Coronavirus news – May 2022

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:

May 31: State to drop funding for school COVID testing (GBH)

Alan Geller, senior lecturer on social and behavioral sciences, was among experts criticizing Massachusetts’ decision to end COVID-19 testing programs at schools in the fall. “With the unremitting omicron surge and no signs of it letting up, we need more safeguards and protections rather than fewer ones,” he said.

May 31: Welcome to tepid vax summer (Politico)

William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, quoted.

May 30: An early warning system for emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants (Nature Medicine)

Simani Gaseitsiwe and Sikhulile Moyo, both research associates in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, were among the co-authors of a commentary calling for strengthened surveillance and continued monitoring of SARS-CoV-2, given the evolving virus and the uncertainty of predicting the trajectory of the pandemic.

May 29: Can I stop isolating if I’m still testing positive for the virus? (New York Times)

For most people infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, viral levels peak less than five days after infection. But some continue to test positive for the virus for 10, 12, or even 14 days. However, it’s not clear if continuing to test positive means you’re still infectious. Said Yonatan Grad, Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Associate Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, “Some people may not be infectious at the end of their course even if still antigen-positive, whereas others may be infectious even if antigen-negative.”

May 28: ‘Mild’ Omicron variant was highly lethal, study finds (Boston Globe)

William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said that he was “not even slightly” surprised by the high number of deaths during Omicron. “I am relieved it wasn’t worse,” he said. “Omicron probably is somewhat less serious than Delta per infection, but once you have so many infections, that more than makes up for it.”

May 25: Which SARS-CoV-2 Variant Will Cause the Next Wave? An AI Tool Predicts (Gene Engineering News)

Pardis Sabeti, professor of immunology and infectious diseases, discussed a machine learning model that can predict which SARS-CoV-2 viral variants are likely to cause surges in COVID-19 cases and that can help identify vaccine targets. The model was developed by scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard—where Sabeti is a member—and the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

May 24: Botswana: Dr Sikhulile Moyo Named to Time’s Annual Time100 List of the 100 Most Influential People in the World (All Africa)

Article features Sikhulile Moyo, director of the Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP) lab and a research associate in immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard Chan School, who helped alert the world about the existence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

May 23: How Rapid Reinfection Has Changed the Covid Fight (The New Republic)

Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard Chan School, and senior scientist at the CDC’s Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics (CFA), quoted.

May 23: Carbon-Dioxide Monitors Can Help Track Covid Risk (Bloomberg)

Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, quoted.

May 21: Don’t let latest COVID surge overshadow progress, says Hanage (Harvard Gazette)

William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, discussed the current COVID surge and the importance of continuing to mask and test to minimize disease spread, but pointed out that society is in “a far better place” than early in the pandemic.

May 20: Less deadly than delta? In some states, omicron caused more deaths (NBC News)

The omicron variant of the coronavirus was originally thought to be less severe than the delta variant, although new research suggests that may not necessarily be the case. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, discussed how vaccination rates, mitigation measures, and population immunity likely all played a role in the impact of omicron—along with its extreme contagiousness.

May 20: A look at where we are in the pandemic — and where we’re headed (WBUR’s Morning Edition)

William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, discussed the coronavirus variant BA2.12.1 that’s driving a surge in COVID-19 cases, the severity of the virus, and its likely seasonality going forward. He noted that “this is something we’re going to be fighting with for a hell of a long time.”

May 20: COVID-19: How to cope with ‘pandemilash’ amid lifting measures – opinion (Jerusalem Post)

William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, quoted.

May 19: Discover Science podcast: Kizzmekia Corbett on going where you are loved (Discover Science podcast)

Kizzmekia Corbett, assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases, who was scientific lead in the development of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, discussed her research and work, the importance of good mentorship, and finding her place in science.

May 19: N. Korea won’t accept help to stave off coronavirus crisis, experts fear (Washington Post)

North Korea, with an unvaccinated population and limited health care capacity, could face thousands of preventable deaths from its first wave of COVID. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said that an out-of-control outbreak of the BA.2 subvariant of omicron now spreading in the country could lead to a death toll of roughly 125,000.

May 19: The government’s giving away more rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests. Here’s what you need to know. (Boston Globe)

Americans are now able to order a third round of free COVID tests from the government. Phyllis Kanki, Mary Woodard Lasker Professor of Health Sciences, offered some advice on how to use the tests. She said that if you have COVID symptoms “you should rapid test. And if you’re negative, you should test again the next day.” If the test is negative and you still have symptoms, you should try more rapid tests or consider a PCR test.

May 18: What you need to know about the covid crisis hitting North Korea (Washington Post)

William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, quoted.

May 17: In wave after deadly wave, COVID has claimed 1 million lives in the U.S.(NPR)

William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, quoted.

May 17: Americans Return to the Office With Willingness and Trepidation (VOA News)

Employees who have worked remotely during the pandemic have mixed feelings about returning to in-person work, according to experts. Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology, noted that some find it exhausting. “At first, returning to the office can be really draining because you haven’t seen the people you work with in person for a long time,” she said. “Psychologically and emotionally, the transition is not comfortable but should eventually become more comfortable as time goes on.”

May 16: How Many Of America’s One Million COVID Deaths Were Preventable? (NPR’s Morning Edition)

New research from Brown University suggests that 320,000 lives could have been saved in the U.S. if more people had gotten COVID vaccinations. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said, “It’s shocking to me that so many people have accepted a million dead. This is not a trivial number. That’s a million human beings. And the fact that we have taken this appalling toll and folks are so keen to move on from it and not examine how we got there is deeply depressing.”

May 6: You can now get free rapid COVID tests at a pharmacy by showing your insurance card (WGBH)

Rapid COVID tests are now easily available for free at pharmacies. Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, said that he finds rapid tests most useful if he’s planning to visit someone at high risk for severe COVID complications, if he has symptoms like a cough, or if he’s been exposed to someone who had COVID. “The nice thing about rapid antigen tests is that they tell me within minutes a very good picture of whether or not I am a risk of infection to people around me,” he said. “And to me, that’s hugely valuable.”

May 6: Omicron’s befuddling evolution (Politico)

COVID now has variants and subvariants, making it hard to keep track of all of them. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, noted that he expects cases to tick up in the coming months as the virus continues to evolve and immunity wanes from vaccines and prior infections.

May 3: What the latest omicron subvariants mean for reinfection risk (NBC News)

Even though many people in the U.S. have a high level of immunity from COVID from a combination of vaccinations, boosters, and prior infection, waning immunity and new omicron subvariants can change a person’s ability to fight off infections—which means that reinfection is possible and perhaps even likely, according to William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. He noted that the risk of serious illness will vary among those who can get infected.

May 3: More uniformly infectious, more treatable, more genetically predictable: How coronavirus is getting closer to flu (STAT)

SARS-CoV-2 may become more predictable, like seasonal flu, according to experts—although it’s still capable of causing dangerous surges around the world. “Nobody knows what this virus is going to do next,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. “The pandemic will be done but not in a way that most people think of as done.”

May 2: Most Americans have now had Covid-19 — but experts are predicting the next surge (CNN)

William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, quoted.

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