Six more things, January 9

Here are six other COVID-19 news items from the past week that didn’t quite warrant full posts. Including: CDC isolation guidance, a new reporting recipe, a variant that you should not freak out about, and more.

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FAQ: Testing and isolation in the time of Omicron

As Omicron spreads rapidly through the U.S., this variant is driving record case numbers—and record demand for testing, including both PCR and rapid at-home tests. In other words, it feels harder than ever to get tested for COVID-19, largely because more people currently need a test due to recent exposure to the virus than at any other time during the pandemic.

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The challenges of routine COVID-19 testing in schools

At this point in the pandemic, we know that routine COVID-19 testing can be a key tactic for reducing transmission in communal settings. If you identify cases as soon as they occur through asymptomatic testing, you can quickly isolate those cases and quarantine their contacts—preventing the cases from turning into outbreaks. This strategy works everywhere from kindergarten classrooms to the NBA.

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Fall school reopening plans demonstrate continued data gap

Vaccine options for children ages 12 and older (now Pfizer, soon Moderna) make in-person education a safe bet for a lot of families. But younger students will likely have to wait much longer for their shots. As a result, regular testing will continue to be a key safety strategy… but school testing data continue to be hard to come by.

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The short-term future of COVID-19 testing

This week, I had a story on COVID-19 testing published in Slate’s Future Tense vertical. The piece explores how testing will change in the next few months as more Americans become vaccinated and rapid tests become more widely available. In the CDD today, I’m excited to share one of the interviews I conducted for the piece, with Dan Larremore, a statistician at the University of Colorado and long-time advocate for the potential of rapid tests.

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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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