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Answers to key questions about this even more contagious coronavirus

Image: Pixabay

Here we go again. The Delta variant of the coronavirus is more contagious than anything we’ve seen during the pandemic so far. It’s so contagious, it’s squeezing out its SARS-CoV-2 brethren to become the predominant variant in circulation.

So what should you do?

Whether you are vaccinated or not, it’s time to mask up and take other preventive steps if you wish to ensure the safety of yourself and your loved ones and the people in your community, experts say.

Given the situation is evolving quickly, here are answers to the key questions you might have:

From very early days…

Fully vaccinated people aren’t likely to get super sick from delta, but they can probably get mildly sick and pass it on to others

Photo: Ivan Diaz/Unsplash

The past two weeks have felt confusing, frustrating, and sudden for many people. As Covid-19 infection rates declined more and more throughout the summer, things started to feel a bit more normal-ish for many people.

Some felt like the pandemic was finally ending despite public health experts warning that it wasn’t and that another wave would arrive by fall. And then — BAM! — seemingly out of nowhere, the delta variant hit hard and fast. It’s now responsible for 83% of all infections in the U.S.

Now, just as families and schools are preparing for the upcoming school year, people…

Will circulating variants of Covid-19 “boost” immunity in vaccinated populations?

As the first group of people to receive Covid-19 vaccines reach the 6 month mark, the natural question in many people’s minds is: how long will this vaccine protect us against the virus? While research shows lasting and powerful protection, there is still concern that that immunity will fade with time. This raises the question of whether boosters are needed to prop up immunity.

With variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus still actively circulating amidst easing restrictions, many vaccinated individuals will likely be exposed to the virus. So the question is, will post-vaccination exposure to Covid-19 serve as a natural booster?

If you’re fully vaccinated, there’s no indication you need a booster yet. But many could urgently use that dose — here’s why.

Photo: Mufid Majnun/Unsplash

Last week, the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer held a closed-door meeting with senior U.S. health officials to pitch them on Covid-19 booster shots.

Just a few days prior, Pfizer announced they would ask the FDA to expand the emergency authorization for their current two-dose vaccine to include a third, a booster shot.

We can only speculate on the confidential data presented in that meeting, but the Department of Health and Human Services who convened it issued a statement reflecting what many scientists believe: “At this time, fully vaccinated Americans do not need a booster shot”. …

It’s been a long time since I saw a Covid patient in the ER, and I couldn’t be happier

Photo: Camilo Jimenez/Unsplash

I’m an emergency room doctor in New York City, and I haven’t seen a Covid-19 patient in weeks. It feels great having my old job back.

In March 2020, Covid flooded our ERs. At first, it was just a dribble — one or two Covid patients per day. But within a week, the virus had taken over every body in every bed. Every shift in the emergency room brought an endless stream of patients, one after another, all struggling to breathe and in desperate need of oxygen.

The swiftness of Covid’s arrival in our emergency rooms took us by surprise…

Coping With Death

In the wake of Covid-19, we are all grieving. How can we come to terms with death — and what does it teach us about living?

Hanwell Cemetery; Photo: Edward Howell/Unsplash

In 2015, I published a book. It began like this:

“A wake,” my mother said. “To sit with the dead.”

We were on our way to West Virginia, to an unremarkable two-story colonial where my grandfather’s remains had been washed and laid out for viewing. It had been raining all night, but apparently no one in this homey funeral parlor had been sleeping. They’d been sitting up with the body. Sitting up — with the body — all night.

There are no good adjectives to describe my feelings about this. I was seventeen and grieving, but I wasn’t horrified. Shocked…

The longer the wider world remains unvaccinated, the greater the risk that a devastating new variant will emerge

Photo by Yolanda Sun on Unsplash

In a letter recently obtained by The Guardian newspaper, more than 100 former presidents and heads of state urged the leaders of the world’s wealthiest countries to do much more — to commit more money, in particular, but also more aid and resources — toward making and distributing vaccines across the globe.

“No one anywhere is safe from Covid-19 until everyone is safe everywhere,” the letter’s signatories wrote, according to The Guardian.

That’s not just lofty talk, and it’s not just a plea for the sake of the unvaccinated. That is cold reality.

Apart from the deadly threat that the…

What the pandemic revealed about scientific publishing

Image: athree23/Pixabay

I was reading my umpteenth news story about Covid-19 science, a story about the latest research into how to make indoor spaces safe from infection, about whether cleaning surfaces or changing the air was more important. And it was bothering me. Not because it was dull (which, of course, it was: there are precious few ways to make air filtration and air pumps edge-of-the-seat stuff). But because of the way it treated the science.

You see, much of the research it reported was in the form of pre-prints, papers shared by researchers on the internet before they are submitted to…

The science of early memories gives some fascinating answers

Photo: Izzy Park/Unsplash

I was almost six years old when the Gulf War broke. International coalition forces waged war in Iraq, and as a result, Iraq attacked Israel with long-range powerful Scud missiles. I vividly remember the sirens. I remember putting on the gas mask that was distributed to all Israelis due to fear of a chemical attack. I remember constantly having to rush to the “sealed room” — my parents’ bedroom, which had its windows sealed with duct tape to protect against a nerve gas attack. I remember an unfinished dinner with my favorite food that was interrupted by sirens. …

Here’s what living with it feels like

Photo: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona/Unsplash

You know the doctor’s appointment isn’t starting well when the nurse looks at the blood pressure cuff and frowns. “Did I put it too tight,” she asks, “Is your circulation all right?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I reply absently. “I haven’t been able to feel that arm in a couple of days.” I show her the lump in my elbow and explain there’s one in my neck and one in my back. They’re everywhere, as a matter of fact. And those lumps mean one thing to me: no feeling, or if I’m lucky, pins and needles.

She takes my blood…


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