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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 in which they offer comments and context:
Rachael Piltch-Loeb, public health preparedness fellow, said that the emergence of the omicron coronavirus variant makes clear the global nature of the pandemic. “This pandemic started as a global crisis, and it will be resolved as a global phenomenon as well,” she said. “The reality is that the more cases of COVID, the more opportunity for the virus to mutate.”
November 29: How a Harvard-affiliated lab in Botswana became the first to identify the Omicron variant (Boston Globe)
Sikhulile Moyo, laboratory director at the Botswana Harvard Partnership and a research associate in immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard Chan School, described his role in identifying the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
November 29: 4 big questions about the new omicron variant (Vox)
More data is needed to better understand the potential threat from the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, say experts. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, and Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and adjunct professor of global health at Harvard Chan School, were quoted.
November 29: New variant raising concern, but not panic, ahead of holidays (Boston25 News)
Roger Shapiro, associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases, noted that current vaccines are likely to offer some protection against serious symptoms of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus. “But we really don’t know yet,” he said. “It’s just still too early to say with this particular variant, because it really does have a large number of mutations and it’s quite different than the Delta variant.”
November 29: What We Know (And Don’t Know) About The Omicron Variant (Consider This from NPR)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, discussed the new omicron coronavirus variant, which has “a very large number of mutations, way more than what you’d expect.” He added, “We’re still scrambling trying to figure out what sort of beast we’re dealing with.”
November 29: Keeping an eye on Omicron (Harvard Gazette)
Mary Bushman, postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology and co-author of a recent paper that modeled the impact of hypothetical variants on populations, answered questions about the latest variant, Omicron.
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, discussed his research that found that office workers’ performance improved when the air quality in their offices was better. Now, companies are increasingly looking to improve indoor air quality. “We should expect clean air in our offices, just as we expect to have clean water coming out of the tap,” said Allen.
November 27: Does omicron pose a risk to the vaccinated? Too early to tell, epidemiologist says (NPR’s All Things Considered)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said that, right now, there’s much we don’t know about the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, such as how transmissible it is and whether it can sidestep vaccine-generated or natural immunity to the virus. “That uncertainty is something which a lot of people find it hard to deal with,” he said. “But unfortunately, it’s part of living through a pandemic.”
November 26: Zimbabwean-born Scientist Credited With Discovery Of New Coronavirus Variant (Pindula)
Sikhulile Moyo, laboratory director at the Botswana Harvard Partnership and a research associate in immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard Chan School, and his team were the first to sequence B.1.1.529, or Omicron, the newest variant of the novel coronavirus.
November 26: New Virus Variant Stokes Concern but Vaccines Still Likely to Work (New York Times)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said that even if the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, proves to be more transmissible than other variants, it’s likely that vaccines will still protect against it, both by slowing the virus’ spread and reducing the likelihood that infected people will need hospitalization.
November 26: What to know about the omicron variant of the coronavirus (Washington Post)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said that the new omicron variant of the coronavirus “is certainly a curveball. But exactly how serious it is remains to be seen.”
November 26: How variants like omicron develop and what makes them variants ‘of concern’ (NBC News)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said that the major concerns about the omicron variant is that it appears to be at least as transmissible as the delta variant, and has a large number of mutations in the crucial spike protein, which is targeted by vaccines.
The new omicron variant of the coronavirus “raises concerns though it is not time to panic,” said Eric McNulty, associate director of Harvard’s National Preparedness Leadership Initiative and an instructor at Harvard Chan School. “We do not yet know a lot. People should take a deep breath and listen to the scientists.”
November 24: Is it time to get serious about masking inside again in Massachusetts? (Boston Globe)
With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Massachusetts, experts say it would be wise to return to indoor masking in public spaces. “In this long and protracted COVID battle, prematurely loosening mask requirements has allowed the enemy virus to continue to wreak havoc,” said Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health and former assistant U.S. secretary of health and state public health commissioner. “Until the pandemic is declared behind us, all options about strengthening indoor mask guidance should be back on the table.”
November 22: New UMass Amherst/WCVB poll on children being vaccinated against COVID-19 (WCVB)
A new poll found that a strong majority of Massachusetts parents would support a vaccine mandate for children in K-12 schools. Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, noted that kids are going to be exposed to what the coronavirus looks like either from the vaccine or from the virus itself. “We know from all the data that we have available that exposing them through the vaccine is still the safer option,” he said.
