It’s difficult to fully comprehend the magnitude of 350,000 deaths. Other metrics can be more illuminating. Over the past month, COVID-19’s death toll in the United States has regularly risen by roughly 2,000 or 3,000 a day. With numbers so large, the pain and heartbreak behind each individual death often doesn’t register.
Getting control of COVID-19 will take more than widespread vaccination; it will also require better understanding of why the disease causes no apparent symptoms in some people but leads to rapid multi-organ failure and death in others, as well as better insight into what treatments work best and for which patients.
Early in the pandemic, people with COVID-19 began reporting an odd symptom: the loss of smell and taste. The reason wasn’t congestion. Somehow, the SARS-CoV-2 virus appeared to be affecting nerves that carry information from the nose to the brain.
An estimated 14.3% of the US population had antibodies against COVID-19 by mid-November 2020, suggesting that that the virus has infected vastly more people than reported—but still not enough to come close to the proportion needed for herd immunity. [Related JAMA Study]
Here in the U.S., communities see a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. With the vaccinations now occurring across the country, health officials are optimistic that the outbreak could be under control by the end of this year.
As a new coronavirus variant forces the United Kingdom into another lockdown, Harvard disease expert Marc Lipsitch says it’s time for officials in the United States to focus on the exceptionally contagious mutation.
Before the pandemic, the lab of Stanford University biochemist Peter S. Kim focused on developing vaccines for HIV, Ebola and pandemic influenza. But, within days of closing their campus lab space as part of COVID-19 precautions, they turned their attention to a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Although the coronavirus was outside the lab’s specific area of expertise, they and their collaborators have managed to construct and test a promising vaccine candidate.
Britain and other nations are considering ways to stretch scarce supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, including by delaying second doses, reducing dose sizes and switching vaccine types between the first and second shots.
India’s drug regulator approved two COVID-19 vaccines on 3 January, a decision Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed on Twitter as “a decisive turning point to strengthen a spirited fight!” against the pandemic and a testament to the Indian scientific community’s self reliance. But some scientists and patient advocates are sharply critical of the move—in particular, the decision to greenlight Covaxin, a vaccine developed in India by Bharat Biotech, without awaiting the results of a phase III trial to determine efficacy and safety.
There appears to be a low risk of invasive fungal secondary infection, especially aspergillosis, in patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-related pneumonia and no underlying immunosuppression, according to study results published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Official Reporting for January 6, 2021
World Health Organization
Confirmed Cases: 84 474 195
Deaths: 1 848 704
Confirmed Cases: 80 316 555
Deaths: 1 770 695
Confirmed Cases: 86,364,340
Total cases: 20,732,404 (+173,915 New Cases)
Total deaths: 352,464 (+1,800 New Deaths)
Arizona: Arizona hospitals again hit new COVID-19 occupancy records as state adds 5,900 cases and 253 deaths – AZ Central
Southern California: ‘Human disaster’ unfolding in LA will get worse, experts say – CNN
Greece: Greek Church tells priests to ignore pandemic closure order – ABC News
UK: UK daily coronavirus cases top 60,000 for first time – BBC
Egypt: Every COVID Patient in Egyptian ICU Dies When Oxygen Supply Fails – Futurism
Science and Tech
Psychological and Sociological Impact
We put that question to readers and received more than 800 responses. Here are some of the highlights.
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Misinformation, Disinformation, and Conspiracy Theories
Coping in 2020 (and probably most of 2021)