with isolation and contact tracing), and limits on crowds and gatherings. If a vaccine has only moderate efficacy, or if vaccine uptake is low, these other modalities will be even more critical.

Six people wearing masks.

Read the entire article by Lerner, Folkers, and Fauci in JAMA Network here.

NIH scientists discover key pathway in lysosomes that coronaviruses use to exit cells

October 28, 2020 Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have discovered a biological pathway that the novel coronavirus appears to use to hijack and exit cells as it spreads through the body. A better understanding of this important pathway may provide vital insight in stopping the transmission of the virus.

An illustration of the process by which the coronavirus exits a healthy cell. Illustration courtesy of NIH Medical Arts

Read the article from the National Institutes of Health here.

Video: mRNA vaccines face their first test in the fight against Covid-19. How do they work?

October 26, 2020 Messenger RNA may not be as famous as its cousin, DNA, but it’s having a moment in the spotlight. This crucial intermediary in the protein-making process is now being harnessed by scientists to to try to protect us from disease — including Covid-19.

Watch the video (2:02) by Hyacinth Empinado on STAT here.

Remdesivir’s hefty price tag ignores NIH investment in its creation

October 22, 2020 These are huge dollar figures that companies are not accounting for when establishing a fair market price. Their discoveries simply would not be possible without the basic science laying the foundation.

A bottle containing the antiviral drug Remdesivir. Source: Gilead Sciences

Read the entire article by Ekaterina Cleary in STAT here.

‘At a breaking point’: New surge of Covid-19 cases has states, hospitals scrambling, yet again

October 20, 2020 As hospitalizations for Covid-19 inch up around the country, some states are readying plans for field hospitals. Communities are delaying reopening plans and even imposing new measures, though some governors remain opposed to additional restrictions. Deaths — currently standing about 220,000 — have not surged again yet, but that might just be a matter of time.

A patient room in a field hospital in Atlantic City, NJ.A patient room in a field hospital in Atlantic City, NJ. Source: CC BY-NC 2.0.

Read the entire article by Andrew Joseph in STAT here.

Answering Key Questions About COVID-19 Vaccines

October 16, 2020 The US government is investing in rapid development of vaccines against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), several relying on new technologies.1 In the US, 4 vaccine candidates are in phase 3 studies with initial results expected soon. If studies succeed, 1 or more vaccines may become available within a few months.

A researcher holding a vaccine bottle in a gloved hand. Source: NIH.

Read the entire article by Goodman, Grabenstein, and Braun in JAMA Network here.

Coronavirus in the U.S.: Where cases are growing and declining

October 12, 2020 Nationwide, cases are flourishing in 28 states and territories, as the early days of October have seen the national tally steadily rise above 50,000 new cases per day. The autumn surge is even creeping into pockets of the Northeast, zones long thought recovered, in another sign that the country remains far from achieving herd immunity without an effective vaccine. At the current pace, the nation will surpass eight million cases by October 17 and could easily reach 300,000 deaths before the new year. The pandemic has already claimed nearly twice as many American lives as those lost in every U.S-involved conflict since World War II combined.

Read the entire article in National Geographic Science here.

For many of Washington’s most powerful, Covid-19 public health guidance does not apply

October 5, 2020 “Public officials who know they have been exposed to the virus and should be in quarantine are either displaying blatant arrogance or numbing ignorance,” Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy, told STAT.

President Trump Nominates Judge Amy Coney Barrett for Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

President Trump Nominates Judge Amy Coney Barrett for Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Source: Public domain CC PDM 1.0.

Read the entire article by Helen Branswell in STAT here.

NIH to assess and expand COVID-19 testing for underserved communities

September 30, 2020 The National Institutes of Health has awarded nearly $234 million to improve COVID-19 testing for underserved and vulnerable populations. A part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, the RADx Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program will support 32 institutions across the United States and will focus on populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic. These groups include African Americans, American Indians/Alaskan Natives, Latinos/Latinas, Native Hawaiians, older adults, pregnant women and those who are homeless or incarcerated.

A doctor interviewing a patient for COIVD symptoms.

Read the entire article at NIH here.

