Fact-Checking the President, Monkey Vaccines, and the Rise of the ‘Walktail Party’

A handful of stories about the coronavirus we’re reading today

Yasmin Tayag
Medium Coronavirus Blog
2 min readMay 21, 2020

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  • In the middle of the World Health Organization’s annual assembly on Monday, President Donald Trump sent the WHO’s director-general a letter threatening to leave and halt funding to the agency, pending the results of his administration’s investigation of what he called the agency’s “failed response” to Covid-19. The letter details his gripes with the WHO’s response, which NPR fact-checked with experts who said that most of the points he raised are factually incorrect.
  • Perhaps the biggest unknown about Covid-19 is whether people who recover from it are immune, and if so, for how long? Encouraging news comes by way of nine macaque monkeys at Harvard University who were deliberately infected with the coronavirus and then, after recovering, were infected a second time — but didn’t get sick. As MIT Technology Review reports, a handful of DNA vaccines tested on the monkeys conferred some protection, too.
  • Referencing the 1997 film Gattaca, which depicted a world where your biology determines your place in society, is a recurring trope in science journalism, but it’s perhaps never been as relevant as it is now that we’re seriously talking about immunity passports — certificates issued only to people who have antibodies to Covid-19. “Imagine a world where your ability to get a job, housing, or a loan depends on passing a blood test,” write scientists in an exhaustive critique of the concept in the journal Nature. “This idea has so many flaws that it is hard to know where to begin.”
  • It’s technically not legal to drink alcohol on the street in most places in the United States, but as the New York Times reports, it appears that many police officers are looking the other way as people meet outdoors for socially distanced hangouts with a cocktail or beer in hand. These so-called walktail parties, or whiskey walks if that’s your poison, are an increasingly popular option for beating quarantine fatigue, though some experts are worried that we’re imbibing a little too much.

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Yasmin Tayag
Medium Coronavirus Blog

Editor, Medium Coronavirus Blog. Senior editor at Future Human by OneZero. Previously: science at Inverse, genetics at NYU.