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In the wake of an outbreak of coronavirus that began in China in 2019, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health experts have been speaking to a variety of media outlets and writing articles about the pandemic. We’ll be updating this article on a regular basis. Here’s a selection of stories from February 2021 in which they offer comments and context:
February 28: Keeping out Covid-19 – Coronavirus: The Evidence (BBC podcast The Evidence)
Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, served on a panel of experts discussing whether cross-border health measures such as flight bans, entry bans, compulsory quarantine and virus testing, and international vaccination passports can keep COVID-19 in check.
February 28: The Big Question: Can We Go Back to Our Offices? (Bloomberg Quint)
In this Q&A, Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science, said that people can return to their offices if companies put in good infection control measures.
February 28: Governors lift COVID-19 restrictions despite risks of new spike (The Hill)
Although experts are warning that there could be a new spike in COVID-19 cases because of virus variants, some governors are still lifting restrictions such as mask mandates and capacity limits. “Bluntly, yes they are risking yet another spike,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, of states that are lifting restrictions.
February 27: FDA Panel Greenlights First Single-Shot COVID-19 Vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson (TIME)
Eric Rubin, adjunct professor of immunology and infectious diseases, editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, and a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory panel, was quoted about the panel’s 22-0 vote in support of the emergency use authorization of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine.
February 26: Why Opening Windows Is a Key to Reopening Schools (New York Times)
This article, accompanied by a visualization, described how an open window and other simple measures can reduce COVID-19 exposure in classrooms. Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science, was quoted.
February 26: 5 Pandemic Mistakes We Keep Repeating (The Atlantic)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, quoted
February 25: How India could win its COVID vaccination race (CGTN)
India may be on track to vaccinate roughly 300 million people out of its population of 1.3 billion by early August, thanks to massive manufacturing capacity, a strong public-health infrastructure with experience in vaccine delivery, an army of frontline workers, and meticulous planning, according to this opinion piece co-authored by Sema Sgaier, adjunct assistant professor of global health.
February 25: The Coronavirus Is Plotting a Comeback. Here’s Our Chance to Stop It for Good. (New York Times)
Many experts are optimistic that the worst of the pandemic is past, but they’re also worried that Americans may once again underestimate the virus. They say that if Americans lift restrictions too soon, variants could spread and lead to another spike in cases. Although infections, hospitalizations, and deaths have all fallen in recent weeks, numbers are still relatively high, about where they were in November. “Very, very high case numbers are not a good thing, even if the trend is downward,” said Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. “Taking the first hint of a downward trend as a reason to reopen is how you get to even higher numbers.”
February 25: Baker Reopening Plan Gets Mixed Reviews From Public Health Experts (WGBH)
Thomas Tsai, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, said he thinks that Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s plan to begin allowing partial reopenings for concert venues and sports arenas in late March is happening too soon, especially with coronavirus variants spreading in the U.S. “I think the important message for the general public is still to remain vigilant,” said Tsai, adding that schools should be top priority. “My hope would be, let’s get kids back in school first. Let’s get teachers vaccinated first. Let’s solve that really important problem and put our will towards that, and then move on to restaurants and concert halls and stadiums as a secondary priority while we focus on our schools.”
February 25: We’ll Probably Never Eliminate COVID-19 from the U.S. It’s Still Worth Trying (TIME)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, co-authored this Ideas piece about the trade-offs involved in trying to either eliminate COVID-19 or to keep it circulating only at low levels as an endemic disease. “For example, countries that are attempting elimination have returned to a near normal life but they must curtail travel … and maintain strict border measures,” the authors wrote. “On the other hand, accepting endemicity means we will have to ‘tolerate’ some level of deaths, probably with seasonal peaks.”
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science, discussed how schools and other buildings can improve their ventilation and filtration to get more people back indoors safely—even with such simple fixes as an open window and a portable fan. Combining ventilation and filtration with measures such as masking, distancing, and hand-washing can keep people safe indoors, he said.
February 25: How the FDA Is Helping Expedite Vaccine Boosters For COVID-19 Variants (Verywell Health)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, acknowledged concern about the ability of coronavirus variants to elude antibodies produced by vaccines, but noted that the vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are relatively easy to update. “For now, the hope is that the current vaccines can protect against severe disease and deaths even if they can’t keep everyone from getting the virus caused by a variant,” he said.
February 25: Ad campaign launches to build public trust in COVID-19 shots (ABC News)
The Ad Council and the COVID Collaborative have unveiled a new public service ad campaign aimed at building trust among Americans who may be hesitant about getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Jay Winsten, director of the Initiative on Communication Strategies for Public Health at Harvard Chan School and a member of the COVID Collaborative’s advisory council, said he thinks that people will be open to the new messaging now that millions of Americans have been vaccinated without serious side effects.
February 24: COVID-19 Vaccines Work. Here’s the Real-World Proof. (TIME)
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is protecting people as well in actual use as it did in clinical trials, according to a new study from Israel. Co-authors of the study included Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, and Miguel Hernán, Kolokotrones Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology. Lipsitch said the results are “close to the best possible news.”
Thomas Tsai, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, said that he expects that the U.S. will meet the Biden administration’s goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans by the end of April, especially given the news that the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is likely to receive emergency use authorization from the Food & Drug Administration. Tsai emphasized the importance of continuing with public health measures such as masking and distancing while the vaccine rollout continues.
February 24: New poll finds strong support for idea of rapid, at-home coronavirus tests (Boston Globe)
Eighty-six percent of Americans say they would test themselves for COVID-19 using at-home tests, according to a new poll from Harvard Chan School and the COVID Collaborative. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, noted that, in spite of vaccinations, “the economy is going to continue being held up as a result of this pandemic” and that at-home testing would be a “way to accelerate reopening the economy.”
