For the Harvard Chan community: Find the latest updates, guidance, useful information, and resources about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) here.
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 in which they offer comments and context:
March 31: Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who worked on Moderna vaccine, cements her place in history (CBS Evening News)
Kizzmekia Corbett, assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases, who helped develop the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, acknowledged that, as a woman of color in the science field, she is a role model to some children.
March 31: Failing to fund the U.S. covid response bodes trouble for the entire world (Washington Post)
In this opinion piece, Atul Gawande, who leads global health development at USAID and is a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard Chan School, wrote that Congress’ failure so far to allocate more funding to fight COVID-19 globally “bodes serious trouble for the world.” Noting that cases and hospitalizations are on the rise in Europe and Asia, he wrote, “Without additional funding, we risk not having the tools we need—vaccines, treatments, tests, masks and more—to manage future surges at home. And no less troubling, if we don’t close the vaccine gap between richer and poorer countries, we will give the virus more changes to mutate into a new variant.”
March 30: Administration, health experts nervously eye new virus variants (CQ Roll Call)
Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, said he expects COVID-19 to settle into a seasonal pattern of spread, with cases picking up in the winter and declining in the summer, as the virus becomes more endemic.
March 29: From ‘herd immunity’ to today, Covid minimisers are still sabotaging our pandemic progress (The Guardian)
In this op-ed, William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, wrote about the danger of playing down the seriousness of COVID and the importance of a response strategy involving testing, wastewater surveillance, investigation of variants, an emphasis on up-to-date vaccinations, and efforts to improve indoor air. “Every time you’ve heard a voice state it’s time to ‘live with the virus’ remember that doesn’t mean doing nothing about it,” he wrote.
March 29: F.D.A. Allows Second Coronavirus Boosters for Everyone 50 and Older (New York Times)
People aged 50 and older are now eligible for a second COVID-19 booster, although experts continue to debate just how helpful these boosters will be. At this point, “each additional dose is offering marginal value,” said Eric Rubin, adjunct professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard Chan School and a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee. He said that what’s most needed now is a vaccine that works better against the new variants.
March 29: How clean is the air in your school or workplace? Hint: Many places are lacking. (Boston Globe)
Upgrading indoor air quality can reduce the risk of COVID transmission as well as the risk of flu and other airborne illnesses, and it can also help boost worker concentration and performance, according to experts. “When businesses do this, they can see a 10 percent benefit to the bottom line of an organization,” said Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program.
March 29: Mass. case numbers, coronavirus levels in waste water tick up from low levels (Boston Globe)
Although coronavirus levels are rising in waste water in Eastern Massachusetts, most experts don’t expect a huge surge. One reason is the timing. “I think that one of the things that might help us as we’re going into this next surge is that we’re entering the spring, which seems to be sort of a low time of circulation for SARS-CoV-2 across the U.S.,” said Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases.
March 29: White House turns to air quality in latest effort to thwart coronavirus (Washington Post)
The Biden administration is turning toward improving ventilation and filtration in indoor spaces to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic and other airborne viruses. Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, was among experts involved in a White House event on the subject on March 29. He stressed the importance of improving indoor air quality as vaccination and mask mandates are rolled back. “It’s important that this becomes a passive control measure—passive in the sense that it doesn’t require people to do anything,” he said. “It’s not requiring you to wear a mask, or wear a good mask or wear it right. It’s operating in the background all the time.”
March 29: Was omicron more deadly than it needed to be in Mass.? Some experts say yes (WBUR)
Although Massachusetts fared better than most U.S. states during the Omicron wave, it could have done even better if a greater percentage of its population had received COVID-19 boosters. Roughly 30% of the state’s older population is not yet boosted—which is crucial in protecting against Omicron, according to experts. “As Omicron came on the scene, it has been worse than it needed to be,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology.
March 28: U.S. global Covid work will ‘grind to a halt’ without more cash (Politico)
USAID officials are facing the prospect of running out of money to fight COVID around the world, as funding is stalled in Congress. Atul Gawande, professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, who leads global health development at USAID, said the money is crucial for vaccine supplies, getting vaccines into arms, mask production, and rapid test production.
