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In the wake of an outbreak of coronavirus that began in China in late December 2019, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health experts have been speaking to a variety of media outlets. We’ll be updating this article on a regular basis. Here’s a selection of stories from June 2020 in which they offer comments and context:
Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health, quoted
June 30: The Paradox of Medical Costs During the Pandemic (Econofact)
Although many experts predicted that medical costs would rise due to the coronavirus pandemic, they’ve actually gone down substantially, mostly because non-COVID expenditures have dropped sharply, according to this article co-authored by Jeff Levin-Scherz, professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management.
June 29: Is air conditioning helping spread COVID in the South? (Harvard Gazette)
Edward Nardell, professor in the Departments of Environmental Health and Immunology and Infectious Diseases, quoted
June 28: Only Remdesivir, Dexamethasone ‘effective’; rest speculation: Harvard’s Ashish Jha (Business Today)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, quoted
June 28: Sweden’s Covid Expert Says the World Still Doesn’t Understand (Bloomberg)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, quoted
June 27: What Activities Are Safe as the Coronavirus Continues to Spread? (New Yorker)
Q&A with Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science
June 26: COVID-19 Is Taking A Toll On Young People’s Mental Health Too (NPR’s Science Friday)
Features Archana Basu, research associate in the Department of Epidemiology
June 26: What is pool testing and how does it work? (Washington Post)
June 26: Opinion: FEMA Corps gives students, grads opportunity to serve (Boston Herald)
Op-ed by Rich Serino, distinguished senior fellow at the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative
June 26: Pandemic threatens to veer out of control in U.S., public health experts say (Harvard Gazette)
June 26: Younger people are a factor in surge of COVID-19 cases, analysis shows (USA Today)
Since Memorial Day, most new cases of COVID-19 have been among people under age 45. Although the disease is most deadly for seniors, it can also harm younger patients, and younger people with infections can spread it to others who are vulnerable, say experts. “Inevitably, infection will spread,” said research fellow Stephen Kissler. “So I think that just because infection is currently mostly spreading in young people is not really a reason to breathe a sigh of relief.”
June 26: Surge in Younger Covid-19 Infections Could Worsen the Pandemic (Elemental)
COVID-19 cases are reaching record highs in the U.S., with significant increases among people under age 50. Thomas Tsai, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, said that the younger carriers will at first cause the death rate to fall—because the virus is deadlier for the elderly—but that the rising infections will eventually drive the death toll up.
June 26: As Americans weigh returning to school and work, the race to make buildings safe from coronavirus (Washington Post)
Building managers of schools and offices are working to figure out how to reopen safely and prevent infection from the coronavirus. They’re focusing on bathrooms, elevators, and ventilation and cooling systems. Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science, said it’s unavoidable that there will be some cases in schools, but added, “We still have to march forward. And I know that if we follow the science, we can significantly reduce risk in schools.”
June 26: ‘Where we are.’ Florida’s window to act on virus growth is closing, experts say (Tampa Bay Times)
With COVID-19 cases spiking in Florida and other states, experts say hospitals could face a surge in demand in the coming weeks. “What you see today is going to get much worse tomorrow,” said Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health. Epidemiologist William Hanage said that the window to prevent shutdowns like those of March and April is closing. “I think shutdowns are a bad thing, but if they’re the only tool you have to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, you might have to use one again,” he said.
June 25: Why Trump’s focus on falling death rates could be dangerous (Politico)
President Trump is pointing to falling death rates as evidence that the worst of the coronavirus is over, but experts disagree. That’s because even though death rates are falling, cases of COVID-19 are on the rise, and deaths typically lag behind cases by several weeks. “If you’re going to do that with the death rate, you should be prepared to look at the death rate in a month or so,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. “You might not find it so attractive.”
June 25: Trump Falsely Says COVID-19 Surge ‘Only’ Due to Testing, Misleads on Deaths (FactCheck.org)
President Trump’s insistence that the uptick in COVID-19 cases is only due to increased testing is false, according to experts. They also noted that even though deaths are currently declining, they will increase later, since deaths lag behind cases. Caroline Buckee, associate professor of epidemiology and associate director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics (CCDD), and epidemiologist William Hanage were quoted.
June 25: How to Safely Work Out Outdoors During the Summer of COVID-19 (Inside Hook)
I-Min Lee, professor in the Department of Epidemiology, offered recommendations on how to work out safely during the coronavirus pandemic. Among her recommendations: avoid indoor gyms, use your own workout equipment, have a mask handy, and double your social distance to 12 feet. “Be physically active but be appropriate and careful,” she said.
June 25: Healthy buildings expert outlines recommendations for school reopenings (Harvard Gazette)
With most U.S. public schools planning to reopen in the fall, healthy buildings expert Joseph Allen recommended an array of strategies—including keeping students in discrete groups, bringing fresh air into buildings, distancing, wearing masks, and handwashing—to keep students, teachers, and staff safe, and to contain outbreaks when they do occur. The recommendations were outlined in a 62-page-report from the Healthy Buildings Program, which Allen leads. He said the most important recommendation is that “schools have to establish and reinforce a culture of health, safety, and shared responsibility.”
June 25: A Virus Walks Into a Bar … (New York Times)
Bars—many housed in dark, narrow, indoor spaces with no windows, little room to move, and fixed bar stool seating that forces people to sit close together—may be one of the riskiest places to be if you’re trying to steer clear of the coronavirus. “Except for maybe a hospital with sick patients, I couldn’t imagine too many more risky places than a super cramped indoor bar with poor ventilation and hundreds of people,” said Asaf Bitton, executive director of Ariadne Labs.
June 24: Lockdown? What lockdown? (Harvard Gazette)
Anonymized mobility data from cellphones shows that Americans are moving around at near pre-pandemic levels. The data was collected as part of the COVID-19 Mobility Data Network, led by epidemiologist Caroline Buckee. Buckee said the increased movement, which started several weeks ago, “foreshadows the uptick in cases [of COVID-19] that we’re seeing in many parts of the country, for sure.”
June 24: What’s Really Behind the Gender Gap in Covid-19 Deaths? (New York Times)
Studies suggest that the apparent gender gap in COVID-19 deaths mostly has to do with differences in age, occupation, and pre-existing conditions between men and women. For example, while more men died from COVID-19 than women during the first two weeks of April in Massachusetts, a Harvard Chan School study found that women and men had an identical risk of dying from the disease when researchers adjusted for men’s higher baseline mortality rates by age. The study was by Nancy Krieger, professor of social epidemiology, research scientist Jarvis Chen, and project director Pamela Waterman.
As coronavirus cases increase in a number of U.S. states such as Texas, California, and Arizona, experts urged governments to take action. Epidemiologist William Hanage said that to avoid strict lockdowns, officials should be proactive when cases start to increase, such as by increasing testing and having a plan for what to do when people test positive.
June 24: New York City reports no protest-related upticks in Covid-19 (Politico)
It appears that protests in New York against police brutality have not led to more cases of COVID-19. Some experts said that police actions at protests might pose a greater risk for spreading the virus than the protests themselves. “I’m concerned about [police] use of measures like tear gas, which could be a way to enhance transmission,” said Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership.
