The New York Times, January 18, 2021 (with Jonathan Corum)

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At the heart of each coronavirus is its genome, a twisted strand of nearly 30,000 “letters” of RNA. These genetic instructions force infected human cells to assemble up to 29 kinds of proteins that help the coronavirus multiply and spread.

As viruses replicate, small copying errors known as mutations naturally arise in their genomes. A lineage of coronaviruses will typically accumulate one or two random mutations each month.

Continue reading “Inside the B.1.1.7 Coronavirus Variant”

The New York Times, January 17, 2021 (with Lucy Tompkins)

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As the total number of U.S. coronavirus cases surpassed 24 million on Monday, Los Angeles County, one of the hardest-hit areas, may face even more dire weeks ahead. Deaths in the county have continued to climb as the national death toll nears 400,000.

Hospitals have run out of room in intensive care units, though new cases and hospitalizations appear to be leveling off in recent days. The county records a coronavirus-related death roughly every seven minutes, and last week was its highest recorded ever for Covid-19 fatalities.

Continue reading “As the U.S. surpasses 24 million cases, Los Angeles confronts a more contagious variant.”

The New York Times, January 15, 2021

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President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced on Friday that he will elevate the role of science in his cabinet as part of an effort to “refresh and reinvigorate our national science and technology strategy.”

Mr. Biden will nominate Eric S. Lander, the director of the Broad Institute of M.I.T. and Harvard, to serve as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and also appoint him to serve as presidential science adviser. For the first time, the position will be elevated to the cabinet level.

Continue reading “Biden to Elevate Science Adviser to His Cabinet”

The New York Times, January 13, 2021 (with Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland)

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Johnson & Johnson expects to release critical results from its Covid-19 vaccine trial in as little as two weeks — a potential boon in the effort to protect Americans from the coronavirus — but most likely won’t be able to provide as many doses this spring as it promised the federal government because of unanticipated manufacturing delays.

If the vaccine can strongly protect people against Covid-19, as some outside scientists expect, it would offer big advantages over the two vaccines authorized in the United States. Unlike those products, which require two doses, Johnson & Johnson’s could need just one, greatly simplifying logistics for local health departments and clinics struggling to get shots in arms. What’s more, its vaccine can stay stable in a refrigerator for months, whereas the others have to be frozen.

Continue reading “Johnson & Johnson Expects Vaccine Results Soon but Lags in Production”

The New York Times, January 8, 2021

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Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Friday that their Covid vaccine is effective against one of the mutations present in the new contagious variants identified in Britain and South Africa.

Independent experts said the findings were good news, but cautioned that each of those coronavirus variants has several other potentially dangerous mutations that have not yet been investigated. So it’s possible that one of those mutations affects how well the vaccine works.

Continue reading “Pfizer Says Its Vaccine Works Against Key Mutation in Contagious Variants”