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In the wake of an outbreak of coronavirus that began in China in 2019, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health experts have been speaking to a variety of media outlets and writing articles about the pandemic. We’ll be updating this article on a regular basis. Here’s a selection of stories from November 2020 in which they offer comments and context:
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, argued that inexpensive, rapid coronavirus tests that people can take at home several times a week could stop the pandemic by Christmas. These paper-strip antigen tests, which Mina says should be viewed as public health surveillance tools instead of medical devices, are not yet available in the U.S. because there isn’t a regulatory pathway for their approval. He estimates that getting these tests into millions of American homes would cost about $5 billion, but added, “$5 billion is not expensive for a war that’s literally cost us trillions.”
November 30: Post-Surge, Pre-Vaccine (Politico)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, discussed how universal, rapid, at-home coronavirus testing could help pull the U.S. out of the pandemic.
November 30: How humidity can help fight Covid-19 (WGN)
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, discussed how keeping relative humidity at 40%–60% in indoor spaces can help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
November 30: Are Mass. Schools Safe As COVID-19 Rates Rise? (WGBH)
Research suggests that schools can be safe during the pandemic if safety measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing are followed. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said that the key to opening schools safely is to keep community transmission rates low. He added, “It says something about our priorities if we’re talking about closing schools and we’re not talking about doing stuff elsewhere to try to curb the virus. Schools, ideally, should be the last thing to close and the first thing to open.”
November 30: What Science Says About Vitamins and Supplements for Covid-19 (Medium)
Research isn’t conclusive on whether any supplements can help ward off the coronavirus, and scientists warn that too much of any nutrient can have negative side effects. Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition, noted that supplements can benefit people who suffer specific nutrient deficiencies, but increasing intake may not have further benefit.
It’s likely that Thanksgiving gatherings will spur more coronavirus cases in the U.S., according to Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology. He expects that, three or four weeks after the holiday, “we will see more people die than otherwise would have. We’ll see more people get infected over Thanksgiving. And unfortunately, it will probably be a lot of older people who are gathering together with their families.”
November 29: Train Asha workers in mental health: Expert on handling COVID-19 stress (New Indian Express)
November 29: COVID-19 impact from Thanksgiving travel and gatherings could be ‘precursor’ for upcoming holidays (Boston Globe)
Mauricio Santillana, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, noted that adherence to some public health measures regarding COVID-19 has fallen in Massachusetts, perhaps due to pandemic fatigue.
November 28: Need a COVID test? Minnesota makes it more convenient (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Stephen Kissler, research fellow, said that an enhanced public coronavirus testing program in Minnesota will help eliminate bottlenecks in the testing system by preventing demand from overwhelming medical centers and other testing providers.
November 28: From campus, a lesson in controlling the virus (Boston Globe)
The coronavirus infection rate among Massachusetts college students is significantly lower than among the broader population in the state, thanks to an extensive testing system and requirements to wear face masks and limit social gatherings. “It is a pretty good miniature blueprint of what we should be doing as a society,” said Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. “Frequent, rapid turnaround testing … that should absolutely be replicated at the societal scale.”
November 27: Could quick COVID ‘antigen’ tests break the back of the pandemic? (CBC)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, discussed a study he co-authored that found that antigen tests for the coronavirus, although less sensitive than gold-standard PCR tests, are very good at identifying when people are infectious and could thus help slow the spread of the virus if used often. “If we’re not doing frequent testing, then even the most sensitive tests in the world won’t be able to stop transmission,” he said.
November 27: Detecting COVID-19 Through Sound (WBUR)
Heather Mattie, lecturer on biostatistics and executive director of the Master of Science in Health Data Science program, was a guest on a segment of “Here and Now” that focused on testing for COVID-19 by using sounds hidden in human vocal cords.
November 27: Commentary: Will people really refuse a COVID-19 vaccine out of fear? (CNA – Channel News Asia)
Kasisomayajula “Vish” Viswanath, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication, said that, in spite of vaccine hesitancy, “If COVID-19 vaccines are found to be efficacious and safe and widely available, my guess is that a very large proportion of people will ultimately take them.”
November 25: Confused About Changes to Mass. COVID Data? We Asked Experts to Explain Them (NBC Boston)
Experts say that recent changes to the way Massachusetts presents COVID-19 data make sense, even though they may be confusing to the public. “I think we’re just witnessing, in real time, an evolution of how to think and report on the COVID-19 data,” said Thomas Tsai, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management. Tsai, who works on a national map on COVID transmission risk, said that his team has also struggled with what data to present in order to accurately show the rate of COVID-19 spread.
New England colleges have experienced relatively low rates of coronavirus cases. Experts say a combination of frequent widespread testing, contact tracing, social distancing, and masking has kept the virus at bay. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, said that New England colleges’ efforts provide evidence that “surveillance” testing of people without symptoms is successful and should be used more broadly.
November 25: Why Does It Take Six Hours to Get a COVID Test? (New York Magazine)
Long lines of people waiting to get tested for COVID-19 in New York before Thanksgiving suggest that many people were planning to use the results to give themselves permission to attend large family gatherings, even though public health experts advised against doing so. “It may be helpful to know you are positive but there are so many opportunities between when you get tested and interact with people when you get back,” said Stephen Kissler, research fellow. “It’s important for individuals to realize getting a PCR test right now isn’t a ticket for them to interact with people safely.”
November 25: What C.E.O.s Are Worried About (New York Times/DealBook newsletter)
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, has been advising companies on pandemic-related matters. He said that corporate leaders have myriad concerns for the future, including whether employees will agree to get a coronavirus vaccine, how to verify a person’s health when they enter a business, and how to improve or reconfigure work spaces.
November 24: U.S. Missteps in Handling the Pandemic (WebMD)
In an interview with John Whyte, chief medical officer at WebMD, Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership, discussed mistakes the U.S. made in dealing with the pandemic and steps the nation could take to improve the situation.