June 24: Coronavirus Cases Are Accelerating Across U.S. (Wall Street Journal)
As of June 23, 33 states had a seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases that was higher than their average during the previous two weeks, according to new data. While increased testing is one reason for the uptick in cases, it doesn’t fully account for it. “There’s no question that the uptick we’re seeing in parts of the U.S. is a real epidemiological uptick,” said epidemiologist Caroline Buckee.
June 24: Americans Face New Virus Limbo as Some Reopenings Are Halted (New York Times)
With coronavirus cases rising in more than half of the U.S., cities and states are either slowing down their reopening plans or reimposing restrictions, creating divides between neighboring locations that choose different strategies. “There’s very little appetite among the American public to go backwards,” said Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology. “As reopenings started there were no plans for what would constitute a red flag to close things down. People just said, ‘We’re reopening, everything’s fine, let’s move ahead.’”
June 24: Yes, kids should be going back to school in the fall (Washington Post)
In this opinion piece, Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science, wrote that schools should reopen in the fall, using a suite of risk-reduction strategies to avoid outbreaks of COVID-19.
June 24: Are we seeing second wave of COVID-19? (Kazakh TV)
Epidemiologist William Hanage was quoted.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise in more than half of U.S. states, President Trump has blamed the rising count on increased testing and suggested doing less testing. But experts say that high numbers of positive test rates mean that the virus is indeed spreading—and urged more testing. “It’s because of testing that we’re able to see these increases in cases in various places and probably be able to catch them sooner than we would otherwise,” said research fellow Stephen Kissler.
June 24: As New COVID Hot Spots Emerge, Approaches Differ Toward the Disease (US News and World Report)
A patchwork of government responses to the coronavirus across the U.S. has led to alarming upticks in cases in hospitalizations in a number of states, such as Arizona, North Carolina, Florida and Texas. Research fellow Stephen Kissler said that containing the virus may ultimately depend more on people’s individual decisions to wear face masks and follow other public health advice than on government actions.
June 24: There’s Nothing Contrived About the Coronavirus Death Toll (Elemental)
Some people say the death toll from the coronavirus is inflated because those who died have would have died soon anyway. But epidemiologists say that is not the case—because even if a person had an underlying condition that made them more susceptible to COVID-19, they would have lived longer had they not gotten sick. “I don’t think cases are being inflated at all,” said epidemiologist Michael Mina. “If anything, the true numbers of infections are underreported.”
There’s a big financial burden facing small colleges considering reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic. For example, they’ll have to pay for frequent COVID-19 testing to monitor potential outbreaks on campuses. “Testing everyone—that assumes comprehensive testing of every single person every one to four days—that is still very, very laborious and difficult to do logistically,” said epidemiologist Michael Mina.
June 24: South Korea says it has a second wave of coronavirus infections — but what does that really mean? (ABC Australia)
Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and CCDD director, said that there is no agreed-upon definition of the term “second wave,” which has been used in recent discussions about the coronavirus pandemic. The term simply refers to a sustained upsurge in cases, he said, and cautioned, “We should not be lulled by the wave metaphor to think that if we do nothing it will crest and decline.”
June 23: The Winners of COVID-19 (Business Fights Poverty)
Some businesses are doing very well during the coronavirus pandemic, including Proctor & Gamble, Amazon, Walmart, and Netflix, according to this article co-authored by Gillian Christie, DrPH ’20.
June 23: COVID-19 pandemic and post-disaster research: causes, consequences and recommendations (Disaster Prevention and Management)
Sonny Patel, an NIH Fogarty Global Health Scholar and Fellow, was first author of a paper examining research fatigue—when an individual or population tires of engaging with research—in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers found that being transparent about research and sharing results may reduce research fatigue.
June 23: Is Texas facing a second coronavirus wave as case numbers climb? (Dallas Morning News)
An analysis of all the people who died of documented COVID-19 in the U.S., from social epidemiologist Nancy Krieger and colleagues, estimated that more than 138,000 years of human life have been lost before age 65. The analysis also found a wide disparity between white Americans and people of color. Said Krieger, “You think about people being the dynamic beings that we are, living across space and time. And then you have lives that are just pulled out of the picture.”
June 23: What is a second wave of a pandemic, and has it arrived in the U.S.? (Reuters)
The U.S. has not come out of the first wave of the coronavirus because it never experienced a dramatic drop in cases, according to experts. Epidemiologist William Hanage was quoted.
June 23: Finding COVID clues in movement (Harvard Gazette)
Epidemiologist and CCDD associate director Caroline Buckee and Satchit Balsari, assistant professor in the Department of Global Health and Population and a fellow at the FXB Center, are leading a global effort to use data from mobile devices and social media to show the movement of individuals—which can shed light on potential problem spots for COVID-19 when paired with public health data—and to share the information with policymakers to help them make decisions about physical distancing measures.
HGHI director Ashish Jha said on the “Today” show that wearing a mask in public should be required across the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic. “Now I understand, sometimes masks can be a little uncomfortable. But the bottom line is we now that masks reduce infections and they save lives,” he said.
President Trump told supporters at a June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma that he’d asked his administration to slow down testing because it turns up more COVID-19 cases. White House officials said the comment was a joke, but HGHI director Ashish Jha said the issue of testing “is unfortunately not a joke,” instead seeming consistent with White House policy “to not put too much time and effort into ramping up testing.”
June 22: US COVID-19 cases rise, marking ugly contrast with Europe (The Hill)
Cases of the coronavirus are on the rise in the U.S., climbing above 30,000 per day over the weekend of June 20-21. In the meantime, European countries previously hit hard by the virus have been able to keep case numbers low. Epidemiologist Michael Mina said the uptick in cases is being driven by a lax attitude about the virus in many parts of the U.S. “Quite literally I think we’re seeing apathy about caring about this virus in many states,” he said.
June 22: The Covid-19 pandemic is threatening vital rainforests (Vox)
Rainforest fires in Indonesia and Brazil are going unchecked as political leaders focus mainly on the coronavirus, and smoke from the fires could worsen outcomes for those who are sick, according to experts. Harvey Fineberg, former president of the Institute of Medicine and former dean of Harvard Chan School, and Marcia Castro, Andelot Professor of Demography and chair of the Department of Global Health and Population, were quoted.
June 22: Going back to the office? What public health experts say about using the elevator (Boston.com)
Healthy buildings expert Joseph Allen said it’s understandable that people may be anxious about riding in elevators during the coronavirus pandemic. But he said that the elevator is “a place where risk can be managed quite effectively.”
June 22: Coronavirus Coverage and the Silencing of Female Expertise (Undark)
Female scientists say that male voices are dominating coronavirus coverage in the media. “Not only are women being passed over and ignored, but also we’re getting people that don’t know what they’re doing supporting decision makers,” said epidemiologist and CCDD associate director Caroline Buckee.
June 22: How to Evaluate Coronavirus Risks from Black Lives Matter Protests (Scientific American)
If coronavirus infections surge in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, it would be hard to disentangle protests as a cause from the risks of states reopening businesses and workplaces, explained epidemiologist Caroline Buckee in this Q&A.