The Road Ahead: Charting the coronavirus pandemic over the next 12 months — and beyond

September 22, 2020 So many challenges still lie ahead. Flu season. An ongoing child care quandary. A tumultuous election and potential transition of power. Whoever wins, we’ll need them to shepherd a vaccine rollout — a logistical and public relations campaign without (here’s that word again) precedent.

COVID-19 The Road Ahead Illustration by Mike Reddy for STAT

Read the entire article by Andrew Joseph in STAT here.

Pandemic isolation has killed thousands of Alzheimer’s patients while families watch from afar

September 16, 2020 Beyond the staggering U.S. deaths caused directly by the novel coronavirus, more than 134,200 people have died from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia since March. That is 13,200 more U.S. deaths caused by dementia than expected, compared with previous years, according to an analysis of federal data by The Washington Post.

Old woman looking out window.

Read the entire article by William Wan in The Washington Post here.

COVID-19 Pandemic: A World in Turmoil

September 15, 2020 ATrain Education offers a comprehensive, 10 contact hour course addressing the pressing need to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic started; the chain of infection; R Naught (R0, the basic reproduction number); the reason the USA can’t look forward to herd immunity; the status of testing and vaccines; the reasons for public health directives; the history of coronaviruses; and the dire impacts of the virus on minority populations.

An illustration of the structure of the COVID-19 virus.

Access the course by JoAnn O'Toole, RN, BSN, Lauren Robertson, BA, MPT, and Nancy Evans, BS here.

Substance use disorders linked to COVID-19 susceptibility

September 14, 2020 A National Institutes of Health-funded study found that people with substance use disorders (SUDs) are more susceptible to COVID-19 and its complications. The findings suggest that health care providers should closely monitor patients with SUDs and develop action plans to help shield them from infection and severe outcomes.

An image of COVID-19 and how addiction affects the brain.

Read the entire news release from the National Institutes of Health here.

Fauci warns that Labor Day celebrations could drive Covid-19 spikes

September 4, 2020 If people once again celebrate without precautions, it could upend the progress the U.S. is making in reducing Covid-19 infections and leave the nation in a more precarious position as it approaches the fall, the country’s top infectious disease specialist said in an interview Friday.

Read the entire article by Andrew Joseph in STAT here.

Inexpensive steroids reduce deaths of hospitalized Covid-19 patients, WHO analysis confirms

September 2, 2020 Use of inexpensive, readily available steroid drugs to treat people hospitalized with Covid-19 reduced the risk of death by one-third, according to an analysis encompassing seven different clinical trials conducted by the World Health Organization and published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dexamethasone

Read the entire article by Adam Feuerstein in STAT here.

Scientists are reporting several cases of Covid-19 reinfection — but the implications are complicated

August 28, 2020 Whether it’s six months after the first infection or nine months or a year or longer, at some point, protection for most people who recover from Covid-19 is expected to wane. And without the arrival of a vaccine and broad uptake of it, that could change the dynamics of local outbreaks.

Neutralizing antibodies bound to a COVID SARS-CoV-2 virion. Neutralizing antibodies (blue, purple, orange) bound to the receptor binding domain on a SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Christopher O. Barnes and Pamela J. Bjorkman, California Institute of Technology.

Read the entire article by Andrew Joseph in STAT here.

Four scenarios on how we might develop immunity to Covid-19

August 25, 2020 As the world wearies of trying to suppress the SARS-CoV-2 virus, many of us are wondering what the future will look like as we try to learn to live with it. Will it always have the capacity to make us so sick? Will our immune systems learn — and remember — how to cope with the new threat? Will vaccines be protective and long-lasting?

Read the entire article by Helen Branswell in STAT here.

Dozens of COVID-19 vaccines are in development. Here are the ones to follow.

August 21, 2020 Here are the COVID-19 vaccine prospects that have made it to phase three trials and beyond.

Person getting a vaccine.

Read the entire article by Amy McKeever in National Geographic here.

Seven months later, what we know about Covid-19 — and the pressing questions that remain

August 17, 2020 The “before times” seem like a decade ago, don’t they? Those carefree days when hugging friends and shaking hands wasn’t verboten, when we didn’t have to reach for a mask before leaving our homes, or forage for supplies of hand sanitizer. Oh, for the days when social distancing wasn’t part of our vernacular.