November 22: COVID Variant That Spreads Easily, Evades Vaccines Could Have ‘Severe Consequences’: Study (Newsweek)
COVID-19 variants that are more transmissible are more dangerous than those that could partially evade vaccines, according to a new Harvard Chan School study. Co-author Mary Bushman, postdoctoral research fellow, was quoted.
November 22: The Trouble With the Case Curve During the Holidays (New York Times)
November 22: Inside the C.D.C.’s Pandemic ‘Weather Service’ (New York Times)
Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard Chan School, was quoted in this article about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics, for which he is director of science. Lipsitch discussed the Center’s work, which will involve collecting data and improving models regarding the spread of infectious diseases.
November 21: Nightly News Full Broadcast (November 21st) (NBC News) (Segment with Harvard Chan School’s Stephen Kissler at 8:10)
Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, was interviewed about staying safe from COVID-19 during Thanksgiving. “We’re planning to take a rapid test the morning of [the holiday],” he said of his own celebration. “Since we’re all vaccinated, it definitely helps, but it’s still possible for people to have breakthrough infections and to spread infection to others.”
November 21: Is Delta the last Covid ‘super variant’? (The Guardian)
Scientists are worried that the Delta variant of the coronavirus, now dominant across the globe, could be overtaken by an even more dangerous variant. With high levels of the virus continuing to circulate, the chances increase that dangerous new variants will emerge, according to experts. “You want to limit the number of opportunities that the virus gets to roll the dice,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology.
November 21: Thanksgiving health and safety (CBS News)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, discussed ways to spend Thanksgiving together safely this year, including being vaccinated, taking rapid tests, gathering outdoors, and opening windows.
November 19: ‘Still in a purgatory.’ COVID numbers have risen in Mass. ahead of holidays and winter weather (Boston Globe)
COVID-19 cases are increasing in Massachusetts. “We are still in a purgatory, unfortunately, and no one wants to hear it, but we have to double down on our public health commitment,” said Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health and former assistant U.S. secretary of health and state public health commissioner.
November 19: Long COVID sufferers face physical pain, physician skepticism (Harvard Gazette)
Patient advocates and health care experts gathered virtually at Harvard Chan School to discuss how best to address the debilitating symptoms of long COVID.
November 19: COVID and mental health stress: No one is immune, says Harvard professor, ex-WHO expert (Providence Journal)
Shekhar Saxena, professor of the practice of global mental health, was a guest on “Story in the Public Square,” a national public-TV and SiriusXM show that is a partnership of the Providence Journal/USA Today network and Salve Regina University’s Pell Center. He spoke about how the COVID pandemic has affected the mental health of millions around the world, and about the importance of talking openly about mental health struggles and seeking professional help if necessary.
November 19: Experts Advise Caution Around At-Risk Individuals During Holiday Gatherings (CBS News)
“If you take some pretty simple steps, you can actually get together with your family indoors without a mask” this holiday season, according to William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. He added, “If you’re going to a Thanksgiving party with older, vulnerable relatives, I do encourage you to make sure that you’re vaccinated, to try to avoid becoming infected in the runup, and to take a rapid test before you get in there.”
November 17: Overdose deaths hit record high during pandemic (CBS Evening News)
“The pandemic has been in many ways a perfect storm,” driving up drug addiction, according to Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management. “We have a lot of work to do to expand access to lifesaving treatments like naloxone or buprenorphine, which can really save lives in addiction, but are not widely available for people that need them.”
November 17: Callers to global helplines voiced similar pandemic worries (ABC News)
Callers to helplines during the pandemic focused on fears of infection, loneliness, and physical health, according to a new analysis. Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology, who was not involved in the study, said that analyzing helpline data is “an incredibly creative way to assess mental health in the pandemic.”
November 15: School of Public Health Panel Discusses Current State of Covid-19 Pandemic (Harvard Crimson)
Kizzmekia Corbett, assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases, and William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, were among experts discussing the pandemic at a recent forum. Corbett emphasized the safety of the vaccine for young children. Hanage said that while “we cannot be sure” of the future of COVID-19, it’s likely that people will continue to get sick and die, but in far smaller numbers.
November 12: COVID-19 infections appear to be creeping up again in Massachusetts (Boston.com)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, noted that COVID-19 cases are “plateauing, rather than disappearing” in Massachusetts. “We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said. “Even if we’re in a less woody part of the woods, we’re not out of the woods yet.”
