Ed Yong Profile picture
Science writer at The Atlantic Total Landscaping. Author of I CONTAIN MULTITUDES, a New York Times bestseller. Married to Liz Neeley. https://t.co/m7u0yzBAFz (he/him)
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22 Nov
It has been too long since I’ve done this, but here are some great pandemic-related pieces from the last month or so, from people whose work I respect.

If you’ve liked my work, perhaps you’ll also like the work that I like.
.@rkhamsi, who's consistently been one of the best pandemic reporters, wrote about the absurd policies that are doing the rounds: wired.com/story/a-lack-o…

and about whey we need to SEE what COVID-19 is doing to people. wired.com/story/this-pan…
.@CarolineYLChen wrote this searing piece about how frustrated health-care workers are. They "don’t need patronizing praise. They need resources, federal support, and for us to stay healthy and out of their hospitals."

propublica.org/article/the-en…
Read 16 tweets
20 Nov
🚨I wrote about UNMC--the hospital that, perhaps more than any other in the US, had prepared for a pandemic. It has amazing facilities. Its staff anticipated, planned, drilled.

And now?

“I don’t see how we avoid becoming overwhelmed,” one doc said. 1/

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Here’s what the current surge is doing to the best-prepared hospital:
➡️One building is now a COVID tower.
➡️10 COVID units; 1 solely for patients to die.
➡️Some days, they’re short 45-60 nurses.
➡️“We’re watching a system breaking in front of us." 2/

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Hospital staff are *exhausted*. A nurse who normally works in oncology told me she can barely comprehend the amount of death she has seen in recent weeks.

Work "follows me everywhere I go. It’s all I see when I come home, when I look at my kids.” 3/

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Read 10 tweets
17 Nov
The coronavirus bursts into a bar at 10.01pm but it's empty. It sulks off, thwarted.

The coronavirus enters a room to find only 14 people. "Curses," it says, "foiled again."

The coronavirus finds *15* people but they leave after 14 minutes. "DAMMIT."

iowapublicradio.org/ipr-news/2020-…
This is a good time to read the latest piece from stellar reporter @rkhamsi on absurd pandemic polices. wired.com/story/a-lack-o…
And then read @rachgutman on how to think about safety. theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Read 5 tweets
15 Nov
Here's a thing I want everyone to understand.

There is a roughly 12-day lag between rising cases rising hospitalizations.

So the 1.5 million (!!!) confirmed cases from the last 2 weeks have not yet factored into stories about packed emergency rooms.

theatlantic.com/science/archiv…
In this story, I noted Iowa is already out of staffed beds. ICUs are at capacity. theatlantic.com/health/archive…

Here are Iowa's cases. The 12-day lag between cases & hospitalizations means people in the blue portion will be trying to enter those full ICUs over the next 2 weeks.

HOW?
I say Iowa, but you could do this same analysis for any number of states, especially in the Midwest. The near-term future is already baked in, which is why you have to act *ahead* of the virus. (See Problem #8 in this story about 9 intuitive fallacies.)

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Read 5 tweets
13 Nov
🚨I wrote about what health-care workers are going through, how exhausted & scared they are, and what this 3rd pandemic surge is doing to them.

It’s not like the first 2. It’s worse. How much slack is left in the system? Iowa nurse: “There is none” 1/

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
You’ve seen the huge numbers. Here’s what they can mean.

➡️36-hour shifts
➡️Docs on standby in case a colleague and their substitute AND their substitute’s substitute get sick
➡️“We’re all running on fear”
➡️“There’s only so many bags you can zip” 2/

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
The issue isn’t beds or ventilators. It’s people.

In many states, there already aren’t enough nurses/docs to care for the incoming COVID-19 patients.

Here’s what it takes to care for one in an ICU. (Non-COVID patients are coming in sicker too.) 3/

theatlantic.com/health/archive… Image
Read 12 tweets
11 Nov
🥳It's a weird time for good personal news, but I’m proud to have won a AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award, in the In-Depth Reporting category for 3 of my pandemic pieces. 1/

End: theatlantic.com/health/archive…

Confusion: theatlantic.com/health/archive…

Patchwork: theatlantic.com/health/archive…
To continue a trend, I’ll be donating the prize money from this one to the Capital Area Food Bank, the Native American Journalists Association, the South Asian Journalists Association, the Trans Lifeline, and the Trevor Project. 2/
Thanks as ever to my editors @andersen, @thebanderson @slaskow @PaulBisceglio for improving my work, and to the Atlantic for giving me the time, space, mandate, and support to go big. 3/
Read 8 tweets
28 Oct
🚨I wrote about the upcoming election, and what the stakes are in terms of the pandemic.