February 24: The Buffalo Bills’ Covid touchdown could be the key to reopening Broadway (Politico)
Experts discussed how COVID-19 testing and other precautions could help states reopen large-scale venues such as stadiums, theaters, and catering halls. Yonatan Grad, Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, said that highly sensitive and inexpensive rapid tests, administered close to the start of events, are what’s really needed to reopen such venues. “If we had a test like that, that would be ideal,” he said. “Because then people could walk in, confident that at least for the duration of the event — like a three-hour game or a two-hour concert — it’s unlikely that someone who had been recently exposed and tests negative will develop enough virus that they will become infectious during that time period.”
February 24: India’s vaccination campaign is unlike any other (Vox)
India is undertaking what may be the world’s largest vaccination push, aiming to vaccinate about 300 million people by the summer—roughly one-fourth of its population. Kasisomayajula “Vish” Viswanath, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication, noted that the country is relying on a built-in network of hospitals and clinics as hubs to distribute vaccines. “It is not an ‘If you build it, they will come’ approach—what they’re doing is actively going to where people are,” he said.
February 23: What the Post-Pandemic Hospital Might Look Like (Bloomberg City Lab)
The pandemic has accelerated dramatic reforms in how hospitals look, feel, and function, say experts. Neel Shah, head of the Delivery Decisions Initiative at Ariadne Labs, said that because the measures hospitals took to deal with COVID-19 forced them to adopt new regulations and habits, “Things that advocates have pursued for decades are now happening.”
February 23: Studies Examine Variant Surging in California, and the News Isn’t Good (New York Times)
Experts are trying to figure out the threat posed by a variant spreading in California known as B.1.427/B.1.429. Some are concerned that the variant may be better than others at evading the immune system and vaccines, but William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said he thinks the new variant is unlikely to cause as much of a burden as a variant that emerged in the U.K. called B.1.1.7.
February 23: Coronavirus medical mystery: Baby with high viral load puzzles researchers (Washington Post)
Doctors in Washington, D.C. recently treated a baby with COVID-19 who had a very high viral load. The baby, since recovered, had been infected with a coronavirus variant called N679S, and researchers since found evidence of the variant elsewhere in the Mid-Atlantic region. But it’s unclear if it means the variant poses a big threat. Said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, “I think it is premature to draw strong conclusions.”
February 23: Yes, COVID-19 Changed Telemedicine Use — But It’s Complicated (Health Affairs)
Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management, was featured in this podcast about how telemedicine use has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic and where the field may be heading.
February 23: As U.S. Surpasses A Half Million Deaths, COVID Cases Are On The Decline (WBUR)
Although COVID-19 cases are dropping across the U.S.—possibly driven by the seasonality of the coronavirus—William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said people should remain cautious, particularly because a highly transmissible variant first detected in the U.K. is now in the U.S. “It’s certainly premature to think that we are out of the woods,” he said. “We’re not out of the woods. We’re just in a somewhat less densely wooded part of the woods.”
February 22: Can covid herd immunity be reached without vaccinating kids? It’s complicated. (Washington Post)
Experts, including Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, discussed the possible outcomes from both not vaccinating children for COVID-19 and vaccinating them. Even if children were vaccinated, the experts said, it still may be tough to achieve herd immunity, in part because up to 25% of adults may not be willing to take the vaccine.
February 22: Some Covid-19 Tests Can Help Flag U.K. Variant (Wall Street Journal)
Some types of COVID-19 tests are able to detect certain parts of the coronavirus’ genome, but miss another part linked to the highly infectious B.1.1.7 variant—and scientists say this missing piece could actually be flagging the presence of the variant. “It’s actually been a benefit for public health to be able to monitor,” said Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology. “There was a silver lining there.”
February 21: Pandemic’s mental health burden heaviest among young adults (ABC News)
Experts say that the pandemic is taking an outsized toll on young adults. Said Shekhar Saxena, professor of the practice of global mental health, “The figures that we have from the U.S. suggest that almost two-thirds of the young adults have some symptoms of anxiety or depression or other psychological problems.” He said that even when the COVID-19 crisis is over, 10% of these young people could have long-lasting effects from their current mental health issues.
February 19: Atul Gawande on COVID-vaccine distribution and when normalcy might return (The New Yorker)
In this interview, Atul Gawande, professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, Ariadne Labs founder and chair, and former COVID-19 adviser to the Biden-Harris transition team, discussed the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, vaccine effectiveness, variants, and when it might be possible to return to “normal.” He said he thinks that, by the end of summer, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 will be greatly reduced., and that things will feel more normal by the fall. He added, “I think that the most likely thing is that COVID gets beaten down to become an endemic, chronic, flu-like illness that circulates, that we will have developed some antiviral treatments as well, [and] that many people continue to wear masks.”
February 19: We may duck a surge from variant that sent Britain reeling (Harvard Gazette)
Falling COVID-19 rates, rising vaccinations, timing, and people’s changing behaviors may hamper the spread of a highly infectious U.K. variant in the U.S., according to William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. The surge may not occur because the variant, known as B.1.1.7, arrived in the U.S. later than it did in other nations and because it’s spreading at a time when cases have begun declining rapidly, Hanage said.
February 19: A universal coronavirus vaccine (Science)
The world needs a universal coronavirus vaccine to prepare for future outbreaks, according to this editorial co-authored by Wayne Koff, CEO of the Human Immunomics Initiative and adjunct professor of epidemiology.
