Top pick of the day: Sunday

Immunology Is Where Intuition Goes to Die. Which is too bad because we really need to understand how the immune system reacts to the coronavirus.

Health Article by Ed Yong, online at The Atlantic, August 5, 2020.

My kids always remind me how much of a nerd I am. Guilty as charged! This TPOTD is further evidence. Another thoughtful piece by Ed Yong at the Atlantic, this article dives into the mystery of what immunity really means. Spoiler alert: it’s not a black-and-white thing. Like most epidemiologists, immunology seems like a confusing and overly complicated specialty that I wish I understood better. As we inch toward herd immunity and a vaccine, now is a good time to bone up on what that field has to teach us.


Today’s bite-sized, handpicked selection of important news, information or science for all who want to know where this epidemic is going and what we should do.

Daily COVID-19 Briefing: Thursday


Top news, reports and insights for today:

  1. Daily deadline summaries for Thursday*:
  • Scientists at University of Oxford say that an inexpensive and widely available steroid medication, dexamethasone, reduced deaths in patients with severe COVID-19, highlighting the dangers of inflammation and offering an unexpected glimmer of hope (New York Times)
  • Coronavirus cases rise sharply in prisons even as they flatten elsewhere. The number of prison inmates infected has doubled during the past month to 68,000; deaths have also risen by 73% since mid-May (New York Time)
  • New Chinese study of the immune response over time to SARS-CoV-2 virus suggests it is possible that immunity may only last for 2-3 months. Also, asymptomatic patients had a weaker immune response and had a quicker reduction in the key virus-fighting antibodies. This raises the possibility that people who were infected but didn’t have symptoms may be at risk for re-infection more quickly than previous coronavirus (NatureMedicine)
  • The next U.S. hot spots look to be these 7 states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas (VOX)

*For anyone who wonders, I was away for a few days this week and will restart blogging every day or every other day.

  1. U.S. cases are now clearly on the rise, deaths remain on a declining trend but may be ticking up in the last 3 days
    Last week the U.S. reported 158,164 new COVID-19 cases, a rise of 8% in the cumulative total, with daily increases above 23,000 on Tuesday and Wednesday. The 7-day moving averages are clearly now on the rise since June 9, demonstrating a rate of increase not seen since the first week of April. The second figure shows daily deaths, revealing a slowing in the rate of decline over the last couple of weeks. As usual, we see the weekend lag in reporting of deaths on Sunday and Monday, with over 700 daily deaths reported Tuesday and Wednesday, which could signal that deaths will plateau and potentially begin to follow cases and rise. Last week, 4,520 Americans lost their lives to this virus, a weekly increase of 4.3%. The U.S. continues to have the largest number of cases and deaths on the planet, with Brazil now in second place in both.
    The bottom figure shows what’s going in states, focusing here on new daily cases per 100,000 population. Arizona continues to be the most extreme and worrisome with 22 new cases per 100K per day last week, more than 4-times higher than the 5 per day per 100K benchmark. The 1-week growth factor there is 1.45 showing that while new case growth has been high for a while, it is still 45% higher last week compared to the week before. Other states of considerable concern include Oklahoma, a state that doubled its cases last week. In the south, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina, all reported more than 10 new daily cases per 100K last week, indicating strong resurgence of cases in these states. Only Utah and Arizona had high transmission intensity outside the South.
    What it means: Arizona, Utah and 8 southern states are now experiencing dramatic intensification of the epidemic, which has been sufficient to tip the balance in the U.S. toward rising cases at levels not seen since the first of April. The first wave is far from over.