June 22: ‘The U.S. has hamstrung itself’: How America became the new Italy on coronavirus (Politico)
The U.S. is facing rising cases of the coronavirus while Europe is seeing cases decrease. HGHI director Ashish Jha and other public health experts say the rise in U.S. cases stems from the country’s piecemeal, politicized approach to fighting the virus. “We may end up being the worst of any country in the world in terms of our response,” he said.
June 22: Are more women dying of Covid-19 in India? (BBC)
Although in many countries more men have died from COVID-19 than women, that is not the case in India, according to a study co-authored by S V Subramanian, professor of population health and geography.
June 21: Public Health Experts Reject President’s View of Fading Pandemic (New York Times)
Although President Trump has contended that the coronavirus would “fade away,” experts say the virus isn’t going anywhere and that the U.S. response to the pandemic isn’t working. Said HGHI director Ashish Jha, “Not only is it not fading out—this will be with us for at least another 12 months, and that’s the most optimistic scenario for having a vaccine.”
June 19: In countries keeping the coronavirus at bay, experts watch U.S. case numbers with alarm (Washington Post)
Health experts in countries with falling numbers of coronavirus cases have expressed alarm at rising cases in the U.S., and are questioning why some American political leaders are not taking the advice of scientists on how to curb the virus’ spread. Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and CCDD director, whose advice about the pandemic has been sought by several foreign governments, said that he presented his research about the importance of social distancing to a White House group early in the U.S. outbreak, but that the Trump administration’s response did not reflect his conclusions. He said they have “fundamentally not engaged with the magnitude of the problem.”
June 19: The risks of ‘not trying enough’ against COVID-19 (Harvard Gazette)
Lawrence Summers, Harvard economist and former U.S. Treasury Secretary, criticized the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the “When Public Health Means Business” series sponsored by Harvard Chan School and the New England Journal of Medicine. Dean Michelle Williams introduced the event.
People in their 20s and 30s are accounting for ever-larger shares of new coronavirus infections across the U.S. Experts say that while the trend could be driven by more people getting tested, it’s also likely that younger adults are venturing back into society—at restaurants, social gatherings, or work—and are getting infected. While most young people don’t get severe illness, they can spread it to others who are more vulnerable. Health policy researcher Thomas Tsai was quoted.
June 18: The COVID-19 Pandemic Shows Why We Must—And How We Can—End Racial Injustice in Health (Time magazine)
In an Ideas article, Howard Koh recommended ways to help end racial injustice in health.
June 18: Coronavirus outbreak strikes dozens of Miami VA staff. No workers hospitalized yet. (Miami Herald)
In an article about a coronavirus outbreak at Miami’s VA hospital, Roger Shapiro, associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases, noted that most U.S. hospitals have been successful at preventing outbreaks among their employees. Shapiro said that “transmission in most hospitals has really been driven down to nearly zero.”
More than 60,000 people in Massachusetts have been tested for antibodies to the coronavirus, but it’s not known how many of those tests found antibodies and which populations were tested. Such information could help experts determine the prevalence of infection. Epidemiologist Michael Mina was quoted.
June 18: What we do know — and don’t know — about the coronavirus at day 100 of the pandemic (MarketWatch)
Much has been learned about the coronavirus since millions of Americans began to follow stay-at-home orders in March, say experts. One example: Two drugs, remdesivir and dexamethasone, appear to help reduce COVID-19 deaths. “It’s a lot better to be a patient today than in March,” said infectious diseases expert Roger Shapiro.
June 18: Rising coronavirus cases among Latinos alarm public health experts (Politico)
Over the last two months, coronavirus infections have increased quickly among Latinos, more so than among other racial and ethnic minorities, and younger minorities are at risk, say experts. “Young working people, the kinds of people we all see every day who are working, stocking shelves, or at the checkout counter, or delivering our stuff, or working in warehouses, those are people who are getting more exposed,” said FXB Center director Mary Bassett, who co-authored a recent analysis showing the outsized risk among Latinos. “There’s a real story of occupational exposure and inadequate workplace protections that are helping to drive the rates in the Latino population.”
Public health experts say that President Trump’s downplaying of the coronavirus threat could make it difficult for local governments to convince the public to take measures to reduce the virus’ spread. “It sends a mixed message, which is confusing, particularly because while many people will get infected, most will not get severely sick, so it’s easy to say this won’t happen to me,” said Sara Bleich, professor of public health policy. “And it’s that sort of attitude that will keep us in this situation for a very long time.”
Evidence is unclear as to what role children play in the spread of the coronavirus. Epidemiologist and CCDD director Marc Lipsitch said that schools that open in the fall may provide some guidance. Because the timing of the start of the school year in the U.S. varies from place to place, districts with early start dates could provide evidence for districts that don’t open till after Labor Day as to whether bringing kids and teachers back into schools causes a spike in disease.
June 18: COVID-19 risks loom as young adults re-enter public life (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Data suggests that young adults are not overly concerned about their risk from the coronavirus, and may be lax about pandemic precautions such as wearing masks. “That age group is at that sweet spot of being pretty autonomous … but also at low risk of personal bad outcomes,” said research fellow Stephen Kissler. “My fear is that people who assess their own risk as low could be putting their communities at risk.”
School systems are facing tough-to-navigate decisions about whether to reopen in the fall—and if they do, how to make it safe for students and teachers. Infectious diseases expert Roger Shapiro commented on the types of rules that school districts may need to set.
June 17: Amazon forest fires could increase risk of serious coronavirus infections (Reuters)
Forest fires in the Amazon rainforest this year may make Latin America’s coronavirus pandemic worse, because pollution from burning trees could worsen respiratory conditions. Marcia Castro, Andelot Professor of Demography and chair of the Department of Global Health and Population, was quoted.
With coronavirus cases surging in roughly half of U.S. states, experts say new restrictions may be needed. “It’s still not entirely clear to me whether there’s the political and social will that could sustain another round of community lockdown,” said Yonatan Grad, Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and a CCDD faculty member. Epidemiologist and CCDD associate director Caroline Buckee said, “There is a spectrum of interventions between no social distancing and normal behavior, and complete lockdown. We’re going to have to be quite flexible about making decision along that spectrum.”
The Trump administration has been downplaying the seriousnessness of the coronavirus pandemic, but health experts disagree with their statements. “We may be done with the pandemic, but the pandemic is not done with us,” said HGHI director Ashish Jha.
June 17: Column: We’re turning into two Americas: Masked and unmasked (Los Angeles Times)
Some U.S. states reopened amid the coronavirus pandemic slowly and carefully. And some have done so less carefully, before meeting conditions recommended by White House officials—and now they’re seeing numbers of COVID-19 cases soar. Said HGHI director Ashish Jha, “It’s understandable that people want to be done with [the virus]. But the virus is not done with us.”
June 17: Next testing debacle: The fall virus surge (Politico)
As coronavirus infections spike in at least 20 states, HGHI director Ashish Jha, says much more testing for COVID-19 cases is sorely needed as people return to work and school. Commenting on a prediction by outgoing coronavirus testing czar Brett Giroir that the U.S. will be able to test around 40 million to 50 million per month by September, Jha said, “I believe that we will need two or three times that number of tests, if not more, if we’re going to have a shot at keeping our economy open and keep our people protected during the fall and winter.”