Read the entire article by Andrew Joseph, Helen Branswell, and Elizabeth Cooney in STAT here.

What 'airborne coronavirus' means, and how to protect yourself

August 11, 2020 The COVID-19 pandemic has revived a decades-old debate about how respiratory diseases travel—which affects the safety practices experts recommend.

Droplets from a man sneezing.

Read the entire article by Maya Wei-Haas in National Geographic here.

How the Pandemic Defeated America: A virus has brought the world’s most powerful country to its knees.

August 4, 2020 How did it come to this? A virus a thousand times smaller than a dust mote has humbled and humiliated the planet’s most powerful nation. America has failed to protect its people, leaving them with illness and financial ruin. It has lost its status as a global leader. It has careened between inaction and ineptitude. The breadth and magnitude of its errors are difficult, in the moment, to truly fathom.

COVID-19 Cases in U.S.

Read the entire story by Ed Yong in The Atlantic here.

Anthony Fauci Explains Why the US Still Hasn’t Beaten Covid

July 29, 2020 The director of NIAID talks about vaccines, school reopenings, hostility toward science, and the lessons we’ll learn when (yes, when) we recover.

Anthony Fauci 2 Credit: NIAID, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Read the entire article by Steven Levy in Wired here.

Phase 3 clinical trial of investigational vaccine for COVID-19 begins

July 27, 2020 A Phase 3 clinical trial designed to evaluate if an investigational vaccine can prevent symptomatic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in adults has begun. The vaccine, known as mRNA-1273, was co-developed by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company Moderna, Inc., and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The trial, which will be conducted at U.S. clinical research sites, is expected to enroll approximately 30,000 adult volunteers who do not have COVID-19.

Three scientists examining a test tube.

Read the entire article at NIH here.

NIH leadership details unprecedented initiative to ramp up testing technologies for COVID-19

July 22, 2020 RADx efforts seek to create capacity for 6 million daily tests by the end of 2020, address underserved populations.

Lab worker testing for SARS.

Read the entire article here.

Trump said more Covid-19 testing ‘creates more cases.’ We did the math

July 20, 2020 In a June 15 tweet, President Trump said testing “makes us look bad.” At his campaign rally in Tulsa five days later, he said he had asked his “people” to “slow the testing down, please.” At a White House press conference last week, he told reporters, “When you test, you create cases.”

Lab worker with testing swab.

Read the entire article by Sharon Begley in STAT here.

A New Understanding of Herd Immunity

July 13, 2020 The concept of herd immunity comes from vaccination policy, in which it’s used to calculate the number of people who need to be vaccinated in order to ensure the safety of the population. But a coronavirus vaccine is still far off, and last month, Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that, because of a “general anti-science, anti-authority, anti-vaccine feeling,” the U.S. is “unlikely” to achieve herd immunity even after a vaccine is available.

Read the entire article by James Hamblin in The Atlantic here.

Pathophysiology, Transmission, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 2019

July 10, 2020 As of July 1, 2020, SARS-CoV-2 has affected more than 200 countries, resulting in more than 10 million identified cases with 508 000 confirmed deaths. This review summarizes current evidence regarding pathophysiology, transmission, diagnosis, and management of COVID-19.

COVID infecting a healthy cell.

Read the entire review by Wiersing and colleagues in JAMA here.

Data show panic and disorganization dominate the study of Covid-19 drugs

July 6, 2020 In a gigantic feat of scientific ambition, researchers have designed a staggering 1,200 clinical trials aimed at testing treatment and prevention strategies against Covid-19 since the start of January. But a new STAT analysis shows the effort has been marked by disorder and disorganization, with huge financial resources wasted.

Read the article by Matthew Herper and Erin Riglin in STAT here.

How scientists know COVID-19 is way deadlier than the flu

July 2, 2020 After months of study, scientists have better clarity on the coronavirus's lethal potential—which makes recent case surges all the more alarming.

Novel coronavirus.

Read the full article by Carrie Arnold in National Geographic here.