February 19: NBA Study Reveals The UK Variant May Last Longer In Human Hosts (Forbes)
New research co-authored by Stephen Kissler, research fellow, and Yonatan Grad, Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, found that people who are infected with the U.K. variant of the coronavirus, known as B.1.1.7, are infectious nearly twice as long as people with non-B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 and have higher viral loads.
February 19: Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for pregnant women? Here’s what we know, and don’t know (PolitiFact)
Observational data on pregnant people who’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19 looks reassuring so far, but the vaccines in use in the U.S. have not yet been specifically tested for their effects on pregnant women, say experts. Pregnant women who opt to wait for more definitive information can take other steps to reduce their risk, such as “consistent mask-wearing, hand-washing and limiting activities,” said Shruthi Mahalingaiah, assistant professor of environmental, reproductive and women’s health.
February 19: Can COVID vaccines stop transmission? Scientists race to find answers (Nature)
Studies are underway to determine whether COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to protecting people from getting sick, can also prevent them from becoming infected and passing the virus on to others. “These are among the hardest types of studies to do,” said Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics.
February 18: Americans still need a lifeline despite trillions in coronavirus aid (The Conversation)
Despite trillions of dollars in government assistance to blunt the economic pain of the pandemic, many Americans are still struggling to pay for basic necessities, and much more aid is needed, wrote Mary Findling, research associate, John Benson, senior research scientist, and Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis, Emeritus.
February 18: Seeded amid the many surprises of COVID times, some unexpected positives (Harvard Gazette)
Dean Michelle Williams was one of nine Harvard experts who commented on some unexpected positives from the COVID-19 pandemic. She said that the field of public health “is now embedded in the public consciousness,” noting that the pandemic has prompted long-overdue dialogues about health inequities, innovations in telehealth, and greater focus on mental health.
February 18: White House announces $4 billion in funding for Covax, the global vaccine effort that Trump spurned (Washington Post)
The U.S. is pledging $4 billion to support global efforts to fairly distribute COVID-19 vaccines. Sema Sgaier, adjunct assistant professor of global health, said, “These kinds of political commitments do matter and make a difference.”
February 18: CDC: COVID-19 causes historic tumble of life expectancy (Boston 25 News)
U.S. life expectancy dropped from 78.8 years to 77.8 years between 2019 and the first six months of 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. John McDonough, professor of the practice of public health, noted that cases and mortality rates rose even more in the last six months of 2020, “so this is just an early warning.” He said the drop in life expectancy “reflects a stunning decline in overall population health in the United States,” citing rising levels of obesity and chronic diseases.
February 18: How patent laws get in the way of the global coronavirus vaccine rollout (The Conversation)
Experts said that much of the world’s vaccine manufacturing capacity is untapped because of patent laws. Mosoka Fallah, part-time lecturer, said that “basically Africa right now does not have any substantive way to acquire the [coronavirus] vaccines” because they can’t afford it at the current market price. He is advocating for more equitable access to the vaccines.
February 17: Attack America’s overlapping miseries: Why going big on relief is an economic, public health and moral imperative (New York Daily News)
In this op-ed, four experts from Harvard Chan School—Nancy Krieger, professor of social epidemiology, Christian Testa, statistical analyst, Pamela Waterman, project director, and Jarvis Chen, lecturer—urged political leaders to “go big” on economic relief for people and communities across the U.S. They cited “the miseries of COVID-19 and its economic determinants and impacts,” noting high rates of COVID-19 deaths, food insecurity, and inability to pay rent, with the brunt of the impact falling on people of color.
February 17: Clarifying the evidence on SARS-CoV-2 antigen rapid tests in public health responses to COVID-19 (The Lancet)
This op-ed co-authored by Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, pushed back against criticisms of rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 as being not sensitive enough. The co-authors argued that the criticisms were based on misinterpretation of data.
Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health, commented on Massachusetts’ decision to expand its COVID-19 vaccination pool by about 1 million residents. “It’s a positive step,” he said. “But with every step, the question is: Can supply meet demand in a way that’s viewed as timely, convenient, and fair?”
February 17: There are 6.9 million people in Mass. Here’s why the state goal is to vaccinate 4.1 million of them (Boston Globe)
Massachusetts’ current target of vaccinating 4.1 million out of the state’s 6.9 million people—roughly 60% of the population—would be a big step toward herd immunity, but experts recommended aiming for an even bigger portion over time. Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health and a member of the state’s vaccine advisory group, said he would like to see 75% of the state’s population vaccinated, noting that a higher level of immunized people and/or booster shots might be necessary to protect against vaccine resistant variants. Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health, said that the current target “may well need to be upgraded once children are able to be vaccinated, hopefully sometime later this year.”
Experts are worried about people creating categories of “good vaccines” and “bad vaccines,” based on simplified narratives about clinical trial results that don’t focus on the fact that any approved vaccine will offer significant protection against COVID-19. Kasisomayajula “Vish” Viswanath, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication, said he’s concerned that decisions to use certain vaccines in certain settings will be seen through a lens of racial or socioeconomic inequality, even if those decisions are being made in order to roll out vaccines as quickly as possible.
Reducing COVID-19 cases as much as possible, through measures like masking and distancing, is “the best thing we could possibly do to improve the chances that the vaccine will continue working,” according to Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology. If the virus continues circulating at high levels, that will mean more opportunity for it to potentially infect people who’ve been vaccinated and to try to work around their immunity, he said.
February 17: The High-Tech Upgrades of the Pandemic Office Are Mostly for Show (Curbed)
UV lights, thermal scanners, and smartphone key fobs for opening door are being used in some office buildings to increase safety and hygiene during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science, says that measures like these are mostly for show because the primary way COVID-19 spreads is through the air.