June 17: Trump’s Take On COVID Testing Misses Public Health Realities (Kaiser Health News & Politifact Health Check)
President Trump has been claiming that the reason U.S. numbers of COVID-19 cases are on the rise is because more people are being tested—but experts say the increase in testing alone is not enough to explain the rising case counts. Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis, said that the president’s claim is part of his reelection strategy—to suggest the coronavirus pandemic is mostly exaggerated, to convince people to go back to work, and thus to boost the economy—which would help his election chances.
June 17: No, warmer summer weather isn’t stopping coronavirus spread (Twin Cities Pioneer Press)
Recent spikes of COVID-19 cases in places like Arizona, Florida, and Texas suggest that hotter or more humid weather is not enough to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Although it’s possible that such weather has some effect, experts say it remains important to maintain social distancing measures. Aaron Bernstein, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (C-CHANGE), was quoted.
June 17: Masks Help Prevent Covid-19 Spread at Protests, Early Data Suggest (Elemental)
Preliminary data from COVID-19 testing in Seattle, Minneapolis, and Boston, among protestors who attended massive demonstrations against racism and police brutality in those cities, suggests that the protests did not lead to spikes in cases of COVID-19. “Right now I’m cautiously optimistic that the fact that the protests were outdoors and most people were wearing masks did in fact protect the vast majority of people,” said infectious diseases expert Roger Shapiro.
June 16: Florida’s crash testing program offers snapshot of COVID-19’s deadly toll in long-term care (Miami Herald)
A COVID-19 testing program in Florida nursing homes found more than 1,500 deaths and thousands more infections. Other states considering testing in long-term care facilities should respond appropriately to the level of infection in their own communities, said epidemiologist Michael Mina. “If you’re in a nursing home in some part of the United States, and that community has not seen a single case of the virus, do you have to be testing everyone every single day, for example? Probably not. But if you’re in a region where work cases out in the community are abundant, then you probably need to have more frequent testing.”
June 16: Trump downplays rising coronavirus cases as Fauci warns ‘we’re still in the first wave’ (Boston Globe)
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is warning that the coronavirus pandemic remains a serious threat and that the U.S. is still in the “first wave.” At the same time, President Trump has been downplaying the virus’ dangers. Howard Koh said the mixed messaging is problematic. “People are very confused about the status of the crisis nationwide,” he said. He added, “While there has been progress in some parts of the country, the fact that the trends are going the wrong way in other parts of the country is very disconcerting.”
June 16: Inevitable Surge in Covid-19 Deaths Looms (Luminate)
Rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in several states will soon lead to more deaths, say experts. Epidemiologist Caroline Buckee said that policymakers will have to decide “what they’re willing to tolerate for society to open up.”
June 16: Toilet Flushing Could Spread the Coronavirus via Poop Droplets (Elemental)
It’s possible that aerosol particles that hang in the air after a toilet is flushed could be spreading the coronavirus, if the person using the toilet is infected with COVID-19, say experts. Healthy buildings expert Joseph Allen offered advice about how to safely use bathrooms.
Researchers are trying to figure out if having antibodies to COVID-19 confers immunity, and if so, how strong that immunity is. “At this very moment, little is known about antibodies and their utility,” said Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology. “We just have to be a little patient and let the studies come in.”
June 16: Fact Check: Ahead of Trump Rally, Republicans Spin COVID-19 Metrics (NBC 10 Philadelphia)
Experts say that President Trump and his supporters are making false claims about COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and testing that minimize the threat of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. Epidemiologist Caroline Buckee said that rising numbers of cases in some places will likely lead to more severe illnesses and deaths in a few weeks.
Cracking a window or opening a door can help dissipate respiratory aerosols that carry the coronavirus, and higher efficiency filters can help clear the air of the virus in office buildings, said healthy buildings expert Joseph Allen.
June 16: Six experts on how we’ll live, work, and play in cities after COVID-19 (Fast Company)
Healthy buildings expert Joseph Allen was one of six experts quoted on how life in cities will change after COVID-19. He discussed making buildings healthier through improved ventilation, noting that higher ventilation rates are associated with lower infectious disease transmission, better cognitive performance, and less worker absenteeism.
June 16: Americans are weary of lockdowns, but if COVID surges, what then? (Harvard Gazette)
Several Harvard Chan School experts discussed a range of topics related to COVID-19, including the possibility of future restrictions, how to target restrictions in order to minimize economic harm, ongoing improvements in both diagnostic and serologic (antibody) tests, targeting the response to COVID-19 to protect those who are most vulnerable, improved capacity and knowledge about the virus in hospitals, and possible treatments. Experts quoted included several CCDD faculty members: immunologist Yonatan Grad; epidemiologist Michael Mina; epidemiologist William Hanage; and Marc Lipsitch, epidemiologist and CCDD director. Also quoted were Sarah Fortune, John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, and Paul Biddinger, director of the Emergency Preparedness Research & Evaluation Program (EPREP) at Harvard Chan School and chief of emergency preparedness at Massachusetts General Hospital.
June 16: Experts say no clear answer for disparity in rise in positive COVID-19 cases, plateau in deaths (WINK News Florida)
Epidemiologist Caroline Buckee was quoted.
June 16: A cheap steroid is the first drug shown to reduce death in COVID-19 patients (Science)
Researchers announced that dexamethasone, an inexpensive and widely available steroid, significantly reduced deaths among severely ill COVID-19 patients in a clinical trial. If the findings hold up under scrutiny, it would mean saving the life of one out of eight ventilated patients. “That is a big effect,” said HGHI director Ashish Jha.
June 16: India headed towards becoming a global coronavirus epicenter (India Today)
A tech startup called TrialSpark aims to lower the cost and increase the speed of clinical trials. Epidemiologist Michael Mina will use the platform to understand how COVID-19 has moved through Massachusetts, looking at testing data via sampling methods analogous to political polling techniques.
June 16: ‘Nature Is Trying to Tell Us Something’ (Earth Island Journal, Summer 2020)
In a Q&A, C-CHANGE interim director Aaron Bernstein discussed his efforts to bring environmental issues into the medical realm, and the connection between the COVID-19 crisis and environmental destruction that humans are wreaking on the planet.
June 15: Five key questions about India’s rising Covid-19 infections (BBC)
HGHI director Ashish Jha commented on the spike of coronavirus cases in India. “I am pretty worried about the numbers,” he said. “It’s not that infections will peak and go own on their own. You need interventions to turn the corner.”
June 15: Reopenings have become politicized — here’s how to report through the noise (Center for Health Journalism)
Emergency preparedness expert Paul Biddinger was quoted.
June 15: Frontline Healthcare Providers Need Proactive Mental Health Care (Yale Insights)
Traditional approaches to supporting the mental health of frontline healthcare workers may be insufficient during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new paper co-authored by Michaela Kerrissey, assistant professor of management. Existing approaches often put the onus on employees to seek help, but they’re unlikely to do so, the authors wrote. They recommended more proactive and customized approaches, drawing from examples from the U.S. Army’s mental health care delivery during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
June 15: Greater Boston’s Season of “Social Trust” (Harvard Magazine, July-August 2020 issue)
Parks and preserves are reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic with strict protocols to prevent viral spreading and protect natural areas. “To get through this, it’s going to take a great deal of social trust,” said Joseph Allen, an expert in exposure assessment.