November 12: When can kids take off their masks in school? Here’s what some experts say (NPR)
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, was among a number of experts offering opinions on when children can take their masks off in schools. He thinks the masks can come off on January 1, 2022, once younger children have a chance to get vaccinated.
November 9: Lessons from COVID-19 for the next pandemic: We need better data on workplace transmission (The Conversation)
In this op-ed, Letitia Davis, a research epidemiologist and an instructor at Harvard Chan School, and co-authors argued that, during the pandemic, public health agencies around the world failed to collect the information needed to truly understand the role of work and workplaces in the spread of the virus. “Without better work data about people who have tested positive, we remain in the dark about where and how to target prevention measures for a potentially important route of transmission,” they wrote.
November 9: ‘Mask Up, America’ Made Sense in 2020. Now? Not So Much. (Washington Post)
With the menace of COVID-19 subsiding, some experts are suggesting that mask mandates don’t always make sense any more. Said Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, “This isn’t about whether masks work … but we now have other tools in place.”
November 8: Not all Covid waves look the same. Here’s a snapshot of the Delta surge (STAT)
Geography and vaccination status have been playing a key role in who’s getting seriously ill from COVID-19 in the U.S. “We’re seeing this kind of percolation of the virus, flaring up in unvaccinated networks, and then tricking through the vaccinated ones,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. He noted that “unvaccinated people tend to hang out with each other. And that means that you’ve got sort of stuttering transmission chains, which occasionally blow up.”
November 8: Pfizer-BioNTech expected to seek authorization for coronavirus booster for people 18 and older (Washington Post)
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, quoted.
Improving air in office buildings can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases as well as improve cognitive function, according to Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program. “I don’t think business people realize the power of buildings to not only keep people safe from disease but to lead to better performance,” he said.
November 4: HSPH Prof. Awarded Federal Employee of the Year for Developing Moderna Vaccine (Harvard Crimson)
Kizzmekia Corbett, assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases, was honored for her work developing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine while she was a researcher at the National Institutes of Health.
November 4: With COVID-19 vaccine for younger children, a chance to promote health equity across all ages (Boston Globe)
The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year-old children should be designed with equity and caregiver support at the forefront, in order to prevent racial disparities in vaccination, wrote Monica Wang, adjunct associate professor of health policy and management, in this opinion piece.
November 3: Some Schools Are Dropping Mask Mandates. Should Yours? (Education Week)
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, thinks it’s time for a more nuanced approach to mask policy, given that COVID-19 case rates are dropping and vaccines are becoming available for all school-age groups. “We need to have these conversations,” he said. “We can’t keep mask mandates in place indefinitely as a solution to this pandemic.”
November 3: COVID vaccines for kids are coming – and so is more misinformation (KUNC)
With the FDA’s approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5-11 years old, experts expect a wave of misinformation from anti-vaccine activists and conspiracy theorists. Kasisomayajula “Vish” Viswanath, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication, said that parents shouldn’t trust social media but someone knowledgeable and trustworthy—like their family physician—to help them answer any questions they have about the vaccines.
November 3: Analysis-Country by country, scientists eye beginning of an end to the COVID-19 pandemic (Reuters)
Experts think that COVID-19 will likely transition to an endemic disease in 2022 and beyond, with timelines varying across the globe. “The transition is going to be different in each place because it’s going to be driven by the amount of immunity in the population from natural infection and of course, vaccine distribution, which is variable … from county by county to country by country,” said Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard Chan School, and director of science at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics.
November 3: Preventing future pandemics starts with recognizing links between human and animal health (The Conversation)
Two researchers who serve on a science task force convened by Harvard Chan School, the Harvard Global Health Institute, and Harvard Chan C-CHANGE, wrote that preventing future pandemics requires understanding how human behaviors, such as deforestation, fossil fuel combustion, and conflict, contribute to the risk of viruses spilling over from animals to humans.
November 2: Covid-19 and Climate Change: Crises of Structural Racism (Science Direct)
An editorial co-authored by James Healy, MPH ’21, and Gaurab Basu, a health equity fellow at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (C-CHANGE), contends that any solution that addresses the health crisis of climate change must primarily be grounded in addressing structural racism.
November 2: Tell Me More with Kelly Corrigan (Twin Cities PBS)
Public health expert, surgeon, and writer Atul Gawande, professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, reflected on his personal and professional experiences with dying patients.
