Once 70% to 85% of the population is vaccinated, activities including in-person church services should be able to resume safely, Fauci said.
The health department administrator shared debunked vaccine misinformation as part of their reasoning.
After 35 years of sharing everything from a love for jazz music to tubes of lip gloss, twins Kimberly and Kelly Standard assumed that when they became sick with COVID-19 their experiences would be as identical as their DNA. The virus had different plans. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Early last spring, the sisters from Rochester, Michigan, checked themselves into the hospital with fevers and shortness of breath. While Kelly was discharged after less than a week, her sister ended up in intensive care. Kimberly spent almost a month in critical condition, breathing through tubes and dipping in and out of shock. Weeks after Kelly had returned to their shared home, Kimberly was still relearning how to speak, walk and chew and swallow solid food she could barely taste. Nearly a year later, the sisters are bedeviled by the bizarrely divergent paths their illnesses took. “I want to know,” Kelly said, “why did she have COVID worse than me?” Since the new coronavirus first shuddered into view, questions like the one posed by Standard have spurred scientific projects around the globe. Among the 94 million infections documented since the start of the outbreak, no two have truly been alike, even for people who share a genetic code. Identical twins offer researchers a ready-made experiment to untangle the contributions of nature and nurture in driving disease. With the help of twin registries in the United States, Australia, Europe and elsewhere, researchers are confirming that genetics can affect which symptoms COVID-19 patients experience. These studies have also underscored the importance of the environment and pure chance: Even between identical twins, immune systems can look vastly different — and continue to grow apart over the course of a lifetime. Dr. Mishita Goel, one of the doctors who treated the Standard twins last spring, said she was surprised to see the virus chart such different medical trajectories in each sister. “We were amazed,” said Goel, who published a case study on the twins last summer. Both sisters were carrying excess weight and had a history of metabolic conditions. If anything, Kelly, who has asthma and a more severe case of diabetes, might have had a slightly higher risk of entering intensive care, Goel said. But it was Kimberly who fared worse. At least some of the factors that influence the severity of a COVID case are written into the genome. Recent studies suggest that people with type O blood, for example, might be at a slightly lower risk of becoming seriously sick with the coronavirus (though experts have cautioned against overinterpreting these types of findings). Other papers have homed in on genes that affect how cells sound the alarm about viruses, or raise their defenses to ward off invaders. Still other genetic tweaks may make it easier for the coronavirus to break into cells. Some might even trigger an overzealous immune response to infection that damages healthy tissues alongside the sick ones — a common feature among the worst COVID-19 cases. There even seems to be a measurable genetic influence on whether people experience symptoms like fever, fatigue and delirium when stricken with the coronavirus, said Tim Spector, an public health researcher and the director of the TwinsUK registry based at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. Last year, he and his colleagues developed a symptom tracking app to record how people dealt with the disease. In a study that has not yet been published in a scientific journal, they reported that genetic factors might account for up to 50% of the differences between COVID-19 symptoms. One gene that they are investigating codes for a molecule called ACE2, which the coronavirus docks onto before entering cells. “It would be wrong to think we can answer this if we just crack the genes,” Spector said. Still, in at least some respects, the bodies of identical twins are “genetically programmed to be similar.” Twins Krista Burkett and Kasey Miller, 28, of Toledo, Ohio, both fell ill shortly after Thanksgiving. Their sicknesses were staggered by about a week, hitting Miller first. But “day for day, it was exactly the same,” Burkett said. For both sisters, COVID began with an hourlong fever of 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by days of back pain and a strange buzzing sensation. The eighth day crescendoed in an agonizing headache. Then, like clockwork, the symptoms disappeared. The virus’s encore did not phase the twins. “Honestly, it was kind of nice for her,” Miller said of her sister. “She got to see exactly what would happen to her.” What Burkett and Miller experienced was not the norm. Many of the conditions that can raise a person’s risk for severe COVID — excess weight, heart disease, diabetes, smoking — are highly influenced by environment and behavior, not just genetics. A person’s history of fighting off other coronaviruses, like those that lead to common colds, might also affect their likelihood of developing a serious case of COVID. Some researchers have also floated the idea that the amount of coronavirus a person takes in may have an impact on the severity of disease, a trend that has been documented with other infections. “It’s the difference between having your immune system being actually able to squash the infection, or having a much harder time fighting it if all your cells become infected at the same time,” said Juliet Morrison, a virus expert at the University of California, Riverside. Michael Russell, 29, says he wonders if he sniffed up more of the virus than his twin brother, Steven, did this summer, in the days after they gathered with their family for the Fourth of July. Both brothers began experiencing symptoms shortly after the celebrations ended, around the time Steven headed back to his home in Arlington, Virginia. The virus saddled Steven with a scratchy throat and a headache — a “light, cold-like” illness, he said. A few days later, Michael, who was living at home with his parents, came down with much