A User's Guide To Masks: What's Best At Protecting Others (And Yourself)

July 1, 2020 A growing body of evidence supports the idea that wearing face masks in public, even when you feel well, can help curb the spread of the coronavirus — since people can spread the virus even without showing symptoms. That's the main reason to wear a mask: to protect other people from you.

A selection of cloth masks.

See the entire article by Maria Gody here.

Video and Article: It’s not just the lungs: The Covid-19 virus attacks like no other ‘respiratory’ infection

June 26, 2020 This coronavirus “has such a diversity of effects on so many different organs, it keeps us up at night,” said Thomas McGinn, deputy physician in chief at Northwell Health and director of the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. “It’s amazing how many different ways it affects the body.”

Coronavirus image.

Watch the video and read the accompanying article by Sharon Begley at STAT here.

CDC broadens guidance on Americans facing risk of severe Covid-19

June 25, 2020 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday broadened its warning about who is at risk of developing severe disease from Covid-19 infection, suggesting even younger people who are obese or have other health conditions can become seriously ill if they contract the virus.

Read entire article by Helen Branswell in STAT here.

Dikos Ntsaaígíí-19 (COVID-19) Frontline Heroes

June 20, 2020 Sheila Bedoni: Navajo Department of Health Community Health Worker Supervisor. Her team covers a rugged, rural region, with many residents living at least an hour by car from a paved road or health services. The Navajo Department of Health Community Health Workers are frequently the sole lifeline to food, water, and wellness checks for many high-risk and elderly residents; a responsibility that Sheila and her team don’t take lightly.

Sheila Bedoni, Navajo Department of Health

Read about Sheila Bedoni here.

How Exactly Do You Catch Covid-19? There Is a Growing Consensus

June 16, 2020 Surface contamination and fleeting encounters are less of a worry than close-up, person-to-person interactions for extended periods.

Cell heavily infected with coronavirus.

See full article in the Washington Post here.

Anthony Fauci Explains How To Make It Through His ‘Worst Nightmare’

June 12, 2020 An excellent and uplifting interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci on NPR's Science Friday.

A photo of Anthony Fauci.

Listen to the entire interview here.

Widespread facemask use could shrink the 'R' number and prevent a second COVID-19 wave

June 9, 2020 Population-wide use of facemasks keeps the coronavirus "reproduction number" under 1.0, and prevents further waves of the virus when combined with lockdowns, a modelling study from the universities of Cambridge and Greenwich suggests.

The research suggests that lockdowns alone will not stop the resurgence of SARS-CoV-2, and that even homemade masks with limited effectiveness can dramatically reduce transmission rates if worn by enough people, regardless of whether they show symptoms.

N95 respirator mask.

Read the entire article from the University of Cambridge here.

Job-Based Insurance in a COVID-19 World

June 5, 2020 The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 47.5 million people were at risk of losing employer-sponsored insurance because of massive job losses over the past 2 months.

Women at work.

Read full article from JAMA Health Forum here.

The COVID Tracking Project

May 30, 2020 An excellent resource with the latest numbers on tests, confirmed cases, hospitalizations, and patient outcomes from every US state and territory. Also includes a racial data tracker and information about a COVID exit strategy. Brought to us by the volunteers at The Atlantic.

Click here to access The COVID Tracking Project

Study estimates 24 states still have uncontrolled coronavirus spread

May 23, 2020 The coronavirus may still be spreading at epidemic rates in 24 states, particularly in the South and Midwest, according to new research that highlights the risk of a second wave of infections in places that reopen too quickly or without sufficient precautions.

How a virus spreads (R naught).

Read the article from the Washington Post here.

Peer-reviewed data shows remdesivir for COVID-19 improves time to recovery

May 22, 2020 The randomized, controlled trial enrolled hospitalized adults with COVID-19 with evidence of lower respiratory tract involvement (generally moderate to severe disease). Investigators found that remdesivir was most beneficial for hospitalized patients with severe disease who required supplemental oxygen. Findings about benefits in other patient subgroups were less conclusive in this preliminary analysis.