November 24: CNN asks passengers why they are choosing to fly amid surge (CNN)
Leonard Marcus, founding co-director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative, discussed research he co-authored that found that sanitation, good air circulation and filtration, and mask wearing on airplanes can keep coronavirus transmission low.
Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis, Emeritus, said that Black and Latino Americans are facing “terrible financial problems” during COVID-19, and that if politicians can’t figure out how to help them, their communities will suffer.
November 24: Four Things to Consider Before Implementing Temperature Checks at Your Holiday Gathering (Yahoo! News)
Temperature checks shouldn’t replace other safety measures in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, according to research fellow Stephen Kissler. “For all of the prevention measures that we have against COVID”—including testing, wearing masks, temperature checks, social distancing, and improved ventilation—“none of them are especially effective on its own—but all of them together can be very effective,” he said.
November 24: Rapid At-Home Tests Could Curb Virus Spread, Harvard and University of Colorado Researchers Find (Harvard Crimson)
Frequent, quick COVID-19 tests could help substantially curb the spread of the virus, according to a new study. Co-author James Hay, a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, said that although these rapid antigen tests are less sensitive than gold-standard PCR tests, “That loss of sensitivity is offset by the fact that they’re very cheap to produce, they’re very easy to use, and they’re the sort of thing you can give to people to use in their homes.” He added, “The key is that by testing people very frequently, you’re much more likely to catch people when they’re infectious.”
November 24: What will the new post-pandemic normal look like? (Harvard Gazette)
The coronavirus pandemic will have long-lasting impacts on people because it affects nearly every aspect of life, and it could be particularly difficult for young people coming of age, according to Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology.
November 24: Are More Lockdowns Inevitable Or Can Other Measures Stop The Surge? (NPR)
In an article discussing various ways of tamping down the coronavirus pandemic— including full or partial lockdowns, mask mandates, curfews, or limiting the size of gatherings and limiting capacity at restaurants and bars—Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, said he expects there will be a scattershot approach to the pandemic in the coming weeks in the U.S. “We’re going to see a sputtering of shutdowns in the same way that we saw only haphazard shutdowns in March, April and May,” he said. “My concern is this is going to lead to the worst of all options, where we’re going to have massive economic destruction and the virus is barely going to be dented at a national level.”
November 24: ‘Not normal times’: health experts on how they are spending Thanksgiving (The Guardian)
Thomas Tsai, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, said that he would spend Thanksgiving at home with his wife and two-year-old and have short Zoom visits with family and friends. “With the high risk of Covid transmission and large degree of asymptomatic spread, we feel that it’s safest to keep it to our immediate family,” he said.
November 23: U.S. failed to control pandemic, but vaccination provides ‘chance to get next phase right’ (Harvard Gazette)
Rolling out a coronavirus vaccine will involve challenges in storage, distribution, prioritizing who gets vaccinated first, and ensuring that people maintain public health precautions in the months ahead, according to panelists at a Facebook Live event sponsored by The Forum at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and NPR. Harvard Chan experts on the panel included Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health, Sarah Fortune, John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, and Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics.
November 23: Coronavirus vaccines face trust gap in Black and Latino communities, study finds (Washington Post)
A survey released November 23 found high levels of vaccine hesitancy among communities of color. Even though early data on experimental COVID-19 vaccines looks promising, “It’s not having a vaccine that saves lives, it’s people actually getting vaccinated,” said Dean Michelle Williams, who co-founded the COVID Collaborative, the nonprofit that commissioned the study.
November 23: Why Vitamin D May Be the Secret to Staying Healthy This Winter (Vogue)
Vitamin D may help prevent and treat COVID-19. “It’s critical to a healthy immune system,” said JoAnn Manson, professor in the Department of Epidemiology. “But beyond that, vitamin D seems to have a benefit in tamping down the inflammation that can occur with COVID, and it may also have a role in reducing the risk of developing severe illness and a need for hospitalization.”
November 23: At-home COVID-19 testing key to stopping spread of virus, researchers say (WCVB)
November 23: Francesca Dominici: How Does Air Pollution Affect COVID-19? (Harvard Magazine)
Francesca Dominici, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Biostatistics, Population, and Data Science, and co-director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative, discusses the links between fine particulate matter in the air and COVID-19 outcomes in this Q&A.
November 23: Staying Safe This Thanksgiving (New York Times)
Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, said the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving during the pandemic is with our nuclear families, or to gather in small groups outdoors.
November 23: New York City is Fighting COVID Block by Block. Is it Working? (Daily Nurse)
November 23: Thanksgiving gatherings could inflame COVID-19 crisis (The Hill)
As families gather on Thanksgiving, the COVID-19 pandemic could further spiral out of control, say experts. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, said it’s likely that “three or four weeks after Thanksgiving, we’ll see more people dying than otherwise would have, we’ll see more people get infected, and unfortunately it will probably be a lot of older people, who are gathering together with their families.”
November 21: Pressure rises for rapid COVID-19 testing (The Hill)
Widespread rapid testing could dramatically slow the spread of the coronavirus until a vaccine becomes available, say proponents of such testing. But there are regulatory barriers at the Food and Drug Administration and a lack of government investment in ramping up manufacturing of the tests to the millions per day that would be needed. “We have leadership in this country, [and] they don’t realize they’re leaders,” said Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, who has been advocating for rapid tests for months. “The number of people I’ve talked to who say, ‘Well, why isn’t this happening?’ and my only answer is, ‘Because you’re not doing it.’”
November 21: Another Day, Another Data Dump: How To Read The Official COVID-19 Numbers (WBUR)
Caroline Buckee, associate professor of epidemiology and associate director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, noted that the lack of widespread testing and extensive contact tracing for COVID-19 makes it nearly impossible to know where transmission of the disease is most common.
November 21: Doctors and nurses want more data before championing vaccines to end the pandemic (Washington Post)
Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership, said that he thinks health professionals must quickly learn the science behind the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines, which use a new technology—messenger RNA (mRNA)—to carry a genetic message to the body that prompts an immune response to the virus. And then these professionals need to help convince the public that the vaccines are safe and effective, Koh said.
