What I’ve Been Reading: COVID-19 Edition

There’s been an incredible amount of “ink” spilled about the virus, and I don’t pretend to have read most of it – or even much of it – but I have read some articles I think are worth sharing. I’ll likely update this post as I find more.

[Update: 22-Aug – The list has been inverted, so the newest additions are now “up here.”]

[Update: 30-Dec – I had largely stopped seeking out COVID-related press, and found less of note in what I did read. I was content to let this list fade away, until a friend sent me the article that became today’s update.]

[added, 24-May] The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill
….scientists brawled over how the virus spreads…At the heart of the fight was a teensy error with huge consequences [Megan Molteni, wired.com]

[added, 11-May] A Misleading C.D.C. Number [David Leonhardt, nytimes.com]

[added, 8-May] Why Did It Take So Long to Accept the Facts About Covid? [Zeynep Tufekci, nytimes.com]

[added, 7-May] Estimation of total mortality due to COVID-19 [ihme.org]

[added, 4-May] Millions Are Saying No to the Vaccines. What Are They Thinking? Feelings about the vaccine are intertwined with feelings about the pandemic. [Derek Thompson, atlantic.com]

[added, 6-Apr] Are We Much Too Timid in the Way We Fight Covid-19? The debate among doctors, epidemiologists and economists is still going strong. [Ezra Klein, nytimes.com]

[added, 27-Mar] Unlocking the Covid Code [Jon Gertner, nytimes.com]

[added, 9-Jan-2021] The Lab-Leak Hypothesis For decades, scientists have been hot-wiring viruses in hopes of preventing a pandemic, not causing one. But what if …? [Nicholson Baker, nymag.com]

[added, 30-Dec] Reverse Engineering the source code of the BioNTech/Pfizer SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine [Bert Hubert, berthub.eu, h/t Mario]

[added, 5-Oct] Largest COVID-19 contact tracing study to date finds children key to spread, evidence of superspreaders A study of more than a half-million people in India who were exposed to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 suggests that the virus’ continued spread is driven by only a small percentage of those who become infected. [Morgan Kelly, princeton.edu]

[added, 1-Oct] This Overlooked Variable Is the Key to the Pandemic It’s not R. [Zeynep Tufekci, theatlantic.com, h/t Christopher]

[added, 25-Sep] A survival guide for the Covid age [Tim Harford, timharford.com]

[added, 16-Sep] Trump Health Official Apologizes for Facebook Outburst Michael R. Caputo, the head of communications at the Department of Health and Human Services, apologized to the health secretary and his staff and is considering a medical leave. [Sharon LaFraniere, nytimes.com]

[added, 15-Sep] Trump Health Aide Pushes Bizarre Conspiracies and Warns of Armed Revolt Michael R. Caputo told a Facebook audience without evidence that left-wing hit squads were being trained for insurrection and accused C.D.C. scientists of “sedition.” [Sharon LaFraniere, nytimes.com]

[added, 13-Sep] The Sturgis Biker Rally Did Not Cause 266,796 Cases of COVID-19 [Jennifer Dowd, slate.com, h/t Christopher]

[added, 10-Sep] How the Coronavirus Attacks the Brain It’s not just the lungs — the pathogen may enter brain cells, causing symptoms like delirium and confusion, scientists reported. [Apoorva Mandavilli, nytimes.com]

[added, 7-Sep] Trump’s Vaccine Can’t Be Trusted If a vaccine comes out before the election, there are very good reasons not to take it. [Laurie Garrett, foreignpolicy.com]

[added, 5-Sep] Coronavirus: Tests ‘could be picking up dead virus’ The main test used to diagnose coronavirus is so sensitive it could be picking up fragments of dead virus from old infections, scientists say. [Rachel Schraer, bbc.co.uk]

[added, 4-Sep] Coronavirus Vaccine Roundup, Early September [Derek Lowe, blogs.sciencemag.org]

[added, 2-Sep] Is a Bradykinin Storm Brewing in COVID-19? Excess of the inflammatory molecule bradykinin may explain the fluid build-up in the lungs of patients with coronavirus infections. Clinical trials of inhibitors are putting this hypothesis to the test. [Alakananda Dasgupta, the-scientist.com]

[added, 1-Sep] How the Pandemic Defeated America A virus has brought the world’s most powerful country to its knees. [Ed Yong, theatlantic.com]

[added, 1-Sep] We Need to Talk About Ventilation How is it that six months into a respiratory pandemic, we are still doing so little to mitigate airborne transmission? [Zeynep Tufekci, theatlantic.com]