Access the news release from NIAID here.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Mortality Rate

May 21, 2020 Considering that a large number of cases are asymptomatic (or present with very mild symptoms) and that testing has not been performed on the entire population, only a fraction of the SARS-CoV-2 infected population is detected, confirmed through a laboratory test, and officially reported as a COVID-19 case. The number of actual cases is therefore estimated to be at several multiples above the number of reported cases. The number of deaths also tends to be underestimated, as some patients are not hospitalized and not tested.

Read the entire article from Worldometer here.

Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV): An Unprecedented Partnership for Unprecedented Times

May 18, 2020 It has been more than a century since the world has encountered a pandemic like coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and the rate of spread of COVID-19 around the globe and the associated morbidity and mortality have been staggering.1 To address what may be the greatest public health crisis of this generation, it is imperative that all sectors of society work together in unprecedented ways, with unprecedented speed. In this Viewpoint, we describe such a partnership.

Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD; Paul Stoffels, MD, JAMA Network. Read the full article here.

A Guide to Pandemic Scams, and What Not to Fall For

May 13, 2020 Fraudsters see opportunities to target us in these uncertain times. Here are their most popular schemes and how we can protect ourselves.

Lightning

Read the full article in the New York Times here.

They don’t struggle to breathe—but COVID-19 is starving them of oxygen

May 8, 2020 One alarming symptom robs many patients of blood oxygen well before they notice. Doctors are racing to understand it.

A CT scan of human lungs.

Read full article in National Geographic here.

A snapshot of coronavirus in the U.S.: A high plateau of new cases portends more spread.

May 7, 2020 For all the talk of a second wave of coronavirus cases hitting the United States this fall, one consideration is often lost: The country is still in the throes of the first wave of this pandemic.

A graph showing coronavirus daily cases on May 11, 2020

Read the full article in STAT here.

The race for coronavirus vaccines: a graphical guide: Eight ways in which scientists hope to provide immunity to SARS-CoV-2.

May 6, 2020 More than 90 vaccines are being developed against SARS-CoV-2 by research teams in companies and universities across the world. Researchers are trialling different technologies, some of which haven’t been used in a licensed vaccine before. At least six groups have already begun injecting formulations into volunteers in safety trials; others have started testing in animals. Nature’s graphical guide explains each vaccine design.

Read the full article in Nature here.

COVID-19: May 4, 2020 Updates on IHME COVID-19 predictions

May 5, 2020 Updated IHME COVID-19 Projections: Predicting the Next Phase of the Epidemic

Link to full article here.

How California nursing homes became coronavirus hot spots

May 4, 2020 At Canyon Springs Post-Acute in Santa Clara County, 69 patients and 30 staff had tested positive, and six residents are dead. "We weren't prepared," said a Redwood Springs nurse who has tested positive. "We lost control of the situation because we weren't talking about it." All three facilities share the same parent company: Plum Healthcare Group, a California entity that controls about 50 skilled nursing facilities in the state.

Woman staring out a window.

Read full article here.

A City Nurse: Healing in the I.C.U. During COVID-19

May 4, 2020 Meet Cady Chaplin, an intensive-care nurse at Lenox Hill Hospital. She just turned thirty. “Sometimes, after my shift, I walk in my apartment, slide down the door, and cry,” she says.

Read the full article in the New Yorker here.

The Covid-19 crisis too few are talking about: health care workers’ mental health

April 30, 2020 An excellent article from Jessica Gold, M.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis about the stress healthcare workers are feeling working during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic has unfolded, healthcare workers or all stripes are dealing with an unprecedented crisis--one in which many say they feel betrayed by their employers, the healthcare system, and the government.

Sad man.

Read the full article here.

Caution Needed on the Use of Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19

April 24, 2020 The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has propagated global shock waves that have disrupted nearly every aspect of human endeavor. Nowhere has this been more evident than in health care. Health care delivery systems in some locations have been overwhelmed, and even those not so severely affected have had to reorganize and restructure to concentrate resources to meet an anticipated surge of patients who are critically ill.

In the absence of rapid and reliable testing, proven therapies, or even standard protocols for treatment, physicians and other clinicians have been forced to improvise, in some cases relying on the thinnest of evidence, to treat patients who are desperately ill.

