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Giving thanks during a pandemic

Giving thanks during a pandemic


Antivirus: A weekly digest of COVID-19 research

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A volunteer in Los Angeles distributes food to people financially hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Celebrating Thanksgiving during a pandemic is weird. It’s more stress, more risk calculations, more staying away from people you’d normally draw close to. It feels sucky and dark and I know there’s a lot of people like me who are going to be so grateful for 2020 to be over. But as much as this year has been the worst, it’s also shown us how we humans can be a lot better when we actually try.  

This year, I’m thankful for the researchers who have worked carefully and swiftly to develop extremely promising vaccine candidates. They took an impossible task and got it to the finish line in record time.

I’m thankful for the volunteers who were willing to enroll in clinical trials, and put their bodies on the line to help those researchers figure out if the vaccines worked. Their decision to participate is what makes it possible for us to figure out how safe and effective any of the vaccines are. 

I have a deep debt of gratitude towards the professional gadflies — the experts and journalists who have demanded transparency throughout this entire pandemic. They’ve pushed for us to wear masks and for official acknowledgment that this virus can spread through the air. They’ve kept track of the numbers for us, and shone a light on rampant incompetence that’s made the virus worse than it ever needed to be. Now, they are demanding that the companies manufacturing the vaccines give us more than just the research highlights

Thank you to the exhausted healthcare workers in the US, who are doing their best to tread water, even though they know a wave of illness and death is headed their way. 

Thank you to the disaster and public health researchers who have screamed into the void for the past year. They’ve tried everything they could to get us important messages, shore up supply lines, and stay one step ahead of a virus that’s outpacing a nation.

Thank you to the places that have actually managed to beat back the virus for providing an example on how to really put those researchers’ words into action — to Mongolia, Senegal , Vermont, Cherokee Nation and Australia, along with all the others who have paid attention to the scientists.  

Thank you to the people who have kept wearing a mask, even when it’s annoying and they’d rather not. Also, to the people who are keeping their distance from others, as painful as it may be. 

Thank you to the people who are working to keep their neighbors fed, and housed, and healthy, often for paltry wages. They deserve more. So do the people who are unemployed or incarcerated or homeless during this devastating pandemic. 

I’m especially thankful for you. Thank you for reading, and for joining me and Nicole here every Saturday morning for the past few months.  We’ll be taking a break next weekend, but we’ll be back on December 5.

Here’s what else happened this week. 


Confused About Masks? Here’s What Scientists Know
There’s been some weird stuff coming out this week about masks, including a widely-ridiculed study out of Denmark. This article breaks down the current state of mask knowledge. Bottom line: wear one. (Apoorva Mandivalli/The New York Times)


Virus surges complicate the distribution of scarce COVID-19 treatments
Monoclonal antibody treatments can help prevent people from developing the worst symptoms of COVID-19, but they are also in very short supply. Not only that, but health systems are so overwhelmed by new cases, that figuring out how to get the treatment to people who need it in time is a gargantuan task. (Nicole Wetsman/The Verge)

Moderna says its COVID-19 vaccine is 94.5 percent effective in early analysis
On Monday, Moderna announced that its vaccine was highly effective in its clinical trials. It also announced that its vaccine candidate could be stored in a refrigerator for up to 30 days, making it easier to distribute than anticipated. (Nicole Wetsman/The Verge)

Updated analysis shows Pfizer vaccine is 95 percent effective
Days after Moderna’s announcement, their rivals at Pfizer and BioNTech released more detailed data on their own vaccine, claiming it was 95 percent effective in their trials. On Friday, Pfizer and BioNTech became the first to file for an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA. The FDA will meet on December 10 to consider their application. (Nicole Wetsman/The Verge)

2 Companies Say Their Vaccines Are 95% Effective. What Does That Mean?
If you want to know more about the math behind the vaccine headlines, this breakdown is a good one. (Carl Zimmer/The New York Times)

The first COVID-19 vaccines will likely require two shots
Wondering why both Pfizer and Moderna are making vaccines that require two shots? It’s a training regimen for your immune system. (Kait Sanchez/The Verge)

FDA approves first home COVID-19 test: Here’s why most Americans won’t get it before next spring
An at-home COVID-19 test was approved this week by the FDA. It will only be available in limited quantities in some states this year. (Ken Alltucker/USA Today)


I get the same comments all the time over Facebook or email. “Oh, she’s blowing it out of proportion.” “She’s a communist.” “She’s a bitch.” “She’s pushing her agenda.” Okay, fine. I do have an agenda. I want disease transmission to go down. I want to keep this community safe. I want fewer people to die. Why is that controversial?

Amber Elliott, county health director as told to Eli Saslow, The Washington Post

More than numbers

To the more than 57,726,802 people worldwide who have tested positive, may your road to recovery be smooth.

To the families and friends of the 1,374,985 people who have died worldwide — 254,473 of those in the US — your loved ones are not forgotten.

Stay safe, everyone.