November 20: How the U.S. Messed Up Covid-19 So Badly (Medium)
November 20: Rapid testing 75% of a city every 3 days could ‘drive the epidemic toward extinction’ within 6 weeks, a new study claims (Business Insider)
More frequent COVID-19 testing, even if it’s less sensitive, could end the coronavirus pandemic within six weeks, according to a new study co-authored by Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology.
November 20: These are the safety precautions in-person Black Friday shoppers should take, according to experts (Business Insider)
Black Friday shoppers should plan on wearing masks, social distancing, and frequently washing and sanitizing hands in order to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to experts including research fellow Stephen Kissler.
Quarantining for 14 days before Thanksgiving or getting a negative COVID-19 test before the holiday are not foolproof methods for not spreading the disease during the holiday, according to Atul Gawande, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 task force, and a surgeon, writer, founder and chair of Ariadne Labs, and professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management.
November 20: Black families should avoid Thanksgiving gatherings. But here’s how to stay safe. (The Undefeated)
Experts advise that Black families, who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, not gather in person during Thanksgiving to avoid spreading the virus. “We could not be at a more dangerous point in the spread of this virus, and it’s far better to delay a family celebration than to risk the health and safety of any family member,” said Dean Michelle Williams.
November 20: The Gym, At Home Or Outside: What Are The Risks For Your Winter Workout? (WBUR)
Experts say that outdoor workouts—such as walking, outdoor classes, skiing, or skating—are the safest option during the coronavirus pandemic. If you do go to the gym, make sure it’s regularly cleaned and sanitized, has good ventilation, that staff and people working out wear masks, and that equipment is well-spaced, said I-Min Lee, professor in the Department of Epidemiology. “You have to think about the crowding, the ventilation, the surfaces, in addition to the intensity of the exercise,” she said.
November 19: Near-constant testing would turn the tide in a matter of weeks. (Bloomberg)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, said that frequent, inexpensive, at-home coronavirus testing could quell the pandemic in just weeks.
November 19: COVID vaccine: When will it arrive? Will it work? How soon will it end the pandemic? (Euro News)
Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health, noted that early positive results from Pfizer and Moderna about the efficacy of their COVID-19 vaccines were “probably better than any expert’s expectations.” He also noted that, even after a vaccine becomes available, it will take six months to a year until lots of people are vaccinated, meaning that everyone—including those who are vaccinated—should continue wearing masks and distancing.
November 19: Restaurants Scramble Amid Cold, COVID Surge (WebMD)
Even though restaurants are working hard to provide a safe dining environment amid the coronavirus pandemic—taking steps such as setting up heated tents outdoors, beefing up air filtration and ventilation indoors, and keeping space between tables—dining out is still a risky proposition, according to Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program. That’s because people must remove masks to eat, they often talk loudly at restaurants (which increases emission rates), and people may share a table with friends outside their household.
November 19: Paul Misleads on Natural Infection and COVID-19 Vaccines (FactCheck.org)
Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health, quoted
Nancy Krieger, professor of social epidemiology, quoted
November 19: Do curfews actually do anything to stop coronavirus spread? (The Hill)
Some experts, including William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, worry that curfews aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus may lead people leaving bars and restaurants to simply gather elsewhere—indoors in private homes, where risk could be higher.
November 19: Experts Critical of Ohio’s “Ineffective” COVID Curfew (Columbus Underground)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, quoted
November 19: How to Make Your Pods-Giving as Safe as Possible (Vogue)
There’s no foolproof way to safely celebrate Thanksgiving with people outside your household during the pandemic, say experts. Even testing for COVID-19 is not a definitive solution, because many tests, especially rapid tests, have high rates of false negatives, said Rachael Piltch-Loeb, a preparedness fellow. “Is a negative test result better than nothing? For sure, but it’s not certain,” she said. “If seeing others at Thanksgiving, you are accepting some level of risk of transmission.”
November 19: How Do I Make Thanksgiving Grocery Shopping Safer? (New York Times)
Grocery shopping during the pandemic can be relatively safe if you wear a mask, avoid close contact with other shoppers, keep the trip short, and wash your hands, say experts. In handling groceries, “The key thing that is necessary is that you wash your hands, really, really well,” said Asaf Bitton, executive director of Ariadne Labs.
November 18: Have yourself a happy, healthy pandemic Thanksgiving (Harvard Gazette)
Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology, discussed how to manage Thanksgiving during the pandemic, as well as the broader issue of mental health during the pandemic’s fall and winter depths, at a Facebook Live event sponsored by the Forum and PRI’s “The World.”
November 18: Winter is coming. That means we need to start fighting covid-19 with humidity. (Washington Post)
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, co-authored this op-ed recommending that buildings maintain relative humidity in the 40-to-60-percent range to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Humidity in that range helps our bodies fight infection, hastens the decay of the coronavirus, and slows the movement of viral droplets through the air, according to the authors.
November 18: FDA authorizes first at-home rapid COVID-19 test (WINK News)
The first rapid at-home coronavirus test is now available, thanks to an emergency-use authorization from the FDA. But Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, says the tests are expensive, hard to manufacture, and require a prescription, making them not accessible and convenient enough. He’d prefer cheap paper strip tests that can be sent to every home in America.
November 18: New York City Schools to Shut Down Again as Coronavirus Cases Rise (TIME)
November 18: Slovakia tested almost everyone in the country and ‘broke the curve’ (Fast Company)
Slovakia started using rapid COVID-19 tests on a massive scale in late October, requiring anyone who tested positive to quarantine—and the country saw immediate benefits. “Within a week—truly, within a week—they stopped the virus from exponentially growing on a country level, to dropping incidence by half,” said Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology. “Two weeks later, it dropped more. They’re doing …. the third mass testing this week. I think it’s the best proof that we have, at the moment, anyway, that this can work.”
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, offered Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, information about COVID-19 tests—through Twitter.
November 18: The Thanksgiving time bomb (Axios)
With coronavirus cases and hospitalizations at new highs across the U.S., Thanksgiving could be catastrophic for public health, say experts. “The incoming holidays have the potential to be a real, serious problem in terms of facilitating transmission,” says William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology.