November 2: Why scientists worldwide are watching UK COVID infections (Nature)
Scientists are closely watching the COVID-19 situation in the U.K., which is relying on high vaccine coverage and public responsibility to control the spread of the disease. Some experts think that the country’s ongoing high level of infections will continue as long as most COVID-19 restrictions remain lifted, although the country’s COVID-19 death rate is relatively low. Said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, “The amount of infection that is currently going on in the U.K would be expected to have much worse consequences if replicated elsewhere.”
November 1: America Has Lost the Plot on COVID (The Atlantic)
The U.S. doesn’t have a coherent strategy for dealing with endemic COVID-19, according to experts. “This is the point at which we then have to start looking at ourselves and asking the hard question: Exactly how hard do we want to work to help how many people?” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. Added Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, “We’re sleepwalking into policy because we’re not setting goals.”
November 1: No easy answers for parents about COVID vaccines for children under 12 (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
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, quoted.
November 1: Global Covid-19 Death Toll Tops Five Million (Wall Street Journal)
The huge death toll from COVID-19 shows that the threat the virus poses to public health hasn’t been exaggerated. “The tendency to underestimate the virus has been a crucial factor in the road to this point,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology.
October 31: As Covid-19 deaths cross 5 million, hope for a battered world (The Straits Times)
Access to vaccines and therapeutics could help contain the COVID-19 pandemic going forward, but some countries will do better than others, according to experts. Noted Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, “Countries with excess vaccines must share them with other parts of the world and must build capacity for producing accessible vaccines in underprivileged parts of the globe,” he said. “If we are going to keep this virus at bay, we must do so as a global community.”
October 31: Diet-related diseases pose a major risk for Covid-19. But the U.S. overlooks them. (Politico)
Studies suggest obesity, diabetes, and hypertension lead to worse COVID-19 outcomes, but the U.S., unlike some other countries, has not been taking steps to encourage healthier lifestyles or limit access to unhealthy food. Jerold Mande, adjunct professor of nutrition, said that successive administrations’ lack of a strong push for diet-related efforts to reduce Americans’ risk of chronic health conditions suggests that “we’re not serious” about addressing the problem.
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, was quoted about the quality of COVID-19 tests that are at the center of a criminal case involving two Ecuadorian scientists.
October 29: Experts urge parents to get kids vaccinated against COVID-19, say their own kids will get shots (Boston Globe)
Federal regulators could approve a COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11 as early as the week of Nov. 8. Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, was among a number of experts saying they will definitely have their children get the vaccine. “My 9 year old will be getting the vaccine on the first day we can,” he tweeted. “No hesitation.”
October 28: Public health messaging lessons for the next pandemic (Axios)
As scientific knowledge about the coronavirus has rapidly changed over the course of the pandemic, public health agencies have struggled to keep up and to effectively communicate the uncertainties to the public. “What people need to understand is that science is ever-changing and mutable,” said Kasisomayajula “Vish” Viswanath, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication. “All knowledge is partial knowledge, and [the pandemic] is an illustration of that.”
October 27: An FDA adviser said we need to give kids vaccines to fully understand their safety. Here’s the crucial context. (Washington Post)
This article described how the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee weighed the risks and benefits of COVID-19 vaccination for children ages 5-11, ultimately recommending emergency use authorization of the vaccines. 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 advisory committee, was quoted.
October 27: Should I Mix or Match My Booster Shot? (New York Times)
Asaf Bitton, associate professor of health care policy in the Department of Health Policy and Management and executive director of Ariadne Labs, was one of several experts offering advice for eligible adults on which COVID-19 booster shot to get.
October 25: Harvard professors warn that war-torn countries will miss global vaccine goals in 2022 (Harvard Gazette)
Countries in conflict will not meet the World Health Organization’s goal of vaccinating 70% of their populations against COVID-19 by mid-2022, according to experts who spoke at a Harvard Chan School panel. One of the panelists, Madeline Drexler, visiting scientist at Harvard Chan and former editor of Harvard Public Health magazine, said that the biggest hurdle is a vaccine shortage. She added that misinformation, political lies, and the anti-vaccine movement have made it tougher to administer vaccines in conflict zones.