June 15: How America’s Hospitals Survived the First Wave of the Coronavirus (ProPublica)
Although many predicted that hospitals in the U.S. would be overwhelmed with coronavirus cases, that didn’t happen. In this article, doctors, hospital officials, and public health experts—including HGHI director Ashish Jha—shared perspectives on why the projections were wrong.
June 15: The New Rules of Social Distancing: Health Experts Answer Your Questions (Wall Street Journal)
Experts offered advice on taking elevators, swimming, renting vacation houses, using public restrooms, visiting grandparents, and more. Healthy buildings expert Joseph Allen was quoted.
A number of studies have found that people of color, particularly African Americans, are at significantly higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than whites. One study, from scientists at Harvard Chan School, found that the death rate in six predominantly non-white areas was six times than in non-Hispanic white areas.
June 14: ‘Pooled’ coronavirus testing seen as way to clear large groups, slash costs (Washington Times)
Pooled testing for the coronavirus—in which a large group of people can be tested in one batch—could be an efficient way to check for the virus while cutting costs and preserving supplies, say experts. “If you can get the logistics in place, you can reduce your costs for the number of tests you have to do tenfold, if not a hundredfold,” said epidemiologist Michael Mina. “Theoretically, you can pool 100 samples into one and run all of those.”
June 14: ‘Pooled’ coronavirus testing seen as way to clear large groups, slash costs (Washington Times)
Pooled testing for the coronavirus—in which a large group of people can be tested in one batch—could be an efficient way to check for the virus while cutting costs and preserving supplies, say experts. “If you can get the logistics in place, you can reduce your costs for the number of tests you have to do tenfold, if not a hundredfold,” said epidemiologist Michael Mina. “Theoretically, you can pool 100 samples into one and run all of those.”
June 14: Trump rally called ‘dangerous move’ in age of coronavirus (Associated Press)
Public health experts said that President Trump’s plan to hold a huge indoor rally in Tulsa on June 20 could lead to the spread of COVID-19 in the crowd and could spark outbreaks when they return to their homes. HGHI director Ashish Jha called the upcoming rally “an extraordinarily dangerous move for the people participating and the people who may know them and love them and see them afterward.”
Three CCDD experts—immunologist Yonatan Grad, research fellow Stephen Kissler, and epidemiologist Michael Mina—as well as immunology and infectious diseases expert Barry Bloom, were quoted on a range of topics about the coronavirus, such as the difference between “waves” and “peaks” of disease, seasonality, the effect of protests on the spread of disease, and potential vaccines.
June 13: Could a global ‘observatory’ of blood help stop the next pandemic? (Science)
Epidemiologist Michael Mina and colleagues are proposing tracking outbreaks of diseases such as COVID-19 by looking for antibodies to infectious agents in regularly collected, anonymized blood samples from every possible source, such as blood banks, plasma collection centers, and even the heel needle sticks of newborns.
June 12: The ‘New Normal’ of Visiting America’s National Parks (Smithsonian Magazine)
Visitors to national parks, as well as park staff, must take extra precautions this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic. Epidemiologist Caroline Buckee noted that hiking in the parks is generally a healthy and low-risk activity, but added that the risk of infection could rise at attractions that draw crowds and in campsites with shared bathrooms. “National parks draw people from all over the place and what that means I they can be hotspots for the importation of the virus,” she said. “Users hopefully are aware that this is a shared resource and we need to protect everybody to benefit from it.”
June 12: Summer setback: Cities put brakes on reopening as virus spikes again (Politico)
With coronavirus infections and hospitalizations rising in more than a dozen states, some governors and mayors are pausing reopening plans or warning of potential new restrictions to stop the surge. Epidemiologist Michael Mina said that reopening decisions are difficult because many states don’t have the capacity to trace the virus. “Most places continue to fly blind,” he said. “And that handcuffs people and forces them into a position where one of their only solutions is to close down again.”
States with rising numbers of coronavirus cases are still experiencing the “first wave” of the disease, according to experts. Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and CCDD director, said that the rise in cases could stem from a variety of events, such as people venturing out for Memorial Day.
June 12: COVID-19 and Healthy Buildings (NPR’s “Living on Earth”)
In this radio interview, healthy buildings expert Joseph Allen spoke with host Steve Curwood of “Living on Earth” about steps that can be taken in homes, buildings, and cars to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.
June 11: After the protest … what next? (Harvard Gazette)
FXB Center director Mary Bassett was one of several Harvard experts who talked about how best to convert the energy of the nationwide demonstrations protesting George Floyd’s death into lasting change.
June 11: Podcast – Surveillance: Virus Fears With Koh (Bloomberg)
On this podcast, Howard Koh voiced concern about a rise in coronavirus cases in certain parts of the U.S., which could lead to hospitals becoming overwhelmed. He also stressed the need for a unified approach to the pandemic. “Right now we have 50 states going 50 different directions,” he said. “We need a one country, one government approach to this pandemic going forward.”
June 11: Harvard health expert anticipates 200,000 US coronavirus deaths by September (The Hill)
With between 800 and 1,000 Americans dying every day from the coronavirus, there could be another 100,000 deaths from the virus by September, according to HGHI director Ashish Jha. He advised Americans to continue maintaining social distancing and wearing masks in public, and advocated pressuring the federal government to step up testing and tracing efforts.
June 11: We may still be wearing face masks through 2022, Harvard study says (Cleveland.com)
Doctoral student Christine Tedijanto discussed a modeling study she co-authored that suggests that intermittent periods of social distancing and mask wearing may be necessary for another two years to keep COVID-19 cases from overwhelming hospitals. “It’s definitely difficult to think about” restrictive measures staying in place until 2022, she said. “Two years is definitely a long time. Hopefully, this is a motivation to understand what we can do better.”
June 11: Coronavirus Could Make America’s Gun Problem Even Deadlier (New York Times)
The stress and isolation of quarantining at home during the coronavirus pandemic, combined with easy access to firearms, “could form a deadly brew,” according to this opinion piece co-authored by Matthew Miller, professor of health sciences and epidemiology at Northeastern University and an adjunct professor of epidemiology at Harvard Chan School. The article cited a new 12-year study of 26 million Americans, by Miller and colleagues, showing that gun owners were nearly four times as likely to die by suicide than people without guns.
June 11: Get Ready for a Long, Hot, Coronavirus Summer (Elemental)
The number of new cases of coronavirus is rising significantly in several states, propelled by loosened restrictions and a “Memorial Day bounce,” and it doesn’t appear that warm summer weather will slow the virus down, say experts. Immunologist Yonatan Grad is worried about lockdown fatigue mixing with the desire to get the economy moving. “It’s still not entirely clear to me whether there’s the political and social will that could sustain another round of community lockdown,” he said. “If not, what are we going to do?”
June 11: Women’s COVID shield missing in India (Telegraph India )
In most countries, COVID-19 case fatality rates are higher among men than in women—but not in India, according to a new study. The study found that the average case fatality rate among women in India was 3.3% compared with 2.9% among men. Study authors, including S V Subramanian, professor of population health and geography, who led the research, said the difference could be due to discrimination against women and girls in health care or due to undernourishment.