more severe symptoms: a sore throat, chills, shortness of breath and fatigue that relegated him to his bed for an entire day. About two weeks passed before he could smell or taste the cinnamon-dusted popcorn he regularly snacks on. The twins’ parents came down with bad COVID symptoms as well, so Michael had to isolate with two other infected adults. Hunkering together in the same house may have exposed him to a larger dose of the virus, the brothers said. But, they added, that is just a guess. For some twin pairs, there are no obvious explanations for their differing disease course. Marena and Vivian Herr, 17-year-old identical twins in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, have spent their entire lives near each other, bonding over their tastes for In-N-Out Burger and Taylor Swift. “We share drinks, we hang out in each other’s rooms, we have the same friends,” Vivian said. But she and her sister never seem to catch the same sicknesses. When the sisters both fell ill from COVID the week after attending a Halloween party, their symptoms forked: Marena lost her sense of taste and smell, neither of which have returned in the two months since, while Vivian battled a debilitating flu-like illness. Identical twins start as a single embryo that splits in two, creating carbon-copy babies-to-be. But from that time on, their developmental trajectories diverge, as their DNA accumulates small and often subtle, but unique, typos. A paper published this month in Nature Genetics reported that identical twins differ by an average of 5.2 early and naturally occurring developmental mutations. Through childhood and adolescence, the biological chasm between twins deepens further as distinct microbes colonize their guts, or subtle shifts in the environment squish or stretch parts of their genomes, making certain segments harder or easier to read. All of these changes and more can influence how a person responds to an infection, said Anita Pepper, a developmental biologist at The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. Even the DNA that cells start with is not set in stone. Certain immune cells called B cells and T cells are, in some ways, especially impervious to the genes they start with. Part of the job of these cells is to manufacture proteins, such as antibodies, that recognize pathogens that might do the body harm. The more of these suspicious shapes the cells and antibodies can find, the better a person can avert illness. But it would not make sense to encode a separate gene for every possible iteration of an antibody — there are just too many. Instead, immune cells build their defensive repertoires through a process called recombination, which involves mixing and matching segments of DNA to create billions, trillions, even quadrillions of unique genetic stretches. Marion Pepper, an immunologist at the University of Washington and the identical twin sister of Anita Pepper, compared the process to cobbling together words on a Scrabble board — a way to generate a diverse vocabulary without hauling a dictionary from place to place. “Once those cells go out into the body, the hope is that you’ve created enough diversity that you can recognize everything,” Pepper said. “It’s brilliant.” The randomness of these processes makes them just about impossible to replicate from person to person — even if all of the Scrabble tiles they start with are the same. This immune malleability is an advantage, because it can equip the body to fend off even pathogens it has never seen before, said Mark Davis, an immunologist at Stanford University who has used his institution’s twin registry to conduct research on the genetics of the immune system. Twins may start with the same genetic ingredients, Davis said, but then “they roll the dice.” Still other researchers have turned to twins to study another effect of the pandemic: a global fraying in psychological well-being. Emanuela Medda, a researcher with the Italian Twin Registry, is leading an effort to track stress, anxiety and depression among thousands of twins scattered countrywide. Continents away, John Hopper, an public health researcher and director of Twins Research Australia, has undertaken a similar project monitoring how families are navigating a world altered by the coronavirus. The pandemic has created its fair share of challenges, Hopper said. But early findings, collected via a series of surveys, offer a glimmer of hope: Amid the chaos, some people feel that hardship has brought them closer to their loved ones. In Michigan, Kimberly and Kelly Standard recall their sicknesses last spring as one of the longest stretches they have ever spent apart. The first few days they spent in the hospital, the sisters would FaceTime each other from separate rooms — the best substitute they had for seeing each other in person. Even after being released from care, Kelly struggled to put her mind at ease while Kimberly’s condition remained in flux. She came to dread the ring of her phone, knowing that each time the screen flashed the hospital’s 734 area code, it might bring news that her sister had died. It took a few days after Kimberly awoke in intensive care before she could speak in more than a rasp. Left without her cellphone, she reached for the hospital phone and dialed her sister — the only person whose number she knew by heart. When the Standard sisters finally saw each other again, they wept and wrapped each other in a tight embrace. It was a blessing, Kimberly said: “Finally, it felt like I was myself again.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
Long after the sun sets on a quiet farm in the Dutch town Lelystad, one of its fields comes to life with a beautiful display of red, blue and ultraviolet LED light beaming across its crop of leeks. The installation pairing the plants' natural beauty with the futuristic LED show is part of "Grow", artist Daan Roosegaarde's latest project intended as an homage to farmers and to inspire them to experiment with artificial light in outdoor farming. "You know the 16th, 17th (century) painters, the master painters, they were obsessed with the Dutch sky, the clouds and the light," said Roosegaarde, who is known for his art/tech fusion projects, in an interview at his studio in Rotterdam.
Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket launched from a modified Boeing 747, known as Cosmic Girl, carrying 10 small satellites for NASA.
Eight months after an unsuccessful first attempt, Virgin Orbit finally lived up to its name today and used an innovative air-launch system to put 10 satellites in orbit. With backing from British billionaire Richard Branson, Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system capitalizes on a concept that Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen funded 17 years ago. The air-launch concept won SpaceShipOne a $10 million prize back in 2004. Today, it plays an essential role not only for LauncherOne, but also for Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo system and the Stratolaunch venture that Allen founded in 2011. Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747 jet, nicknamed Cosmic Girl, serves… Read More
Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit reached space on Sunday, eight months after the first demonstration flight of its air-launched rocket system failed, the company said. A 70-foot-long (21.34-meter-long) LauncherOne rocket was released from beneath the wing of a Boeing 747 carrier aircraft off the coast of Southern California, ignited moments later and soared toward space. The two-stage rocket carried a cluster of very small satellites known as CubeSats developed and built as part of a NASA educational program involving U.S. universities.
Egypt has unveiled a significant new archaeological discovery at the Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo, including 54 wooden coffins, many of which can be traced back 3000 years to the New Kingdom period. The funerary temple of Queen Neit was also discovered near the pyramid of her husband, King Teti of Egypt's 6th dynasty which dates back 4200 years, said famed archaeologist Zahi Hawass, who headed the archaeological mission. The coffins, or sarcophagi, include the first dating back to the New Kingdom to be found at Saqqara, a UNESCO world heritage site that is home to the Step Pyramid, the tourism and antiquities ministry said in a statement.
Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit reached space for the first time on Sunday with a successful test of its air-launched rocket, delivering ten NASA satellites to orbit and achieving a key milestone after aborting the rocket’s first test launch last year. "According to telemetry, LauncherOne has reached orbit!" the company announced on Twitter during the test mission, dubbed Launch Demo 2. Roughly two hours after its Cosmic Girl carrier craft took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in southern California, the rocket, a 70-foot launcher tailored for carrying small satellites to space, successfully placed 10 tiny satellites in orbit for NASA, the company said on Twitter.
Egypt’s former antiquities minister and noted archaeologist Zahi Hawass on Sunday revealed details of an ancient funerary temple in a vast necropolis south of Cairo. Hawass told reporters at the Saqqara necropolis that archaeologists unearthed the temple of Queen Neit, wife of King Teti, the first king of the Sixth Dynasty that ruled Egypt from 2323 B.C. till 2150 B.C. Archaeologists also found a 4-meter (13-foot) long papyrus that includes texts of the Book of the Dead, which is a collection of spells aimed at directing the dead through the underworld in ancient Egypt, he said.
The Space Launch System's engines were supposed to fire together for eight minutes, but they abruptly shut down after about one minute.
Many think of Mt. St. Helens as one of the larger volcano eruptions, but they can get much bigger. Here's how the largest volcanoes measure up.
Firing up Space Launch System's core stage is a crucial step toward flying astronauts to the moon for the first time in more than 50 years.