Lab worker testing for SARS virus.

Link to article: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2765269

IHME Estimates for Easing Social Distancing

April 21, 2020 The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has projected when states may be able to consider easing currently implemented social distancing policies – if and only if – strong containment measures already have been instituted.

Based on the latest available data and updated predictions of COVID-19 prevalence, the table below outlines potential timing of these considerations. Estimates suggest that 30 states may fall below the 1 prevalent case per 1,000,000 threshold during May (greens to the light yellow in the map below). This threshold is considered a conservative estimate of the number of COVID-19 infections that states could reasonably identify via active case detection and contact tracing.

Estimate for Relaxing Social Distancing

Link to full article: http://www.healthdata.org/covid/updates

COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines (NIH.gov)

April 21, 2020 These Treatment Guidelines have been developed to inform clinicians how to care for patients with COVID-19. Because clinical information about the optimal management of COVID-19 is evolving quickly, these Guidelines will be updated frequently as published data and other authoritative information becomes available.

A cell covered with COVID-19 virus particles. Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (green) infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (orange), isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. NIAID

Link to NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines: https://covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/introduction/

Sequence for Donning and Doffing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

April 18, 2020 Here's a nice graphic showing PPE for the COVID-19 pandemic. The link below this graphic shows the CDC-recommended sequence for donning and doffing PPE. 

COVID-19 PPE for Healthcare Personnel

Link to CDC donning and doffing guidelines: https://www.cdc.gov/hai/pdfs/ppe/PPE-Sequence.pdf

Antiviral remdesivir prevents disease progression in monkeys with COVID-19

April 17, 2020 Early treatment with the experimental antiviral drug remdesivir significantly reduced clinical disease and damage to the lungs of rhesus macaques infected with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to National Institutes of Health scientists.

AN electron microscope image of the COVID virus shedding cells. This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round gold objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, is the virus that causes COVID-19. The virus shown was isolated from a patient in the U.S.NIAID-RML Source: NIH

Link to full report: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/antiviral-remdesivir-prevents-disease-progression-monkeys-covid-19

COVID-19 Compiler

April 11, 2020 A map showing the total number of coronavirus cases by county and state for the entire country.

Link to the map: https://covid19.topos.com/

Larry David, Master of His Quarantine, an interview with Maureen Dowd

April 8, 2020 When I ask if he is hoarding anything, he is outraged. “Not a hoarder,” he said. “In fact, in a few months, if I walk into someone’s house and stumble onto 50 rolls of toilet paper in a closet somewhere, I will end the friendship."

Maureen Dowd, New York Times, April 4, 2020

Link to the the entire interview:
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/04/style/larry-david-curb-your-enthusiasm-coronavirus-psa.html

Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Slow the Spread

April 4, 2020 CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

Link to CDC page on face covering: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html

See Cases in Real Time--Johns Hopkins University

This website is tracking cases in real time using arcgis technology. Each time you access the site, the data is updated. Excellent resource being widely used by scientists and the media to keep us up-to-date on the coronavirus pandemic.

Johns Hopkins graph showing the increase in COVID 19 cases as of May 11, 2020.

Link to Johns Hopkins: www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

Everyone Thinks They're Right About Masks

April 1, 2020 As the coronavirus pandemic continues, many people are now overthinking things they never used to think about at all. Can you go outside? What if you’re walking downwind of another person? What if you’re stuck waiting at a crosswalk and someone is there? What if you’re going for a run, and another runner is heading toward you, and the sidewalk is narrow? Suddenly, daily mundanities seem to demand strategy.

  A graphic showing the correct placement of a face mask.

Link to full article:
https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/04/coronavirus-pandemic-airborne-go-outside-masks/609235/

Homemade personal protective equipment

March 30, 2020 The article contains specific instructions on how to construct a handmade mask, which was tested against an aerosol challenge with some measurable benefit.

Link to article on CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy).

Stephen Curry and Dr. Anthony Fauci | COVID-19 Q&A

March 26, 2020 Stephen Curry is joined by Dr. Anthony Fauci of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to talk all about COVID-19.