The piece is short, and its gist is simple: Next week, Americans will choose whether to try and bring COVID-19 under control.

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Four true statements:

➡️Trump has epically mishandled the pandemic.

➡️He does not learn from his mistakes.

➡️COVID-19 will still be raging in 2021.

➡️Historical patterns suggest another major epidemic is likely in the next 4 years.

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
The third surge is upon us. Hospitals are once again filling up. Healthcare workers are exhausted. Vaccines are still
far away.

But COVID-19 is not uncontrollable.

The playbook is clear. The US just needs a leader willing to implement it.

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Read 5 tweets
19 Oct
October surprise: my laptop died.
Janky replacement laptop is operational, but it just downloaded six months worth of updates, so let's just give it some space to process.
It's like that scene in the Matrix except instead of suddenly knowing kung-fu, Neo just starts openly weeping.
Read 4 tweets
9 Oct
🚨I wrote about the rampant use of "strength" and "fighting" metaphors following Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis, the history of such language when talking about disease, and why it misleads, distracts, and makes things worse. 1/

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
I spoke to doctors, immunologists, linguists, anthropologists, and psychologists about what we're really talking about when we talk about "strength" in the context of "beating" disease, and whether there's any truth to that (very common) idea. 2/ theatlantic.com/health/archive…
On Trump specifically, what he & his supporters are calling "strength" is really 2 things:
- the performance of a specific toxic version of masculinity that prizes aggression, volume, stubbornness, overconfidence, & mockery
- *enormous* privilege
3/

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Read 5 tweets
10 Sep
🥳A nice thing happened! Huge thanks to the NPCJI for this incredible honour. Ironically, I'm a little lost for words. The previous awardees are incredible; I never expected to be counted among reporters of their caliber, and it means so very much.
As always, any plaudits I get must be shared with my editors @slaskow @PaulBisceglio @andersen @thebanderson who’ve sharpened and polished my work, and our leaders @SwatiGauri @AdrienneLaF @JeffreyGoldberg who’ve created space and time for us to take our biggest swings.
As before, my intention is to donate the prize money from this. I only just found out about this yesterday and need a little time to work out a plan. More, as they say, tk.
Read 4 tweets
9 Sep
🚨I wrote a new piece about the 9 errors of intuition that people keep making during the pandemic, trapping us in a spiral of bad decisions & policies. This is a guide to thinking about the crisis & breaking free from that endless loop. 1/

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Beating COVID-19 isn't just about more tests/masks. Many of the problems that have tripped us up are conceptual. Magical thinking. False dichotomies. Conflating imperfect with useless. Blaming individuals over fixing systems. I've listed 9. 2/

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
These errors of intuition cropped up in debates over masks, social-distancing, ventilation, colleges. They’ll appear again when we have a vaccine. Winter is coming. We must reset, and "adjust our thinking to match the problem before us.” 3/

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Read 8 tweets
24 Aug
🥳As they say, some personal news: I won the 2020 Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting!

I’m chuffed to bits. The prize honours writers for a 5-year body of work. By coincidence, I'm a week away from my 5-yr Atlanticiversary (1/7)
casw.org/casw/victor-co…
I'm very grateful to the CASW and the judges. This announcement release is hitting me squarely in the feels. 😭 I’m especially proud that it not only talks about the work, but The Work. (2/7)

casw.org/casw/announcem…
Huge thanks & credit must go to all my incredible Atlantic editors: @slaskow @andersen @PaulBisceglio @rachgutman @julieebeck @thebanderson and Don Peck. I’ve learned so much from them & my colleagues. @JeffreyGoldberg & @slaskow also wrote *the nicest* nominating letters. (3/7)
Read 7 tweets
24 Aug
In this immunology explainer, I noted that some anecdotal accounts of COVID-19 reinfections exist, but to confirm them, you'd need to sequence the genes of the virus from both infections and show they were subtly different.

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
A HK team has apparently done that. If true, this would be the first *confirmed* case of reinfection. (Note: there's a press release, and someone has posted screengrabs of parts of the paper, but the whole thing isn't online 😡)

BUT...

As I wrote, it's not surprising/worrying if reinfections *can happen*. More important Qs are:

- How common are they? (Not addressed in this study)
- Is the 2nd time more/less severe than the 1st? (2nd infection was asymptomatic here, but that's 1 case.)