October 24: How Puerto Rico became the most vaccinated place in America (CNN)
Experts advising Puerto Rico’s government say that the island’s high vaccination rate—just over 73%—may be due to the fact that vaccination wasn’t politicized and that people felt the urgent need to avoid another catastrophe, having recently been through hurricanes, earthquakes, and political and fiscal crises. Rafael Irizarry, professor of biostatistics, half-joked that Puerto Rico’s many drugstores may have helped. “There is a Walgreens on like every corner,” he said. “Everywhere you go, they have everything you need. Rum. Coffee. You get your fireworks and then you go get a vaccine.”
October 23: How Public Health Took Part in Its Own Downfall (The Atlantic)
Mary Bassett, director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center of Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and FXB Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, quoted.
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, called for setting deadlines for lifting masking requirements in schools, especially as U.S. drug regulators are poised to authorize COVID-19 vaccines for kids aged 5 to 11.
October 22: Pfizer’s COVID vaccine appears safe and effective for children 5-11, new data shows (USA Today)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, quoted
October 21: New study reveals why Provincetown did not become a COVID super-spreader event (Boston Globe)
Cape Cod’s high COVID-19 vaccination rate and quick public health measures likely prevented an outbreak in Provincetown over the summer from erupting into many more infections, according to a new study. Co-authors of the study included Pardis Sabeti, professor of immunology and infectious diseases, and William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology.
October 2o: President Biden: It’s time for an urgent and effective plan to vaccinate the world (The Hill)
Dean Michelle Williams co-authored this opinion piece calling on President Biden to significantly step up efforts to boost global vaccine coverage. The authors urged Biden to donate hundreds of millions more doses to lower-income countries; permit COVAX (a global partnership to accelerate fair access to COVID-19 vaccines) and low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to move ahead of the U.S. in COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers’ queues; boost funding for COVAX; scale up vaccine production in the U.S. and around the world; provide support for vaccine delivery and administration infrastructure in LMICs; and spearhead a shared global plan to achieve at least 80% vaccination around the world.
October 20: How States Could Reach Herd Immunity As Delta Variant Continues To Dominate (Newsweek)
Some state officials say their states may be close to reaching herd immunity against COVID-19, as their populations are reaching 70% or higher vaccination rates. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, noted, “In general I would be very cautious about using the term ‘herd immunity.’ People interpret it as a finish line, and think it means that the virus is then eradicated or eliminated. But that’s not accurate.” He noted that “while vaccines make the consequences of [COVID-19] much less severe, infections in at-risk individuals can still be serious.”
October 19: Opinion: Schools should do away with mask mandates by the end of the year (Washington Post)
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, called for setting a firm date for ending masking in schools, since COVID-19 poses low risk to children and vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds are expected soon.
October 19: Black and Latino families are bearing the weight of the pandemic’s economic toll (NPR’s Morning Edition)
Over the last few months, more than 55% of Black and Latino households reported serious financial problems compared with 29% of white households, in a poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard Chan School.
October 18: Plan to increase U.S. COVID testing at home (Scripps National News)
Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, discussed how to use rapid COVID-19 tests most effectively. “You have to test with them more frequently and closer to an event that you’re interested in going to, so you would want to test the morning of going to school, or the morning of a gathering,” he said.
October 18: The coronavirus is still mutating. But will that matter? ‘We need to keep the respect for this virus.’ (Washington Post)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, was among experts who warned that the coronavirus could continue to develop new mutations that make it more dangerous. “We’d have to be idiots to think the virus is done with us, and it will continue to evolve,” he said.
October 15: Reimagining our pandemic problems with the mindset of an engineer (Technology Review)
Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard Chan School, is director of science at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics. He noted that the center’s philosophy “is to improve decision-making under uncertainty, by reducing that uncertainty with better analyses and better data, but also by acknowledging what is not known, and communicating that and its consequences clearly.”
October 14: Telehealth has been vital during COVID, but most people still prefer in-person care (NPR’s Morning Edition)
New polling data from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard Chan School shows that while a large majority of those using telehealth during the pandemic were satisfied, nearly two-thirds prefer in-person visits.
October 14: F.D.A. Panel Recommends Booster for Many Moderna Vaccine Recipients (New York Times)
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 advisory panel that recently recommended a booster for many Moderna vaccine recipients, commented on the panel’s decision.
October 14: Biden needs to make rapid home COVID tests easily available | USA TODAY Editorial Board (USA Today)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, quoted.
Many Americans are facing delays in getting health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard Chan School. Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis, Emeritus, who helped run the poll, said, “The numbers were much greater than we expected, and the delta variant changed what was going on.” He added, “This is the United States. You don’t expect people with serious illnesses to say they cannot be seen for care.”