Link to You Tube interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuX826AGXWU

The Chain of Infection

March 25, 2020 The very nature of healthcare settings makes them vulnerable to the spread of infections because they serve patients who are ill and are therefore susceptible hosts. Patients with altered immunity such as people with cancer or HIV/AIDS are at high risk for infection. Surgical patients are at risk because any incision creates a new portal of entry for pathogens. Elderly patients may have weakened immunity simply because of their age. Healthcare workers are themselves at risk of infection because of their close daily contact with patients who may harbor pathogens. Thus, infection control (and breaking the chain of infection) is a primary component of safe, effective patient care.

The chain of infection.

We are offering this course at 50% off. Normally $10, we've cut the price to just $5.00. Take this opportunity to brush up on the chain: pathogen, susceptible host, portal of entry, mode of transmission, portal of exit, and reservoir. Go to Chain of Infection ►

CDC Guidance for Extended Use and Limited Reuse of N95 Masks

March 23, 2020 Supplies of N95 respirators can become depleted during an influenza pandemic or wide-spread outbreaks of other infectious respiratory illnesses. Existing CDC guidelines recommend a combination of approaches to conserve supplies while safeguarding health care workers in such circumstances. These existing guidelines recommend that health care institutions:

  • Minimize the number of individuals who need to use respiratory protection through the preferential use of engineering and administrative controls;
  • Use alternatives to N95 respirators (e.g., other classes of filtering facepiece respirators, elastomeric half-mask and full facepiece air purifying respirators, powered air purifying respirators) where feasible;
  • Implement practices allowing extended use and/or limited reuse of N95 respirators, when acceptable; and
  • Prioritize the use of N95 respirators for those personnel at the highest risk of contracting or experiencing complications of infection.

Link to full Guidance: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/hcwcontrols/recommendedguidanceextuse.html

Rampant Lies, Fake Cures and Not Enough Beds: What the Spanish Flu Debacle Can Teach Us About Coronavirus

March 17, 2020 Lasting just over a year, the 1918–1919 influenza pandemic stands as a lasting reminder of what happens when governments and their citizens fail to meet a crisis head on. From our perch today, as we brace for the coronavirus’ inevitable spread, the missteps of 1918 seem eerily prescient: A lack of leadership from Washington, with the gaps filled unevenly at the state and local levels.

Public officials who either lied, dissembled or made up facts. Hucksters who used popular media to misinform the public and make a quick buck in the process. Public health infrastructure that was inadequate to the challenge. And ordinary citizens who often refused to heed the warning of experts.

Joshua Zeitz
Politico magazine, March 17, 2020

Spanish flu death chart.

Link to full article:
https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/03/17/spanish-flu-lessons-coronavirus-133888

Covid-19--Navigating the Uncharted

March 26, 2020 In this New England Journal of Medicine article, Anthony Fauci, Clifford Lane, and Robert Redfield discuss a study by Li and colleagues that provides a detailed clinical and epidemiologic description of the first 425 cases reported in the epicenter of the outbreak in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province, China. The article provides a case definition, case fatality rate, and discusses Covid-19's efficiency of transmission. 

Link to full article:
https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe2002387?query=RP

The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What's Coming

Epidemiologist Larry Brilliant, who warned of pandemic in 2006, says we can beat the novel coronavirus—but first, we need lots more testing.

March 19, 2020 In this fascinating interview in Wired magazine with Dr. Larry Brilliant, the epidemiologist talks about novel viruses, flattening the curve, the effectiveness of N95 masks, and the "gold ring"--an eventual vaccine and eventual herd immunity. Brilliant shares his experience and knowledge in a straightforward and engaging manner.

Link to full article: https://www.wired.com/story/coronavirus-interview-larry-brilliant-smallpox-epidemiologist/

Pandemic by Lynn Unger

March 23, 2020

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to  whom you commit your life.
Center down.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know  that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has become clear.)
Do  not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise the world your love—
for better or worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we both shall live.

The Rev. Dr. Lynn Unger leads the Church of the Larger Fellowship, about which you can find more at their website, Quest for Meaning. She gave permission for ATrain Education to publish her poem “with all my best wishes to those who are on the front lines of this crisis.” March 23, 2020.