[added, 26-Aug] Some people can get the pandemic virus twice, a study suggests. That is no reason to panic [Kai Kupferschmidt, sciencemag.org]

[added, 22-Aug] The race to collect the pandemic’s history—as it unfolds
From protest signs to Purell, archivists try to preserve 2020 artifacts before they’re lost. [Eve Sneider, wired.com]

[added, 22-Aug] Untested COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, begins 40,000-person trial next week Russia skipped trials to grant approval and claim breakthrough. [Beth Mole, arstechnica.com]

[added, 16-Aug] The new two-hour, supply chain robust saliva test [Tyler Cowen, marginalrevolution.com]

[added, 14-Aug] Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020 [Mark É. Czeisler, et al. cdc.gov] tldr*; “The percentage of respondents who reported having seriously considered suicide in the 30 days before completing the survey (10.7%) was significantly higher among respondents aged 18–24 years (25.5%), minority racial/ethnic groups (Hispanic respondents [18.6%], non-Hispanic black [black] respondents [15.1%]), self-reported unpaid caregivers for adults§ (30.7%), and essential workers¶ (21.7%).” (*tldr; too long, didn’t read)

[added, 14-Aug] As Britain Climbs Out of an Economic Pit, Tough Questions Loom The government’s aid programs are winding down, and officials are so far resisting pressure to extend them. But what if the virus resurges? [Mark Landler, nytimes.com]

[added, 13-Aug] These are the top coronavirus vaccines to watch We are tracking 200 experimental vaccines...[washingtonpost.com]

[added, 12-Aug] Life here in Britain is largely returning to normal, highlighting Trump’s failures in America [Brian Klaas, washingtonpost.com]

[added, 8-Aug] Bill Gates on Covid-19 Gates on vaccines, Trump, and why social media is “a poisoned chalice.” [Steven Levy, wired.com]

[added, 3-Aug] Scared That Covid-19 Immunity Won’t Last? Don’t Be Dropping antibody counts aren’t a sign that our immune system is failing against the coronavirus, nor an omen that we can’t develop a viable vaccine [Akiko Iwasaki, Ruslan Medzhitov, nytimes.com]

[added, 3-Aug] ‘A huge experiment’: How the world made so much progress on a Covid-19 vaccine so fast [Andrew Joseph, statnews.com]

[added, 1-Aug] We Thought It Was Just a Respiratory Virus We were wrong. [Ariel Bleicher, Katherine Conrad, ucsf.edu]

[added, 26-Jul] Boris Johnson changes tone over handling of pandemic
[Laura Kuenssberg, bbc.co.uk]

[added, 26-Jul] How the U.S. Compares With the World’s Worst Coronavirus Hot Spots [Lauren Leatherby, nytimes.com]

[added, 18-Jul] Your Mask Cuts Own Risk by 65 Percent [Rick Kushman, ucdavis.edu]

[added, 18-Jul] How Dixie cups became the breakout startup of the 1918 pandemic Dixie cups were like the Zoom of the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, which helped the product become a household name. [Kevin Leland, fastcompany.com]

[added, 8-Jul] How speedy lockdowns save lives Early stay-at-home orders contained covid-19 the best [economist.com] (see also: Lockdowns flatten the “economic curve,” too Cities that locked down faster in 1918 bounced back better. [Cathleen O’Grady, arstechnica.com])

[added, 8-Jul] Steven Pinker on the Tribal Roots of Defying Social Distancing [Robert Bazell, nautil.us]

[added, 7-Jul] Women’s Roller Derby Has a Plan for Covid, and It Kicks Ass
While baseball, basketball, and other sports struggle to adapt, an international team of skater-experts has figured out a safer way to play. [Christie Aschwanden, wired.com]

[added, 7-Jul] Do Americans Understand How Badly They’re Doing? In France, where I live, the virus is under control. I can hardly believe the news coming out of the United States. [Thomas Williams, theatlantic.com]

[added, 28-Jun] How the Virus Won Invisible outbreaks sprang up everywhere. The United States ignored the warning signs. [Derek Watkins, et al., nytimes.com]

[added, 28-Jun] Behind The Curve How the World Missed COVID-19’s Silent Spread [Matt Apuzzo, et al., nytimes.com]

[added, 25-Jun] The cost of keeping schools closed will be dreadful Reversing lockdown is perilous, but we cannot sacrifice our children’s education indefinitely [Tim Harford, ft.com]