Scientists are looking at antibodies, cells, and other markers in the blood of people who’ve recovered from COVID-19—called “correlates of protection”—in order to understand how the immune response works for the disease. “What you would like is to have some blood measure that serves as a correlate of that protective efficacy or immunity,” said immunologist Sarah Fortune. “Which sounds like it’s simple, but it’s much more complicated than you’d think.”
While testing capacity is on the rise in Massachusetts, the number of people getting tested is falling. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, said, “I think it’s still a difficult test to receive if you don’t have the right know-how of where exactly to go to get it.”
In this radio interview, John McDonough, professor of the practice of public health, said it’s “hard to say” if there will be a willingness on the part of politicians or the public to return to lockdown in states where coronaviruses cases are on the rise, such as Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, Arkansas, Texas, Florida, and Tennessee. “It depends how bad it gets,” he said, noting that states where numbers are increasing are places where “the political and cultural resistance to government telling people what to do in shutting down is much more prominent than it is in, say, a state like California or Massachusetts.”
June 10: Ending an Epidemic (Harvard Magazine)
An effective vaccine is seen as the best way to end the COVID-19 pandemic. This article described the different types of vaccines being tested, the ethics of human challenge trials, and the question of who gets vaccines first once they become available. Epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health, and immunologist Sarah Fortune were quoted.
June 10: How Reliable Are COVID-19 Tests? (New York Magazine)
COVID-19 tests have sometimes been unreliable, possibly because they’re new and untested technologies, or tests aren’t always conducted properly, or people aren’t shedding a lot of virus at the time the test is taken. Epidemiologist Michael Mina was quoted.
The COVID-19 Mobility Data Network, a group of public researchers and data scientists, is using aggregated mobility data from Facebook and other companies to assess how well public health interventions are working to slow the spread of disease. Epidemiologist Caroline Buckee is a co-founder of the group.
June 10: Health-Care Workers Say Protests Are Vital Despite Coronavirus Risks (Wall Street Journal)
Although protests spurred by the killing of George Floyd could further spread the coronavirus, health care workers say the gatherings are important because of their potential to address systemic racism that contributes to health inequities. HGHI director Ashish Jha was quoted.
June 10: Congress weighs next steps on WHO relationship (Roll Call)
Two weeks after President Trump announced that he would “terminate” the U.S. relationship with the World Health Organization (WHO), lawmakers in Congress didn’t have details on what that threat meant, and were discussing whether or not changes should be made to the U.S.-WHO relationship. HGHI director Ashish Jha said that “taking our marbles and going home” would not be an effective U.S. strategy, citing WHO’s strides since the Ebola outbreak. “We stayed in WHO and we helped make a lot of reforms happen,” he said. “They weren’t perfect, but this response is so much better partly because of U.S. leadership.”
June 10: Ask The Experts: Your Coronavirus Questions, Answered (WBUR)
June 10: Boston Protesters Urged to Get Free COVID-19 Testing (NBC 10 Boston)
The city of Boston is recommending that people get tested for COVID-19 if they attended protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Experts said that because the protests were outside, the danger of the spread of infection was less than if they’d been indoors. “People are moving around at these protests,” said social epidemiologist Nancy Krieger. “Many of them are in motion, they’re not stationary, standing still, packed together in one place for long periods of time.”
June 9: Arizona COVID-19 spread is increasing and action is needed, experts warn (Arizon Republic)
Experts have expressed alarm about an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Arizona. “I would go so far as to say alarming,” said epidemiologist William Hanage. “The only crumb of comfort that I can find is that I think, in general, it’s sort of easier to social distance in Arizona than it is in some places.”
June 9: WHO says asymptomatic people usually don’t spread coronavirus. Experts doubt that. (Washington Post)
June 9: Racism and inequity fuel coronavirus-related death toll among L.A. County minorities, officials say (Los Angeles Times)
June 9: Summer Camp Closed? Make Your Own Instead. (Wall Street Journal)
Some parents are creating do-it-yourself summer camps, often involving expanding a family’s social-distancing circle to include one or two other families and enlisting the help of a college student or teenager to oversee activities for the group’s children. Said Joseph Allen, an expert in exposure assessment, “If you’ve been really good about minimizing contact and being cautious, and you have a trusted neighbor of friend who has been doing the same, then you can start to think, ‘We can get together’” while taking precautions such as using face coverings and staying outside, at least initially.”
Deciding what’s safe and not safe to do amid the coronavirus pandemic is tough, say experts—especially because your decisions affect not just you and people who could catch the virus from you. Eve Wittenberg, senior research scientist in the Center for Health Decision Science, said that there isn’t clear data to guide decisions. “That desire to have more precision on our risk is natural and reasonable,” she said. “And it’s not something we can do right now. It’s really not.”
Satellite images of city streets and search engine use among local residents suggests that the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan may have begun in August 2019—at least three months earlier than previously thought, according to new research. Immunologist Yonatan Grad, who was not involved in the analysis, said that “having an understanding of the timing in relation to the cases and the mitigation efforts will help us understand … which mitigation efforts had impact on the spread of the virus and which did not.”
In an interview with Jim Braude on WGBH’s “Greater Boston,” HGHI director Ashish Jha said he’s worried—but not panicked—about nationwide protests against police brutality sparking an uptick in coronavirus cases. He also urged that Massachusetts continue to ramp up testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
June 8: How To Reopen The Housing Market (Forbes)
To minimize risk during the home selling or buying process, experts suggest spacing out home tours, requiring prospective buyers to wear face masks, and encouraging virtual tours. Healthy buildings expert Joseph Allen was quoted.
June 8: 13 potential long-term effects the coronavirus pandemic could have on mental health (Business Insider)
The coronavirus pandemic could lead some people to develop mental health issues such as anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse problems, or PTSD, according to experts. Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology, was quoted.
June 8: Race, COVID-19 And Health Disparities In Vermont (Vermont Public Radio)
Across the U.S., COVID-19 has disproportionately affected people of color, and Vermont is no exception. While nonwhite people make up just 5.9% of Vermont’s population, they represent 9.2% of its COVID-19 cases. “It’s a pattern that we’re seeing across many states in the country,” said research scientist Jarvis Chen, noting that communities of color have excess risk not just of contracting the disease, but of dying from it.
Natalia Linos, executive director of the FXB Center, said it’s possible that protests surrounding the death of George Floyd could cause a spike in COVID-19 cases, and that people of color could be disproportionately affected because they make up most of the ranks of protesters. But she added, “When we take a step back and say if we were really to see a result of these protests in changing the structures and reducing the racism, that would have a benefit that far outweighs the risk.”
June 8: The Facts And The Fiction Of Pandemic (Connecticut Public Radio)
Epidemiologist Michael Mina discussed the coronavirus pandemic on “The Colin McEnroe Show.”
June 8: How to Make Offices More Healthful—and Less Stressful (Wall Street Journal)
Employers are trying to create offices that will safe for employees to return to amid the coronavirus pandemic. Said healthy buildings expert Joseph Allen, “People’s awareness of how the indoor environment is influencing their health is at an all-time high.”
June 8: Nature’s Identity Crisis and Ours (SF Gate)
Dean Michelle Williams co-authored this opinion piece urging greater respect for diversity and for nature across the planet.
