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The Science of This Pandemic Is Moving at Dangerous Speeds – WIRED (Adam Marcus & Ivan Oransky | March 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on April 12, 2020

Much of the research that emerges in the coming weeks will turn out to be unreliable, even wrong. We’ll be OK if we remember that.

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION has made many stumbles in its response to the coronavirus pandemic, but one of the key failures was not having enough kits to test for the pathogen once it appeared in the United States. Instead of accepting kits from other countries—including the ones approved by the World Health Organization—the White House went its own way.

On March 17, Deborah Birx, the physician coordinating the administration’s scientific response to the Covid-19 outbreak in the United States, tried to explain the rejections. “It doesn’t help to put out a test where 50 percent or 47 percent are false positives,” Birx told reporters, suggesting that at least some overseas tests were deeply flawed. A few days later, FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn again mentioned the 47-percent error rate in an interview with National Public Radio, attributing it to “an abstract that was recently published in the literature.” He continued: “What that means is that if you had a positive test, it was pretty close to a flip of a coin as to whether it was real or not.

That sounds reasonable. After all, a test that is no better than a coin flip would do far more harm than good, burdening an already overwhelmed health care system with a tidal wave of well but worried people. Birx is a highly respected scientist whose résumé includes taking on the AIDS epidemic, and Hahn heads perhaps the nation’s most important health agency. But in this case, they appear to have relied on data that, for reasons that are still unclear, has been withdrawn from the scientific literature

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Science Communications In the Time of Coronavirus – WYNC Studios (March 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on April 12, 2020

We are all now, it seems, amateur epidemiologists, trying to find a way past the contagion that’s overturned our lives. We follow the headlines: A blood test that may detect coronavirus antibodies. Potential treatments for the associated pneumonia. You might learn about breakthroughs on Twitter or Facebook, but often they first appear on what are called preprint servers. In fact, Ivan Oransky, professor of medical journalism at NYU and co-founder of Retraction Watch, says that many of the purported breakthroughs around the virus are being shared in spaces that are unfamiliar to many civilians, and mostly unvetted. Here, Oransky explains to Brooke why these preprints — which have been so essential for scientists sharing their research and data — should, as with all science publishing, be approached with some skepticism.

This is a segment from our March 27, 2020 program, Playing The Hero.

Access the page and stream or download the file

Friday afternoon’s funny – Consent: Location, location, location0

Posted by Admin in on April 3, 2020

Cartoon by Don Mayne
Full-size image for printing (right mouse click and save file)

Like location is an important consideration (some might say a primary consideration) in real estate, it is fundamental to the ethical design of consent processes.

Flattening the Curve, Then What? – The Hastings Center – Infographic Now Added (Mark A. Rothstein | March 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on March 29, 2020

The metaphor “flattening the curve” has succinctly captured the challenge of responding to the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. With no vaccine or effective treatment, the use of social distancing measures attempts to delay the spread of infection and keep the need for intensive, hospital-based health services within the capacity of our health care system. Unfortunately, too narrow a focus on flattening the curve may obscure larger gaps and deficiencies in our public health system that we have long ignored and must address.

A characteristically articulate and incisive reflection on where to next for COVID-19.

Besides lowering the peak demand for health services, the “flattening” approach includes raising the baseline of available resources, such as coronavirus tests, hospital and ICU beds, ventilators, personal protective equipment, and trained health care workers. In short, we need greater surge capacity. Although a lack of funding for public health infrastructure and personnel is evident, another key reason for a lack of surge capacity is that excess capacity is inconsistent with the business models of for-profit hospitals, bottom-line sensitive nonprofit hospitals, and underfunded public hospitals. Most hospital administrators and executives traditionally have sought to increase utilization rates and eliminate excess capacity, such as empty beds and unused equipment and supplies.

The nationwide pandemic also highlights the fragmentation of our public health system. Unlike most countries, the U.S. has no national public health agency, with public health primarily the responsibility of state and local governments. Many jurisdictions lack the financial means or expertise to respond to a public health emergency, including the ability to manage quarantine or other mandatory social distancing measures. The authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is limited to controlling international and interstate health threats, as well as providing research, education, laboratory services, data collection and analysis, consultation, and policy recommendations for the states. A more centralized public health structure, regardless of the merits, would run counter to practices in place since colonial times and reflected in the Constitution’s separation of powers between the federal and state governments.

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Infographic about COVID-19


To access the full-size infographic, right-click this link and select save as
The above infographic is a modified version of a resource from Shutterstock.