There is a large amount of concern about this new strain of COVID that just Monday was confirmed to have reached New York State.
At this time, I keep hearing that it is more contagious than the strain we are familiar with but not more lethal.
What we don’t know, and what we will have to find out, is whether it is as sensitive to the approved vaccines as the strain we are most familiar with.
I am personally concerned that we are losing our focus on standard epidemiologic ways of preventing spread: This is not the time to give up on distancing, masks, and avoiding groups let alone crowds.
In preparing these columns, as I have stated in the past, there is a plethora of new information available every day.
There are at least 50 articles I can choose from, not including original scientific journal articles, that number several hundred each week on all platforms. None of these individual articles can give an overall picture of what is happening and the basic science in an organized fashion.
Interestingly, a close friend, an electrical engineer, turned me onto an online course offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this past semester for undergraduates and graduate students. There were 13 lectures, about 45 minutes long, on many aspects of the COVID-19 crisis by experts who are leaders in their fields. The course is available to anyone online at no charge.
While some of the lectures, and lecturers, are a bit esoteric, some were quite easy to follow. Many explain things so simply and well that the average interested person can come away with a fairly complete understanding of the important points of this pandemic and how the biology behind treating it works and is implemented.
I suggest at least taking a look at it and going over some of the lecturers. I admit several of the lecturers, while leaders in their fields, had problems speaking to a non-technical audience but most of them did a good job of educating overall.
To access the course, Google “MIT course 7.00”, then hit the first listing. Individual lectures can also be found through YouTube.
I am over 40 years from studying this material as coursework and much of what we know about viruses and immunology has changed since then but as I said above, some of the lecturers were able to distill out the essence of what they were saying so that anyone with only a high school biology background could follow it.
I particularly found interesting the first lecture, “COVID-19 and the Pandemic,” the second lecture “Corona Virus Pathology” and the fourth lecture, “Insights from the Corona Virus Pandemic” (which is given by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is a wonderful teacher)
Number 10, “Vaccines”, is also among the easiest to understand for non-technical audiences.
It is very important that all of us try to obtain as much factual knowledge as possible.
Only in this way can we make informed decisions for ourselves and our families. Taking a course like this one I describe is as equally important as to gathering information by reading individual articles.