• 5 Ways the World Is Better Off Dealing with a Pandemic Now Than in 1918

    Near the end of the First World War, a deadly flu raced across the globe. The influenza pandemic became the most severe pandemic in recent history, infecting about one-third of the world’s population between 1918 and 1920 and killing between 50 and 100 million people. It was caused by an H1N1 virus that originated in birds and mutated to infect humans. Now a century later the world is amidst another global pandemic caused by a zoonotic disease that “jumped” from wildlife to people, a novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. If managed competently, this fight may turn out differently, resulting in lower rates of infection and mortality and, possibly, fewer deaths.

  • COVID-19 Reveals Need for More Research about Guns

    Shortages of toilet paper at neighborhood grocery stores have become a symbol of the nation’s response to the COVID-19 virus, but recent reports suggest that people also reacted to the pandemic by purchasing firearms and ammunition in massive numbers. Andrew R. Morral and Jeremy Travis write in USA Today (republished by RAND) that eventually, the pandemic will recede, scientific rigor will lead to treatments or a vaccine, and life will start to return to a new normal—but those new firearms aren’t going anywhere. They ask: “What does this mean for public safety? And what can policymakers do to ensure that a spike in sales doesn’t result in more injuries or deaths?”

  • The Dangers of Tech-Driven Solutions to COVID-19

    Although few sensible people have anything good to say about the federal government response, reactions to tools for managing the pandemic designed by tech firms have been more mixed, with many concluding that such tools can minimize the privacy and human rights risks posed by tight coordination between governments and tech firms. Julie E. Cohen, Woodrow Hartzog, and Laura Moy write for Brookings that contact tracing done wrong threatens privacy and invites mission creep into adjacent fields, including policing. Government actors might (and do) distort and corrupt public-health messaging to serve their own interests. Automated policing and content control raise the prospect of a slide into authoritarianism. 

  • U.K. to See Three Waves of Unemployment as a Result of COVID-19, Experts Warn

    The UK will be hit with three waves of unemployment as a result of the Coronavirus crisis, experts have claimed as official data is on Tuesday expected to show a record monthly rise in joblessness. Anna Mikhailova writes in The Telegraph that new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) will reflect the first wave of jobs lost since the lockdown began. Analysis by the Resolution Foundation, the economic think tank, predicts the April data will show a record monthly rise of people out of work, up from the latest figure of 1.29m in March.

  • A Second Wave of Coronavirus Infections Could Begin in September, UW Model Suggests

    After remaining fairly constant through the summer, novel coronavirus infections and deaths in the United States are likely to begin climbing again in September, marking the start of a second wave of the epidemic, according to a model from the University of Washington that has been widely cited but also criticized. Sandi Doughton writes in the Seattle Timesthat the UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projects the national death toll from COVID-19 could reach nearly 170,000 by Oct. 1, with an uncertainty range of 133,201 to 290,222. That’s 57,000 more deaths in the coming months, in addition to the approximately 113,000 Americans killed by the virus so far.

  • One in Five Coronavirus Patients Caught the Virus in Hospital

    One in five hospital patients with coronavirus caught it while on wards, papers by Government scientists have revealed. Laura Donnelly writes in The Telegraph that the findings come alongside orders to all hospitals to enforce social distancing between staff in order to stop doctors and nurses from “congregating” and fueling the spread of the virus. An investigation by The Telegraph reveals that it was not until May 18 – nearly two months after Britain entered lockdown – that health chiefs finally issued guidance on how hospital workers should implement social distancing.

  • Study Finds 1 in 5 People Worldwide at Risk of Severe COVID-19

    In just six months, nearly 8 million people worldwide have been stricken with confirmed cases of Covid-19, and at least 434,000 have died. But those deaths have not been distributed evenly; among the most vulnerable are people with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and diseases that affect the heart and lungs. According to a new modeling study, roughly 1.7 billion people around the world — 22 percent of the global population — fall into that category. Katherine J. Wu writes in the New York Times that that estimate, published in The Lancet Global Health, excluded healthy older individuals without underlying health conditions, a group also known to be at risk because of their age. It also did not take into account risk factors like poverty and obesity, which can influence a person’s susceptibility to disease and access to treatment.