February 16: CDC says it’s time to double up on masks (WINK News, Ft. Myers, FL)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, quoted
February 15: Scientists Are Trying to Spot New Viruses Before They Cause Pandemics (New York Times)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, discussed his idea about creating an immense surveillance system that can check blood samples from all over the world for the presence of antibodies to hundreds of different viruses. The system, which Mina and his collaborators call the Global Immunological Observatory, could offer early notice of outbreaks, similar to how a weather forecasting system can warn about upcoming storms.
February 15: What To Expect After Getting A COVID-19 Vaccine (GBH)
Roger Shapiro, associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases, answered questions about COVID-19 vaccine side effects. “All the vaccines will have some side effects, and those are natural and expected parts of the vaccination process,” he said. “It’s an indication that the vaccine is doing what it should be doing and it’s working to stimulate the immune system.”
February 15: How to Stay Mentally Resilient During and After the Pandemic (Psychology Today)
Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology, quoted
February 14: Is it safe to visit grandparents after getting the Covid vaccine? (NBC Evening News)
Experts say that it will be safe to gather in small groups if everyone in the group has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But they recommended continuing to take precautions in public, both because the vaccine isn’t 100% effective and because it may be still be possible to transmit the virus to others even after vaccination. “We don’t know so much about whether or not [the vaccines] are able to prevention infection, meaning you might become infected and unwittingly transmit it to others,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology.
February 13: Analysis: State administers record 132,000 vaccine doses in 24 hours (Newsday)
Preparedness fellow Rachael Piltch-Loeb said that it’s a problem that COVID-19 vaccination sign-ups in New York are done through a confusing array of websites and phone numbers. “Those have not been centralized into one kind of hub,” she noted. “Currently, we don’t have one functioning system.” She attributed the problems to “a super-strapped public health and health care workforce that’s been asked to do so much, and now roll out a vaccine on top of it.”
February 12: Deaths in Nursing Homes During the COVID-19 Pandemic—Lessons from Japan (JAMA Health Forum)
In the U.S., 35% of all deaths from COVID-19 have been among nursing home residents, compared with 14% in Japan. In this article, Kazuhiro Abe, Takemi Fellow, and Ichiro Kawachi, John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Social Epidemiology, cited reasons that Japan was able to manage a much lower proportion of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes than the U.S.—including having smaller facilities, higher staff ratios, higher wages for care workers, and more consistent enforcement and supervision of nursing home standards and guidelines.
February 12: Opinion: The CDC’s latest demands will keep millions of kids out of school unnecessarily (Washington Post)
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes the recommendation that school reopening decisions should be tied to community spread of COVID-19. In this opinion piece, Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science, and co-author Helen Jenkins of Boston University argue that linking reopenings to community spread poses “major problems,” and that the report “adds new and unnecessary demands that will ultimately keep millions of kids out of school.”
February 12: Why you shouldn’t get a covid antibody test after your vaccine (Washington Post)
Experts say not to bother getting tested for COVID-19 antibodies, even if you think you have them after getting COVID-19 and may therefore be immune. “Don’t try to second-guess the vaccine,” said Sarah Fortune, John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases. “Just get vaccinated.” Natural immunity can vary, the experts say, and it may not protect against new variants. Vaccines are likely to provide better protection.
February 12: Don’t hate the vaccine tourists, hate the vaccine game (VOX)
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted “vaccine tourism”—when people with resources and connections cut the vaccine line and travel to get a shot wherever they can find one. Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, said that it’s hard to fault someone for trying to get a vaccine. “There is no easy fix that I see, and it is hard to blame those who are entitled to get a vaccine in their own state but can’t access it for trying elsewhere,” he said.
February 12: Covid-19: Is Manaus the final nail in the coffin for natural herd immunity? (BMJ)
The city of Manaus in the Brazilian Amazon is experiencing a second severe wave of COVID-19. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said he suspects the increase in cases could be due to a coronavirus variant called P.1, which may be more transmissible and better able to evade antibodies from previous strains.
February 11: Airports have taken steps to reduce coronavirus transmission but risks still remain, study says (Washington Post)
Airports have put a number of strategies into place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, such as installing clear barriers and frequently cleaning. But more needs to be done, such as upgrading ventilation systems and limiting eating and drinking where large number of travelers gather, according to a new report from Harvard Chan School researchers. Wendy Purcell, research associate in the Department of Environmental Health, and Leonard Marcus, founding co-director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative, were quoted.
February 11: Is Gov. Baker’s ‘Younger Companion’ Vaccination Idea The Right Call? (GBH News)
Some experts are questioning a new Massachusetts initiative that enables people accompanying those aged 75 or older to a COVID-19 mass vaccination site to get a shot as well. Given that people over age 75 are most at risk of dying from the disease, “anything that one can do reasonably to reach and get to these people, many of whom are not able to get around on their own, is at least a constructive idea,” said Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health and a member of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group. “The down side … is that if it is not a family member and it’s an Uber driver, it skews the equity and fairness arrangements, so that younger people are getting vaccine simply because they drive an Uber. I don’t expect much of that, but it’s possible and it would be unfortunate.”
Requiring rapid testing of all airline passengers could help reduce the risk of COVID-19 during air travel, and would be more effective than measures such as temperature checks, according to a new report from the Aviation Public Health Initiative. “We think it would be a plus to see testing across the board,” said Leonard Marcus, founding co-director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative.
The White House is considering imposing domestic travel restrictions, including on Florida, to target COVID-19 variants. Florida has seen a recent explosion in cases of a variant known as B.1.1.7, originally detected in the U.K. Although the variant has already spread to 34 states, Stephen Kissler, research fellow, said that a travel restriction could at least slow its exportation.