[added, 23-Jun] Lessons on Coronavirus Testing From the Adult Film Industry An industry that survived one health crisis could be a model for others looking to build confidence, experts say. [Michele Hollow, nytimes.com]

[added, 23-Jun] The Dudes Who Won’t Wear Masks Face coverings are a powerful tool, but health authorities can’t simply ignore the reasons some people refuse to use them. [Julia Marcus, theatlantic.com, h/t Christopher]

[added, 20-Jun] In countries keeping the coronavirus at bay, experts watch U.S. case numbers with alarm [Rick Noack, wapost.com]

[added, 14-Jun] Can a Vaccine for Covid-19 Be Developed in Record Time? A discussion moderated by Siddhartha Mukherjee. [nytimes.com]

[added, 13-Jun] The Looming Bank Collapse The U.S. financial system could be on the cusp of calamity. This time, we might not be able to save it. [Frank Partnoy, theatlantic.com]

[added, 13-Jun] Tim Harford: can the pandemic help us fix our technology problem? The history of innovation has plenty of lessons on how to fight the corona crisis and transform our future [Tim Harford, ft.com]

[added, 7-Jun] How Germany got coronavirus right From extensive testing to early track and trace, Germany is a model for tackling the disease [Guy Chazan, ft.com]

[added, 7-Jun] Democracies contain epidemics most effectively People living under freely elected governments have been more responsive to lockdown measures [economist.com]

[added, 6-Jun] The C.D.C. Waited ‘It’s Entire Existence for This Moment.’ What Went Wrong? The technology was old, the data poor, the bureaucracy slow, the guidance confusing the administration not in agreement. The coronavirus shook the world’s premier health agency, creating a loss of confidence and hampering the U.S. response to the crisis. [Eric Lipton, et al., nytimes.com]

[added, 30-May] Coronavirus May Be a Blood Vessel Disease, Which Explains Everything Many of the infection’s bizarre symptoms have one thing in common [Dana Smith, medium.com]

[added, 26-May] Virus Crisis Exposes Cascading Weaknesses in U.S. Disaster Response [Christopher Flavelle, nytimes.com]

[added, 23-May] Yet another novel I will no longer write [Charlie Stross, antipope.org]

[added 23-May] Carnegie Mellon Researchers: Half of Twitter Accounts Discussing COVID-19 Are Disinformation Bots [John Gruber, daringfireball.net]

[added, 22-May] ‘How Could the CDC Make That Mistake?’ The government’s disease-fighting agency is conflating viral and antibody tests, compromising a few crucial metrics that governors depend on to reopen their economies. Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas, and other states are doing the same. [Alexis Madrigal, Robinson Meyer, theatlantic.com]

[added, 22-May] Pepys and the plague Samuel Pepys, a young civil servant living in London, recorded his daily life for almost ten years in the 1660s. [Surya Bowyer, wellcomecollection.org, h/t Dawnise]

[added, 21-May] What to Expect When a Coronavirus Vaccine Finally Arrives Sobering lessons from the history of the polio vaccine. [Elena Conis, Michael McCoyd, Jessie Moravek, nytimes.com]

[added, 21-May] Chronicle of a Pandemic Foretold Learning From the COVID-19 Failure—Before the Next Outbreak Arrives [Michael Osterholm, Mark Olshaker, foreignaffairs.com]

[added, 18-May] Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience Massive Scale Testing, Tracing, and Supported Isolation (TTSI) as the Path to Pandemic Resilience for a Free Society [Danielle Allen et al., ethics.harvard.edu, PDF]

[added, 18-May] Pandemic Resilience: Getting It Done A Supplement to the Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience [Danielle Allen et al., ethics.harvard.edu, PDF]

[added, 18-May] We could stop the pandemic by July 4 if the government took these steps A $74 billion investment in testing, tracing and isolation could rescue the economy — quickly [Alex Tabarrok, Puja Ahluwalia Ohlhaver, washingtonpost.com]

[added, 16-May] Amid the Coronavirus Crisis, a Regimen for Reëntry Health-care workers have been on the job throughout the pandemic. What can they teach us about the safest way to lift a lockdown? [Atul Gawande, newyorker.com]

[added, 16-May] Inside Trump’s coronavirus meltdown What went wrong in the president’s first real crisis — and what does it mean for the US? [Edward Luce, ft.com]

[added, 11-May] The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them [Erin Bromage, erinbromage.com]

[added, 10-May] Why we fail to prepare for disasters [Tim Hartford, timhartford.com]