In August 2012, Douglas Bastos, then a graduate student at Brazil’s Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, was exploring a remote waterway in the Amazon rainforest when he came across a small lake teeming with electric eels. Electric eels, which despite their name are actually a type of knifefish, were believed to be solitary creatures. And yet before Bastos’ eyes were more than 100 of them. Then things got even more jolting. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Bastos watched, astonished, as the writhing mass of eels began corralling groups of tetra fish into tightly packed balls and bombarding them with synchronized electric attacks that sent them flying. “When I saw the tetras jumping after the attacks, I was in shock,” Bastos said. “Group hunting is a rare event in freshwater fishes. My first reaction was to run to the boat and get a camera.” Two years later, Bastos and researchers from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History returned to the area to study this unusual phenomenon. The findings of their study, published Thursday in the journal Ecology and Evolution, overturn the idea that electric eels are exclusively solitary predators and raise new questions about the lives of these little-understood fish. When the researchers returned to the site, along the banks of Brazil’s Iriri River, they confirmed that the electric eels Bastos had observed in 2012 were Volta’s electric eels, a recently discovered species that can reach 8 feet in length and are capable of producing 860-volt electric shocks — the strongest electric discharge of any animal. For the past 250 years, scientists believed that all electric eels belonged to the same species, but in 2019, research conducted by C. David de Santana, a Smithsonian researcher, proved that there are at least three species, the largest and most electrified being the Volta’s electric eel. According to de Santana, a co-author of the new study, no such behavior had ever been documented in electric eels. “It was quite unexpected,” he said. Typically, electric eels hunt alone, sneaking up on sleeping fish and shocking them into submission. But hunting in groups can enable predators to hunt prey that would otherwise be too fast, such as the tiny tetras. Although many mammals, including wolves and orcas, are known to hunt in groups, the strategy is rarely employed by fish. Only nine species of fish, including the goldsaddle goldfish, are known to hunt in this fashion. Bastos and de Santana analyzed over 70 hours of footage of Volta’s electric eels conducting highly coordinated group hunts. At dawn and dusk, the slimy, snakelike creatures would congregate in shallow water and start swimming together in large circles. After corralling thousands of tiny fish into dense balls, the eels split off into cooperative hunting parties with two to 10 members. These parties would then surround the schools of terrified tetras and launch joint electric attacks, sending the tetras leaping out of the water. When the electrocuted fish splashed down, the eels quickly devoured them. Although the researchers weren’t able to measure the voltage of the coordinated electric attacks, they estimate that 10 Volta’s electric eels working together could create an electric current strong enough to power 100 light bulbs. The researchers suspect these electric eels orchestrate their attacks by communicating via low-voltage electric discharges. While it’s unclear if other species of electric eels hunt in groups, experts say it’s not unlikely. “It’s possible that all electric eel species hunt cooperatively,” said Kory Evans, a fish ecologist at Rice University. De Santana and his colleagues plan on returning to the Iriri River to collect tissue samples from the electric eels and equip them with radio tags so they can determine if familial relation plays any role in the fishes’ cooperation, as it does with other pack hunters. He also has plans to collect some of the eels from the wild so he and his collaborators can learn more about how these animals communicate. “There is so much to learn,” he said. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
In a dig at the outgoing Trump administration, President-elect Joe Biden introduced his slate of scientific advisers Saturday with the promise that they would summon “science and truth” to combat the coronavirus pandemic, climate crisis and other challenges. “This is the most exciting announcement I’ve gotten to make,” Biden said after weeks of Cabinet and other nominations and appointments. Biden is elevating the position of science adviser to Cabinet level, a White House first, and said that Eric Lander, a pioneer in mapping the human genome who is in line to be director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, is “one of the most brilliant guys I know.”
One of the world's longest-running wildlife field studies has fallen prey to the coronavirus pandemic. Since 1959, a research team has spent most of the winter observing the interplay between wolves and moose at Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior. Experts from several universities, the park service and the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa had planned to assess how an effort to rebuild the wolf population is affecting the ecosystem.
At least five people have died at a nursing home in Italy from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, local media and officials said on Saturday. Seven people, including two health workers, are being treated in hospital for symptoms related to carbon monoxide poisoning, the ANSA news agency said. "It's a tragedy," Interior Ministry Undersecretary Carlo Sibilia wrote in a Facebook post.
Large venues across the country are opening as mass COVID-19 vaccination sites in order to help the country's efforts to end the pandemic.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the measures are to ensure the new Brazilian variant doesn't put further pressure on the National Health Service.
The death toll is roughly the equivalent of the entire population of countries like Slovenia or Bahrain.
InSight lander's "mole" was unable to hammer through the Martian soil, and unusually dusty solar panels meant the robot was generating less power.
President-elect Joe Biden announced Friday that he has chosen a pioneer in mapping the human genome — the so-called “book of life” — to be his chief science adviser and is elevating the top science job to a Cabinet position. Biden nominated Eric Lander, founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, who was the lead author of the first paper announcing the details of the human genome, as director of Office of Science and Technology Policy and adviser on science.
“It helps them to hide their resource from others," said Stephen Trumbo, who studies animal behavior at the University of Connecticut and led the new research, published Thursday in The American Naturalist. The beetles — called burying beetles — aren't the only creatures who try to deceive their competitors or prey with subtle, sneaky tactics. The importance of these interactions are being recognized more and more, said Alexandre Figueiredo, a biologist at University of Zurich, who was not involved in the new study.
“If you’re looking to win elections, it is probably best not to urge your supporters not to vote.”
“Warnock’s portrayal of himself as a dog lover, a means of overcoming white suspicions of Black men, smacked of pure genius.”
“Trump has done damage to the Republican brand among suburban voters that goes well beyond just races where he is on the ballot.”
“Once more, Democrats must profusely thank activist Stacey Abrams.”
“Overall, demographic trends show that the state’s electorate is becoming younger and more diverse each year.”