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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 July 2021 in which they offer comments and context:
July 30: With COVID on the rise, we asked disease experts how they’re traveling, dining, and gathering (Boston Globe)
Sarah Fortune, John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, was one of several experts who commented on whether they’re changing their behavior amid a new COVID-19 surge. Fortune said she’s comfortable eating indoors in restaurants in Cambridge, but won’t do so during an upcoming trip to New Orleans (where case rates are higher). Fortune also said she was planning an outdoor party with 20 guests, “all of whom happen to be fully vaccinated.”
July 30: What Delta has changed in the Covid pandemic — and what it hasn’t (STAT)
Although COVID-19 vaccines still largely protect people from severe illness or death, new evidence shows that the Delta variant is causing some breakthrough infections in vaccinated people. And vaccinated people with infections seem to carry roughly the same level of virus in their noses and throats as unvaccinated people—meaning they can spread it more easily. “The game has changed a little bit” for vaccinated people, noted Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases.
July 30: Removal of Alberta’s remaining COVID-19 protocols sparks outrage among physicians (CBC)
Some public health experts in Canada are dismayed at Alberta’s decision to relax its COVID-19 surveillance and management system amid a surge in cases. But Sarah Fortune, John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, said, “I think Alberta is taking reasonable steps in the face of having done a good job of bringing the viral numbers down and in the face of good vaccine coverage.”
July 30: CDC study shows three-fourths of people infected in Massachusetts coronavirus outbreak were vaccinated but few required hospitalization (Washington Post)
A scientific analysis that looked at a recent COVID-19 outbreak Provincetown, Mass., suggests that vaccinated people can spread the highly transmissible Delta variant—leading some experts to suggest that universal masking may be necessary to help stop the spread of the virus. “We are at an inflection point,” said Pardis Sabeti, professor of immunology and infectious diseases. “It’s say we are in a moment right now — a crossroads, a fork in the road where we can either try and take a road to end the pandemic or take a path that will prolong it.”
July 30: 3 Critical Metrics You Need to Assess the Overall Health of Your Workplace (Inc.)
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, offered advice for business owners on making workplaces safe as COVID-19 rates increase, such as enhancing ventilation and filtration.
July 30: Vaccinated People May Spread the Virus, Though Rarely, C.D.C. Reports (New York Times)
With COVID-19 cases surging across the U.S., spurred by the Delta variant, new data shows that vaccinated people may spread the virus as easily as unvaccinated people. A similar surge in Britain appears to be subsiding, but patchier vaccination rates in the U.S. mean that the course of the pandemic may be different here, said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology.
July 30: CDC Says New Mask Guidelines Informed by Cape Cod Outbreak (Wall Street Journal)
Kasisomayajula “Vish” Viswanath, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication, quoted
July 30: CDC report shows vaccinated people can spread COVID-19 (Roll Call)
Rachael Piltch-Loeb, public health preparedness fellow, quoted
July 30: They Spurned the Vaccine. Now They Want You to Know They Regret It. (New York Times)
Some people who previously rejected COVID-19 vaccines are now speaking out after watching unvaccinated family members suffer or die. “People are creating news from their hospital beds, from the wards,” said Rebecca Weintraub, associate faculty member of Ariadne Labs. “It’s the accessibility of the message: ‘I didn’t protect my own family. Let me help you protect yours.’”
July 29: Masks or mandates: With vaccination rates slowing, experts say it was a matter of time (WJLA)
With less than half of the U.S. population fully vaccinated and the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 surging, governments and businesses are instituting masking requirements and officials are pushing hard for more vaccination. Said Rachael Piltch-Loeb, public health preparedness fellow, “Given that we are expecting people to go back to in-person working sooner rather than later, adding vaccine mandates as part of employment or as part of an occupational environment makes a lot of sense.”
July 29: Retailers Revisit Mask Debate After New C.D.C. Guidelines (New York Times)
After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new recommendations on masking amid a COVID-19 surge, retailers are struggling to figure out masking requirements for customers and employees. Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, noted that the CDC is trying to motivate better protections in parts of the U.S. that are having the worst outbreaks, but he suspects that some of those locations—where they “haven’t thought this was a big enough deal to even get vaccinated in the first place”—may ignore the new masking advice.