March 28: Polio’s back. Blame Covid. (Politico)
The re-emergence of polio in Malawi is likely due to the pandemic interfering with many ordinary but necessary primary and preventive health services, such as childhood vaccinations. During COVID, people also lost trust in vaccines because of misinformation and politicization. “If Covid taught us something, it’s that bad governance can destroy a response and destroy trust of the population in health institutions,” said Marcia de Castro, Andelot Professor of Demography and chair of the Department of Global Health and Population.
March 26: Epidemiologist answers questions about the infectious omicron BA.2 variant (NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, discussed the contagiousness and severity of the BA.2 variant, which is becoming the majority of the coronavirus population in the U.S. He stressed the importance of being fully up to date with your vaccinations to protect against severe disease.
March 26: The U.S. is talking about a second round of COVID-19 booster shots, and it’s going to be even more complicated than last year (MarketWatch)
As U.S. regulators consider whether to approve additional COVID-19 booster shots, experts say it will be important to tailor future vaccines to fight multiple COVID-19 variants. “That effort is certainly worthwhile as we think about the future of the virus, which is, from my perspective, a virus that we will continue to grapple with for years to come,” said Rachael Piltch-Loeb, public health preparedness fellow.
March 25: How Effective Were Vaccines During the Omicron Surge? (Verywell Health)
COVID-19 vaccines were highly effective at preventing severe disease and death against the Omicron variant, according to new studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even though our immune systems aren’t quite as effective against Omicron as they were against previous variants, “We still have cells and antibodies, which are generated by getting vaccinated, that can attack the Omicron variant,” noted James Hay, postdoctoral research fellow.
March 25: A peek into Pfizer’s hyper pursuit of a vaccine (Washington Post)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, reviewed a book called “Moonshot: Inside Pfizer’s Nine-Month Race to Make the Impossible Possible,” by Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, about how the company developed a COVID-19 vaccine. Hanage called the book “at times a pedestrian account of a truly remarkable scientific advance achieved under extraordinary pressure,” although he added that “Bourla’s character and enthusiasm—when they emerge—lift his narrative.”
March 25: ‘We Have All Moved on the Mental Health Spectrum During the Pandemic’ (The Wire Science)
Shekhar Saxena, professor of the practice of global mental health, discussed the pandemic’s huge toll on mental health. He noted that stress on children has increased substantially and that no countries have an adequate mental healthcare system.
March 25: POLITICO-Harvard poll: 40 percent of parents believe masks at school harmed their kids (Politico)
A recent poll found that more than 4 in 10 parents of school-aged children think mask-wearing harmed their children’s overall scholastic experience. Only 11% think masks helped, and nearly half said they made no difference. “Even if I’m in a Democratic state or district, I’d pay attention because there are a substantial number of independent parents who think the policy is hurting their children,” said pollster Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis, Emeritus.
March 25: Expert: Hard to know if COVID variant will surge in U.S. or how badly (Ohio Capital Journal)
Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, said that it’s difficult to project how hard the Omicron variant BA.2 surge will hit the U.S. He also discussed how to manage COVID-19 as it moves to an endemic phase. “One of the best things we can do to manage outbreaks is to just continue to keep informing people how much COVID is circulating in their communities and make it just as accessible as a weather report,” he said.
March 25: ‘It’s clearly in a growth phase.’ The BA.2 subvariant of omicron is rising in South Florida (Miami Herald)
Commenting on the Omicron variant BA.2, Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, said, “The question of if and when a surge is coming [in the U.S.], and how large is … very much open.” As for the long-term outlook for the pandemic, he said he expects that COVID-19 will become a seasonal illness, with cases rising when people gather indoors without proper ventilation and masking.
March 24: As Covid-19 Flares Anew in Britain, the U.S. Watches for Possible New Surge (Wall Street Journal)
An uptick in COVID-19 cases in the U.K., spurred by the BA.2 Omicron variant, may mean that the U.S. will soon see a surge as well. But the fact that BA.2 hasn’t yet set off a U.S. surge could be a positive sign. “It’s going to come here, it’s going to do some stuff,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. But, he added, “It’s not going to be as uniform as it has been in Europe.”
