health

A vaccine manufacturer is reporting preliminary data suggesting its COVID-19 vaccine is safe, and appears to be eliciting in test subjects the kind of immune response capable of preventing disease.

Moderna, Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., developed the vaccine in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The results reported Monday come from an initial analysis of a Phase I study primarily designed to see if the vaccine is safe.

The World Health Organization's annual oversight convention will be held by teleconference beginning Monday, as the worst pandemic in modern history continues around the globe.

The United States is seeing its highest unemployment levels since the Great Depression. And nurses, doctors and other health care workers are not immune to pay cuts and furloughs.

Robert Alescio

Cody has anxiously been waiting for Yellowstone National Park to open up since its economy depends on summer tourism. Mayor Matt Hall said the community is willing to try new ideas.

President Trump on Friday unveiled more details of "Operation Warp Speed" – an effort to accelerate the development of a vaccine and medical treatments for the coronavirus by January.

"We're looking to get it by the end of the year if we can, maybe before," Trump said as top medical, military and Cabinet officials, many of them wearing face masks, joined him in the Rose Garden.

Trump compared the effort to the Manhattan Project – the World War II effort to build the first nuclear weapon.

Each week we answer pressing coronavirus questions. For this week's installment, we're focusing on flying.

We'd like to hear what you're curious about. Email us at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions."

Nearly half of all counties in the Mountain West have largely been spared from COVID-19, according to recent data from the nonprofit organization USAFacts. Many of these communities weren't untouched, but all have had fewer than five confirmed cases of the virus. 

COVID-19 has given ventilators an undeservedly bad reputation, says Dr. Colin Cooke, an associate professor of medicine in the division of pulmonary and critical care at the University of Michigan.

"It's always disheartening to know that some people are out there saying if you end up on a ventilator it's a death sentence, which is not what we are experiencing — and I don't think it's what the data are showing," Cooke says.

Just over a century ago, a virulent flu outbreak was wreaking havoc on the world.

We know it now as the 1918 influenza pandemic, and its tremors were felt far and wide. By the end of its spread, tens of millions were dead.

The field of public health has taken a giant leap from the days of 1918, when virology was still in its infancy. Today, information is instantaneous and vaccines are in widespread use.

When you think about Doctors Without Borders you may picture the medical humanitarian NGO working in war-torn countries like Syria or Yemen. But as the COVID-19 crisis lays bare inequalities and vulnerabilities in the U.S., the organization's working here, too, assisting the Navajo Nation in fighting the disease.

Nightmares. Tantrums. Regressions. Grief. Violent outbursts. Exaggerated fear of strangers. Even suicidal thoughts. In response to a call on social media, parents across the country shared with NPR that the mental health of their young children appears to be suffering as the weeks of lockdown drag on.

Updated at 4:42 p.m. ET

Rick Bright, a career government scientist-turned-whistleblower, told a congressional panel Thursday that without a stronger federal response, the coronavirus threatens to make 2020 the "darkest winter in modern history."

In 40 years of smoking, Katie Kennedy has tried four times to quit but always went back to cigarettes. Today, she is summoning a new mental image when a craving comes on: rows of COVID-19 patients hooked to ventilators.

Kennedy's dad also smoked. He was on a ventilator before he died, and seeing how invasive the machine was, and watching his discomfort and distress, made Kennedy vow not to die like that.

Creative Commons 3.0 / Andrew Farkas

Gov. Mark Gordon has announced new public health orders that will ease restrictions to some businesses like restaurants, gyms, and salons.

Most of us have never experienced anything like the coronavirus pandemic in our lifetime, and that's especially true for children. The Mountain West News Bureau spoke with five kids about what's on their minds: 6-year-old Emerson, 10-year-old Eleanor, 11-year-old Wren, 11-year-old Brennan, and 10-year-old Olivia. Amanda Peacher shares their voices in this audio postcard.