July 29: The best vaccine incentive might be paid time off (MIT Technology Review)
Some experts think that giving people paid time off work could help boost COVID-19 vaccination rates. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that nearly 20% of all workers, 26% of Black workers, and 40% of Hispanic workers said they hadn’t gotten vaccinated yet because they’re afraid of missing work or because they’re too busy. Some states guarantee paid time off for COVID-19 vaccinations, but in other cases such benefits may depend on what employers will allow, or whether workers understand their rights. “If you’re part of the 94% of private sector workers who are not in a union, you may not know that a benefit exists,” said Justin Feldman, research associate at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights. “And even if you do know that exists, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to exercise it without retaliation.”
July 28: CDC Says: Vaccinated Or Not, Put The Mask Back On. In Some Places. (WGBH’s Greater Boston)
In a TV interview, Nancy Krieger, professor of social epidemiology, discussed vaccination and masking as the Delta variant propels a surge in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Krieger stressed the importance of improving access to vaccines, particularly among people who face obstacles to getting the shots.
July 28: CDC reversal on indoor masking prompts experts to ask, ‘Where’s the data?’ (Washington Post)
According to government officials, new data shows that people vaccinated for COVID-19 can harbor large amounts of the virus, just like unvaccinated people—suggesting that the variant can be spread by people who are vaccinated. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, speculated that because Delta replicates so quickly, people’s immune systems may be playing catch-up. “The immune response, once activated, takes a while to kick in even among people who have been vaccinated,” he explained.
July 28: Singapore Braces for a Leap of Faith in Its Covid Strategy (Bloomberg Quint)
Singapore has had only 37 COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic, a feat achieved by sealing off its population from the outside world for more than a year and imposing tight restrictions. The country is tiptoeing toward reopening, but even with an 80% vaccination rate, experts say the country will likely have to live with some sickness and death from COVID-19, given the spread of highly transmissible variants such as Delta. “No country has demonstrated that it has sufficiently high levels of immunization so that the virus cannot replicate enough to survive in the community in circulation,” noted Harvey Fineberg, a former dean of Harvard Chan School and ex-president of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine.
July 27: With testing down, hard to know how much COVID is in Massachusetts (WCVB)
Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, said that Massachusetts is “absolutely undercounting cases of COVID as we have been through the entire pandemic and we may be undercounting even more now than we have been before.” He said that even with undercounting, it’s still clear that cases are increasing in Massachusetts and across much of the U.S. “I think that there may come a time when we might have to reintroduce masking indoors, when we might have to think about doing more routine surveillance testing to get a better understanding of how Delta is spreading,” he said.
July 26: Medical leaders call for mask requirements, stronger action against COVID-19 in Mass. schools (Boston Globe)
At a July 26 state hearing, public health experts and physicians called for stronger measures to protect Massachusetts schoolchildren against COVID-19, such as requiring masks and automatically vaccinating students unless their parents opt out. Alan Geller, senior lecturer on social and behavioral sciences—who presented a granular look at the state’s progress on vaccinations—said that there are continuing disparities among communities of color. He noted that 38 out of 42 such high-risk communities are well below the state average for vaccinations among 12- to 15-year-olds, and he called for greater parent outreach in these communities.
July 26: ‘A tipping point’: Government officials, health groups move to require coronavirus vaccines for workers (Washington Post)
Government officials and health groups are moving to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for workers. Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis, Emeritus, noted that a recent Politico-Harvard poll he designed found that while 66% of adults supported health-care organizations requiring employees to get the shots, Americans were divided over whether other workers or school children should be required to do so.
July 26: Tokyo’s Olympics Were Supposed to Be in 2020. Tokyo’s Covid Protocols Are Still There. (Wall Street Journal)
Some COVID-19 safety measures being emphasized at the Tokyo Olympics—such as plastic partitions—are now thought to be largely unnecessary. Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, noted that such partitions “could actually make your ventilation system less effective” by interfering with airflow. He said a better strategy would be to improve ventilation and air filtration in indoor spaces.
July 25: The Delta Variant Is the Symptom of a Bigger Threat: Vaccine Refusal (New York Times)
The current COVID-19 surge is being fueled by vaccine hesitancy and refusal in the U.S., according to experts. Although unvaccinated people are most at risk, vaccinated people can also become infected. “The larger the force of infection that comes from the pandemic in unvaccinated populations, the more breakthrough infections there will be,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology.
July 23: AP-NORC poll: Most unvaccinated Americans don’t want shots (AP)
A new poll from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that most Americans who haven’t been vaccinated say they’re unlikely to get the shots. Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health and former assistant U.S. secretary of health and state public health commissioner, said that rampant misinformation about COVID-19 makes it crucial to reach people one-on-one and address their concerns with accurate information.