October 14: COVID-19 vaccination all the more important with pending ‘winter wave’ (KCBS)
Health officials should be focusing on disseminating COVID-19 booster shots to older adults—who are most at risk from the disease, even if vaccinated—and on vaccinating younger people, especially kids in school, because they can spread the virus, according to Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases.
October 14: Covid: Lateral flow tests more accurate than first thought, study finds (BBC)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, was part of a research team that found that rapid COVID-19 tests were more than 80% effective at detecting any level of COVID-19 infection and likely to be more than 90% effective at detecting who is most infectious when they use the test. Mina said that rapid tests could “catch nearly everyone who is currently a serious risk to public health.”
October 12: Rapid tests can make it easier to gather safely for the holidays (Boston Globe)
The availability of rapid COVID-19 tests, which correctly identify when a person is infectious about 98% of the time, should make family gatherings safer during the holidays this year, according to Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases. “Alongside vaccination, they [the rapid tests] can be one of the most important new elements of our ability to stay safe and socialize with confidence,” he said.
October 12: Harvard Immunologist Champions At-Home Covid Tests to Beat the Pandemic (Bloomberg)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, said that the U.S. should be making low-cost, rapid tests readily available to consumers.
October 12: Covid-19 Rapid Testing at Home Will Get Easier, but Test Wisely (Wall Street Journal)
This article discussed why rapid testing for COVID-19 is important and when and how to make use of the tests. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, was quoted.
October 12: Should Passengers Be Vaccinated or Tested to Fly Within the U.S.? (New York Times)
Many airline executives are opposed to COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements for domestic air travelers in the U.S. They say that instituting such requirements would be complicated and would create long airport lines, and that flying is safe during the pandemic. Leonard Marcus, founding co-director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative (NPLI) and co-director of NPLI’s Aviation Public Health Initiative, acknowledged that that establishing a system to check vaccination and testing would be complicated, but added, “I do believe we should get to the point where we have those mechanics.”
October 10: On Mental Health Day: How Do We Learn to Live With the Pandemic? (FIT)
In this podcast, Vikram Patel, professor in the Department of Global Health and Population, spoke about inequalities and how the pandemic widened the gap. He pointed out the need for universal income and universal medical coverage as essential for better mental health outcomes in societies.
October 8: Why Covid-19 testing went so wrong in the US, and what to do now (Knowable Magazine)
In this video, William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, and Pardis Sabeti, professor of immunology and infectious diseases, discussed the problems with COVID-19 testing in the U.S., including delays and errors in producing and distributing tests at the beginning of the pandemic and a continuing deficit in access to frequent, rapid tests.
October 7: Biden, Awaiting an OSHA Rule, Urges Companies to Require Vaccinations (New York Times)
President Biden’s mandate that all companies with more than 100 workers require vaccination or weekly testing, issued in September, will likely not take effect for several weeks. In the meantime, he is encouraging private companies to mandate coronavirus vaccinations for employees. Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, noted, “I know a couple big companies that are ready to hit send on the email to all employees, and they’re waiting for this thing to come out. If they’re going to spend the next two months getting the wording absolutely 100 percent on the rule-making, it defeats the purpose.”
President Biden recently announced that the U.S. government would spend an additional $1 billion to get more at-home rapid COVID-19 tests into the market. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, called the move “a good start” but said he would like to see a plan to bring more inexpensive tests to the market right away. “We need the world’s tests available in the US today,” he said. “We needed them a year ago. We don’t have a moment to waste.”
October 7: How the risk of Covid-19 for kids compares to other dangers (Vox)
Research suggests that COVID-19 poses a relatively low risk to children, even with the Delta variant circulating. In addition, children’s natural defenses against the coronavirus may help boost overall population immunity, according to Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases. “Over time, as SARS-CoV-2 becomes an endemic virus, basically everybody is going to get exposed to it multiple times by the time they turn 5 or 10,” he said. This repeated exposure can build up people’s immunity, which could eventually turn the virus into something more like the common cold or seasonal flu.
October 7: With Masks On or Off, Schools Try to Find the New Normal (New York Times)
Schools across the U.S. are trying to figure out how to manage COVID-19 moving forward, including debating how long to continue masking. “What’s causing all the confusion, the infighting, the disagreement—it’s really a lack of goal setting,” said Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program. “Zero Covid in schools? Well, that may not be possible.”
