Multiple Authors
By: Bob Holmes, Knowable Magazine

This story was originally published by Knowable Magazine.

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci. Coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx. County health officials across the United States. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to the emergence of a new set of household names: those in the media spotlight who are charged with helping the public understand what is happening, what is likely to happen next, how to behave to reduce the pandemic’s spread, and why.

Through these health officials, millions have heard about social isolation, flattening the curve, mask-wearing, vaccines, antiviral drugs, and more.

The footing is tricky: Downplay a threat, and the public might not react strongly enough; overdo it, and they might not listen next time. And how can officials remain trustworthy when scientists’ understanding of a new virus is changing by the week?

Multiple Authors
By: Lola Butcher, Knowable Magazine

This story was originally published by Knowable Magazine.

In February 2020, the month before Covid-19 hit Boston, Partners Healthcare, the huge health system that includes Massachusetts General Hospital, treated 1,600 patients via video visits. By April, the number of patients seeking care through Partners’ video service had swelled to 242,000.

“We’re not the only ones,” said Joe Kvedar, a dermatology professor at Harvard Medical School and a telemedicine advocate at Partners for three decades, in a May webinar. The same thing was happening across the country as the Covid-19 pandemic made in-person visits at doctors’ offices dangerous for patients and clinicians alike.

Regardless of when the Covid-19 threat dissipates, video visits have crossed a tipping point to become a mainstream way to obtain care, says cardiologist Joe Smith, co-author of an overview of telemedicine in the Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering. “I don’t think we go back,” he says. “For a long time, hospitals have been the cathedrals of healthcare where patients have to come. But people are now seeing that they can get their healthcare in the safety and comfort of their own home.”

Katherine McCormick’s picture

By: Katherine McCormick

To detect a virus, you need to already know intimate details about it. You need to design a test particular to that virus: one that finds and copies only a specific, identifying piece of its genetic material.

But Mauricio Terrones and his collaborators at Penn State University think they’ve found a better way. Described recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, their method, VIRRION, may be a faster and more versatile diagnostic tool than the conventional polymerase chain reaction (PCR) virus tests.

PCR works by making millions of copies of DNA or RNA to enhance the detection of viruses, including the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. The ongoing pandemic has led to advances in the speed of PCR tests. But the test is based on biochemical processes that occur at specific temperatures, so researchers can’t process tests any faster than the several hours it takes to heat and cool the sample many times. Not only that, a PCR test will only recognize the virus that it was specifically designed to test, so a new test must be developed and disseminated each time a new virus pops up. The delay between the emergence of a virus and the availability of tests can lead to devastating consequences.

Elizabeth Tippett’s picture

By: Elizabeth Tippett

If you’re among the tens of millions of people returning to work or preparing to do so after months sheltering in place, you may be worried it will put you and your family at increased risk of exposure to Covid-19.

The dilemma may be especially stark for the millions of Americans who can expect to see a significant cut in their unemployment insurance benefits near the end of July, when the $600-per-week subsidy from the federal government is set to expire.

As a professor specializing in employment law, I don’t have a lot of reassurance to offer. Employment law is a patchwork at the best of times—let alone during a global pandemic—and legal protections may not cover your situation. Like so many of the challenges people are facing right now, you may be mostly on your own, negotiating the least bad of many bad options.

Here is a basic overview of what your options are under some common scenarios.

Farhana Ahmad’s default image

By: Farhana Ahmad

When Intelex developed its return-to-work program, we decided the best approach would be a phased one. Similar to the concept of continuous deployment, breaking down the plan to allow individuals to quickly process, adapt, and execute practices and procedures makes it more manageable for employers and employees alike.

