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6 Months, Over 200,000 Deaths: Taking Stock Of The Pandemic In The U.S.

In this May 28, 2020, file photo, a woman passes a fence outside Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery adorned with tributes to victims of COVID-19 in New York. The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 200,000 Tuesday, Sept. 22, a figure unimaginable eight months ago when the scourge first reached the world’s richest nation with its sparkling laboratories, top-flight scientists and towering stockpiles of medicines and emergency supplies. (Mark Lennihan/AP Photo File)
In this May 28, 2020, file photo, a woman passes a fence outside Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery adorned with tributes to victims of COVID-19 in New York. The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 200,000 Tuesday, Sept. 22, a figure unimaginable eight months ago when the scourge first reached the world’s richest nation with its sparkling laboratories, top-flight scientists and towering stockpiles of medicines and emergency supplies. (Mark Lennihan/AP Photo File)

We’re six months and more than 200,000 deaths into the coronavirus pandemic. We check in with an epidemiologist and a virologist about the latest on COVID-19.

Guests

Tara Smith, professor of epidemiology at Kent State University. Her research focuses on zoonotic diseases and other emerging infectious diseases. ( @aetiology)

Angie Rasmussen, associate research scientist at Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity. ( @angie_rasmussen)

From The Reading List

Washington Post: Massive genetic study shows coronavirus mutating and potentially evolving amid rapid U.S. spread” — “Scientists in Houston on Wednesday released a study of more than 5,000 genetic sequences of the coronavirus that reveals the virus’s continual accumulation of mutations, one of which may have made it more contagious. The new report, however, did not find that these mutations have made the virus deadlier or changed clinical outcomes. All viruses accumulate genetic mutations, and most are insignificant, scientists say.”

The Atlantic: A Failure of Empathy Led to 200,000 Deaths. It Has Deep Roots.” — “Sometime this week, alone on a hospital bed, an American died. The coronavirus had invaded her lungs, soaking them in fluid and blocking the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide that makes up our every breath. Her immune system’s struggle to fight back might have sparked an overreaction called a cytokine storm, which shreds even healthy tissue. The doctors tried everything, but they couldn’t save her, and she became the 200,000th American taken by COVID-19 — at least according to official counts.”

Washington Post: We’ve reached 200,000 deaths. Our response has gotten even worse than it was at 100,000.” — “The United States has reached the grim milestone of 200,000 deaths from covid-19. We are in a much worse place than we were when we crossed the 100,000-death threshold in May. Why? Start with the numbers. In late May, we had about 20,000 new infections per day. Now we are at double that, with around 40,000 new daily infections. This is a high baseline to have entering the fall and winter, when the combination of quarantine fatigue and cold weather could drive people to congregate indoors and substantially increase transmission.”

National Geographic: Why misinformation about COVID-19’s origins keeps going viral” — “Twenty years ago, data scientist Sinan Aral began to see the formation of a trend that now defines our social media era: How quickly untrue information spreads. He watched as false news ignited online discourse like a small spark that kindles into a massive blaze. Now the director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, Aral believes that a concept he calls the novelty hypothesis demonstrates this almost unstoppable viral contagion of false news.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.