The Latest: Everything we’ve learned in 6 months
September marks six months since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a pandemic. Today, I’m sharing several stories published in Elemental, Medium’s in-house health publication, about the last six months, including what’s happened, what’s been learned, and what the future holds. (For those who don’t know, when I’m not running the Coronavirus Blog, I’m Elemental’s deputy editor.)
I highly recommend this oral history of the last six months as told by Black essential workers. It’s a stark depiction of what the pandemic is like for people working on the front lines — and at the highest risk.
While there remains so much uncertainty around when this will all be over, scientists and the public have still learned a lot. For example, we now know that Covid-19 doesn’t spread as well on surfaces as initially thought (you can stop scrubbing your groceries) and close-range droplet spread is a bigger risk (and why masks work so well and outdoors is preferable to indoors). With this knowledge, senior writer Dana Smith reports, you can make fall and winter safer.
“Instead of buying another can of Lysol, maybe invest in an air purifier, more comfortable two-ply cloth masks, or even an outdoor fire pit or space heater,” she writes. (Dana also started her own newsletter called Inside Your Head, all about our mysterious brains. Subscribe here if you’re a brainiac, too!)
Here’s what’s new:
- Case count: There are over 6.6 million confirmed cases in the U.S. and over 29.6 million confirmed cases worldwide. So far over 195,900 Americans have died from Covid-19.
- Trump downplays the virus, again: President Donald Trump said during a town hall on Tuesday that the virus will disappear on its own, and that the U.S. is “rounding the corner.” He also said a vaccine could be available soon. Read more.
- Bill Gates is pushing Congress to spend $4 billion on vaccinations for low- and middle-income countries. He says the U.S. response to the pandemic is abysmal. “It’s shocking. It’s unbelievable — the fact that we would be among the worst in the world,” he told STAT News.
- U.K. trials of the Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine resume: The trials were halted due to a potential adverse event from the vaccine. Some are calling on the drug company to provide more information on the case.
Follow our Medium Coronavirus Blog for regular updates, and read some of the essential stories we’ve curated below.
Editor, Medium Coronavirus Blog
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A quick Q&A: Can masks function as a crude vaccine?
There’s the obvious reason why masks work to prevent Covid-19 infection — they create a barrier that prevents the spread or inhalation of infectious droplets. There’s also evidence that by reducing the amount of virus a person inhales, wearing a mask could lead to a less severe infection if a person does get the disease. Now scientists are suggesting in a recent opinion paper that widespread mask wearing could also act like a crude vaccine. How?
When people wear a mask and come in contact with someone with Covid-19, the mask exposes them to just enough virus to cause them to create an immune response to the disease, but not enough to get sick. This could help build immunity against the virus. Read more here.
New on the blog:
Six months in:
A few smart reads:
Even as Cases Rise, Europe Is Learning to Live With the Coronavirus (New York Times)