February 11: Prioritize Public Health Officers to Increase Preparedness for Future Threats (Homeland Security Today)
In this perspective article, Katie Klatt, a master of public health in health management student, and Richard Serino, Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Harvard’s National Preparedness Leadership Initiative, former Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator and former chief of Boston EMS, wrote that the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of public health. They recommended that industries create the role of public health officer or adviser “to provide insight and guidance for how to ensure a healthy workforce and population.”
February 11: How Long Can COVID Cases Keep Plummeting? (New York Magazine)
In this Q&A, Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, discussed COVID-19 seasonality, vaccines, herd immunity, testing, variants, genomic surveillance of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, serological testing, and planning for future epidemics.
February 11: 4 out of 10 American deaths last year could have been avoided says a new analysis (The Guardian)
U.S. COVID-19 deaths—roughly 470,000, the highest in the world—could have been 40% less if the nation’s death rates had been similar to death rates in comparable high-income countries, according to a new Lancet commission analysis that assessed Donald Trump’s health policy record. The commission attributed the nation’s pandemic failures both to Trump and to a degraded public health infrastructure. Commission member Mary Bassett, François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights and director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, said, “The U.S. has fared so badly with this pandemic, but the bungling can’t be attributed only to Mr. Trump, it also has to do with these societal failures … That’s not going to be solved by a vaccine.”
February 11: Worries About Viral Resistance to Covid-19 Vaccines Are Overdone (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Experts say that COVID-19 vaccines will continue to provide protection even from emerging variants, and that vaccines can be tweaked in the months ahead to be more effective against variants. “There is no reason to get panicky,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. “There is reason to keep a close eye on it.”
February 11: Biden raises hopes for new course to jump-start rapid COVID-19 tests (The Hill)
Although the Biden administration is planning to scale up rapid at-home COVID-19 tests, some experts say that more is needed. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, said that the nation needs millions of cheap, simple, and quick tests that people can use several times a week. He praised the administration’s initial steps but said that they “fall quite short of anything that I’ve been discussing. But I believe it means that they are willing to try.”
February 11: Experts say school closures are hurting teens’ mental health (Axios)
The isolation forced by the pandemic is harming mental health, particularly that of teens and young adults, say experts. “It’s the young adults and the children who are being impacted and the effects are going to be long-lasting,” said Shekhar Saxena, professor of the practice of global mental health.
February 11: Cheap and quick: Could rapid antigen testing be the way out of lockdown? (Irish Times)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, quoted
February 10: Primary Care Doctors Are Left Out of the Vaccine Rollout (New York Times)
Primary care doctors, who have traditionally administered nearly half of all adult vaccinations, have been largely excluded from the nation’s vaccine rollout, which has relied mostly on mass vaccination sites and drugstore chains. Asaf Bitton, executive director of Ariadne Labs, said that when the vaccine supply increases it will be essential to rely more on primary care doctors, who can play an important role in the rollout.
February 10: Do the math: Vaccines alone won’t get us out of this pandemic (STAT)
Although vaccines are essential to helping combat COVID-19, they represent only part of the picture, according to this opinion piece by research associate Iain MacLeod. He laid out the challenges of achieving herd immunity, and wrote, “It’s time to stop promoting the myopic belief that the unrealistic goal of herd immunity can be achieved in 2021 and start looking to reinforcing all aspects of the health care response as we start to concede that Covid-19 will become an endemic disease that will continue to lurk in the population.”
February 10: Upgrade your mask as more-transmissible COVID strain surges (Harvard Gazette)
Even with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, it’s crucial to continue to wear masks to protect against a contagious new variant that is circulating, said Atul Gawande, professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, surgeon, and Ariadne Labs founder and chair. Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science, recommended using medical grade masks, such as N95s or KF94s, or double masks.
February 10: U.S. still falling short on basic tools to fight the virus (Politico)
Experts say that the U.S. still doesn’t have enough of the tools necessary to fight COVID-19—such as testing, contact tracing, personal protective equipment, high-quality masks, and data collection. It’s also falling short on genomic surveillance to track new variants. Discussing testing, Sarah Fortune, John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, said it will be important for people who take home COVID-19 tests to report that information to public health officials, and for people who are vaccinated but who still get sick to get tested, so that experts can assess whether a new variant is circulating.
February 10: White House looks at domestic travel restrictions as COVID mutation surges in Florida (McClatchy DC Bureau)
The Biden administration is considering whether to impose travel restrictions to slow the spread of new coronavirus variants such as B.1.1.7, which has spread to 34 states and is concentrated in places like Florida and California. Research fellow Stephen Kissler said that such restrictions could provide a longer window to get people vaccinated. “Right now we’re in a race with the virus trying to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible, and B.1.1.7 is one of the most serious threats to that,” he said.
February 10: Covid-19 Vaccine Distribution: One of the Most Complex Tasks in American Public Health History (NEJM Catalyst)
Rebecca Weintraub, associate faculty member of Ariadne Labs, discussed challenges in distributing COVID-19 vaccines, as well as examples of successful public-private partnerships for vaccine distribution.
February 10: The Unlikeliest Pandemic Success Story (The Atlantic)
Asaf Bitton, executive director of Ariadne Labs, said that a public-health focus on prevention in Bhutan, a tiny and poor nation in South Asia, has helped it handle the pandemic much better than the U.S., a nation with far more resources. Article written by Madeline Drexler, visiting scientist and former editor of Harvard Public Health.
February 10: Is The Biden Administration Doing Enough To Boost COVID-19 Testing? (WBUR)
The Biden administration is moving ahead with plans that boost production of rapid at-home COVID-19 tests by 61 million by the end of the summer, but some experts say much more is needed. “The 61 million by the end of the summer is simply not going to cut it,” said Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, who has long advocated for more simple rapid tests that could be produced in the tens of millions every day, enabling people to test themselves repeatedly at home.