March 24: Controversy trails COVID-19 tests for travellers as nations open up (The Guardian, Nigeria)
Allegations have surfaced of corrupt practices and profiteering surrounding COVID-19 testing among travelers to Nigeria. “Unfortunately the travel testing industry has enjoyed easy money on the back of the pandemic,” said Muhammad Pate, a former Nigerian health minister and Julio Frenk Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership at Harvard Chan School. “There is definitely a need to reassess it.”
March 23: Moderna announcement raises hopes of parents with young children (GBH)
Moderna is seeking FDA approval to vaccinate young children for COVID-19. Although the efficacy of the vaccine is substantially lower than what was seen in Moderna’s adult vaccine trials, experts pointed out that the vaccine could still be useful. “The efficacy, while it doesn’t sound great, is actually roughly in line with the efficacy that we sometimes see from the seasonal flu vaccine,” said Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases. “And that also can be very helpful for young kids to keep them from getting really sick from the flu. So I think that there is a precedent for using vaccines of about this efficacy in young kids.”
March 23: U.S. alcohol-related deaths hit highest rate in decades during coronavirus pandemic, study shows (Washington Post)
A study found that alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. jumped nearly 26% in 2020—the largest year-over-year increase in decades. Drug overdose deaths, often tangled up in alcohol fatalities, also spiked. Most overdose deaths were from opioids. Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management, who was not involved in the study on alcohol deaths, said that the pandemic didn’t create new social problems, but magnified existing ones, including social isolation, financial uncertainty, and mental illness with not enough available treatment. “It’s all kind of a perfect storm for addiction to get worse, if not prevent it from getting better,” he said.
March 23: State-run program to provide COVID tests to daycares could expire this summer (GBH)
Even as COVID numbers fall in Massachusetts, experts say that testing remains a crucial tool for preventing the spread of the virus, and is particularly important among children in daycare, who remain unvaccinated. Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, noted that rapid tests “are still hugely helpful if a kid develops symptoms or if a kid has been exposed to someone, either at the daycare or at home, who has COVID. That can really help prevent a kid from showing up to the daycare while infected and causing a much bigger outbreak there, or vice versa from an outbreak happening in the daycare that they don’t bring home to their family.”
March 23: Lessons from the COVID data wizards (Nature)
Experts discussed what they’ve learned from the COVID-19 dashboards that mushroomed around the world during the pandemic. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, noted that public dashboards for wastewater data proved powerful in helping track COVID infections and predicting new outbreaks. “Wastewater can’t lie,” he said.
March 22: Latest version of omicron accounts for most new infections in many parts of the U.S., genomics testing shows (Washington Post)
It’s unclear whether and when the BA.2 variant of omicron will drive a new wave of COVID-19 in the U.S., according to experts. “It’s only wise to assume there’s going to be another one coming along,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. “What the consequences of that will be is very difficult to say.”
March 22: Vulnerable Communities Last to Be Vaccinated, Treated for COVID (Government Technology)
Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management, was quoted.
March 22: BA.2 version of omicron is rising in the U.S., but experts remain optimistic (NBC News)
Infectious disease experts say that the BA.2 omicron variant is unlikely to cause widespread severe illness or overwhelm hospital resources, even if it causes a spike in infections. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said it’s worth noting “that places in the U.S. that have lots and lots of BA.2 according to wastewater [data] are not skyrocketing in the way they did with BA.1 or even delta.”
March 22: Southwest Airlines flight attendants ask Biden to drop face mask mandate (Dallas Morning News)
Leonard Marcus, founding co-director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative (NPLI) and co-director of NPLI’s Aviation Public Health Initiative, quoted.
March 21: Wastewater monitoring must be used as a tool to mitigate future COVID surges (Boston Globe)
The detection of the coronavirus in wastewater almost always means that there will be an increase in COVID-19 cases in a community, according to this opinion piece co-authored by Rebecca Weintraub, associate faculty member and director of the Better Evidence program at Ariadne Labs. The authors argued that public health agencies should be transparent about wastewater data, should communicate it simply, and should issue advisories about steps such as masking when coronavirus levels in wastewater increase.