July 23: Delays, More Masks and Mandatory Shots: Virus Surge Disrupts Office-Return Plans (New York Times)
Companies are reconsidering whether to require that employees be vaccinated for COVID-19 amid a resurgence of the virus. Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, said, “The big question is not so much ‘Can we keep workers safe in our buildings?’ but ‘Will workers feel comfortable enough coming back, even if good controls are in place?’”
July 23: These 20 U.S. Counties Are ‘Delta Danger Zones’ (WebMD)
An analysis from Surgo Ventures, a nonprofit, found that 20 counties in the U.S.—in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas—are “Delta danger zones.” Sema Sgaier, CEO of Surgo Ventures and adjunct assistant professor of global health at Harvard Chan School, said the counties “represent the strongest convergence of COVID-19 vulnerability, underlying community barriers to vaccine update, and low vaccination rates of all counties in the United States at this point in time.”
July 23: Keep an eye on severe COVID cases among breakthrough infections, experts say (Boston Globe)
Experts say that, amid a COVID-19 surge, the most important thing to track among breakthrough cases in vaccinated people are those that result in serious illness or death. So far, such cases are very rare. “It makes a lot of sense to be closely tracking anybody who ends up hospitalized or worse,” said Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases. “I think we can start to relax a little bit our surveillance for these milder cases and certainly asymptomatic ones.”
July 22: Lambda Vs. Delta Variants—What to Know As New Forms of COVID Spread in U.S. (Newsweek)
Given that many people in the world are unvaccinated and therefore susceptible to COVID-19, more variants will continue to emerge, say experts. “We are going to see ongoing viral evolution—where the virus is going to continue to spin off more transmissible variants,” said Sarah Fortune, John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases. She said the most important thing to do is to accelerate worldwide vaccination so that the virus has fewer chances to mutate.
July 22: Japan’s COVID-19 cases have largely been in areas with lower incomes and more essential workers – and outbreaks driven by the Olympics could cause further surges (Daily Mail)
A new study co-authored by Ichiro Kawachi, John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Social Epidemiology, found that lower household income, frontline occupations, smoking, and obesity were all associated with higher COVID-19 infection risk in Japan. “When it comes down to the question of who is most vulnerable to getting sick, the data from Japan look very similar to the USA and Europe,” he said. He added that the Olympics could lead to more infections, since many workers at the games have just one dose of vaccine. “Even though precautions have been taken to form a protective bubble around athletes, from an epidemiological perspective, [an outbreak] would appear to be an avoidable and unreasonable risk,” he said.
July 22: The Delta Variant Will Drive A Steep Rise In U.S. COVID Deaths, A New Model Shows (NPR)
New projections suggest that the current COVID-19 surge, fueled by the Delta variant, could accelerate through mid-October, peaking at around 60,000 cases and 850 deaths each day. The model suggests that the pandemic is not over yet and that “we’re not going to be able to land the plane without turbulence,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. “How much turbulence will track with how many people are vaccinated in a given community.” He added, “I also strongly suspect that Delta is highly prone to superspreading—if I am right, it might go off like a bomb in some undervaccinated communities.”
July 22: Witnessing England’s response to Covid at first hand has profoundly shocked me (The Guardian)
In an op-ed, William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, criticized England’s decision to lift all COVID-19 restrictions on July 19. “Thanks to the Covid-curious policies of the past few months, the UK is already in the grip of an uncontrolled epidemic among unvaccinated people, with significant numbers of breakthrough infections among the vaccinated,” he wrote. “And both are about to get worse.”
July 22: What breakthrough infections mean for the Covid vaccines (NBC News)
While research suggests that the available COVID-19 vaccines provide strong protections against the known variants, experts say that some “breakthrough” infections are to be expected, because no vaccine is 100% effective. Infections are more likely with the circulation of highly transmissible variants and with low vaccinations rates in some communities, according to said Sarah Fortune, John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases.
July 22: Covid-19 vaccines: is fractional dosing a solution for supply-short Southeast Asia? (South China Morning Post)
Experts are divided on whether fractional dosing—administering smaller amounts of vaccines to stretch supplies—should be used to help curb COVID-19 in Southeast Asia, where there is limited vaccine supply. Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, said that reduced dosing has merit but more research is needed to demonstrate its effectiveness. “If you get more than half the immune protection from half a dose, or one-fifth the immune protection from one-fifth of the dose … then you can do more good by spreading it more thinly,” he said. “I think it’s worth investigating.”