Andrew Beam, assistant professor of epidemiology, quoted
November 18: Health-care experts share advice for Thanksgiving safety (Daily Free Press)
Families should take precautions against COVID-19 this Thanksgiving, such as getting tested for COVID-19 and wearing masks, said research fellow Stephen Kissler. He added that Black Friday shoppers should consider shopping individually instead of in groups, keep distance between themselves and other shoppers, and consider online shopping.
November 17: How should governments allocate Covid-19 vaccines? (Apolitical)
Rebecca Weintraub, who directs the Better Evidence project at Ariadne Labs, co-authored this opinion piece that describes key considerations for equitably delivering coronavirus vaccines and how to avoid bottlenecks.
November 17: How We Can Stop the Spread of COVID-19 By Christmas (TIME)
“To win the war on COVID-19, we need a multi-pronged public health strategy that includes a national testing plan that utilizes widespread frequent rapid antigen tests to stop the spread of the virus,” wrote Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, in Time Magazine’s Ideas section. He described how antigen tests work, why they’re so crucial in fighting COVID-19, how much money they could save the U.S., and how to get them into every household in America. “A large and organized deployment of rapid paper-strip tests can enable the United States to begin to achieve normalcy within weeks—we just need to start now,” he wrote.
November 17: FDA authorizes first at-home coronavirus test (Politico)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, quoted
November 17: The Busiest Travel Days For Thanksgiving 2020 To Avoid, So You Can Steer Clear Of Crowds (Elite Daily)
During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s safest to stay home for Thanksgiving. But if you must travel, Rachael Piltch-Loeb, a preparedness fellow, recommends avoiding crowds and quarantining and getting tested for COVID-19 before your trip. She said driving is the safest mode of transportation.
November 17: 2 COVID-19 vaccine candidates may protect against the virus. Now what? (PBS NewsHour)
Although two early coronavirus vaccine candidates appear promising, experts say more research is needed to show how much protection each vaccine can generate, how long their immune response would last, and whether other vaccines in the pipeline can be successful. Another issue is vaccine hesitancy. Mary Bassett, François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, noted that the perception that vaccines are being rushed out for political purposes can foster doubts. People “want zero risk,” she said.
November 17: The World’s Wild and Crazy Vaccine Ride Is Just Starting (Foreign Policy)
Jaap Goudsmit, adjunct professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases, quoted
November 17: At-home COVID-19 testing could help in fight against pandemic (WINK News)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, quoted
November 17: Fauci: Early-Stage COVID-19 Treatments Are Urgently Needed (VeryWell Health)
In spite of recent news about potentially effective coronavirus vaccines, those vaccines won’t be widely available until April or beyond, so treatments for COVID-19 are still needed, say experts. Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health, pointed out that a lot of infection can spread in the coming months. “Younger people tend not to have serious illness, but they can, and if they get the virus, they can transmit it, and serious cases can result,” he said.
November 17: Covid: chemicals found in everyday products could hinder vaccine (The Guardian)
Small amounts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), commonly found in the bodies of people in the U.S., could reduce the effectiveness of a coronavirus vaccine, according to Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health. PFASs—water- and grease-resistant chemicals that are used in a wide range of products including non-stick pans, waterproof cloths, and pizza boxes—have been linked to increased risk of liver damage, decreased fertility, and some cancers, as well as reduced effectiveness of certain vaccines. “At this stage we don’t know if it will impact a corona vaccination, but it’s a risk,” said Grandjean. “We would have to cross our fingers and hope for the best.”
November 17: Doctors Apply Covid-19 Lessons Learned as U.S. Cases Surge (Wall Street Journal)
After months of treating hospitalized coronavirus patients, doctors say they are now better equipped to handle the current rise in cases. They’re learning how to tailor treatments for each patient. “We’ve stopped throwing the kitchen sink at everybody,” said Roger Shapiro, associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases, who has treated coronavirus patients throughout the pandemic.
November 16: COVID-19 vaccine update: What to know about Pfizer and Moderna’s announcements (Politfact)
Effectiveness rates of coronavirus vaccine candidates from both Pfizer and Moderna were “better than almost any expert’s expectation,” according to Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health. Both vaccines are based on mRNA technology. “To have both of them validate each other is a tremendous advance, both as the first vaccines against COVID-19, but also as a new platform for fighting other infectious threats,” he said.
November 16: Are young people to blame for recent COVID-19 surges? Experts say the numbers are not conclusive (Boston Globe)
Although some political leaders have been admonishing young people for flouting pandemic rules, public health experts say the evidence isn’t clear that young people’s irresponsible behavior is driving recent surges in coronavirus infection rates. It could simply be that they face increased risk of infection from the social and economic realities of their lives—having to work, relying on public transit, and having roommates, they say. “I think there’s a tendency to envision that there are all these young people out at bars and parties, and that somehow it is irresponsible behavior [driving cases],” said Sarah Fortune, John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases. “I do not think the data per se can be interpreted to mean that.”
COVID-19 hospitalizations among Black, Hispanic, and Native American people are roughly four times higher than that of others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Jarvis Chen, research scientist, noted that more people of color have jobs where they can be exposed to the virus, such as in food production or public transportation. He added that, if they get sick, they may be reluctant to stay home because they’re worried about losing income they need to support their families.
Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health, quoted
November 16: As basketball cranks up, indoor games seem like ‘wrong choice to be making’ for fans (AZ Central)
Experts are worried that sporting events with thousands of fans—whether indoors or out—could drive coronavirus infections. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, said the best way to keep fans safe at sports venues would be to test those in attendance. “This is a silent virus,” he said. “It spreads asymptomatically, pre-symptomatically. And if we’re not able to detect it, then we just don’t know who’s walking in there and what their status is.”
