• Epidemic alert systemsU.K. Government’s Tiered COVID-19 Alert Systems Are All Flawed, Warns Disaster Expert

    By Carina Fearnley

    Alert systems need to be clear and easy for everyone to understand. Yet, to date, the UK’s national alert system has created confusion and been largely ignored. Now, a second local alert level system has been introduced in England. I’m not convinced it will do any better.

  • MisinformationPopularity of COVID-19 Conspiracies Linked to Vaccine Hesitancy

    A new study of beliefs and attitudes toward COVID-19 in five different countries – UK, US, Ireland, Mexico and Spain – has identified how much traction some prominent conspiracy theories have within these populations. Moreover, the study finds that people who rate coronavirus conspiracy theories as more reliable are much less likely to say they will get vaccinated.

  • MisinformationTrust in COVID Info Sources Varies by Demographics, Beliefs

    By Mary Van Beusekom

    People seek COVID-19 information from different sources based on sex, age, education level, political bent, and beliefs about the pandemic, according to a study published last week in JMIR Public Health and Surveillance. Led by researchers at New York University (NYU), the study involved recruiting US adults on Facebook to complete an online survey in two rounds in March and April on their use of 11 different coronavirus information sources and their most trusted source of information.

  • Internet freedomGlobal Internet Freedom Declines in Shadow of Pandemic

    Governments around the world have used the COVID-19 pandemic as cover to expand online surveillance and data collection, censor critical speech, and build new technological systems of social control, according to an annual assessment of internet freedom, released Wednesday by Freedom House.

  • Truth decayGame “Pre-Bunks” COVID-19 Conspiracies as Part of U.K.'s Fight against Fake News

    Go Viral!is a new game developed in partnership between the University of Cambridge and the U.K. government. Based on “inoculation theory,” it simulates an environment for users to play the role of fake news producer, so they can understand how COVID-19 misinformation circulates online.

  • VaccinesFDA Head: Outside Pressures Won't Rush COVID Vaccine

    By Mary Van Beusekom

    The decision to authorize and approve a COVID-19 vaccine will be based on data and science—not politics, Stephen Hahn, MD, commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said. “Science will guide our decision, and I will not, and the FDA will not, allow pressure from anybody to change that. We plan to fight for science, we will fight for the integrity of the agency, we will always put the interest of the American people ahead of anything, and that includes personal considerations,” Hahn said.

  • PandemicU.S. COVID Deaths May Be Underestimated by 36 Percent

    More than 200,000 people in the United States have now died from COVID-19. But the death toll of the U.S. epidemic is likely much higher, according to a new, first-of-its-kind study. Researchers found that more of these deaths occurred in places with greater income inequality, more non-Hispanic Black residents, and other factors indicating a pattern related to socioeconomic disadvantage and structural racism.

  • Vaccine conspiraciesCOVID-19 Anti-Vaxxers Use the Same Arguments from 135 Years Ago

    By Paula Larsson

    As we get closer to an effective vaccine for COVID-19, we should expect to see a renewed push of disinformation and vocal resistance from the anti-vaccination movement. Over the past year, seemingly endless conspiracy theories and misinformation campaigns have gained traction online amidst rising COVID-19 infection rates worldwide. Looking at the history of these movements can help us understand why they can be so effective at capturing a popular following.

  • PandemicIn Europe, Local Leaders Increasingly Frustrated with Pandemic Restrictions

    By Jamie Dettmer

    Across Europe, mayors are also questioning the orthodoxy of lockdowns, arguing that infection rates are trending up even in locked-down towns. They are not going as far as to ignore government instructions, but they are becoming increasingly frustrated with the pandemic restrictions central governments are imposing from on high. Local leaders say they are better placed to know when and how to tighten restrictions, or whether they are needed at all. They fear central governments are not getting the balance right between protecting lives and saving livelihoods and businesses.

  • PandemicCoronavirus: Thresholds for Effective Herd Immunity Could be Lower Than Predicted – Here’s Why

    By Pieter Trapman

    Basic models for COVID-19 suggest herd immunity is achieved when 60 percent of people are immune. This is based on a very simple model, though. It assumes that everyone in the population mixes to the same degree and at random. It’s unrealistic. In our research, we tried to reflect some of the diversity of behavior found in human populations to show what effect it might have on reaching herd immunity. We found that accounting for age-specific mixing trends, together with different sociability levels, lowered the herd immunity threshold a little further, to 43 percent.

  • Pandemic preparednessBuilding Pandemic Preparedness and Resilience to Confront Future Pandemics

    By Sally Huang

    With the current COVID-19 pandemic revealing major gaps in national readiness, the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense brought together members of the legislative and scientific community for a virtual discussion on the need to increase and optimize resource investments to promote changes in US policy and strengthen national pandemic preparedness and response.

  • PandemicsTracking a Pandemic—Through Words

    In late December 2019, U.S. analysts monitoring global biothreats began tracking an unidentified viral pneumonia spreading in China through technology developed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). About a month later, the rest of the world would know that disease as COVID-19. The text analysis software developed at PNNL helps the nation track global biothreats, such as COVID-19.

  • PandemicsHow Coronavirus Took Hold in North America and Europe

    By Daniel Stolte

    Early interventions were effective at stamping out coronavirus infections, but subsequent, poorly monitored travel allowed the virus to ignite major outbreaks in Europe and North America, according to a new study.

  • Truth decayCalling Out Bad Science

    Two weeks ago, a group of scientists posted an article in which they claimed that certain features of the COVID-19 virus lend support to the theory that the virus was synthetic, that is, that it was made or modified in a lab rather than having evolved naturally. Since such claims serve as the basis for conspiracy theories, and since the article has not yet been peer-reviewed, scientists at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security took it upon themselves to do an informal peer review of the article. Their detailed, page-by-page review of the article is unequivocal in its conclusions: the authors failed to provide accurate or supportive evidence to back up their claim. Moreover, the article contains many errors of both facts and interpretation.

  • Truth decayEU Takes Action against Fake News

    By Christoph Hasselbach

    A special committee of the European Parliament is set to detect and combat foreign cyberattacks. The EU has confirmed that targeted disinformation campaigns are on the rise — partly relating to the coronavirus pandemic.