June 8: Coronavirus shutdowns prevented 60 million infections in the USA, study says (USA Today)
Statewide lockdowns and social distancing restrictions may have helped the U.S. avoid roughly 60 million coronavirus infections, according to a June 8 study in the journal Nature. A second study found that lockdown methods may have prevented more than 3 million deaths in 11 countries in Europe. Epidemiologist Michael Mina said that the lockdown measures “served an important role in our society to prevent and mitigate unabated spread of the virus,” but added that he’s concerned that cases may resurge in the fall. “We have yet to experience this particular novel coronavirus during a season when it’s usually most transmissible, and that’s a scary thought,” he said.
June 7: Covid-19 Stalks Large Families in Rural America (Wall Street Journal)
Large multigenerational homes across rural America have become hotspots for the coronavirus. In some places, such as Kansas and the Navajo Nation in the Southwest, sick people have been encouraged to quarantine in alternative housing—but it’s been difficult to persuade people to leave their families. “I’m 110% opposed to anything forcible on this,” said HGHI director Ashish Jha. But if household infections can’t be controlled, “that will lead to more community transmission,” he said.
June 6: What if There Were No George Floyd Video? (New York Times)
Dean Michelle Williams was quoted in an opinion piece by Nicholas Kristof about how structural racism harms health. Said Williams, “Racism is nothing short of a public health crisis. That reality is palpable not just in the scourge of police violence that disproportionately kills black Americans, but in the vestiges of slavery and segregation that have permeated the social determinants of health.”
June 5: Racism is a deadly virus, too: A public health defense of these mass protests (New York Daily News)
As protests against police brutality and racism rage across the U.S., some commentators have expressed concern that large numbers of people in close proximity will increase the spread of COVID-19, and some have even compared these risks to those posed by the anti-lockdown protests against COVID-19 regulations. But in a recent op-ed, three experts from Harvard Chan School wrote, “We categorically reject these false equivalencies.” Co-authors included FXB Center director Mary Bassett, epidemiologist Caroline Buckee, and social epidemiologist Nancy Krieger.
As Massachusetts prepares to reopen hotels, restaurants, and retail stores amid the coronavirus pandemic, experts say it’s too soon to know if it’s safe for the state to move forward with lifting restrictions. It’s possible that previously-opened businesses, along with protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, have been contributing to as-yet undetected spread of the virus. “When the virus is given more opportunities to transmit, we can be pretty confident that it’s going to take them,” said epidemiologist William Hanage. Barry Bloom emphasized the importance of contact tracing and isolation to block the chain of transmission.
June 5: The Science of Superspreaders (Elemental)
People who have COVID-19 without symptoms can become “super spreaders” of disease if they go somewhere where there a lot of people packed into a confined space, say experts. Once that person passes the disease onto dozens or hundreds of others, those people can go on to infect their family, friends, and colleagues. Epidemiologist William Hanage said the best estimate is that 20% of infected people are responsible for 80% of onward infections. To prevent superspreader events, he suggested continuing what’s already being done to curb the spread of disease: social distancing, hand-washing and sanitizing, testing, and contact tracing.
STAT asked 11 experts in infectious disease, epidemiology, and pandemic preparedness how to avoid a deadly resurgence of COVID-19. Their advice included: pay attention to small increases in case numbers to trace and isolate contacts; target lockdowns; do a better job protecting people in minority and high-poverty communities; and communicate clearly about the risks. Emergency preparedness expert Paul Biddinger and epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch were quoted.
June 5: Cellphone data shows Massachusetts is on the move (WCVB Boston)
People in Massachusetts are beginning to move about more in spite of the coronavirus pandemic, according to cellphone mobility data analyzed by 5 Investigates. Epidemiologist Caroline Buckee, who is also studying such data in order to help policy makers identify hotspots, said, “We haven’t reached anywhere near herd immunity. So when we start mixing again, we will see the virus start to spread again.”
Some Massachusetts colleges are setting aside dorm rooms to isolate and quarantine students with COVID-19, and some are planning widespread testing for the disease, as they gear up to open in the fall amid the pandemic. Epidemiologist Michael Mina, who is advising several colleges on testing, was quoted.
Howard Koh and Abraar Karan, MPH ’17, a Brigham & Women’s Hospital physician, were quoted.
June 4: Testing for Covid-19 moves to North Cambridge; Cambridgeport case count draws attention also (Cambridge Day)
This article about the state of COVID-19 testing in Cambridge featured comments from Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology.
June 4: ‘A balancing act’: As marches continue, spread of virus remains a concern (Boston Globe)
Many epidemiologists said that protests that erupted after the killing of George Floyd are vital because they’re fighting racism—a public health issue. But the protests could also result in more coronavirus cases because of all the people crowded together, they said. HGHI director Ashish Jha was quoted.
June 4: ‘We’re all holding our breaths’: Public health experts brace for coronavirus resurgence from George Floyd protests (New York Daily News)
With hundreds of thousands of people flooding city streets to protest systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of in Minneapolis, experts are worried that there will be a new wave of coronavirus infections. Epidemiologist William Hanage said that even one asymptomatic carrier of the disease at a protest could trigger a so-called “super spreader” event.
June 4: Coronavirus and the Flu: A Looming Double Threat (Scientific American)
Some epidemiologists and policymakers are worried about a potential overlap of COVID-19 and the flu in the fall. “The worst-case scenario is both [the coronavirus and the flu] are spreading fast and causing severe disease, complicating diagnoses and presenting a double burden on the health care system,” said epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch.
June 4: Coronavirus Rips Into Regions Previously Spared (New York Times)
Coronavirus cases are surging in low- and middle-income countries across the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, and South Asia. HGHI director Ashish Jha said that it’s unlikely that any countries will avoid facing the pandemic, although some had hoped they would. “There is no natural immunity,” he said. “We are all, humanity-wise, equally susceptible to the virus.”
June 4: Op-ed: Protest, demand change — but, please, put on your mask (The Hill)
In this op-ed, Sara Bleich, professor of public health policy, urged protestors against lethal policing to wear face masks to minimize the risk of transmission of the coronavirus. “I beg you to put on your masks and just yell a little louder to make your voices heard,” she wrote.
June 4: Op-ed: Racism is killing black people. It’s sickening them, too. (Washington Post )
Racism is killing black Americans—both by fueling police violence against them, and by propelling adverse socioeconomic conditions that contribute to serious health issues, according to a June 4, 2020 op-ed in the Washington Post by Dean Michelle Williams and Jeffrey Sánchez, a former Massachusetts state representative and a Harvard Chan lecturer.
June 4: The pandemic has brought single-use plastic back. Is it here to stay? (Conde Nast Traveller)
June 4: A coronavirus vaccine could require you to get two shots. Here’s why. (USA Today)
It’s likely that people will need two doses of any vaccine for the coronavirus because it’s a new virus that no one has antibodies against, and experts think two doses will be needed for full immunity. “As far as I am aware, with one set of exceptions, all the front-line vaccine developers are contemplating two shots,” said Barry Bloom.
June 4: Newsom Likes To ‘Go Big’ But Doesn’t Always Deliver (California Health Line)
Leonard Marcus, a lecturer on public health practice and founding co-director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative, a collaborative effort of Harvard Chan School and the Kennedy School of Government, was quoted.
