The Latest: What we’ve learned about Covid-19
Nearly 11 months into the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, there are a lot of lessons learned. Scientists know much more about the virus that causes Covid-19 than they did several months ago. The pandemic has also changed many aspects of modern life, and researchers are also sharing new insights into why people behave in certain ways.
Below are some of my favorite stories explaining the nuances and difficulties of pandemic life, as well as the virus itself.
Have a happy new year, and here’s to better news and more science in 2021.
Editor, Medium Coronavirus Blog
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6 Essential Stories That Helped Us Make Sense of the Covid-19 Pandemic
Back in May, my colleague Dana Smith published a piece that helped distill why the virus that causes Covid-19 might spur such a seemingly wide range of different symptoms. “There is now a growing body of evidence to support the theory that the novel coronavirus can infect blood vessels,” Smith wrote. “Which could explain not only the high prevalence of blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks, but also provide an answer for the diverse set of head-to-toe symptoms that have emerged.”
A new theory has emerged around Covid-19 — that it might be categorized as an autoimmune disease. Writer Markham Heid reports that autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis, are defined by this inappropriate inflammation and its resulting damage. Some experts speculate that SARS-CoV-2 causes the immune system to misidentify certain cells as dangerous, leading to harmful inflammation.
Science writer Kendra Pierre-Louis recently reported on the ways that boredom affects the spread of Covid-19. Research is showing that people who are less prone to boredom tend to have an easier time following precautions like social distancing.
Why do so many people fail at basic Covid-19 precautions in social settings? Experts tell Melinda Wenner Moyer that social distancing guidelines go against humans’ deepest instincts and cultural norms. “Social forces have a strong hold on us and shape our choices even when we know better — sometimes even when we don’t actually want to be doing what we suddenly find ourselves doing,” she writes.
Another one of my favorite pandemic stories is this story by Tara Haelle on human surge capacity. It’s a personal and reported piece that digs deep into the growing fatigue of the body’s mental and physical survival systems.
Humans’ lives are dominated by risk right now, and every decision is fraught with fear and uncertainty, as Smith reported in this August story about navigating near-constant decision-making. Her story is a thorough look into how the brain processes risk, the cognitive biases that sway decisions, and why people differ in their tolerance for uncertainty.