Media: Stop freaking people out with scary variant headlines! They're frazzled & we want the public to know when a variant *ACTUALLY* escapes vaccines regularly.

Questions to ask when you see a press release 🧵:
-Why do scientists think it's deadlier, etc?
("Double mutant"👇🏼🙄)
-If scientists think a variant is contagious because cases are up, ask about the correlation. At UC Berkeley, @staciakwyman found that outbreaks on campus were from parties, not B117.

-Behavioral reasons for surges are less newsy than Scary Mutant, but people can change behavior
-If scientists think variants evade an immune response because of studies in petri dishes or in mice, put that in the headline. eg… This isn't the same as finding that vaccinated people get COVID.
-Look beneath the surface of hyped findings in headlines of press releases.
-Calling variants by the location were they were discovered is misleading, causes xenophobia & will be useless as the virus evolves
-New variants (so far) aren't even strains, never mind new viruses
-Learn the ropes by talking with evolutionary biologists, genomicists & virologists like @angie_rasmussen @RobertWCross1 @K_G_Andersen @sabeti_lab @lea_starita @trvrb @firefoxx66 @arambaut to name too few. (Scientists & science writers, please add to this thread if you like.)

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More from @amymaxmen

30 Mar
I read this 320-page investigation into COVID origins so you don't have to!

The undercurrent here is that the market-origin hypothesis is back.

The flashpoint is that even @DrTedros isn't happy that his team didn't have more access to the Wuhan lab.…
The team dug deep into data to figure out when the outbreak started spreading in earnest: Conclusion is December 2019.

They spent a lot of time on data from the Huanan market, finding that people w/Covid had visited the same stalls where positive samples were found.
They also went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology & asked a ton of questions. The list of rumors they confronted there are listed in the Appendix. eg
Read 7 tweets
10 Feb
So many stories on reaching vaccine herd immunity! But there's a massive dilemma. Here's a 🧵on what I mean...

About 50 countries have fewer than one nurse per 1000 people. Israel has 6x that rate. UK has 10x. US has 15x. Belgium has 20x. Guess which countries want it all?
Have you seen what 1 nurse/1000 looks like?

Picture people hurt in car accidents who die by the road when wounds could have been stemmed; women dying in childbirth; untreated diabetes; children dying from infected wounds, burns, stomachs. A lack of healthcare is palpable.
What do most countries few nurses have in common?

Many are former colonies, where colonizers subsidized just enough medical care to ensure that people were healthy enough for labor, but they didn't invest in national health systems. Slave traders did less.
Read 8 tweets
24 Jan
There's a persistent myth that pathogens become less deadly over time.

@rkhamsi & @dylanhmorris just reminded me of this since people are apparently acting assured that SARS2 can't become more deadly? Psh.

Short 🧵of history beginning w/hopes of an end to infectious disease
According to Frank Snowden's "Epidemics & Society", 'eradicationists' of the 60s & 70s foretold the end of infectious disease. We had some cures, and they said the bugs become less deadly over time. But like evolutionary psychologists(dis!), they didn't study evolutionary biology
If they had, they'd realize that evolution doesn't have directionality. Anyways, time proved them wrong. eg New strains of dengue evolved, and a second infection with a new strain can be deadly. The HIV epidemic showed that unknown viruses emerge from nature fairly regularly.
Read 4 tweets
15 Jan
Azar just released a delusional, alternative history of Covid testing in the US. I’m mad because our testing failures allowed this outbreak to blow-up. We can’t fix our system if we ignore where it is broken. I suspect @PublicHealth agrees.

My fact-check on remarks @HHSGov 🧵
“It is indisputable that the United States has built the most extensive testing system and strategy of any major country,” says Azar.

False. Several countries have had percent positivity ~1% whereas US has never been below 5% and is >10% today. Refs KCDC & USA @JohnsHopkins
"The federal government got out of the way of test development in safe and sensible ways,” says Azar.

False. In Feb, CDC & FDA blocked labs from testing as the disease spread exponentially. I broke this story👇🏼& wrote more like it as the year wore on.…
Read 12 tweets
14 Jan
First 20 min of this delusional evaluation of the Trump Admin's response to Covid is all about blaming China, with some vitriol for WHO. "If a novel virus like this emerged in a Democratic nation, this epidemic would have never happened," says Azar.

So much for lessons learned.
As Covid spread in March, Azar says the government acted swiftly to control spread (they definitely did not). He says the key driver of the pandemic -- ready for it -- was thousands of Chinese workers flying to Italy.
Azar says it's a myth to say that if we had a better testing and surveillance system we could have curbed the virus in February.

(Why is this session even called 'lessons learned'?)
Read 5 tweets
31 Dec 20
I've reported on the ground from many epidemics, but this is the first one I'm really living through. A 🧵 of memories to follow...

For me, this got real when I met @HelenChuMD in Seattle on March 1 2020 -- Day Zero in the US.…
That month, my stories documented my disbelief. How big was the underground US outbreak?… Where was contact-tracing?… And WTF! Labs had thousands of tests going unused because of a lack of a national strategy.…
In contrast to the US, many low income countries were scaling up tests, building isolation centers, & enforcing quarantines BEFORE THEY EVEN HAD A HANDFUL OF CASES.

They don't have the luxury of relying on hospitals to care for floods of patients.…
Read 11 tweets

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