J&J vaccine authorized, VRBPAC has fantastic hold music

Yesterday, the FDA gave the Janssen—did you know it’s pronounced yahn-sen? I didn’t—vaccine Emergency Use Authorization, allowing it to join the likes of Pfizer and Moderna in the exclusive club of vaccines that may now be distributed in the U.S. Welcome, Janssen. (As a total coincidence I’m wearing my shirt that just says “Vaccines!” on it as I write this.) But the addition of a new vaccine in circulation also brings data reporting questions with few easy answers.

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COVID source callout: Andrew Cuomo

Usually when we do a COVID source callout, we’re putting our sights on a dashboard that’s actually five separate dashboards or a state that likes to surprise us when they update their dataset. This is to say that, usually, we don’t call out an actual source of coronavirus. But that’s what New York Governor Andrew Cuomo apparently wants to be when he grows up, as he opened up limited indoor dining on February 12th for New York City.

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Some optimistic vaccine news but variants still pose a major threat

Nobody who got any of the vaccine candidates was hospitalized or died from COVID-19. That’s huge, especially as variants continue to spread across the U.S. J&J’s numbers are especially promising when it comes to variant strains. Moderna and Pfizer released their results before the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) or B.1.351. (S.A.) variants reached their current notoriety, which makes J&J’s overall efficacy numbers look worse by comparison. But the fact that no one who got the J&J vaccine was hospitalized no matter which variant they were infected with is a cause for optimism.

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Experts say schools could reopen, but data are still scarce

The medical journal JAMA released an article written by three CDC officials about opening schools. The conclusion was that it appears that reopening schools safely is possible—but before we turn everyone loose, there are a lot of caveats. And critically, protective measures that need to be taken are not limited to the schools themselves.

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COVID-19 data whistleblower Rebekah Jones gets arrested, tests positive

Late Sunday, January 17, COVID-19 data scientist Rebekah Jones turned herself in to Florida Law Enforcement authorities. The charge against her, according to a press release from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) on the 18th, is “one count of offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices”. She allegedly hacked a government communication system and sent an authorized message urging workers to “[s]peak up before another 17,000 are dead.”

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Meet your new intern

Hi! I’m Sarah, and I’m going to be helping out around here for the time being. I’m currently a junior at Barnard College (Betsy’s alma mater) studying cell and molecular biology, and I’m looking to go into health journalism after I graduate. When I’m not dreaming of an all-powerful national data dashboard, I’m writing as […]

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We’re not doing enough sequencing to detect B.1.1.7

A new, more transmissible strain of COVID-19 (known as B.1.1.7) has caused quite a stir these past few weeks. It surfaced in the United Kingdom and has been detected in eight states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, New York, Texas, and Pennsylvania. The fact that a mutant strain happened isn’t a surprise, as RNA viruses mutate quite often. But as vaccines roll out, the spread of a new strain is yet another reminder that we’re nowhere near out of the woods yet.

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