November 16: Early Data Show Moderna’s Coronavirus Vaccine Is 94.5% Effective (New York Times)
Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health, discussed two coronavirus vaccines that have shown early promise—one from Moderna, and one from Pfizer. “The fact that two different vaccines made by two different companies with two different kinds of structures, in a new messenger RNA concept, both worked so effectively confirms the concept once and for all that this is a viable strategy not only for Covid but for future infectious disease threats,” he said.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif—a guard for the Kansas City Chiefs, a graduate of McGill University School of Medicine, and a student at Harvard Chan School—opted out of the current football season to join the fight against COVID-19 as an orderly at a long-term care facility near Montreal. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is now displaying Duvernay-Tardif’s medical scrubs and lab coat to highlight his work off the field.
November 15: As Covid-19 Surges, the Big Unknown Is Where People Are Getting Infected (Wall Street Journal)
November 15: Vaccine is not Tokyo Olympics organizers’ lone hope of a safe Games in 2021 (USA Today)
Amid debate about whether athletes would have access to coronavirus vaccines in time for the 2021 Olympics, Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health, noted that there are other options for athletes. He cited treatments, including an antibody cocktail recently granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, and genetically engineered antibodies called nanobodies that can be made in yeast.
November 13: U.S. Pandemic Deaths Likely to Double Sans Urgent Action (Medium Coronavirus Blog)
Without coordinated nationwide action on shutdowns, mask mandates, and social distancing policies, experts say the death toll from COVID-19—currently 250,000—could double by late winter or early spring. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, said that a coach of five-year-old soccer players has more strategy than the U.S. currently has on COVID-19. “And we’re losing our loved ones because of that,” he said.
In this Q&A, Atul Gawande—surgeon, writer, founder and chair of Ariadne Labs, professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, and member of President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force—discussed the importance of clear communication about the coronavirus pandemic, about the task force’s difficulties in getting cooperation from the Trump administration, and on the importance of continued public health measures such as wearing masks and social distancing.
November 13: The Future of At Home Rapid Testing (WNYC)
As a guest on the Brian Lehrer Show, Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, discussed the latest developments in COVID-19 testing and when and how to get tested.
November 13: Public Health School Researchers Document U.S. Government’s Failures to Slow Pandemic in New Study (Harvard Crimson)
Nancy Krieger, professor of social epidemiology, Mauricio Santillana, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, and Christian Testa, data analyst and programmer, discussed a study they co-authored that assessed federal missteps in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, discussed the need for a federal roadmap and resources to help schools safely reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Allen and colleagues produced a report in June with guidelines for reopening schools.
November 13: How Can My College Student Come Home Safely for Thanksgiving? (New York Times)
Asaf Bitton, executive director of Ariadne Labs, was one of several experts quoted on how college students returning home for Thanksgiving can avoid unknowingly transmitting the coronavirus to family members. Bitton and others said that, before college students return home for Thanksgiving, they should restrict their contacts as much as possible for at least a week and get tested for the coronavirus. And when they arrive home they should consider getting another test, isolate, avoid close contact with family members, and wear masks when not eating.
November 13: Trump’s Vaccine Remarks Will Break Long Silence on Virus Crisis (Bloomberg Quint)
Public health experts are frustrated with federal inaction on the coronavirus. President Trump has long downplayed the virus’ severity and extent, and has discouraged the use of face masks and social distancing. With the virus surging across the U.S., Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, said, “I never once saw a strategy throughout this entire pandemic.” To slow the spread of the virus, he said, Trump “would need to, first, identify it as a problem, and a serious problem, and not something to make fun of and ridicule.”
November 12: Biden Covid team member: We need to hit over 90% mask use to curve the pandemic (MSNBC)
In an interview on MSNBC, Atul Gawande—surgeon, writer, founder and chair of Ariadne Labs, professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, and member of President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force—discussed both positive vaccine news as well as ongoing challenges about the coronavirus.
November 12: Why three feet of social distancing should be enough in schools (Washington Post)
In this op-ed, Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, and Sara Bleich, professor of public health policy, argue that the requirement that students be seated six feet apart in schools during the coronavirus pandemic—which has meant that many kids have been forced to stay home because of space constraints in classrooms—should be reduced to three feet.
November 12: Will the COVID-19 vaccine get us back to normal? (KHOU)
In this TV interview, Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership, discussed the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine candidate, which has been found 90% effective in preliminary testing. The findings are “very, very good news,” he said, but cautioned that more data is needed to verify the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. Even if the vaccine is approved, he added, people should continue to take precautions to avoid viral transmission, including social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing, and avoiding crowds.
November 12: 2020 Talent Summit: Leading Teams In Trying Times (Chief Executive)
Dean Michelle Williams said that CEOs can play an important role in ensuring the use of testing, mask-wearing, and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic to bolster public safety, worker safety, and consumer safety. “If CEOs partner with the scientists and the public health leaders and message effectively to the population, there is traction that is positive that can move public health forward,” she said.
November 12: Boston restaurants say 9:30 p.m. halt on table service already stinging (Boston 25)
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science, said that, as coronavirus cases climb, restaurants should ensure high levels of air ventilation and filtration to minimize the risk of transmission.
November 12: An effective COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon. We need to support vaccine advocacy (Boston Globe)
In an op-ed, Michelle Williams, dean of the faculty, and Julia Wu, principal investigator at the Human Immunomics Initiative, described five ways that public health leaders can help maximize uptake of COVID-19 vaccines.
Leonard Marcus, founding co-director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative, and Edward Nardell, professor in the departments of Environmental Health and Immunology and Infectious Diseases, discussed the safety of plane travel during the coronavirus pandemic.
November 11: Joe Biden Is President-Elect. What Does That Mean For The Pandemic? (NPR’s 1A)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, was one of several guests interviewed about how authorities are working to stop the spread of coronavirus, and what the country might expect in 2021.
November 11: The On Point Coronavirus Task Force (NPR’s On Point)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, was one of several guests offering advice on how the Biden team should respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
November 11: Wastewater test results offer troubling prediction about coming weeks in Massachusetts (Boston 25)
Wastewater samples from 43 Massachusetts communities are showing higher levels of coronavirus than in the springtime surge. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said that detecting the virus in wastewater is “really a measurement of how much transmission is going on now, and the answer is quite a lot.”