July 21: Two Ways to Think About the New Mask Debate (The Atlantic)
Whether or not to wear a mask amid rising COVID-19 case counts depends on your personal risk tolerance, living situation, and geographic location, according to experts. Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, said that he agrees with the CDC’s recommendation: “If you’re vaccinated, you don’t need to wear a mask.” While indoor masking may be reasonable in areas with large outbreaks, he doesn’t think a top-down mask mandate for all of America makes sense.
July 21: The New COVID Panic (Slate)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said that “Breakthrough is the next frontier” in the COVID-19 pandemic. While vaccination greatly reduces the risk of hospitalization or death, people can still get sick from COVID-19. “A lot of people getting breakthrough diseases won’t be fun, even if they don’t end up in hospital,” he said.
July 21: U.S. Life Expectancy Plunged in 2020, Especially for Black and Hispanic Americans (New York Times)
New federal data shows that the coronavirus pandemic has fueled the steepest decline in life expectancy since World War II—and that, in 2020, there was a far steeper drop among Hispanic and Black Americans than among white Americans. Overall life expectancy fell by a year and a half, but by three years among Hispanic people and by 2.9 years among Black Americans. The coronavirus “uncovered the deep racial and ethnic inequities in access to health, and I don’t think that we’ve ever overcome them,” said Mary Bassett, François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, and former New York City health commissioner.
July 21: Olympics Virus Cases Raise Tricky Questions About Testing (New York Times)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, quoted
July 21: Provincetown COVID-19 cluster grows to 256 confirmed cases, town manager says (Boston Globe)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said that a COVID-19 outbreak in Provincetown suggests the presence of the Delta variant because of its “rampant ability to be infectious and get into the next host.”
July 21: Opinion: No, we shouldn’t bring back universal mask mandates (Washington Post)
In an op-ed, Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, argued that the current masking recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—that vaccinated people don’t need to mask indoors, but unvaccinated people should—should not be changed, in spite of an uptick in COVID-19 cases. “All of the vaccines approved for use in the United States remain effective against all covid-19 variants, including delta,” he wrote, noting that “breakthrough” infections are rare and most are asymptomatic.
July 20: ‘COVID-19 is unfortunately here to stay’: Experts voice concern about the large number of breakthrough cases in Provincetown (Boston Globe)
Experts think that the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus is fueling an outbreak of breakthrough COVID-19 cases in Provincetown. “The first thing I thought about it was ‘That’s Delta for you,’” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. “Even in quite highly vaccinated communities, Delta is capable of transmitting.”
July 18: How can Britain reconcile reopening as virus rampages? (RTE)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, quoted
July 17: How to stay safe as covid-19 cases from the delta variant are on the rise (Washington Post)
As the Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads through the U.S., public health experts recommend vaccines as the best protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Some experts also recommend that people, including those who are fully vaccinated, continue to wear masks in settings where people may be unvaccinated. Yonatan Grad, Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, said that while outdoor events are generally less risky for coronavirus transmission, they could still be unsafe, particularly if they’re held in a region with rising COVID-19 cases and low inoculation rates.
July 16: These charts show how coronavirus levels in Mass. are edging up again (Boston Globe)
Key measures of the coronavirus pandemic, including case numbers, hospitalizations, deaths, and data on the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater, are on the rise in Massachusetts. Experts think that the state’s high vaccination rate will largely protect people from severe illness and death, but caution that the vaccines aren’t 100% effective. “With cases now rising in so many other places nationwide, we need to monitor carefully any hint of increase in our own state,” said Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health and former assistant U.S. secretary of health and state public health commissioner. “We can’t assume it’s over until it’s over.”
July 16: The fourth wave of COVID-19 cases is here. Will we escape the UK’s fate? It’s too soon to know. (USA Today)
With COVID-19 cases doubling in the U.S. in the past two weeks, experts think that infection rates will continue to increase, and that the unvaccinated, including children, and the most vulnerable of the vaccinated—the elderly and the immunocompromised—will be most at risk. The highly contagious Delta variant now accounts for most cases in the U.S., and it’s not clear whether it makes people sicker than previous variants. “The concern about Delta is well placed,” said Yonatan Grad, Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases. “We’re certainly seeing that this wave is something to contend with and not to take lightly.”
