The Daily Dose: America, meet your new Epidemiologist-in-Chief (good luck with that)

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ROUNDUP WITHIN A ROUNDUP: Global deaths from Covid-19 pass 17,000. Poland bans gatherings of more than two people. Spain death toll jumps overnight. WHO: US has potential to be “epicentre of outbreak”. Australia: new restrictions as experts warn of 50,000 cases by Easter. Germany announces significant support package for economy. Indonesia reports biggest daily increase in cases. South Africa cases rise to 554 as nation prepares for 21-day lockdown. Iran reports 1726 new cases, 122 deaths in last 24 hours.

Anybody who’s spent a few minutes parsing their social media newsfeeds will have noticed a sudden spike in armchair epidemiologists and weekend public health experts. Perhaps the most conspicuous insta-expert is president of the United States. As per the New York Times, “As the United States entered Week 2 of trying to contain the spread of the coronavirus by shuttering large swaths of the economy, President Trump, Wall Street executives and many conservative economists began questioning whether the government had gone too far and should instead lift restrictions that are already inflicting deep pain on workers and businesses.” It’s an understable position but that’s about it. Returning to business-as-usual too soon on purpose is morally bankrupt.

In perhaps the least surprising news, the 2020 Summer Olympics has been postponed. “In a stunning but foreshadowed move, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced late Tuesday night that Japan had reached an agreement with International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games to be postponed until next summer at the latest.” Considering the Trump Administration’s stance on returning to work, the summer games may still go on at the last minute. That would be regrettable, of course.

Everyone wants a vaccine for COVID-19. Like yesterday. Unfortunately, reality on the ground is not sanguine. A sobering vaccine status report featured in Cell states, “The development of vaccines for human use can take years, especially when novel technologies are used that have not been extensively tested for safety or scaled up for mass production. Since no coronavirus vaccines are on the market and no large scale manufacturing capacity for these vaccines exists yet, we will need to build these processes and capacities.” So that’s that.

A commentary in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, report on the viral load and antibody profiles of a cohort of 23 patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19. “In these patients, the viral load peaked during the first week of illness then gradually declined over the second week. Viral load was also shown to correlate with age. Furthermore, both IgG and IgM antibodies started to increase on around day 10 after symptom onset, and most patients had seroconversion within the first 3 weeks. Finally, the IgG and IgM antibody level against the SARS-CoV-2 internal nucleoprotein and the surface spike receptor binding domain correlated with neutralising activity.”

In physics news with Sci-Fi potential, researchers have taken another step towards reliable quantum communication. “In a proof-of-principle experiment, we demonstrate high-fidelity operation that effectively enables quantum communication at a rate that surpasses the ideal loss-equivalent direct-transmission method while operating at megahertz clock speeds. These results represent a crucial step towards practical quantum repeaters and large-scale quantum networks.” The results represent an important step towards practical quantum repeaters and large-scale quantum networks.

Have a great Tuesday and let’s be careful out there.

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