President-elect Biden plans to urge governors and mayors to issue mask mandates to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. In the meantime, Biden has already been making the case for face masks by leading by example, said Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership and former assistant secretary for health under President Obama. “The face that he has been regularly wearing a mask in public for months—having socially distanced events—just sends a huge and consistent message to the public,” Koh said. “When the president acts and speaks, millions follow.”
November 11: Asymptomatic Covid-19 Cases Show Need for Wider Surveillance Testing, Study Suggests (Wall Street Journal)
A study of about 2,000 young adults found that testing people for COVID-19 only when they had symptoms missed nearly all cases of infection—suggesting that widespread surveillance testing, regardless of people’s symptoms, is crucial to contain the spread of the virus. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, who was not involved in the study, said, “There are literally invisible outbreaks happening all over the place until those outbreaks hit up against vulnerable people.”
November 11: Why experts say we need to stop talking about herd immunity (NBC)
Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, is one of many experts who have sharply criticized the idea of “natural” herd immunity—allowing the coronavirus to spread freely among supposedly less vulnerable people while somehow protecting those who are more vulnerable—saying that it would lead to huge numbers of additional deaths.
A recent study found that the coronavirus case rate among detainees in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities was, on average, more than 13 times the rate of the U.S. population from April to August. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, who was not involved in the study, said that frequent testing is one of the best ways to prevent outbreaks in such facilities. “Unless we’re wanting to give people who are detained by ICE death sentences … we should absolutely be doing everything we can to protect them. Not providing means to stop the spread in those locations is a national travesty. It’s a stain on our country.”
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, said he’s hopeful that, under the Biden administration, there will be wide distribution of cheap, rapid coronavirus tests that people can take at home. “One of the best things we could do is empower people to know if they are more likely to transmit the virus so they can make educated decisions. The way you stop an outbreak is to know your status, just like we did with HIV,” he said.
November 11: An Extra Covid Wildcard for Flying During Winter: Deicing (Wall Street Journal)
The risk of coronavirus transmission inside airline cabins is generally considered low by experts. But the risk can increase during deicing, when airflow is reduced so that fumes and fluid don’t get into jets. John Spengler, Akira Hamaguchi Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation, co-author of an October report that found low risk of COVID-19 transmission on airplanes, said that the group is currently reviewing data on how deicing may affect viral transmission.
November 11: Scholars Talk COVID-19 Impact on Latin American Minority Groups (Harvard Crimson)
At a webinar, Marcia Castro, Andelot Professor of Demography and chair of the Department of Global Health and Population, discussed how the coronavirus pandemic has magnified preexisting racial inequalities in Brazil.
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said that new measures announced by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to limit the spread of the coronavirus, such as requiring that restaurants close earlier, may not go far enough.
With coronavirus cases surging across the U.S., Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership, said that “we absolutely have to maximize the power of prevention while we wait for a vaccine.” Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, stressed the importance of distancing, wearing masks, and frequent testing.
November 10: Pressley Calls On Baker To Release Incarcerated People Amid COVID Outbreak (WGBH)
Monik Jiménez, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, was among a group of public health experts, politicians, and advocates calling for the release of hundreds of inmates in Massachusetts who are unable to socially distance or otherwise protect themselves in prison during the coronavirus pandemic.
November 10: COVID-19 cases are surging. Is it possible to gather safely for the holidays? (AAMC)
During the pandemic, the safest option is to stay home and celebrate only with household members, say experts. Otherwise, it will be important to take many precautions. Research fellow Stephen Kissler recommended getting a test before any gathering, keeping gatherings small, wearing masks indoors as much as possible, and avoiding sharing dishes.
Although a COVID-19 vaccine may be available by the end of the year, it will take months to roll it out across the U.S., it’s unclear how effective it will be, and many people may be reluctant to be vaccinated—which means that “normal life” is still a ways off, say experts. “We all want our lives back,” said Mary Bassett, François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University. “The vaccine won’t achieve that because it can’t be distributed widely enough, fast enough.” In the meantime, experts recommend maintaining precautions against the virus including wearing masks, distancing, hand washing, and avoiding crowds.
November 10: U.S. Covid-19 Hospitalizations Set New Record (Wall Street Journal)
November 10: The next wave (Washington Post)
It will take a long time before life returns to “normal” during the coronavirus pandemic, according to this Outlook piece. “This is not going to go away anytime soon,” said Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership. “We’re not going to get back any sense of normal until the end of 2021 or even into 2022.”
November 9: Natalia Linos on COVID-19 in the Commonwealth (WBSM)
In this radio interview, Natalia Linos, executive director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, discussed the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker’s new restrictions, and what she hopes a Biden administration will to do combat the pandemic on a national level.
November 9: Keeping safe from pandemic during the holidays (Harvard Gazette)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, offered tips for having safe holidays during the pandemic, including limiting the size of gatherings, using masks, avoiding crowds, sanitizing hands, and cracking open doors and windows to ensure adequate ventilation.
November 9: Local Public Health Experts Weigh In On Biden’s COVID-19 Plan (WGBH)
The Biden administration’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic will likely be very different from that of the Trump administration, say public health experts. “I think the biggest thing that will change with a Biden administration is bringing scientific rigor and bringing strategy into the fight against this virus,” said Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology. Significantly expanded testing will be one key difference, he said. “If we can get 20 million tests or even 10 million tests per day in the United States, that is enough to create herd effects across the whole of the United States,” he said.
November 9: The Biden transition team announced 13 coronavirus advisers (VOX)
Atul Gawande—surgeon, writer, founder and chair of Ariadne Labs, and professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management—was named to President-elect Joe Biden’s Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board.
November 9: Experts wonder and warn: Is Florida the nation’s test case for COVID-19 herd immunity? (Miami Herald)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is pursuing a policy allowing the coronavirus to spread freely in the state until most of the population becomes infected, while attempting to protect those who are most vulnerable. Public health experts say this strategy to achieve “herd immunity”—normally achieved through a vaccine—will likely be deadly for thousands of Floridians. That’s because the minimum threshold to achieve herd immunity is around 60%, and most of Florida’s population has not been infected yet. “There is just no evidence whatsoever that we know how to effectively protect the most vulnerable,” said Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics.