July 15: What should Covid mitigation in K-12 schools look like this fall? (The Report Card with Nate Malkus)
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, was the featured guest on this podcast from the American Enterprise Institute. He discussed the CDC’s recently updated school reopening guidance, the importance of ventilation as a COVID mitigation strategy, and solutions for America’s “sick” school buildings.
July 15: In vaccine plea, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy reveals he’s lost 10 family members to Covid (NBC)
Kasisomayajula “Vish” Viswanath, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication, quoted
July 14: Why England’s COVID ‘freedom day’ alarms researchers (Nature)
Experts are worried that easing COVID-19 restrictions in England while infections are on the rise could result in large numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, and lead to the emergence of new variants. “This decision … repeats a pattern of foolishly promising an outcome when dealing with a highly infectious agent,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, alluding to the government’s earlier, premature assurances that the pandemic would soon be over. He criticized the abandonment of “mild” measures such as mandatory mask-wearing. “Getting people to accept small inconveniences for the greater good is what leadership is about,” he said.
July 14: Delta Variant Widens Gulf Between ‘Two Americas’: Vaccinated and Unvaccinated (New York Times)
The Delta variant of the coronavirus is now responsible for more than half of new infections in the U.S., and infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are rising swiftly in some states with low vaccination rates, such as Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, and Nevada. Nationwide, experts don’t expect high levels of hospitalizations and deaths, as nearly 60% of adults are fully vaccinated. “I think the United States has vaccinated itself out of a national coordinated surge, even though we do expect cases pretty much everywhere,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology.
July 13: 79 fully vaccinated Mass. residents have died, 303 hospitalized in very rare COVID ‘breakthrough’ cases, officials say (Boston Globe)
In spite of breakthrough cases of COVID-19 among vaccinated people, experts say that vaccines are still highly effective against severe disease and death from all known variants of COVID-19. Eric Rubin, adjunct professor of immunology and infectious diseases and a member of the FDA advisory committee that recommended authorizing the use of the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for use in the U.S., said, “Yes, the vaccines aren’t perfect. We expect that some folks will still be infected. But both in the studies and in real-life evidence they are awfully good.” Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health and former assistant U.S. secretary of health and state public health commissioner, agreed, adding, “We need to accelerate vaccination momentum going forward especially in light of rising national threats from the Delta variant.”
July 13: Should You Invest In An Air Purifier? (Men’s Health)
Experts say that air purifiers can help remove contaminants from indoor air such as bacteria, allergens, pollutants, smoke, pollen, and airborne viruses such as the coronavirus. Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, noted that indoor air quality can impact both health and performance.
July 12: Covid-19 Variants and the Vaccine Booster: What You Need to Know (Rolling Stone)
Federal agencies say that fully vaccinated people don’t need a COVID-19 booster shot at this time, although it’s possible that could change in the future. In the meantime, experts say it’s crucial to get as many people vaccinated as possible with the current vaccines, both to protect them from disease and to reduce the possibility of the emergence of new variants—which can occur as long as the virus is circulating. “Right now, the single most important thing that we can do is continue to rapidly push vaccine coverage to try to get the global reservoir of virus down—so basically, the virus has fewer shots on goal,” said Sarah Fortune, John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases.
July 11: POLITICO-Harvard poll: Americans sharply divided over vaccine mandates (Politico)
Most Democrats favor employees and students to be vaccinated before they return to work or school, but most Republicans oppose the government or most employers infringing on their individual choice, according to a new POLITICO-Harvard poll. Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis, Emeritus, who designed the poll, said, “An important takeaway from the poll is that in these [Republican-leaning] areas it is going to be very slow in getting these people to agree to take a vaccine. There is a culture in part of the country that is very resistant to having the government tell people how to live their lives.”
July 9: Phewwww, the CDC is mostly on target in rules for opening school this fall (USA Today)
In an op-ed, Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, praised new COVID-19 guidance for schools from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He noted that the agency is emphasizing the importance of in-person schooling, acknowledging that decisions on masking and other controls should be based on local conditions, and focusing on improving ventilation.
July 9: What Parents Need to Know About the C.D.C.’s Covid School Guidelines (New York Times)
Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that schools use numerous strategies to keep students, teachers, and staff members safe, including vaccination, masking, testing, distancing, and good ventilation. “I’m glad to see ventilation called out specifically a stand-alone item,” said Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program. “We’ve been talking about this for 18 months at this point.”
