The Latest: Did the virus mutate?

Yasmin Tayag
Medium Coronavirus Blog
3 min readAug 21, 2020


Dear Reader,

This is Yasmin Tayag, writer at the Coronavirus Blog, filling in for Alexandra, who’s taking a well-deserved vacation.

Even after five months of living through the pandemic, I still often wonder how to handle certain Covid-related situations. What does one do with their mask while eating at an outdoor restaurant? Can I share my picnic blanket? How often should I wash my mask?

Nice as it would be to have an epidemiologist on hand to answer questions, The Covid Audit, a new series from Elemental, is the next best thing. In it, everyday people keep a diary of their activities, and experts from the Epidemiology Covid-19 Response Corps at the Boston University School of Public Health appraise their behavior. The first entry features an executive who takes her family on a road trip from New York City to Kentucky. An epidemiological flag gets raised even before they leave town.

It’s okay to ask a lot of questions right now. If you’ve wondered whether getting the flu shot could protect against Covid-19, whether the mutated form of the coronavirus is actually more contagious (don’t panic!), or why some people with Covid-19 lose their sense of smell, don’t be afraid to seek answers. They might even surprise you.

Follow our Medium Coronavirus Blog for regular updates, and read some of the essential stories we’ve curated below.

Be well,

Yasmin Tayag

Writer, Medium Coronavirus Blog

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What our team is talking about:

How often do you clean your mask? Be honest. In case you didn’t know, you’re supposed to wash it after every. single. use. 😬 Why? Because your mask may be coming in contact with Covid-19 virus particles and it will be more protective if it’s properly cleaned and maintained. Read up and wash up.

The coronavirus and the heart. Given that heart disease is widespread in the U.S., health experts are concerned about how Covid-19 and heart disease mix. While it doesn’t look like having preexisting cardiovascular disease makes people any more likely to contract Covid-19, it does look like having a heart condition can make the course of the illness worse. Read here for more.

The coronavirus mutated?! Recent headlines raised fears that a new, mutated form of the coronavirus that was spreading across the world might be more contagious and dangerous. Take this with a hefty pinch of salt: Yes, a mutated form of the coronavirus appears to have become the dominant form of the virus worldwide and recently surfaced in Southeast Asia, but there’s no compelling evidence that it’s more contagious or more dangerous. Read here for the facts.

Why people lose their sense of smell. Many people with Covid-19 report losing their sense of smell in the early stages of their illness. Scientists don’t fully understand why this phenomenon, known as anosmia, occurs, but researchers at Johns Hopkins University recently came across a clue. They discovered that the cells in the odor-detecting parts of the nose have more of the ACE2 receptors that the coronavirus uses to latch on to. Read here for more.

Here are some more smart reads:

The Pending Eviction Crisis Is Going to Make Covid-19 Even Worse

Anyone Can Fall for a Conspiracy Theory — Even You

An ‘Unprecedented’ Effort to Stop the Coronavirus in Nursing Homes (New York Times)

This Trawler’s Haul: Evidence That Antibodies Block the Coronavirus (New York Times)



Yasmin Tayag
Medium Coronavirus Blog

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