DAILY DOSE: Keeping track of coronavirus variants is luke herding cats; Turns out kids can learn to read virtually.

When it comes to the coronavirus responsible for covid-19, one thing seems certain. The subvariants may never stop coming. Omicron and its cousins have proven this time and time again. But how do scientists keep track of them and how did they determine which ones are more concerning than others? An article in nature takes a look, “Scientists are now studying these subvariants, so far detected in nine countries, to determine whether their effect is serious enough to warrant interventions. SARS-CoV-2 will continue to mutate as it evolves, but not every variant will be newsworthy. To determine what merits attention, Wendy Barclay, a virologist at Imperial College London, says that researchers focus on two factors: ‘We care about a difference in disease severity, and we care about a variant that evades vaccines — because even if we have the same severity, an increase in cases still has a big impact on life.'” Considering how many set variance must be in circulation, it’s fortunate that so far they have been mild compared to what they potentially could be. http://go.nature.com/3vqjJ0r

When it comes to Beijing zero-covid strategy, you can say one thing for certain: they are determined to stick to their guns. And this comes at any cost apparently. An article in science takes a look at how Public Health has become a question of politics. According to the article, “But the costs are growing, and even if they outweigh the benefits, Chinese politicians may see no way to pivot, observers say. The COVID-19 response has become ‘not so much a public health or public policy issue as a political issue,’ says Yanzhong Huang, a global health specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S. think tank. Minimizing cases trumps consideration of the ‘rapid, exponential increase in the social and economic costs,’ he says. ‘It has become an undebatable political decision,’ adds Xi Chen, a public health scientist at the Yale School of Public Health.” Funny how no matter where you look, Covid-19 has somehow become inextricably linked to politics. http://bit.ly/3voni7C

The circumstances in some parts of the United States have turned against abortion in very considerable ways. That has had a chilling effect even further afield. In addition to very stringent restrictions being placed on the procedure, some medical schools are choosing to simply not teach it anymore. Per the Associated Press, “Within the past year, bills or laws seeking to limit abortion education have been proposed or enacted in at least eight states. The changes are coming from abortion opponents emboldened by new limits on the procedure itself, as well as a pending Supreme Court decision that could upend the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.” Medical students and doctors wanting to learn how to perform the procedure or now having to go out of their way to look out for doctors who know how to perform the procedure so they can learn from them that way. To be honest, there is no way that that ends well. http://bit.ly/3McZKZV

With the virtual schooling that had accompanied the long covid-19 lockdowns, A lot has been made about the inability of children to learn outside of a classroom setting. However, a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) has proven that it might not be a black and white situation. According to an article in Futurity, “Children in both the Reading Camp and control groups took several standardized and non-standardized tests to assess knowledge of letters, sounds, and words. The results showed that the Reading Camp participants improved in all of the reading skills measured, and their phonological awareness and knowledge of lowercase letters and sounds, in particular, more than the children in the control group.” While more studies need to be done, the possibility that children can learn how to read virtually can potentially open up many avenues for the extension of literacy programs. And that, is a very good thing. http://bit.ly/3vr7KQv

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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