The Latest: Do you need a pulse oximeter?

Alexandra Sifferlin
Medium Coronavirus Blog
3 min readMay 1, 2020


Dear Reader,

Never heard of a pulse oximeter? Don’t worry. The pandemic has introduced an entire glossary of terms people are learning now, including social distancing, antibody testing, and herd immunity.

A pulse oximeter is a small device for measuring blood oxygen levels that can be purchased at a pharmacy. Experts disagree over whether everyone should buy one. As Yasmin Tayag reports for the blog, they could be helpful for people who suspect they have Covid-19 but are not sure whether they should go to the hospital, or for those who have tested positive for Covid-19 but felt their symptoms were otherwise mild. You can read more about them here.

What’s New:

  • Over half of U.S. states are reopening businesses in some way: Experts remain concerned that efforts at preventing spread are not consistent.
  • Global poverty on the rise: The World Bank says that for the first time since 1998, global poverty rates will increase. The New York Times reports that by the end of 2020, 8% of the world’s population “could be pushed into destitution.”
  • The World Health Organization is “urgently” investigating a potential link between Covid-19 and a syndrome in children: The WHO is looking into cases of Kawasaki syndrome, an illness characterized by fevers, rashes, and swelling in kids under age five. (Read more).

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

Be well,

Alexandra Sifferlin
Editor, Medium Coronavirus Blog

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A Quick Coronavirus Vocab Lesson:

You’re probably hearing these terms a lot. Bookmark these definitions for the next time you’re feeling a little confused or overwhelmed by Covid-19 information.

Contact tracing: Finding people who came in contact with an infected person and letting them know they may have been exposed.

False positive: A conclusion that something is true when it is not, such as results indicating that a person has a disease when they don’t.

Cytokine storm: An over-response by the immune system, producing a lot of proteins called cytokines. Too many cytokines — a storm of them — can kill human lung cells and cause severe infection, difficulty breathing, and death.

R0: Pronounced “R naught,” the R0 is a “reproduction number” for a disease, signifying the average number of cases each infected person will cause.

Read the full story here.

New on the Blog:

What’s the Deal With Pulse Oximeters?

Tens of Thousands of Health Care Workers Are Losing Their Jobs

What You Need to Know About Antibody Tests

What’s the Deal With Remdesivir?

Essential Reads and Explainers

How to Strengthen Your Immune System Through Diet

Why We Should Be Cautious With Covid-19 Medical Research

South Korea’s Playbook for Reopening: Don’t Use Cash, Sit Side by Side (Wall Street Journal)

How Long Will a Vaccine Really Take? (New York Times)

5 Smart Reads

Plexiglass Is Having a Moment

Trump Will Let This Pandemic Bring Our Country to Its Knees

The Future of Mass Disinfection

Why the Coronavirus Is So Confusing (The Atlantic)

Inside the Nightmare Voyage of the Diamond Princess (GQ)

Personal Pandemic Stories

I’m Putting My Body On the Line for Twelve Dollars An Hour.

I Work In A Meat Processing Plant. Ordering Us to Stay Open Puts Profit Over Lives.

The Virus Is Taking Away Our Homegoings

Surviving Covid-19 at Home



Alexandra Sifferlin
Medium Coronavirus Blog

Health and science journalist. Former editor of Medium’s Covid-19 Blog and deputy editor at Elemental. TIME Magazine writer before that