October 7: White House buys $1B in at-home COVID tests (Cox Media Group)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, was quoted.
October 7: Here’s what you need to know about rapid, at-home coronavirus tests (Boston Globe)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, was quoted.
October 7: Why, When and How to Test At-Home for COVID-19 (TIME Magazine)
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, discussed the importance of using rapid COVID-19 tests to identify when people are infectious and most likely to spread the disease to others.
October 6: White House announces $1 billion purchase of rapid, at-home coronavirus tests (Washington Post)
A Biden administration plan to buy $1 billion worth of rapid COVID-19 tests will quadruple the number of such tests available to Americans by December. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, who has long pushed for more rapid tests in the U.S. market, was quoted.
Experts say that, in spite of overall declining COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the U.S., it’s tough to predict how the fall and winter will play out, given that there remain significant pockets of unvaccinated people. Some think that the country is making a slow exit from the epidemic phase and a gradual entry to the endemic phase, when the virus will still circulate, but at levels that society can tolerate. Said Stephen Kissler, research fellow in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, “We’ve still got a little work left to do, but my hope is that we’re approaching something ever closer to normalcy.”
October 6: Experts weigh in on when the public health emergency should end (Washington Post)
Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, was one of several experts commenting on how long the U.S. should be under a public health emergency because of the pandemic. He noted, “I wouldn’t call it a restriction by any means, but one thing that should not go away is higher ventilation and better filtration. Healthy buildings should be the norm going forward, not the exception.”
October 5: Merck sells federally financed Covid pill to U.S. for 40 times what it costs to make (The Intercept)
Melissa Barber, a doctoral candidate in Harvard Chan School’s Department of Global Health and Population, co-authored a report showing that the drug company Merck plans to significantly mark up the price of their new COVID-19 pill when they sell it to the U.S. government.
October 5: Get vaccinated and start eating better. It could save your life. (Washington Post)
A recent study co-authored by Andrew Chan, a gastroenterologist and professor in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard Chan School, found a significant correlation between healthy eating and a reduced risk of severe COVID-19. Other studies have reached similar conclusions. “We understand, of course, that the most important interventions we have for prevention of COVID is vaccines and appropriate masking in crowded indoor settings, but there are still opportunities for prevention that involve healthy foods,” he said.
October 5: How mRNA Vaccine Platforms Unlocks the Potential for Universal Vaccines (Vice)
Developing vaccines is now faster and easier than ever before because of mRNA platforms, which can be tailored to attack specific viruses in a matter of days or even hours. Sarah Fortune, John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, was quoted from Harvard Chan School’s “Better Off” podcast. She said that mRNA vaccines are safer than vaccines that use small amounts of a live virus. She also noted that researchers had been working on mRNA platforms for decades, which is why manufacturers were able to produce vaccines so quickly after SARS-CoV-2 appeared.
October 4: Why Are Americans Still—Still!—Wearing Cloth Masks? (The Atlantic)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, was one of several experts questioning Americans’ wide use of cloth masks, since some studies suggest that surgical masks are more effective at protecting against COVID-19.
October 4: Signs of encouragement as US sees drop in Covid cases and hospitalizations (The Guardian)
Experts said that while they don’t expect another coronavirus surge in the U.S. as big as previous ones during the pandemic, the virus remains a significant threat due to the large number of people who still haven’t been vaccinated and the risk of a new variant. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, was quoted.
October 3: Employers Have Been Offering the Wrong Office Amenities (The Atlantic)
In this Ideas piece, Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, wrote that workplaces need more fresh air, both to minimize the amount of dangerous viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 in indoor spaces and to reduce air pollutants that can harm health and decrease cognitive function.
October 2: Is trick-or-treating safe? How to celebrate Halloween amid the COVID-19 pandemic (USA Today)
October 1: Rapid Tests Are the Answer to Living With Covid-19 (New York Times)
In this opinion piece, Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology, and Stephen Phillips of the COVID Collaborative argued that President Biden should take executive action to change the U.S. regulatory structure to help bring more rapid COVID-19 tests into the U.S. market. They wrote that “the White House should also treat rapid testing with the same urgency and private sector partnership approach that Operation Warp Speed pioneered for vaccines.” They noted that, “for public health purposes, we need fast, accessible tests that answer the question, ‘Am I infectious now?’ Rapid tests can help prevent spread to your child, spouse, friend, colleague, classmate or the stranger sitting next to you at dinner.”