June 4: Mandatory contact tracing apps will not elicit honest symptom reporting: Harvard epidemiologist (Hindustan Times)
In this Q&A, epidemiologist Caroline Buckee discussed the use of big data for disease control, contact tracing apps and privacy issues, and difficulties in predicting the spread of COVID-19.
June 4: How the Protests Have Changed the Pandemic (New Yorker)
Amid mass demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, experts say that the coronavirus could surge. HGHI director Ashish Jha said he worries about too much focus on the protests as a source of infection. “If cases do spike, people are going to say it’s all the protesters,” he said. “Even if it’s not clear exactly what causes a surge, it may become politically convenient to blame it on the protests.”
June 3: Who Guarantees Your Workplace is Safe for Return? (Harvard Business Review)
Healthy buildings expert Joseph Allen and John Macomber of Harvard Business School wrote about best practices for employers, employees, and customers to ensure safe indoor environments amid the coronavirus pandemic.
June 3: Harvard webinar highlights Africa’s response to COVID-19 (Mshale)
Harvard University’s Center for African Studies recently hosted a webinar on the African continent’s response to COVID-19, featuring speakers including Wafaie Fawzi, Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences.
June 3: Business and public health more intertwined than ever due to COVID, panel of experts say (Boston Herald)
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, businesses will need to work with public health experts to bolster the U.S. economy and build trust among employees and customers, according to panelists at webinar hosted by the Forum. Harvard Chan School participants included Arnold Epstein, John H. Foster Professor of Health Policy and Management, and Eric Rubin, Irene Heinz Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine.
June 3: Health experts fear US protests will lead to surge in coronavirus cases (Financial Times)
June 3: What Will College Be Like in the Fall? (New York Times)
Pardis Sabeti, professor of immunology and infectious diseases, was one of six participants in an online panel speaking to the New York Times.
June 2: Op-ed: A call to ensure food security for children during protests (The Hill)
Protests against police brutality across the U.S. are having the unintended consequence of limiting access to food for low-income and minority children, who already face record high levels of food insecurity because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a June 2, 2020 op-ed in The Hill co-authored by Sara Bleich, professor of public health policy at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
June 2: Positive Parenting: COVID-19 models and parents (WFMZ)
Research fellow Stephen Kissler was quoted.
June 2: What Could Be Worse Than Quarantine? The End of Quarantine. (Forge)
As states across the U.S. begin to lift COVID-19 restrictions, people are likely to feel anxious about returning to the risky world and uncertain about abandoning the low-key cocoon of quarantine, say experts. “Sheltering in place allowed us a pass on some things we did not like to do, such as facing difficult colleagues, coping with a busy schedule, and shuttling kids around,” said psychiatric epidemiologist Karestan Koenen. “Now, when we are feeling really depleted, we have to deal with those things again.”
June 2: Health Officials Worry Massive Protests Could Cause New COVID-19 Spike (Christian Broadcast Network)
Epidemiologist Michael Mina was quoted.
June 2: Op-ed: Elevator etiquette in 9 easy steps for returning to the workplace (USA Today)
Can you be safe in an elevator during the COVID-19 pandemic? Yes, wrote healthy buildings expert Joseph Allen in this op-ed.
June 2: The Coronavirus In America: One More Racial Inequity (NPR)
In this radio interview about the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the COVID-19 pandemic, HGHI director Ashish Jha said, “We’re in the middle of a pandemic. The country is opening up. And then civil unrest from longstanding racial injustices—put it all together, and it’s a very perilous moment for our nation.”
June 2: Protests may add COVID-19 cases and compound racial disparities (Congressional Roll Call)
A public letter about the death of George Floyd, by Harvard Chan School Dean Michelle Williams, was quoted.
June 1: Antibody Tests May Answer Public Health Questions (WebMD)
It’s unclear whether antibody tests—which can show if someone was previously infected with the coronavirus—can help individuals know if they are immune to reinfection, or to infecting others. But the tests could help shed light on the scale and spread of the disease and estimate the probability and timing of future waves, said experts. Epidemiologist Michael Mina was quoted.
June 1: How Racism Kills (Elemental)
In this Q&A, social epidemiologist Nancy Krieger talked about how structural racism has led to health inequities that have made COVID-19 more lethal for people of color and low-income populations. “As human beings, we can all be infected—the virus doesn’t care,” she said. “But the likelihood of being infected is absolutely socially structured by histories and current realities of injustice in our society.”
June 1: Op-ed: Saving the Most Vulnerable from COVID-19 (Project Syndicate)
Implementing a COVID-19 monitoring plan using all available forms of testing—including serology blood tests for antibodies—could help significantly reduce risk of death among people in nursing homes, who have been hit hard by the disease, according to this opinion piece co-authored by epidemiologist Michael Mina.
Epidemiologist Michael Mina was quoted.
June 1: Unrest could delay Philadelphia entering ‘yellow’ phase, but suburbs and New Jersey move ahead (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Epidemiologist Michael Mina was quoted.
June 1: Loss of taste and smell is best indicator of COVID-19, study shows (Harvard Gazette)
Loss of smell and taste was the best predictor of COVID-19 infection among millions of people using a symptom-tracking app developed by Andrew Chan, professor in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, and colleagues.
June 1: Viral, Antibody Test Number Policy Sows Confusion (WebMD)
In reporting COVID-19 test results, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and some states have mixed diagnostic tests with antibody tests. Experts say that using both can inflate testing numbers and make it difficult for public officials to rely on those metrics for decision-making about reopening society. Said HGHI director Ashish Jha, “Mixing the two tests makes it much harder to understand the meaning of positive tests, and it clouds important information about the U.S. response to the pandemic.”
June 1: Big tech coronavirus task force refocuses after rocky start (Beckers Hospital Review)
Epidemiologist Caroline Buckee was quoted.
June 1: Virus-proofing sports facilities presents a big challenge (Associated Press)
How to make sports arenas safe during the coronavirus pandemic? Strategies include sanitizing frequent-touch surfaces frequently, minimizing bottlenecks at entries and on concourses, maintaining space between attendees, requiring face masks, and installing effective air filtration systems. Said healthy buildings expert Joseph Allen, “The consumers will decide when they feel comfortable going back, and that’s going to depend on what strategies are put in place in these venues and stadiums and arenas and, most importantly, how well these organizations communicate that to the paying public.”
Large protests in cities across the U.S., prompted by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, are likely to fuel the spread of the coronavirus, say experts. “I would not be surprised to see in the next couple of weeks that we see increases that may be linked to protests,” said epidemiologist Michael Mina.
President Trump has touted a plan to have drive-through COVID-19 testing sites “in virtually every location” at stores such as CVS, Target, Walgreens and Walmart, but that hasn’t happened, according to this article. “Where the blame should lie is probably not with the retailers,” said epidemiologist William Hanage. “Because there is not, as we know, a coherent national response to this.”
June 1: How To Safely Navigate A Reopening America (Forbes)
As coronavirus lockdowns are lifted across the U.S., Howard Koh advised people to continue taking precautions to minimize the spread of the virus, such as wearing a mask when in close proximity to others. “There’s tremendous power in prevention, but it’s often not respected,” he said. “Because when prevention works, absolutely nothing happens and things are very boring.”