November 9: How Long Do I Need to Quarantine If I’m Exposed to Covid? (Wall Street Journal)
Yonatan Grad, Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, quoted
November 9: With inauguration 10 weeks away, Biden’s pandemic plans face agonizing wait (Science)
How to approach coronavirus testing will be one challenge for a new Biden administration. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, hopes that the president-elect will generously invest in simple, do-it-yourself tests that people can take at home. Although these antigen tests are not as accurate as the gold standard PCR tests, Mina says that they would still help alert people as to when they are infected, which could prompt them to quarantine and avoid spreading the disease.
November 9: Trump tried to justify rising Covid cases by pointing to Europe. Experts say he’s wrong. (NBC News)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, is among experts who criticized President Trump for comparing the U.S. to Europe in terms of rising coronavirus cases. While it’s true that case numbers in Europe are rising faster right now, total numbers of deaths and cases per capita since the pandemic began are still considerably higher in the U.S., he said.
November 9: The colleges with virtually no coronavirus cases (National Geographic)
Colleges and universities that have kept the coronavirus at bay have all created their own public health infrastructures, with cohesive public health messaging and strong COVID-19 testing regimens. Sarah Fortune, John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, said of the colleges that haven’t experienced major outbreaks, “many of those places have had the advantage of being relatively isolated,” with less contact between people at the college and people in the surrounding community.
November 8: Biden’s approach to tackling COVID-19 will be dramatically different, and quickly apparent (USA Today)
The strategy for tackling COVID-19 will change dramatically under president-elect Joe Biden, say experts. They expect a renewed emphasis on science, better communication, and efforts to boost the economy and public health at the same time. “If we now prioritize science and public health the way we should have at the beginning, hopefully we can restore some strength to the system,” said Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership and a former assistant secretary for health under President Obama.
November 8: Experts warn of worsening pandemic unless Trump takes action (The Hill)
As COVID-19 infections surge to record levels, health experts say that things could get far worse if the Trump administration doesn’t take aggressive action. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, said he hopes the election was an “inflection point” for leaders to refocus on slowing the spread of the disease. “At the moment we have painted ourselves into a corner, I’m not gonna lie,” he said. “We have very, very few options at the moment.”
November 6: Ice Hockey COVID Outbreaks (Living on Earth)
In this radio interview, Aaron Bernstein, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE), discussed why indoor ice hockey practices might be a source of coronavirus spread, the need to maintain social distancing measures through the winter, and the importance of getting a flu vaccine this year.
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, is among experts who are dubious that curfews or closing restaurants early can significantly limit the spread of the coronavirus—because people may choose instead to gather in small, airless apartments, where infection risk could be higher. With the coronavirus surging, he thinks that restaurants should be limited to outdoor dining and takeout, and that bars need to be closed completely—with financial support.
November 6: Serve Up Some Extra Precautions at Your Thanksgiving Table This Year (New York Times)
Public health experts are urging families to take multiple steps during the holidays to stay safe from the coronavirus: keep celebrations small, avoid mixing households, open windows, quarantine and/or get tested before gathering, eat outdoors, reduce time together, wear masks during downtime, and don’t share serving utensils or other items. Asaf Bitton, executive director of Ariadne Labs, said all these measures are important because the virus is highly transmissible.
Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, said he would “not be at all surprised” if coronavirus cases doubled in the next month. During a chat with the Journal of the American Medical Association, Lipsitch added that he still thinks that mitigation efforts could bring down transmission rates. The number of daily cases and how much the virus spreads “depends on our responses,” he said.
November 6: Universal Testing To End The Pandemic (Health Affairs)
Until a safe and effective vaccine for the coronavirus becomes available, a universal testing infrastructure is needed to fight the pandemic, according to this blog co-authored by Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology. The authors wrote that the technology to develop rapid, convenient, and cheap tests already exists, that producing these tests at the needed scale could happen quickly, and that the annual cost would be miniscule compared to the cost of the pandemic.
November 6: Investigating COVID-19 Data Through A Feminist Lens (Harvard Crimson)
Ann Caroline Danielsen, an MPH-65 student, discussed her research at Harvard’s GenderSci Lab on gender and sex differences in COVID-19 cases and deaths.
November 5: Case Study: Public health data show why COVID spread in Chelsea, and amongst whom (Chelsea Record)
A report by Cristina Alonso, DrPH ’21, found that major reasons for the coronavirus spreading swiftly in Chelsea, Mass. were the lag time between when people first noticed symptoms and when they got tested, and the fact that one-third of the positive cases were asymptomatic.
President-elect Joe Biden will likely increase COVID-19 testing, set a national mask mandate, and consider nationwide lockdowns once he takes office. Under President Trump, each state has made its own decisions regarding COVID-19 response. “And as a result, we have witnessed this rolling thunder of disease and death that’s lasted into the 10th month and counting,” said Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership. Koh added that President Biden would likely reinstitute regular briefings by the nation’s top public health officials—something that has been missing under President Trump.
November 5: Hard lessons from a tough election (Harvard Gazette)
Dean Michelle Williams was among a dozen Harvard scholars and analysts who reflected on the contentious 2020 election. Her main takeaway: “That the American people still believe in democracy.”
November 5: A day after smashing the single-day record, the U.S. leaps to a new one: 121,000 cases. (New York Times)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, quoted
November 5: US sees milestone trend of 100,000 reported COVID-19 cases daily (WINK News)
The U.S. topped 100,000 coronavirus cases on November 5—the highest number ever in a single day. Thomas Tsai, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, said, “We don’t want to miss a window where the 100,000 cases we’re seeing become 125,000, 150,000, 200,000 cases. At that point, we may need a wide-scale lockdown.”
