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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Good morning! Elizabeth Cooney bringing you the news today while Shraddha’s away. Let's get to it:

A ‘race between the virus and the vaccine'

On the same day this week that the first Covid-19 vaccines were administered in a long-awaited moment, another 1,300 people died, most of them isolated in hospital rooms. Vaccines may make life before masks, distancing, and holidays spent apart seem possible again, but it will be months before enough people have been vaccinated to make a dent in the U.S. outbreak. Millions of people will contract the SARS-CoV-2 virus; some will need care from overstretched respiratory therapists, nurses, and physicians; and some will die. “I feel like it’s a race between the virus and the vaccine, and that is not a good race,” says Krutika Kuppalli of the Medical University of South Carolina. STAT's Andrew Joseph has more here.

White House misting may not be such a good idea

(alex hogan/stat)

The federal government is spending $29,000 in taxpayer funds to mist a disinfectant all over the White House before President-elect Biden moves in. But that would be the wrong approach to guarding against Covid-19, experts tell STAT. Spraying chemicals would be ineffective and harmful to people working there as well as to the people operating the fumigation machinery. And misting without proper preparation would put priceless works of art at risk. “The conservators at the National Archives are probably freaking out,” says J. David Krause, an environmental and occupational health consultant. “You really only need to be treating the surfaces that people have been exposed to or can be exposed to.” The General Services Administration and Biden transition team did not respond to request for comment.

FDA allows first fully at-home Covid-19 test

Now you really can do it yourself. Yesterday the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for the first at-home Covid-19 test you can buy at a drugstore and then do at home, swabbing your own (or your child’s) nose and finding out the answer via your smartphone in 20 minutes. The Ellume COVID-19 Home Test is a rapid antigen test that runs a liquid sample along a surface with reactive molecules, detecting fragments of SARS-CoV-2 proteins. The test’s analyzer connects with an app on your phone to guide you through the test and then interpret results. Previously, FDA-authorized at-home tests needed a prescription or a lab to process results. Caveat: The new test is less specific and less sensitive than molecular lab tests.

Inside STAT: For some rare disease patients, PPE shortages pose a continued threat


Social distancing and mask-wearing are nothing new for people with rare diseases that raise their risk of deadly infections. “It has always been life and death,” says Sarah Bonnell, whose two daughters have cystic fibrosis, a rare genetic condition that makes infections easier to catch and harder to get rid of by producing a thick, sticky mucus that traps germs in the lungs. In March, when the coronavirus sent cities across the United States into shutdown, she realized that her family’s supply of masks and disinfectant wipes was quickly running out. Patients and caregivers struggling to find PPE are left to their own devices to figure out how to protect themselves as the pandemic again surges. STAT contributor Anna Goshua tells their story.

Esophageal cancer cases rising in adults under 50

Just as alarm is growing about increasing rates of colorectal cancer in people currently considered too young for routine colonoscopies, a new study finds cases of a rarer but more lethal cancer are also rising in younger adults. Esophageal cancer incidence more than tripled between 1975 and 2015 among people under 50. That’s especially worrying because compared to older adults, younger adults’ cancers are diagnosed later and their chances of survival are lower: 23% versus 30% in patients 50 and older. The researchers urge people and their doctors to watch for difficulty swallowing, chest discomfort, or unintended weight loss. They also recommend that people with long-term reflux and a family history of esophageal cancer ask about screening.

What a year: Nature’s top 10 in science

As 2020 comes to a close, the journal Nature picked 10 people who made an impact in science this year and explained why: 
  • WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus rallied the world to respond to the new coronavirus. 
  • Chinese epidemiologist Li Lanjuan quickly recognized the threat of Covid-19. 
  • Uruguayan virologist Gonzalo Moratorio developed diagnostic tests for the virus.
  • R&D chief Kathrin Jansen expedited Pfizer’s vaccine with record-setting speed.
  • Chinese virologist Zhang Yongzhen rapidly sequenced the virus’s RNA.
  • Anthony Fauci became the public face of the U.S. government’s coronavirus response amid misinformation. 
  • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern kept her country relatively safe.
  • U.S. cosmologist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein highlighted systemic racism in science.
  • Indonesian public health researcher Adi Utarini led a pioneering dengue trial. 
  • German logistics chief Verena Mohaupt kept 300 Arctic researchers safe while locked in sea ice — for a year.

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 198,357
Deaths yesterday: 3,019


What to read around the web today

  • Europe wanted to keep schools open this winter. Coronavirus surges have disrupted those plans. Washington Post
  • America is running out of nurses. The New Yorker
  • The virus trains: How lockdown chaos spread Covid-19 across India. New York Times
  • WHO to sift Chinese samples, data in hunt for virus origins. Associated Press
  • Cops could use first aid to save lives. Many never try. The Marshall Project

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Wednesday, December 16, 2020


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