[added, 8-May] The Real Reason to Wear a Mask Much of the confusion around masks stems from the conflation of two very different uses. [Zeynep Tufekci, Jeremy Howard, Trisha Greenhalgh, atlantic.com]

[added, 8-May] There Is Still No Plan [David Wallace-Wells, nymag.com]

[added, 3-May] How the Virus Got Out [Wu, Cai, Watkins and Glanz, nytimes.com]

[added, 3-May] Coronavirus: How infection rates are changing across Europe and what it means for ending lockdown Transmission rates for COVID-19 are down across the continent, but could rise again if governments end restrictions too quickly. [Carmen Aguilar-Garcia, Alice Udale-Smith, sky.com, h/t Christopher]

[added, 1-May] Stocks Are Recovering While the Economy Collapses. That Makes More Sense Than You’d Think. [Zachary Karabell, time.com]

[added, 1-May] How Long Will a Vaccine Really Take? Here’s how we might achieve the impossible. [Stuart Thompson, nytimes.com]

[added, 29-Apr] Bill Gates’s vision for life beyond the coronavirus Bill Gates saw the coronavirus coming. Here’s his plan to beat it [Ezra Klein, vox.com, h/t Christopher]

[added, 28-Apr] In Race for a Coronavirus Vaccine, an Oxford Group Leaps Ahead As scientists at the Jenner Institute prepare for mass clinical trials, new tests show their vaccine to be effective in monkeys. [David Kirkpatrick, nytimes.com]

[added, 23-Apr] Without More Tests, America Can’t Reopen And to make matters worse, we’re testing the wrong people. [Ezekiel Emanuel, Paul Romer, theatlantic.com]

[added, 23-Apr] We Are Living in a Failed State The coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken. [George Packer, theatlantic.com]

[added, 22-Apr] Coronavirus Infections May Not Be Uncommon, Tests Suggest Two preliminary efforts to survey citizens for antibodies to the virus have produced controversial results. [Gina Kolata, nytimes.com]

[added, 21-Apr] J.D. Scholten on Coronavirus in Iowa [Maciej Cegłowski, idlewords.com]

[added, 18-Apr] Influential Covid-19 model uses flawed methods and shouldn’t guide U.S. policies, critics say A widely followed model for projecting Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. is producing results that have been bouncing up and down like an unpredictable fever [Sharon Begley, statnews.com]

[added, 18-Apr] When Will the Riots Begin? (do yourself a favor, don’t read the comments) [Alex Tabarrok, marginalrevolution.com]

[added, 18-Apr] The Price of the Coronavirus Pandemic When COVID-19 recedes, it will leave behind a severe economic crisis. But, as always, some people will profit. [Nick Paumgarten, newyorker.com]

[added, 18-Apr] The World Knows an Apocalyptic Pandemic Is Coming But nobody is interested in doing anything about it. [Laurie Garrett, 20-Sept-2019, foreignpolicy.com]

[added, 18-Apr] A New Statistic Reveals Why America’s COVID-19 Numbers Are Flat Few figures tell you anything useful about how the coronavirus has spread through the U.S. Here’s one that does. [Meyer & Madrigal, theatlantic.com]

[added, 18-Apr] How Trump Is Fueling a Corona Disaster Are we witnessing the implosion of a superpower? (caveat emptor) [DER SPIEGEL Staff, spiegel.de]

[added, 14-Apr] Contact Tracing in the Real World contact tracing in the real world is not quite as many of the academic and industry proposals assume [Ross Anderson, lightbluetouchpaper.org]

[added, 12-Apr] I’ve read the plans to reopen the economy. They’re scary. There is no plan to return to normal. [Ezra Klein, vox.com]

[added, 12-Apr] Privacy-Preserving Contact Tracing As part of this partnership Google and Apple are releasing draft technical documentation. [Apple/Google, apple.com]

[added, 10-Apr] A (possible) solution to COVID-19 This data suggests a simple and testable hypothesis – there are natural strains of SARS-CoV-2 in the world that have mutated to be non-pathogenic (asymptomatic), but are still infective and will provide immunity to the more pathogenic (deadly) strains [Daniel Tillett, tillett.info]

[added, 10-Apr] What Is Britain Without the Pub? Through two world wars, Britain’s pubs stayed open. Their closure now, for the first time in the country’s history, is forcing some to seek creative alternatives. [Allison McCann, nytimes.com]