March 21: America’s Next Omicron Wave (In the Bubble with Andy Slavitt)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, discussed what the U.S. can expect to see with the new Omicron subvariant BA.2, how a bump here might compare to what’s going on in Europe, and how people will navigate it amid relaxed vaccine and mask mandates.
March 21: Vaccination rates have stalled with another potential uptick coming. (New York Times)
With another potential COVID surge on the horizon, Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, spoke about uncertainty around future COVID funding. “The challenges with funding being cut is we need to be sure we have the tools in place to address any future surge,” he said.
March 18: The last masking holdouts (Axios)
Although many places are ending mask requirements, airplanes, trains, and buses continue to require them. Leonard Marcus, founding co-director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative (NPLI) and co-director of NPLI’s Aviation Public Health Initiative, said he thinks continuing masking during air travel is a good idea to reduce the risk of transmission and to avoid translocating the disease from place to place.
March 18: Better ventilation means healthier students, but many schools can’t afford to upgrade (NPR’s All Things Considered)
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, noted that better air quality in schools can help improve students’ health as well as their performance, He applauded the new emphasis on school ventilation in the Biden administration’s National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan.
March 18: As COVID rates rise in Europe and Asia, how worried should Americans be about another wave? (USA Today)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said that people who are healthy and fully vaccinated and boosted or recently infected with COVID-19 are likely well protected from the new BA.2 Omicron variant. But he noted that the highly contagious variant is “not going away anytime soon—unless something else comes along and displaces it, which I wouldn’t rule out.” He urged people to get vaccinated if they’re not already or, if they’re senior citizens, to get boosted.
March 17: Another COVID Wave Is Looming (The Atlantic)
Even though the BA.2 Omicron variant is driving new COVID-19 cases in the U.K. and several other countries in Europe, experts can’t say for sure if a surge in the U.S. will follow. A host of factors could sway a potential surge this way or that, including pandemic restrictions, vaccination and prior infection rates, and the weather. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said his best guess for the next few months is that some parts of the U.S. will continue to see a decrease in cases, but at a slower pace, while other areas will experience a bump.
March 17: COVID, 2 years later: Lessons learned from a global pandemic (WBUR’s “On Point”)
Richard Tofel, former president of ProPublica and a visiting fellow at Harvard Chan School, spoke about how the COVID pandemic reflected uncomfortable truths about the country—such as the fact that American leaders are not good at leading conversations about public health.
March 17: New federal ventilation guidelines mark next step in fight against COVID (ABC News)
New federal guidance is urging all building owners and operators to bring more fresh air into indoor spaces to fight COVID-19 and other illnesses. Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, noted that “the White House is using its pulpit to drive home the message that clean air and buildings matter. That sounds simple, but it’s actually long overdue.”
March 16: Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who worked on COVID vaccine, on changing the game in science: “It is an honor to be inspirational” (CBS Mornings)
Kizzmekia Corbett, assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases, discussed her work helping develop Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine and her efforts to combat vaccine hesitancy, in a conversation with Melinda French Gates as part of a CBS Mornings series called “Changing the Game.”
March 16: This key indicator may determine how bad a BA.2 wave could be in the US (CNN)
The new Omicron variant, BA.2, is picking up steam in the U.S. and puts millions of seniors at risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19, either because they are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or had their most recent dose more than five months ago. Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, urged seniors to get vaccinated and boosted. “Every additional layer of protection that we get helps,” he said. “This is definitely the time.”
March 16: COVID-19 cases in other countries are rising. How worried should the US be? (Boston Globe)
Rising COVID-19 cases in countries in Europe and elsewhere, spurred in part by the rise of the BA.2 Omicron variant, may mean a rise in such cases in the U.S., say experts. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said that what happens in Europe offers a “glimpse of a possible future” in the U.S., although it’s not clear if BA.2 will sweep across the nation like the original Omicron did. “The only thing I’m very prepared to predict is that places with large quantities of unboosted, unvaccinated older folks are going to have a much more consequential experience with BA.2,” he said.