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, and other experts discussed possible reasons for a drop in COVID-19 cases and deaths, and how the presence of more transmissible variants could affect the future spread of disease.
February 9: This Simple Solution Could Sharply Lower COVID-19 Infections, Harvard Medical Doctor Says (Daily Signal podcast)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, discussed how rapid COVID-19 tests could dramatically reduce cases and allow much of the economy to reopen—and why these tests haven’t been made widely available.
February 9: Rapid coronavirus tests: a guide for the perplexed (Nature)
Some experts question the use of rapid coronavirus tests, saying they’re not sensitive enough in detecting COVID-19 and could miss cases. But Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, says that if the tests are used widely and frequently, they can significantly slow the spread of infection. “We’re in the middle of a war—we really can’t get any worse than we are at the moment in terms of the case counts,” he said.
February 9: Variants mean the coronavirus is here to stay — but perhaps as a lesser threat (Washington Post)
The coronavirus is likely to become a persistent disease threat, but experts think its deadliness will dissipate over time. “What’s the endgame? When does it stop? When do we wave a checkered flag and say all this is over? It has to do with watching the ICUs return to normal and seeing the excess deaths limited,” said Yonatan Grad, Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases. “I don’t think the virus will be eliminated, and there won’t be a clear moment to celebrate, because the pandemic is so hyperlocal—there will be no synchronized conclusion.”
February 9: WHO Is Fighting False COVID Info On Social Media. How’s That Going? (NPR)
Although the World Health Organization has made some headway in convincing tech companies to tamp down on COVID-19 misinformation on social media platforms, actions taken by the companies have not been enough, say some experts. Kasisomayajula “Vish” Viswanath, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication, was quoted.
February 8: South Africa pauses rollout of AstraZeneca vaccine (The World)
After a study found that the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine offered only minimal protection against mild and moderate cases from a fast-spreading COVID-19 variant, South Africa paused its rollout of the vaccine. Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health, noted that “there is still significant protection from three of the existing vaccines” against the variant. He added that, given the emergence of several COVID-19 variants around the world, it’s important to continue with public health measures such as wearing masks.
February 8: COVID Variants’ Spread Makes Vaccination Push More Urgent, With Mass. Already Behind (Greater Boston)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said he expects the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant, originally detected in the U.K., to be the dominant variant in much of the U.S. within a few months. He said that the lack of a strong genomic surveillance program for variants in the U.S. means that “there are large parts of the country where we’re pretty much flying blind in terms of knowing exactly what lineages are circulating.” He said accelerating vaccination as much as possible “is the best defense we have against these variants.”
February 8: COVID Q&A: How effective is your mask? How to protect against contagious variant (San Jose Mercury News)
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science, and other experts offered advice on how to choose and wear masks to protect against highly transmissible COVID-19 variants.
February 8: Biden administration sends conflicting signals on school reopenings (The Hill)
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science, quoted
February 8: Inside the Worst-Hit County in the Worst-Hit State in the Worst-Hit Country (The New Yorker)
Atul Gawande—professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, surgeon, author, and Ariadne Labs founder and chair— wrote about the sharp divisions among the residents of Minot, North Dakota regarding how to deal with surging coronavirus cases and deaths in their community.
February 8: How coronavirus is impacting mental health in the Gulf region (Arabian Business)
Shekhar Saxena, professor of the practice of global mental health, said that the pandemic has contributed to work-related stress and gave employers tips on how to foster employees’ mental well-being. He also discussed the stigma around mental health and how to mitigate it.
February 8: COVID vaccine inequity frustrates Massachusetts’ diverse, lower-income cities hardest hit by virus (Telegram & Gazette)
Lack of enough COVID-19 vaccination sites in Massachusetts’ diverse and lower-income cities, and a slow rollout rate among Black and Hispanic populations, are contributing to disparities in vaccine equity and access, say experts. Rebekka Lee, research scientist at Harvard Chan School and a member of the Massachusetts Public Health Association Task Force on Coronavirus and Equity, said that “the state needs to improve efforts around engagement with communities of color.”
February 7: Where Do Vaccine Doses Go, and Who Gets Them? The Algorithms Decide (New York Times)
To distribute COVID-19 vaccines, the federal government has been using an automated algorithm to divvy up doses among states, and states have created their own allocation systems to divide vaccines among various providers. The result has been wide disparities in vaccine access across the U.S., say experts. Rebecca Weintraub, a faculty member at Ariadne Labs, was quoted.
February 7: It’s ‘delusional’ for Biden to use Defense Production Act for vaccines: Expert (Yahoo! Finance)
Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health, and other experts discussed the challenges of producing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines.
February 7: 60 Black Health Experts Urge Black Americans to Get Vaccinated (New York Times)
Dean Michelle Williams and Mary Bassett, François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights and director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, were among 60 black health experts urging Black Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Jay Winsten, director of the Initiative on Communication Strategies for Public Health, discussed the need for consistency and transparency in communicating to the public about the coronavirus pandemic, and the importance of conducting research on the type of messaging that is likely to resonate with people.
February 7: Mass vaccinations: How stadiums host a COVID defensive play (CBS Sunday Morning)
Atul Gawande, professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, surgeon, Ariadne Labs founder and chair, and former COVID-19 adviser to the Biden-Harris transition team, discussed his role helping arrange to open a COVID-19 mass vaccination site at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., home of the New England Patriots.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a student at Harvard Chan School and a Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman—and the only medical school graduate in the NFL—discussed his decision to opt out of the football season in order to work at a long-term health care facility near Montreal.