[added, 5-Apr] Viral dynamics in mild and severe cases of COVID-19 [Liu, et al., thelancet.com, h/t Kris]

[added, 5-Apr] Which high street shops should get your money? While some brands are behaving badly, others are stepping up to help their staff and others in times of need. [lewiscotter.com, h/t Dawnise]

[added, 5-Apr] In Pictures: Coronavirus: Sophie Raworth’s deserted London [Sophie Raworth, bbc.co.uk]

[added, 5-Apr] What Everyone’s Getting Wrong About the Toilet Paper Shortage It isn’t really about hoarding. And there isn’t an easy fix. [Will Oremus, medium.com, h/t Dawnise]

[added, 2-Apr] Protecting Civil Liberties During a Public Health Crisis [Matthew Guariglia, Adam Schwartz, eff.org] related: Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing [h/t Jan-Peter]

[added, 2-Apr] COVID-19 in Iceland – Statistics [covid.is]. Linked for reasons discussed here [futurism.com] here [buzzfeed.com] and here [stratechery.com]. tldr; the asymptomatic rate of infection is significant (maybe up to ~50% according to Iceland’s chief epidemiologist Thorolfur Guðnason), and current guidance (e.g. “you need only wear a mask if you’re sick or caring for someone who is”) is not well aligned with that reality.

[added, 30-Mar] The untold origin story of the N95 mask The most important design object of our time was more than a century in the making. [Mark Wilson, fastcompany.com]

[added, 29-Mar] The Science Behind Coronavirus Testing, and Where the U.S. Went Wrong America was never prepared for this [Anna Minkina, medium.com]

[added, 29-Mar] Rich countries try radical economic policies to counter covid-19 History suggests that the effects will be permanent [economist.com]

[added, 28-Mar] God be with you till we meet again On September 29th, 1918, months before the end of World War I, a freshly assigned physician at Camp Devens military base in Massachusetts wrote the following letter to a friend and fellow doctor, and described a terrifying influenza epidemic that was now killing hundreds of his camp’s soldiers each day. [lettersofnote.com]

[added, 27-Mar] Understanding SARS-CoV-2 and the drugs that might lessen its power Modest improvements in treatment could make a big difference. [economist.com, paywall, h/t Gary]

[added, 27-Mar] Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand [Ferguson, et. all., imperial.ac.uk]

[added, 27-Mar] Why Was It So Hard to Raise the Alarm on the Coronavirus? [David Wallace-Wells, nymag.com]

[added, 27-Mar] How the Pandemic Will End The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out. [Ed Yong (see also, “Why the Coronavirus Has Been So Successful”), atlantic.com]

[added, 26-Mar] Can You Become Immune to the Coronavirus? It’s likely you can, at least for some period of time. That is opening new opportunities for testing and treatment. [Apoorva Mandavilli, nytimes.com]

[added, 25-Mar] ‘All Of This Panic Could Have Been Prevented’: Author Max Brooks On COVID-19 [Terry Gross, npr.org, h/t Mike]

[added, 25-Mar] Can We Put a Price Tag on a Life? The Shutdown Forces a New Look President Trump and others have asked if halting normal life and commerce to fight the coronavirus is worth the cost. Here’s how economists figure it. [Eduardo Porter & Jim Tankersley, nytimes.com]

[added, 24-Mar] This Is the One Thing That Might Save the World From Financial Collapse Amid everything else, there’s a deeper economic crisis underway. [Adam Tooze, nytimes.com]

[added, 24-Mar] Covid-19’s Impact on Libraries Goes Beyond Books Shuttering public libraries puts a strain on communities—even if it’s the only way to keep people safe. [Boone Ashworth, wired.com]

[added, 21-Mar] Live tracker: How many coronavirus cases have been reported in each U.S. state? Using data from the COVID Tracking Project, we’re following how each state is responding to COVID-19. [Beatrice Jin, politico.com, h/t Zach]

The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s ComingEpidemiologist Larry Brilliant, who warned of pandemic in 2006, says we can beat the novel coronavirus—but first, we need lots more testing. [Steven Levy, wired.com]

Why the Coronavirus Has Been So SuccessfulWe’ve known about SARS-CoV-2 for only three months, but scientists can make some educated guesses about where it came from and why it’s behaving in such an extreme way. [Ed Yong, theatlantic.com]

The Man Who Saw the Pandemic ComingWill the world now wake up to the global threat of zoonotic diseases? [Kevin Berger (no relation), nautil.us]

A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data. [John P.A. Ioannidis, statnews.com]

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