March 15: Partisanship undermines a playbook for the next pandemic (Axios)
Although difficulties during the pandemic—supply chain issues, problems administering vaccines on a mass scale, and messaging challenges—have provided valuable lessons for future responses, experts say that political differences could make it difficult to arrive at consensus on plans. “You never had Republican and Democratic positions on polio,” noted Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis, Emeritus. “We’ve let politics get in the middle of this.”
March 14: Which Coronavirus Vaccine Will Work in the Youngest Children? (New York Times)
Drug makers must walk a fine line in formulating COVID-19 vaccines for young children, ensuring that the vaccines are effective while producing minimal side effects. Eric Rubin, editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, adjunct professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard Chan School, and a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, noted that, compared with adults, “there is no question that in children the benefit of an effective vaccine is less, because fewer get really sick.” But, he added, “it will benefit some individuals. It will save some lives.”
March 14: ESG is not enough. It’s time to add an H (Fortune)
Many companies now focus on ESG—environmental, social, and governance—principles to win favor with customers, investors, and employees. In this commentary, Dean Michelle Williams and Patricia Geli , research scientist in the Department of Global Health and Population, argue that health should be added to these essential principles. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed an urgent need to build a more equitable, nimble, and muscular infrastructure to protect, promote, and preserve health and wellbeing,” they wrote. “It’s time to add an H to ESG.”
March 13: After developing a COVID-19 vaccine, scientist continues to research, educate about vaccines (USA Today)
In a Q&A, Kizzmekia Corbett, assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases—one of USA Today’s Women of the Year—talked about her role in COVID-19 vaccine development and her efforts to answer questions about her work with community and national organizations.
March 13: Our view: A pandemic unfolds and changes the world (The Eagle-Tribune)
After a long two years, some are hopeful that the pandemic is entering an endemic phase. But experts warn that COVID-19 cannot be trusted. “It’s so tempting to just try to forget about it and move on, but we can’t do that,” said Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health. “All that will do is make us vulnerable to the next threat. We need to remain vigilant.”
March 11: Scientists Identify New COVID Variant Called ‘Deltacron’ (Web MD)
A new variant of COVID called “Deltacron” has been detected in a small number of cases in several countries. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, noted, “If it’s not causing lots of cases, people don’t need to be concerned.”
March 11: Experts: On anniversary of pandemic declaration, threat of COVID-19 still significant (UPI)
While much of the U.S. and Europe appear ready to move on from the pandemic, it’s still a threat, experts warn. “Pandemics only ‘end’ in a clean fashion if the pathogen is eradicated,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. “There is no guarantee there will not be another variant.”
March 11: Harvard Expert Says Don’t Assume COVID Is ‘Done With Us’ On Pandemic’s Second Anniversary (WBZ)
Although we’re in a far better place than when the pandemic began two years ago, pandemics don’t simply go away, cautioned William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. To protect against future variants, “We should be maintaining our ability to test,” he said. “We should be enhancing our ability to produce new vaccines, if and when they are needed. We should be redoubling our efforts to get shots into the arms of those who need them most.” We should also be preparing for a fourth booster for vulnerable populations next fall and winter, he said.
March 11: Ventilation, Vaccination Key to Suppressing COVID-19 as People Head Back Indoors (Wall Street Journal)
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, quoted.
March 8: Improving Ventilation Will Stop More Than Covid-19 (Bloomberg Opinion)
Improving indoor air quality is an effective and non-divisive way to improve health outcomes both during and beyond the pandemic. “You’re not cleaning surfaces, you’re not telling someone to wear a mask,” said Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program. “It’s operating all the time in the background.”
March 7: White House must go further on new pandemic response, say former Biden advisers, outside experts (Washington Post)
A team of former COVID advisers to President Biden and dozens of other experts have issued a “road map” of more than 250 recommendations on how to live with the coronavirus and reduce the risk of other infectious diseases. Kizzmekia Corbett, assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases, was one of the co-authors of the roadmap. Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, and Gregory Wagner, adjunct professor of environmental health, also contributed.