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Read 5 tweets
22 Aug
There's been a wave of good pieces on COVID-19 long-haulers in the last few weeks. Here's @tanyabasu in MIT Tech Review on the Body Politic group that organized to research themselves. 1/

technologyreview.com/2020/08/12/100…
At Buzzfeed, @bri_sacks wrote about the group's recent call with the WHO, as part of their continued efforts to get recognition. 2/

buzzfeednews.com/article/briann…
This one's mine, on how the long-haulers have changed their own landscape over the last couple of months.

I love that all these stories portray the group as protagonists of their own stories, and not victims without agency. 3/

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Read 5 tweets
20 Aug
A few COVID-19 long-haulers told me they too disbelieved folks with ME/CFS and similar illnesses until they experienced something similar firsthand—and now deeply regret their previous skepticism. (Some folks w/ ME/CFS have said the same.) 1/

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
I asked David Putrino, who runs a Mt Sinai program, why he believes long-haulers when so many physicians do not. This is what he said. 2/

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
After my 1st long-hauler piece, I got an email asking if I have ME/CFS or similar—fwiw I don’t—on the assumption that ppl who don’t have these illnesses rarely write about them. That felt like a searing indictment. I think about it a lot. 3/

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Read 5 tweets
19 Aug
🚨Here’s my new story about long-haulers who’ve had COVID-19 for months. I first wrote about them in early June, and much has changed since then. Notably, many are still sick. For some, it’s been 5+ months of debilitating symptoms. #LongCovid 1/ theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Some changes are positive. There’s more awareness of long-haulers & more acceptance from docs. These changes were mostly driven *by long-haulers* who fought for recognition, led their own research, & supported each other, all while being very sick. 2/ theatlantic.com/health/archive…
But early pandemic mistakes are STILL costing long-haulers dearly. Testing screw-ups in Feb/Mar meant many never got tested; in Aug, that means many are still being gaslit, & can’t get into post-covid clinics. (What about antibody tests? Read the piece) 3/ theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Read 11 tweets
9 Aug
It’s Shark Week, so here’s a light piece from the Before Times w/ a very silly headline, an also silly Trump lede, an extensive ode to sharks, a look at the problems of Shark Week itself, & a paragraph transition that really shouldn’t work but kinda does.

theatlantic.com/science/archiv…
Further shark content: the sharks that can live to 400 and have parasitic crustaceans hanging off their eyes theatlantic.com/science/archiv…
...and these sharks that were filmed swimming around inside their mum... theatlantic.com/science/archiv…
Read 5 tweets
7 Aug
I’m really grateful to everyone who read the big new cover story this week. If you’ve liked my work, perhaps you’ll also like the work that I like. Here are some great pandemic-related pieces from the last month, from writers whose work I respect.
Here’s a critical vaccine reality check from @sarahzhang, who is surely one of the most formidable science writers working today. Every piece is beautifully explained and meticulously researched. This one is really important. theatlantic.com/health/archive…
A stunning investigative work by @katherineeban into Jared Kushner’s shadow taskforce and its secret, shelved testing plan. It’s perhaps the closest we have to an actual disproval of Hanlon’s razor. vanityfair.com/news/2020/07/h…
Read 17 tweets
6 Aug
The central idea behind this piece on why the US failed so badly to control the pandemic is that it fell under the combined weight of a multitude of weaknesses, every one of which was predictable.

I want to unpack that idea.

A thread. 1/

theatlantic.com/magazine/archi…
This paragraph at the top hints at some of those weaknesses--all discussed, all left to fester. 2/

theatlantic.com/magazine/archi…
But I think that while everyone saw the cracks in their particular area, few people saw all the pieces--or weighted them correctly. Which is why we had pre-pandemic indices that assessed the US as the most prepared of all nations. 3/

(From March: theatlantic.com/health/archive…)
Read 14 tweets
5 Aug
The origin of this story is one of my colleagues asked for an immunity explainer, and I said, "GOD NO, have you any idea how complicated immunology is, that would kill me," but then I realized that I am already dead inside, and wrote the piece.

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Me, after reporting this piece:
Correction: This piece states that "Immunology confuses even biology professors who aren’t immunologists," but it also confuses biology professors who are immunologists. The Atlantic regrets the error.

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Read 4 tweets
5 Aug
🚨I wrote a guide to the immune system—how it theoretically works, how it reacts to the new coronavirus, why it’s all so maddeningly complicated, and what we know about how long immunity lasts.
theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Also, hey! It’s a long pandemic piece from me that isn’t an unblinking stare into a soul-crushing abyss! It’s... light? Kind of? It has jokes!

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
So many of the biggest COVID-19 questions--why some get much sicker than others; whether once-infected people are protected from reinfections and for how long; what might happen over the next several years--are hugely influenced by the immune system...

theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Read 7 tweets