November 5: How Are We Going to Get Through the Next Two Months of COVID? (Slate)
Continued vigilance is essential as coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rise, say experts. Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership, acknowledged that people’s resolve to maintain social distancing measures may be waning because it’s not always easy to see their benefit. “When prevention works, nothing happens,” he said. “All you have is a normal healthy day.” But with the holidays approaching, it’s important to keep gatherings small to maintain safety. “We want people to enjoy the holidays, but it just can’t be anything close to what we’ve done in previous years,” he said.
November 5: In coronavirus era, bubbles provide game-changing lessons learned (Tampa Bay Times)
John Spengler, Akira Hamaguchi Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation, quoted
November 4: In Condemnation of the Great Barrington Declaration (Harvard Crimson)
Barune Thapa, vice president for student advocacy at Harvard Chan School, co-authored an op-ed contending that so-called “focused protection”—a plan allowing those with the lowest risk of death from the coronavirus to go about their lives, while keeping more vulnerable people protected—“would result in millions more needless deaths.”
A Harvard Chan School study of more than 3,000 U.S. counties found that prolonged exposure to high levels of air pollution may increase the risk of death from COVID-19. “The results of our study suggest that in counties with high levels of pollution is where we need to implement social distancing measures now more than ever, knowing that people here will be more susceptible to die from Covid-19,” said study co-author Francesca Dominici, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Biostatistics, Population, and Data Science, and co-director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative.
November 4: 100,000 cases in a single day push the U.S. into new terrain. (New York Times)
The U.S. recorded more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases on November 3, the largest single-day number since the pandemic began. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, noted that while spring and summer surges were concentrated in specific regions, such as the Northeast and the Sun Belt, the current surge is happening nearly everywhere in the country. He called the huge number of daily cases “the completely foreseeable consequence of not taking pandemic management seriously” and predicted that the country would see “hospitalizations and deaths increase in due course.”
November 4: Fears about economy under Covid lockdown helped Trump outperform polls (The Guardian)
Natalia Linos, executive director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, quoted
November 3: Vaccine Hesitancy Still Salient in Push for COVID-19 Vaccine Fix (Patient Engagement Hit)
Although most respondents to a recent survey agree that it’s important to have a COVID-19 vaccine, only 35% say they definitely plan to get one. “Americans understand the public health value of a vaccine and are eager to see one developed. But the current political climate has caused Americans across party lines—but especially in communities of color—to fear that the vaccine will not be safe,” said Dean Michelle Williams. “It is the job of governors and the public health community to rebuild that trust and to assure the American people, with facts and science, that the vaccine they receive will help protect themselves and their loved ones and help them get their lives back.”
November 3: Are Gov. Baker’s latest coronavirus restrictions likely to make a difference? (Boston Globe)
Epidemiologists are questioning new Massachusetts restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus. Gov. Charlie Baker tightened a statewide face-covering mandate, limited private indoor gatherings to 10 people, ordered restaurants to stop table service at 9:30 p.m., and urged the public to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Regarding earlier closure of restaurants, William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said, “It’s definitely not going to be game-changing … It’s implausible to suggest that shaving off the last hour of potential contacts in the restaurants is going to have an out-sized effect. It will have some effect, sure. And it might even reduce it. Or it might prompt someone to go back to someone’s house … and not be wearing masks there.”
November 3: As the coronavirus continues to spread, covid-19 trails the economy as top issue for voters, exit polling shows (Washington Post)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, quoted
November 3: Dr. Gawande: ‘It’s never too late to save another 100,000 lives’ (MarketWatch)
In a Q&A, Atul Gawande, professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management and founder and chair of Ariadne Labs, discussed issues surrounding COVID-19 vaccines, including the difficulty of choosing who will be first to get a limited number of doses, distribution challenges, and safety questions. He also spoke about the course of the pandemic under either a Trump or a Biden presidency.
November 3: On the day before the US election, the coronavirus pandemic is the worst it has ever been in the country (ABC News, Australia)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, quoted
November 3: Contact Tracers Eye Cluster-Busting to Tackle Covid’s New Surge (Bloomberg Quint)
Some experts say that using a “cluster-busting” approach to contact tracing could help limit the spread of the coronavirus. Under this strategy, rather than simply tracking down an infected person’s contacts and isolating them, tracers try to figure out where the person caught COVID-19 in the first place—called “backward tracing”—in order to find clusters of individuals who may have been infected at a particular event or gathering. Since some studies show that a relatively small proportion of those infected with COVID-19 will transmit the virus, contact tracers who only look for a person’s current contacts may mostly find people who were likely not infected. “If 80% of cases do not transmit, then 80% of cases where you are forward tracing contacts are wasted effort,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. “Because you know transmission occurred in the backward tracing, the marginal benefit is greater.”
November 2: University of Miami tests ‘game-changing’ COVID-19 breath analyzer (WINK News)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, quoted
November 2: Before Thanksgiving, colleges plan to ramp up testing for coronavirus (Washington Post)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, said it makes sense for colleges and universities to test students before they leave for the holiday break in order to minimize their risk of unknowingly spreading the coronavirus to their family and friends at home. “There’s quite a bit of risk,” he said. “Certainly these massive rearrangements of people are times when virus can spread.”
November 2: Illinois is nearing its contact tracing hiring goal. Is it too late? (Chicago Tribune)
Research fellow Stephen Kissler quoted
November 2: States Hire Consultants for Covid-19 Help, With Mixed—and Expensive—Results (Wall Street Journal)
November 2: How Your Brain Tricks You Into Taking Risks During the Pandemic (ProPublica)
Experts say that most people have a hard time thinking through the risks posed by the pandemic. Eve Wittenberg, senior research scientist in the Center for Health Decision Science (CHDS), said that while people are rational and weigh the costs and benefits when they make decisions, they have no experience dealing with a pandemic. Plus they’re getting mixed message from leaders, creating uncertainty. Lisa Robinson, also a senior research scientist at CHDS, noted that people may be more likely to participate in riskier activities if they’re surrounded by other people behaving that way.
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, quoted
November 1: North Dakota trying to cope as nation’s new top virus hot spot (Minneapolis Star Tribune)