March 4: When is a pandemic ‘over’? (Science)
The World Health Organization is responsible for officially declaring the pandemic “over” at some point—but the decision is a complicated matter with political, financial, and health implications, say experts. Yonatan Grad, Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Associate Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, noted that it’s “not an enviable task.” He asked, “Do you call it over when there still might be a wave in one part of the world but it’s a small part?” And Caroline Buckee, professor of epidemiology, said that the criteria for declaring a pandemic’s end are more social and political than scientific. “There’s not going to be a scientific threshold,” she said. “There’s going to be an opinion-based consensus.”
March 4: Some people may still need to wear a mask as restrictions lift, Boston doctors say (GBH’s “Greater Boston”)
People who are elderly, immunosuppressed, or have comorbidities may want to continue wearing a mask even as masking restrictions are loosening across the U.S., according to experts. “We can help those people by giving them good quality masks,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. “When I say that, I mean things like a KF94, N95, two procedural masks one layered over the other will help.”
March 4: Public health restrictions in Canada are being dropped. So what does this mean for vaccinated individuals in the face of Omicron? (Globe and Mail)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, noted that it while it will take time to have definitive answers about the impact of vaccination on coronavirus transmission, the rapidly falling number of cases and hospitalizations suggests that vaccines are helping slow spread.
March 3: Cities are ditching vaccine mandates to dine out and watch shows. Did they work? (Washington Post)
Experts say it’s not clear if vaccine mandates to enter restaurants and public places have helped to slow the spread of COVID-19, because the mandates were only in effect for a couple of months in most cities and it can be difficult to show where people may have been infected. “Did these vaccine mandates work in light of omicron? The answer is we don’t know, and we wouldn’t be able to know because we don’t have a randomized controlled trial,” said Ankur Pandya, associate professor of health decision science.
March 2: Biden’s New Covid Plan: Preparing for New Variants and Avoiding Shutdowns (New York Times)
One part of President Biden’s plan to get the nation out of COVID-19 crisis mode—ensuring that new vaccines are ready within 100 days of variants arising—may not be fast enough for a highly transmissible variant, according to Jay Winsten, director of the Harvard Initiative on Media Strategies for Public Health.
March 2: Restaurants Learned the Wrong Pandemic Lessons (The Atlantic)
Experts say that improved ventilation and filtration is the best way to lower the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne viruses in restaurants. Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, said that, in a perfect world, all restaurants would get regular tune-ups to ensure that their HVAC systems are working properly. Beyond that, he advised maximizing the amount of outdoor air coming in.
March 1: Covid-19: Why are face masks necessary on flights? (Stuff)
Countries are easing COVID-19 restrictions, but experts say it makes sense to keep mask requirements on airline flights. That’s because even though air travel is low risk, it’s not no-risk. Leonard Marcus, founding co-director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative (NPLI) and co-director of NPLI’s Aviation Public Health Initiative, noted that masks can reduce the likelihood of getting COVID-19 by around 50%, and also can reduce your chance of transmitting COVID-19 by around 50%. “If you put that together—so you’ve got a lot of people on an aeroplane, everybody’s wearing a mask—you’ve done something, in combination with the ventilation system, that really reduces the likelihood of transmission,” he said.
March 1: “Over-vaccination causes faster mutation of the (COVID-19) virus, which causes a super virus we may not have the ability to fight off.” (Politifact)
A recent claim by a Wisconsin state senator that over-vaccination causes faster mutation of the coronavirus is false, said a number of experts, including Sarah Fortune, John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases. She noted that the virus will try to escape people’s immunity whether it comes from having gotten sick with COVID-19 or from vaccination. In fact, the experts said, vaccinations play a role in slowing mutations of the virus.
March 1: Pfizer vaccine didn’t protect kids well from omicron but did prevent severe disease, studies suggest (USA Today)
Eric Rubin, editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, adjunct professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard Chan School, and a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, commented on studies that looked at how well the Pfizer vaccine protects children from COVID-19.
March 1: Demand for Covid-19 testing is falling, but experts caution it’s as important as ever (CNN)
Although demand for COVID-19 testing is decreasing, experts say it’s still important to have an adequate supply of tests on hand to detect possible surges. Thomas Tsai, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, said that a supply of tests should be kept in the Strategic National Stockpile, along with “clear plans for distribution to both hotspots and nationally.”
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