  • Norway Pulls Its Coronavirus Contacts-Tracing App after Privacy Watchdog’s Warning

    One of the first national coronavirus contacts-tracing apps to be launched in Europe is being suspended in Norway after the country’s data protection authority raised concerns that the software, called “Smittestopp,” poses a disproportionate threat to user privacy — including by continuously uploading people’s location. Natasha Lomas writes in Tech Crunch that following a warning from the watchdog Friday, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHIsaid today it will stop uploading data from tomorrow — ahead of a June 23 deadline when the DPA had asked for use of the app to be suspended so that changes could be made. It added that it disagrees with the watchdog’s assessment but will nonetheless delete user data “as soon as possible.”

  • Up to 45 percent of SARS-CoV-2 infections may be asymptomatic

    An extraordinary percentage of people infected by the virus behind the ongoing deadly COVID-19 pandemic—up to 45 percent—are people who never show symptoms of the disease, according to the results of a Scripps Research analysis of public datasets on asymptomatic infections. Scrippssays that the findings, recently published in Annals of Internal Medicinesuggest that asymptomatic infections may have played a significant role in the early and ongoing spread of COVID-19 and highlight the need for expansive testing and contact tracing to mitigate the pandemic.    

  • Common Drug Reduces Coronavirus Deaths, Scientists Report

    In an unexpected glimmer of hope amid an expanding pandemic, scientists at the University of Oxford said on Tuesday that an inexpensive and commonly available drug reduced deaths in patients with severe Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Benjamin Mueller and Roni Caryn Rabin write in the New York Times that if the finding is borne out, the drug, a steroid called dexamethasone, would be the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in the sickest patients and may save hundreds of thousands of lives, eventually even millions, altering the course of the pandemic.

  • How Antibodies from Llamas May Lead to COVID-19 Treatment

    Scientists hope the special antibodies that llamas make can be directed against SARS-CoV-2 to help find our way out of the pandemic. Rockefeller University says that humans, too, make antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, and many groups are working on developing treatments based on them. Llama antibodies, however, come in a simpler design than their human counterparts. “For reasons that we don’t really understand, these animals make this variant of antibody that just has fantastic properties,” says Michael P. Rout, a structural biologist at Rockefeller. “It contains the good disease-recognizing parts of a human antibody, packed into a condensed warhead.”

  • Face Masks Could Be a Better Defense against COVID-19 than Hand Washing

    Face masks could provide a better defense against Covid-19 than hand washing or social distancing, according to a study of a coronavirus outbreak on board a navy ship. Patrick Sawyer writes in The Telegraphthat experts say the study strengthens the argument for masks to be made compulsory for people in indoor settings such as shops, restaurants and offices.

  • U.K. to See Three Waves of Unemployment as a Result of COVID-19, Experts Warn

    The UK will be hit with three waves of unemployment as a result of the Coronavirus crisis, experts have claimed as official data is on Tuesday expected to show a record monthly rise in joblessness. Anna Mikhailova writes in The Telegraph that new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) will reflect the first wave of jobs lost since the lockdown began. Analysis by the Resolution Foundation, the economic think tank, predicts the April data will show a record monthly rise of people out of work, up from the latest figure of 1.29m in March.

  • This Disastrous Lockdown Can Never Be Repeated, Even If the Virus Returns

    Three months after we entered lockdown, as we tiptoe out to non-essential stores and meet a lonely relative, we can begin to benefit from something previously unavailable – experience. William Hague writes in The Telegraph that instead of having to rely entirely on widely varying mathematical models and fight an unknown virus in a fog of uncertainty, governments can start to see what has actually worked in different places around the world. The most important thing we now know is the true cost of a national lockdown, not just in economic but in human terms. The lockdown was a disaster on many fronts. “Such a disaster cannot under any circumstances be repeated. There can be no second lockdown.”

  • If Scientists Are Wrong about COVID, They Must Be Held to Account

    The world has panicked, and the British government has panicked worse than most. We scared ourselves and our fellow citizens out of rational thought. Matthew Parris writes in The Times that by losing our sense of proportion I submit we have crashed our economy, crashed our education system, our performing arts, our tourist and travel industry, and blighted the life chances of a whole generation. Before too long, commentators, politicians and scientists may be blushing at the mess we made of our national response to the coronavirus pandemic. Commentators will duck. Politicians will be blamed for everything, and who can doubt that political leadership has been a shambles? But how about “the science”, those men and women, academics, doctors and mathematical modelers, in whose expertise ministers once placed their trust?