July 9: POLITICO-Harvard poll: Most Americans believe Covid leaked from lab (Politico)
Fifty-two percent of Americans now believe that the coronavirus leaked from a Chinese lab, up from 29% in March 2020, according to a new poll. Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis, Emeritus, who designed the poll, said that people’s views may have changed after President Joe Biden’s recent order that intelligence agencies investigate the virus’ origin, and comments from Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical officer, that’s it’s worth exploring.
July 8: Why Can’t Europeans Travel to America? (New York Times)
Travel lobbying groups and airlines are urging the U.S. to reopen travel with Europe—particularly with countries that have similar vaccination rates as the U.S., such as the U.K., which has fully vaccinated about 51% of its population—but U.S. officials have not indicated when that will happen. Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health, said that U.S. officials may be concerned about the spread of more contagious variants, but noted that the Delta variant is already spreading here. “Keeping the Brits out is not going to change that fact,” he said.
July 8: Is It Ethical For Universities To Ask International Students To Get Re-Vaccinated? (WGBH)
Some universities are requiring international students to get re-vaccinated if they previously received a vaccine that wasn’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, such as one from China or Russia. Experts differ on whether this requirement is ethical, given that there are no definitive clinical trials showing that it’s safe to be revaccinated. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, said, “We don’t want to force college students coming in from abroad to our universities to be the guinea pigs for those trials.”
July 7: Delta Covid-19 Variant Is Dominant U.S. Strain, CDC Data Show (Wall Street Journal)
The Delta variant of the coronavirus made up more than half of COVID-19 infections in the two weeks ending July 3, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, noted that Delta is “slightly more capable of causing breakthrough infections in vaccinated people, particularly those who have yet to receive both shots,” and that unvaccinated people are most at risk for severe disease requiring hospitalization.
July 7: Vaccines show early success against Delta (New York Times)
Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, quoted
July 7: The world is worried about the Delta virus variant. Studies show vaccines are effective against it. (New York Times)
Although studies have reached different conclusions about whether or not vaccines protect against infection from the Delta variant of the coronavirus, they agree so far that most vaccines generally prevent severe disease. Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, noted that more vaccine effectiveness studies are needed to determine just how big a threat Delta poses to vaccines. “If there are five studies with one outcome and one study with another, I think one can conclude that the five are probably more likely to be correct than the one,” he said.
July 4: Pins, stickers, T-shirts: Is there value in wearing your COVID-19 vaccine status? (Global News)
Wearing a symbol that indicates your vaccination status can help nudge people who are hesitant about getting vaccinated. “I’m not saying it’s the most potent way, but certainly a good way…encouraging others to do it and make it more acceptable,” said Kasisomayajula “Vish” Viswanath, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication.
July 3: Understanding Conflicting Mask Recommendations Amid Delta Variant (NPR’s All Things Considered)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, offered thoughts on why the CDC’s COVID-19 guidance for vaccinated people is that they don’t have to wear masks, while the World Health Organization has advised everyone, even those who are vaccinated, to keep wearing masks because of the threat of the highly transmissible Delta variant. “I think the difference comes down to the fact that the WHO is trying to give advice to the world, whereas the CDC is restricted to the United States,” Hanage said, noting that the U.S. has relatively high levels of vaccination.
July 2: Colorado’s $1 Million Vaccine Drawings Are Almost Over. Did They Convince Anyone To Get The Shot? (Colorado Public Radio)
Ankur Pandya, associate professor of health decision science, said that the way to figure out if vaccine incentive programs actually help move the needle on getting people vaccinated is to compare states that use them to states that don’t. He said that limited data show so far that vaccine lotteries “do have a short-term boost in vaccination rates, but then that wears off.”
July 1: Health Equity task force report goes far beyond health care (Commonwealth Magazine)
A report from a health equity task force appointed by the Massachusetts Legislature recommends improving the health care system to better address COVID-19 inequities, as well as addressing underlying systemic inequities that contributed to disparities seen during the pandemic. Jeffrey Sanchez, an instructor in the Department of Health Policy and Management and member of the task force, noted that the pandemic “exposed what all of us already know…that there’s fundamental cracks in the health care system.”
July 1: Why returning to ‘normal’ feels so not (Harvard Gazette)
Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology, advised returning to “normal” slowly as COVID-19 eases, noting that returning to pre-pandemic routines may feel unsettling. “We’ve all gone through a tremendous amount of change and stress this past year, in lockdowns, in changes to the way we work, live, in every aspect of our lives,” she said. “And now we’re being asked to change back. It’s a time of tremendous change, and it’s good to remind ourselves that all change is stressful.”
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