February 6: Calls grow for US to rely on rapid tests to fight pandemic (Washington Post)
Although rapid antigen tests are less sensitive than gold-standard PCR tests at detecting COVID-19, they are very good at catching the virus at its most infectious, and could therefore be a crucial tool in stopping the spread of disease, according to Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology.
February 5: Vaccines alone won’t solve the pandemic. Here are 3 other things we must do. (Washington Post)
In this op-ed, Atul Gawande—professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, surgeon, Ariadne Labs founder and chair, and former COVID-19 adviser to the Biden-Harris transition team—and co-authors argued that managing current and future coronavirus variants will require not just vaccines but more genomic surveillance, vaccines that can immunize against multiple disease strains, and new COVID-19 treatments.
February 5: Public health is being undermined. These 10 actions can restore it (STAT)
In this opinion piece, Dean Michelle Williams outlined 10 ways to address challenges that have undermined public health for decades.
Experts say that the Biden administration’s deal to ramp up production of the first fully over-the-counter COVID-19 test, a rapid antigen test produced by the Australian company Ellume, is too little and too late to make a dent in the pandemic. Both Atul Gawande, professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, surgeon, and former COVID-19 advisor to the Biden transition team, and Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, expressed concerns about the test’s $30 pricetag—too expensive for most Americans to use on a regular basis—and the smartphone app linked to the test, which requires some tech savvy to use. “It’s not going to be an effective tool to really stop spread,” said Mina, who has pushed for cheap, rapid paper-strip tests.
February 5: Israel’s Vaccination Results Point a Way Out of Virus Pandemic (New York Times)
In Israel, which leads the world in vaccinating its citizens, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations dropped dramatically among people who were vaccinated within a few weeks, new studies have found. Experts say the evidence is heartening. “I find this pretty persuasive that we are seeing actual effects of population-level vaccination,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology.
February 4: Meaning of vaccine rules keeps shifting at NC prisons (Carolina Public Press)
Prison staff in North Carolina—but not prisoners—have been moved to the top of the priority list for COVID-19 vaccines. “If your priority was to limit spread to the outside community, you would prioritize it that way,” said Natalia Linos, executive director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University. But she said that not providing vaccines to prisoners “doesn’t make sense” from a human rights perspective. “You’re basically leaving them in a state of increased vulnerability and risk and not doing anything about that increased risk,” she said.
February 4: Improving coronavirus numbers spark debate over cause, restrictions (Washington Times)
Declining numbers of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are likely due to Americans staying home and following safety guidelines, and to the end of a crest of cases that stemmed from holiday gatherings, according to William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology.
February 4: Expert: Decreasing future COVID-19 spread indoors (KCBS Radio)
In a radio interview, Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science, said that although it seems that COVID-19 spikes from holiday gatherings have begun to ease, people still need to take precautions because of new more contagious variants that are circulating. He stressed the importance of wearing masks and discussed the benefits of different types of masks. He also discussed the importance of good ventilation in buildings, planes, and cruise ships.
February 4: Double Face Masks? N95? Protect Yourself Against New Covid-19 Variants With These Mask Upgrades (Wall Street Journal)
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science, discussed the differences between various face masks to protect against COVID-19, including the N95, KN95, and KF94.
February 4: Virus variants have us back where we were a year ago (Washington Post)
It appears that currently available vaccines will be “effective enough” against emerging COVID-19 variants, wrote William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, in this op-ed. But “we can expect others to emerge and spread if they are better at transmission,” he wrote, adding, “Now we find ourselves nervously tracking variants with properties that are uncertain but which are surely enough to take seriously. It is reasonable to think they might be very serious indeed.”
February 4: A Parallel Pandemic Hits Health Care Workers: Trauma and Exhaustion (New York Times)
Health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic are burned out and psychologically traumatized. With some falling ill and others quitting, those left on the job must work harder, and the quality of care will suffer, according to Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management. “It’s a recipe for a collapse in the work force,” he said. Andrew Chan, professor in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, noted that health care workers who contract COVID-19 may suffer greater health challenges than others because they’re exposed to higher levels of virus. “Covid could impact our health care system for years to come by not only depleting our work force but by impairing the ability of survivors to do their jobs,” he said.
February 4: Super Bowl Party or Superspreader Event? (New York Times)
People who gather indoors with people that they don’t live with to watch the Super Bowl could easily spread COVID-19 if they talk loudly, cheer, or snack through the game, experts say. “It’s not like Thanksgiving where millions and millions are traveling, but will we see cases linked to Super Bowl parties at people’s homes? I think most definitely yes,” said Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science.
February 3: The Case For Reopening Schools (WFAE)
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science, discussed the difficult decisions surrounding school reopenings on the radio show “Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins.”
February 3: Vaccine News Gives Hope for Spring, if Enough People Get the Shots (New York Times)
COVID-19 vaccines provide hope that the pandemic will ease in the U.S., although experts say there are hurdles ahead, including inequities in vaccine access, case levels that are still nearly twice as high as last summer’s peak, and contagious new variants circulating. Globally, poorer countries are at a disadvantage because wealthy countries have purchased most of the world’s supply of vaccines. “I think in the rich world, we have a lot to feel good about for vaccines, but globally, it’s a different story,” noted Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics.
February 3: Can the U.S. keep COVID variants in check? Here’s what it takes (Salon)
Continued COVID-19 precautions such as masking and physical distancing, as well as improved genomic surveillance, are key to keeping variants of the virus in check, say experts. Right now the U.S. has one of the weakest genomic surveillance programs of any rich country, according to William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. “As it is, people like me cobble together partnerships with places and try and beg them” for samples, he said.