Updated at 10:32 a.m. ET

Food prices have jumped the most since 1974, when double-digit inflation became a national concern. But inflation isn't a worry this time as prices for just about everything else are diving.

New inflation numbers out Tuesday from the Labor Department offer a window on how consumers are coping in the COVID-19 era. And the bottom line is that we're snacking more — and paying more for a lot of food — as we shop more at our local grocery stores.

Depending on the estimate, the U.S. needs between 100,000 and 300,000 contact tracers to help fight COVID-19. Some say these new jobs could be an opportunity for some of the millions of Americans who've been laid off or furloughed.

The Trump administration says it will now spend billions of dollars to help states make COVID-19 testing more widely available, a move meant to address months-long complaints about test shortages.

But here's the puzzle: Many labs say they have plenty of tests. So what's the disconnect?

Turns out a "test" is not a single device. COVID-19 testing involves several steps, each one requiring different supplies, and there are shortages of different supplies at different times in different places.

Most health experts agree that the need for a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 is clear.

"To return to a semblance of previous normality, the development of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines is an absolute necessity" is how a perspective in Science magazine puts it.

Updated at 2 p.m. ET

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, warned Tuesday of states and localities skipping over federal guidelines while trying to lift restrictions and restart their economies amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking remotely during a unique Senate health committee hearing, Fauci told lawmakers that his concern is that if some areas "jump over" guidelines from the federal government and "prematurely open up," there will be "little spikes that turn into outbreaks."

Staffers in the West Wing have been directed to wear face masks in the White House, except when at their own desks, a Trump administration official told NPR.

States around the country are gradually reopening their economies, even as most of them fail to meet voluntary guidelines set by the White House for doing it safely.

At least 31 states are partially reopening as of Monday.

The coronavirus has in recent days edged closer to President Trump. At least two White House aides who've been in proximity to the president and the vice president have tested positive for COVID-19.

Diana Berrent learned she had tested positive for COVID-19 on a Wednesday in mid-March. Within a day, she had received 30 emails from people urging her to donate blood.

We are social creatures. So it's no surprise that quarantine fatigue has begun to set in.

"Humans are wired to come together physically," says psychologist Judith Moskowitz of Northwestern University. But, loneliness has become widespread in modern life. And, social distancing has just exacerbated the problem, Moskowitz says.

The Food and Drug Administration announced Saturday that it has granted its first emergency authorization to a new type of test that can detect the coronavirus, called an antigen test.

The test looks for protein fragments associated with the virus. The sample is collected with a nasal swab. It can produce a result in minutes, the FDA said in a statement. The agency notes that compared to already approved genetic testing, the antigen test is cheaper and easier to use and could "potentially scale to test millions of Americans per day" once multiple manufacturers enter the market.

This is part of a series looking at pressing coronavirus questions of the week. We'd like to hear what you're curious about. Email us at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions."

Savannah Maher

For more than a month, there has been a strict stay-at-home order on the Wind River Reservation. Tribal members face court fines and potential jail time for violating it. Starting Friday, May 8, they will also be subject to a nightly 9 p.m. curfew.

"The Northern Arapaho Business Council and the Eastern Shoshone Business Council, as advised by authorized Medical Officers, specifically deem this order necessary to protect the public health," the Wind River Inter-Tribal Council wrote in a resolution signed on May 6.

Public Domain

After submitting a request to the state to allow bars and restaurants to open at half capacity, Campbell County has had to put that on hold.

On Wednesday, May 6, the 16th case of the coronavirus was confirmed in Campbell County. The newest case is a teenage woman who is quarantined at home. However, due to her job as an essential worker, she had close contact with around 80 people, many of whom are considered high-risk, said Campbell County Public Health Executive Director Jane Glaser.

This week, the question of mutation has been front and center in coverage of the coronavirus — from controversial claims about changes that make the virus more contagious to reassurances that any mutations are not yet consequential.

Here are some of the questions being raised — and what the specialists can (and can't yet) say to answer them.

Is the coronavirus mutating?

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