Some Great Weekend Reading (And Watching)
We selected a few lean-back articles for you to enjoy.
The Pandemic's Wrongest Man
In this crowded field of wrongness, one voice stands out. The voice of Alex Berenson: the former New York Times reporter, Yale-educated novelist, avid tweeter, online essayist, and all-around pandemic gadfly. Berenson has been serving up COVID-19 hot takes for the past year, blithely predicting that the United States would not reach 500,000 deaths (we’ve surpassed 550,000) and arguing that cloth and surgical masks can’t protect against the coronavirus (yes, they can). (Thompson, 4/1)
The New Yorker:
How Do Plague Stories End?
In the literature of contagion, when society is finally free of disease, it’s up to humanity to decide how to begin again. (LePore, 3/24)
The New York Times:
‘Mom Is Really Different’: Nursing Homes Reopen To Joy And Grief
Nursing homes, one of the most restricted settings in America during the pandemic, are allowing visitors again. But opening the doors has brought new complications. (Mervosh, 3/31)
Why Is It So Hard To Investigate The Rare Side Effects Of COVID Vaccines?
These events illustrate how fiendishly challenging it is to prove that a medical problem following immunization — known as an ‘adverse event’ — was caused by the vaccine itself. Public-health officials must strike a “delicate balance” when communicating the risk of rare side effects alongside the dangers of severe COVID-19, says vaccinologist Kathryn Edwards at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee. Physicians worry about fuelling anti-vaccine movements that are already increasing vaccine hesitancy in some communities. At the same time, it is important not to dismiss the potential for rare but severe side effects until researchers can establish causality, a process that can take years. (Remmel, 4/1)
COVID Showed How Trials For New Drugs Could Be Faster And Better
A dozen years and a billion or more dollars —that is what it typically takes to bring a new drug from the lab to your medicine cabinet. Testing medications on patients has become a slow, arduous process. People, even those who are desperate to participate, often have to travel long distances to a study site and make the trip over and over again. For scientists, coordinating the paperwork among a large number of research centers can be extremely laborious and time-consuming. (Wallis, 4/2)
The Sacramento Bee:
How CA Sheriff Falsely Linked Man’s Death To COVID Vaccine
When the Placer County Sheriff’s Office announced in January that a man had died just hours after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, the surprising news reverberated around the globe. Sheriff Devon Bell’s statement on Facebook quickly became another nugget of misinformation used by anti-vaccine activists to discredit the COVID-19 vaccine, universally considered the only way to safely end a pandemic that has killed millions. But Bell’s unexpected, unusual announcement could have been avoided if his office had listened to warnings from the county’s own medical experts, according to emails obtained by The Sacramento Bee. (Sabalow and Phol, 3/30)
That Other Reason You Might Feel Terrible Right Now
One morning in March, I woke up feeling horrible. Head: pressurized. Limbs: leaden. Nose: runny. Oh no, I thought, as I lay in bed. I rubbed my eyes. They were … itchy! I got up and went to the bathroom mirror. Red, too! Thank God, I thought. Allergies! I don’t usually get so excited about the onset of my seasonal allergies. Most years, it goes something like this: I wake up feeling sick. I assume it’s a cold. I slouch around self-pityingly and wait for the illness to pass, but a few days later nothing has changed. At which point I start to wonder: Could it be allergies? But no, I think. It’s still so cold out! The temperature has hardly broken 60! Then I remember that this is what happens every year, and I vow, for real this time, that I will not let pollen blindside me again, that next year, I’ll launch a preemptive strike and begin my allergy-pill regimen before the weather even breaks 50—no, 45! Which, of course, I don’t. (Stern, 4/1)
The New York Times:
The Year Grandparents Lost
The enforced separations of the pandemic have caused widespread sorrow for grandparents. Whether they live an ocean apart or around the corner, many have had to cancel visits, forgo holiday gatherings and give up the ordinary pleasures of reading stories and playing games. Even though distancing protects grandparents’ physical health and safety, because elders are at higher risk, it has been a painful time. (Span, 3/11)
Web Event: The Crucial Role Of Home Health Workers, Unsung Heroes Of The Pandemic
Even as the pandemic took a devastating toll on health care workers and older adults in the United States, many home care workers reported to work and provided vital care to vulnerable people despite the health risks to themselves and their families. KHN and The John A. Hartford Foundation held an interactive web event to examine the crucial roles these workers have played for families during the pandemic, as well as the challenging economics of the industry for providers and consumers alike. (3/30)
Many Mammals Are Contagious Yawners—This Might Be Why.
Fair warning: Reading this story might make you yawn. Though yawning is an instantly recognizable behavior shared among most vertebrate animals, scientists still don’t know enough about this seemingly simple phenomenon. It can occur spontaneously or as the result of seeing or hearing a yawn, called contagious yawning. Most of the research on spontaneous yawning points to a physiological function: increasing blood flow to the head, oxygenating and cooling the brain. This, in turn, makes an animal more alert, particularly when it’s feeling sleepy. But one of the biggest unsolved questions is why mammals yawn in response to one another. (Bates, 3/31)