The New York Times, June 30, 2020


Following a birthday party in Texas on May 30, one man reportedly infected 17 members of his family with the coronavirus.

Reading reports like these, you might think of the virus as a wildfire, instantly setting off epidemics wherever it goes. But other reports tell another story altogether.

In Italy, for example, scientists looked at stored samples of wastewater for the earliest trace of the virus. Last week they reported that the virus was in Turin and Milan as early as Dec. 18. But two months would pass before northern Italy’s hospitals began filling with victims of Covid-19. So those December viruses seem to have petered out.

Continue reading “Most People With Coronavirus Won’t Spread It. Why Do a Few Infect Many?”

The New York Times, June 26, 2020


In a study not yet published in a journal, scientists have reported that the new coronavirus was present in wastewater in Barcelona, Spain in March 2019, a finding that, if confirmed, would show that the pathogen had emerged much earlier than previously thought.

But independent experts who reviewed the findings said they doubted the claim. The study was flawed, they said, and other lines of evidence strongly suggest the virus emerged in China late last year.

Up until now, the earliest evidence of the virus anywhere in the world has been from December 2019 in China and it was only known to have hit mainland Spain in February 2020.

Continue reading “Study Suggests Coronavirus Emerged Much Earlier Than Thought. Some Are Skeptical.”

The New York Times, June 10, 2020


Researchers around the world are developing more than 135 vaccines against the coronavirus. Vaccines typically require years of research and testing before reaching the clinic, but scientists are racing to produce a safe and effective vaccine by next year.

Work began in January with the deciphering of the SARS-CoV-2 genome. The first vaccine safety trials in humans started in March, but the road ahead remains uncertain. Some trials will fail, and others may end without a clear result. But a few may succeed in stimulating the immune system to produce effective antibodies against the virus.

Continue reading “Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker”

The New York Times, June 3, 2020


Why do some people infected with the coronavirus suffer only mild symptoms, while others become deathly ill?

Geneticists have been scouring our DNA for clues. Now, a study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Variations at two spots in the human genome are associated with an increased risk of respiratory failure in patients with Covid-19, the researchers found. One of these spots includes the gene that determines blood types.

Continue reading “Genes May Leave Some People More Vulnerable to Severe Covid-19”

The New York Times, June 1, 2020


A lot of people are reading scientific papers for the first time these days, hoping to make sense of the coronavirus pandemic. If you’re one of them, be advised the scientific paper is a peculiar literary genre that can take some getting used to. And also bear in mind that these are not typical times for scientific publishing.

It is hard to think of another moment in history when so many scientists turned their attention to one subject with such speed. In mid-January, scientific papers began trickling out with the first details about the new coronavirus. By the end of the month, the journal Nature marveled that over 50 papers had been published.

Continue reading “How You Should Read Coronavirus Studies, or Any Science Paper”