Understand how we got here — and how to move forward.


February 12, 2021

Weekend reads: Allergic to work? For some researchers, it's a real problem.

Daily Briefing

    Why your coronavirus test result likely wasn't a false positive, a deep dive in high-tech face masks, and more.

    Ben Palmer's reads

    False-positive coronavirus test results are rare, so don't assume you have one. It's possible for a novel coronavirus test that comes back positive to be wrong, but it's rare, occurring at a rate "much lower than 1%," according to Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease clinician and researcher at the University of Alberta. Writing for the New York Times, Melinda Wenner Moyer details how infrequently people receive a false-positive coronavirus test—and how assuming you've gotten a false-positive result can put the people around you at serious risk of Covid-19.

    Face masks are getting high-tech, but do we really need them? Face masks have become ubiquitous amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, and they've also gotten progressively more high-tech, with some including features such as breathing rate measurements and wireless headphones. But how necessary are these new features? Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Rachel Wolfe takes a look at some of the more high-tech facemasks on the market, as well as how effective and useful they are.

    José Vasquez's reads

    What happens when researchers become allergic to organisms they study? Anecdotal reports and analyses reveal a startling trend: Scientists are likely to become allergic to the organisms they study, Hannah Thomasy writes for Undark Magazine. Data on occupational allergies suggests that up to 44% of people who work with laboratory rodents and up to 60% of people who work with insects can become allergic to organisms they work with, Thomasy reports. And when those allergies develop, researchers often take steps to manage their new condition, including wearing personal protective equipment or using over-the-counter antihistamines, Thomasy explains.

    How smallpox's eradication puts the Covid-19 pandemic in a new context. Before the World Health Organization declared smallpox eradicated in 1980, the disease had devastated the world for thousands of years, killing up to 30% of people infected with the smallpox virus. In comparison, Covid-19 is a less deadly disease, killing about 0.5% of people infected with the novel coronavirus, Kelsey Piper writes for Vox. Through an exploration of smallpox's history and eradication, Piper shows how the Covid-19 pandemic could have been much worse—and how its end may be within reach.

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