One Saturday morning about three weeks ago, a friend texted. “Can you talk?”
“People are so confused,” she told me when we got on the phone. “They don’t know how the virus spreads. They don’t know why it’s important to wash your hands. What does herd immunity mean? How do tests work?” She made the case: We can’t figure out how to move forward if people are in the dark.
Early on, we all got a crash course in epidemiology. Flatten the curve! Check out this nifty SIR mode. Everyone got up on the idea of “R0” and how we had to get it down.
But we didn’t get the same crash course in virology. And I think this is a problem. If people do not understand how the virus spread works, it’s hard to think about prevention. The messages are confusing. Are antibody tests a magic way to show protection, or useless garbage? If you go to Whole Foods and someone with COVID has touched a box of salad and you pick it up, do you get the virus for sure? What would prevent that from happening?
I am not a virus expert, a virologist or an immunologist. (I’m also not an OB, as people have pointed out when they read my books). But I connected with some, and with their students, and with some of my students and, together, we built a site.
It’s early days, and there is much more we want to add. But in the world of COVID-19, we need to move fast. So… Here it is!!
How to use this site? Well, there are some long form “Explainers” on the path of the virus, immunity, kids. You’ll have seen a bit of this in the newsletter, but these are longer, more science, putting everything together. We also have lots and lots of definitions. Heard a word you didn’t know? Try searching it! I bet we have something.
We’ll keep things updated. For example, for the fifty of you who wrote to me about the scary NYT articles on kids, we’ve got a question and answer on kids and Kawasaki-like illness.
Please, please check it out. Please share it widely. If you’re a person in the media, please reach out if you’d like to talk or share or cover this! Send suggestions! This is a work in progress and much more is to come.
Understanding will not fix the problem, but it’s a start.
(And don’t worry, this will not replace the newsletter, which will continue to be about pregnancy, kids, COVID and hopefully, eventually, not COVID).