February 3: Covid-19 Mutations Make Immunity Math Incredibly Daunting (Bloomberg Quint)
It’s tough for experts to predict when populations will achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 because of changing conditions, including new more infectious variants and questions about how well vaccines will work against them. This opinion piece quoted from a December essay by Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, who noted that even if vaccines work less well against variants, they appear to be very effective at keeping people from dying of COVID-19—which would mean that “the toll on the health system and the mortality toll is dramatically reduced.”
February 3: The Five Things to Get Right Before the Next Pandemic (Bloomberg)
Careful preparation can help protect the U.S. from the next pandemic, according to experts. They recommend focusing on five areas of research and investment, including pathogen surveillance, repairing and augmenting the World Health Organization, genetic sequencing of viruses, developing more vaccines faster, and ironing out distribution and logistics. Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, was quoted.
Current COVID-19 vaccines may be somewhat less effective against emerging variants, but data suggests that the vaccines will prevent a lot of mild and moderate cases, and should be very effective at preventing severe cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health, noted that COVID-19 vaccines may need to be tweaked over time as new variants of the virus emerge—which is a typical strategy in stopping the spread of infections.
February 2: Worrisome coronavirus mutation seen in U.K. variant and in some U.S. samples (Washington Post)
A coronavirus mutation called E484K—nicknamed “Eeek”—has infectious disease experts worried because it may limit how much vaccines can protect against COVID-19. The mutation has appeared multiple times in coronavirus lineages around the world, but experts noted that its presence doesn’t necessarily change how the virus functions. Virus lineages that undergo functional changes are called “variants.” William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said, “The thing about the variants is that they are characterized by multiple mutations.” He added that while mutations can hamper immunity, they don’t obliterate it. “It’s not that immunity falls off a cliff,” he said. “Some people will still be somewhat protected.”
February 2: Colorado Mesa University Helps Researchers Studying COVID-19 Genome (CBS Denver)
Computational biologist Pardis Sabeti, professor of immunology and infectious diseases, is collaborating with Colorado Mesa University (CMU) on a project to track coronavirus mutations and how they spread. CMU is collecting genomic material from positive COVID-19 tests among students and others and sending it to the Sabeti lab for analysis. In looking for mutations, Sabeti said that those “making the virus more infectious is definitely something I’m concerned about. I’m actually more concerned about making the virus more lethal, or making the virus lethal to children. Viruses change—we don’t know where they will change.”
February 2: Those Most Likely to Get Covid Are Last in Line for Vaccines (WIRED)
Early data suggests stark racial disparities in who is getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Top priority has been to vaccinate frontline workers and those over 65. Noted Natalia Linos, executive director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, “In some ways, the fact that age has become such a common eligibility criterion risks building in inequities by race and ethnicity.”
February 1: Cardenas previews COVID-19 package to address racial inequities (CQ Roll Call)
This article described proposed legislation in Congress that aims to address equity and mental health issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it quoted Dean Michelle Williams, who spoke about mental health concerns for minority populations, frontline workers, and young people during a recent Chan School event.
February 1: Confused by pandemic data? Here’s some help reading it. (Christian Science Monitor)
John Quackenbush, Henry Pickering Walcott Professor of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, quoted
February 1: How New York’s Vaccine Program Missed Black and Hispanic Residents (New York Times)
This op-ed by the New York Times’ Editorial Board quoted Mary Bassett, François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, and former New York City health commissioner. “It doesn’t take rocket science to see why Black and Latinx people aren’t getting the vaccine,” she said. “The people who have the capacity to access the vaccine now are people who are privileged. These are not the people who are facing the highest risk of getting sick and dying. This has to be solved.”
February 1: Rapid COVID Tests Are Finally Coming Soon to U.S. Homes (New York Magazine)
The first Food and Drug Administration-approved antigen test for COVID-19, made by the Australian company Ellume, will soon be available for rapid at-home use without a prescription. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, noted that cheap, quick tests for COVID-19 “can be our backup. If we get people socialized to using these tests, we don’t have to find ourselves in this position again.”
February 1: What’s behind the dip in coronavirus cases? We ask specialists (Boston Globe)
Experts welcomed a decrease in COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts in January, but warned that progress could be reversed by emerging coronavirus variants, a bumpy vaccine rollout, people’s resistance to pandemic limitations, and reopening workplaces and schools. “I am concerned that we are still spending too much time in the weeds of the moment and not enough planning for potential serious challenges,” said Sarah Fortune, John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases.
February 1: Experts tout delaying 2nd COVID vaccine dose as US deaths mount (CIDRAP)
A number of experts are recommending vaccinating as many people as possible with one dose of COVID vaccine, without ensuring that people would receive the recommended second dose, in part because of the emergence of dangerous new variants. “I think this [strategy] is something on which reasonable people could disagree, but saying you should only do something supported by randomized evidence when there’s an emergency would have precluded us from using masks, social distancing, from doing all the things we know are good public health practices,” said Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. “There’s an old saying that we wouldn’t use parachutes or aspirin if we waited for randomized trials, either.”
February 1: His team is going to the Super Bowl. He’s staying on the coronavirus front lines. (Washington Post)
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a former offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs, opted out of this year’s football season so he could work at a COVID-19-stricken long-term-care facility near his native Montreal, putting his medical degree to use. He has also been taking remote epidemiology and biostatistics classes at Harvard Chan School and working toward a doctorate in public health.
February 1: Amid COVID-19 Variants, There Is An Increased Urgency For Vaccinations (NPR)
Atul Gawande, professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management and previous adviser to President Biden, discussed Johnson & Johnson’s forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine, the need to continue wearing masks, and the importance of further reducing transmission of the virus in order to ensure that more dangerous variants don’t crop up.