Sources and updates, April 10

  • Lessons learned from the non-superspreader Anime NYC convention: Last fall, one of the first Omicron cases detected in the U.S. was linked to the Anime NYC convention, a gathering of more than 50,000 fans. Many worried that the event had been a superspreader for this highly contagious variant, but an investigation from the CDC later found that, in fact, Omicron spread at the convention was minimal. My latest feature story for Science News unpacks what we can learn from this event about preventing infectious disease spread—not just COVID-19—at future large events. I am a big anime fan (and have actually attended previous iterations of Anime NYC!), so this was a very fun story for me; I hope you give it a read!
  • States keep reducing their data reporting frequency: Last Sunday, I noted that Florida—one of the first states to shift from daily to weekly COVID-19 data updates—has now gone down to updating its data every other week. This is part of an increasing trend, writes Beth Blauer from the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 data team in a recent blog post. “As of March 30, only eight states and territories (AR, DE, MD, NJ, NY, PA, PR, and TX) report case data every day of the week,” Blauer says. And it seems unlikely that states will increase reporting frequencies again without a major change in public health funding or the state of the pandemic.
  • Biden administration announces Long COVID task force: This week, the Biden administration issued a memo addressing the millions of Americans living with Long COVID. The administration is creating a new, interagency task force, with the goal of developing a “national research action plan” on Long COVID, as well as a report laying out services and resources that can be directed to people experiencing this condition. It’s worth noting that recent estimates from the U.K. indicate 1.7 million people in that country (or one in every 37 residents) are living with Long COVID; current numbers in the U.S. are unknown due to data gaps, but are likely on a similar scale, if not higher. 
  • New scientific data sharing site from the NIH: Not directly COVID-related, but an exciting new source: the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has created an online data repository for projects funded by and affiliated with the agency. The site currently includes over 100 datasets, including scientific data, genomic data, and clinical data; it also includes information on data management and sharing for researchers working on these projects. This press release from NIH has more info. (H/t Liz Essley Whyte.)
  • Study indicates continued utility for COVID-19 testing in schools: During the Omicron surge, testing programs in a lot of schools collapsed, simply because institutions didn’t have enough resources to handle all of the students and staff getting sick. The surge led some schools to consider whether school testing programs are worth continuing at all. But a new study, released last week in The Lancet, suggests that yes, surveillance testing can still reduce transmission—even when schools are dealing with highly contagious variants. (Note that this was a modeling study, not a real-world trial.)
  • Preprint shows interest in self-reporting antigen test results: Another interesting study released recently: researchers at the University of Massachusetts distributed three million free rapid, at-home antigen tests between April and October 2021, then studied how test recipients interacted with a digital app for ordering tests and logging results. About 8% of test recipients used the app, the researchers found; but more than 75% of those who used it did report their antigen test results to their state health agency. The results (which haven’t yet been peer-reviewed) suggest that, if institutions make it easy and accessible for people to self-report their test results, the reporting will happen.

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