To summarize each phase and their objectives:
1. Respond: involves the immediate steps taken during the initial outbreak
2. Return: introduces short-term changes implemented to address all the newly discovered issues
3. Reimagine: implements long-term policies, procedures, and best practices to create an agile and resilient workforce

Our role in the Safe Actions for Employee Returns (SAFER) initiative

On top of our internal developments, we’ve joined the National Safety Council’s Safe Actions for Employee Returns (SAFER) initiative. With the aim of delivering a framework designed to ensure an effective and seamless transition back to the workplace, we have joined the ranks of more than 100 experts across 50 leading organizations.

Kayla Wiles’s picture

By: Kayla Wiles

A new laser treatment method could potentially turn any metal surface into a rapid bacteria killer just by giving it a different texture, researchers say. In a new study, they demonstrated that this technique allows the surface of copper to immediately kill off superbugs such as MRSA.

“Copper has been used as an antimicrobial material for centuries,” says Rahim Rahimi, an assistant professor of materials engineering at Purdue University. “But it typically takes hours for native copper surfaces to kill off bacteria. We developed a one-step laser-texturing technique that effectively enhances the bacteria-killing properties of copper’s surface.”

A laser prepares to texture the surface of copper, enhancing its antimicrobial properties. (Credit: Kayla Wiles/Purdue)

The technique is not yet tailored to killing viruses such as the one responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic, which is much smaller than bacteria.

Multiple Authors
By: Katherine Harmon Courage, Knowable Magazine

This story was originally published by Knowable Magazine.

From mask wearing to physical distancing, individuals wield a lot of power in how the coronavirus outbreak plays out. Behavioral experts reveal what might be prompting people to act—or not.

With many states and towns lifting strict stay-at-home orders, people are faced with a growing number of new decisions. Mundane logistical questions—Should I go get my hair cut? When can I picnic with friends? What should I wear to the hardware store?—during the Covid-19 pandemic carry implications for personal and public health, in some cases life-or-death ones.

Matthew Staymates’s picture

By: Matthew Staymates

As a fluid dynamicist and mechanical engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), I’ve devoted much of my career to helping others see things that are often difficult to detect. I’ve shown the complex flow of air that occurs when a dog sniffs. I’ve helped develop ways to detect drugs and explosives by heating them into a vapor. I’ve explored how drug residue can contaminate crime labs. I’ve even shown how to screen shoes for explosives.

Most of these examples fit into a common theme: detecting drugs and explosives through the flow of fluids that are usually invisible. When I’m in the laboratory, I use a number of advanced fluid flow-visualization tools to help better understand and improve our ability to detect illicit drugs and explosives on surfaces, on people, and in the environment.

Donald J. Wheeler’s picture

By: Donald J. Wheeler

The daily Covid-19 pandemic values tell us how things have changed from yesterday, and give us the current totals, but they are difficult to understand simply because they are only a small piece of the puzzle. This article will present a global perspective on the pandemic and show where the United States stands in relation to the rest of the world at the end of the third week in June.

Here we will consider 27 countries that are home to 5 billion people (67% of the world's population). According to the European CDC database, which is the source for all of the data reported here, these 27 countries had more than 75 percent of the world’s confirmed Covid-19 cases and 86 percent of the Covid deaths as of June 20, 2020. So they should provide a reasonable perspective on the worldwide pandemic. Figure 1 lists these countries by region and gives the relevant Covid-19 counts and rates as of June 20, 2020.


Figure 1: Countries used for global summary

William A. Levinson’s picture

By: William A. Levinson

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act)1 which will, if approved by the Senate and president, require OSHA to develop a standard for workplace protection against Covid-19.

Under section 120302 the legislation says specifically (emphasis is mine):

“(a) EMERGENCY TEMPORARY STANDARD

(1) In general—in consideration of the grave danger presented by COVID-19 and the need to strengthen protections for employees, notwithstanding the provisions of law and the Executive orders listed in paragraph (7), not later than 7 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Labor shall promulgate an emergency temporary standard to protect from occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2

(A) employees of health care sector employers;
(B) employees of employers in the paramedic and emergency medical services, including such services provided by firefighters and other emergency responders; and
(C) other employees at occupational risk of such exposure. ...

Syndicate content