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The 2020 pandemic has seen plenty of twists and turns. This week the headlines brought good news and bad.

Whilst the announcements from Pfizer and BioNTech regarding an effective vaccine brought hope there is still a long way to go. With an efficacy around the 90% mark, it shows real promise but the full data is yet to be released. Many more clinical trials will be needed before the FDA begins emergency authorization.

The first trials had controlled conditions. 2 doses were given one week apart. The vaccine formula is pretty fragile; it requires storing at temperatures below -75 degrees Celsius (-103 degrees Fahrenheit). Outside of lab conditions in the real world, this could be logistically impossible for some facilities. 

Both Pfizer and BioNTech have said they should have enough data By next week to present to the FDA. That gives a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

The number rises and doesn’t fall

Unfortunately, cases in the US have steadily risen hitting new highs. Last week The New York Times reported that the daily records averaged out at 134,078. Many ICU’s have found themselves overwhelmed without beds to spare amid the rise. Data shows the surge and lockdowns are being issued by many states in response.

The situation is worsening and healthcare workers are speaking out. In an article by Ed Yong for The Atlantic, infectious disease doctor Eli Perencevich from the University of Iowa commented. He stated that the real wave hadn’t yet hit Iowa but he was already worried when looking at case numbers. “If it keeps rising and rising, and we’re all running on fear. The health-care system in Iowa is going to collapse, no question.”

With the healthcare system suffering and numbers skyrocketing the curve is becoming a cliff. It is no longer a case of flattening the US is going to have to buck-up ideas and put plans in place to tackle the pandemic head-on before things collapse.

Nicole Wetsman over at The Verge believes the hard work will prevail. Stating that “The light is still months away, but it’s there. We only have to make sure as many people as possible can get to it.”

For more from The Verge; Mary Beth Griggs has plenty to say about the latest Covid news in her recent article. Here is all the latest research and development news elsewhere.

Covid research news

New Science Suggests How to Shorten Quarantine

(Roxanne Khamsi/Elemental)

A 14-day quarantine could be shortened to just 8 days providing the person took 2 COVID tests. As the tests aren’t widely available this might not be a quick fix we see anytime soon. Again the study is yet to be reviewed by other researchers but it does sound interesting.

New Type of Test May Better Discern Immunity to the Coronavirus

(Apoorva Mandivalli/NYT)

T-cells fight viruses just like your antibodies. They could well prove more effective at discerning herd immunity. A new blood test has been developed by a company to detect T-cells and help calm the storm. Data is not yet under review.

We helped a New York sewage plant check poop for the coronavirus

(Nicole Wetsman/The Verge)

One ‘lucky’ video team from The Verge visited a local sewage plant to see how wastewater facilities are working to trace the spread of coronavirus.

Covid-19 vaccine development news

Pfizer’s announcement shows the promise of gene-based vaccines

(Nicole Wetsman/The Verge)

Trials for an mRNA-based vaccine look promising and if successful they could change the way vaccines are made in the future.

Pfizer says placebo patients will eventually get its Covid-19 vaccine. The question of when is complicated

(Matthew Herper/STAT)

Pfizer has announced that those participants that were given a placebo in place of the vaccine will get a vaccine once it is authorized. 

Russia’s claim of a successful COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t pass the ‘smell test,’ critics say

(Jon Cohen/Science)

Russia has announced successful results from its ‘Sputnik V’ vaccine trial. It is speculated this is purely in response to the competition from Pfizer and BioNTech. The Russian tests only examined 20 covid samples, fewer than the 94 that Pfizer and Biotech took into consideration.

Pfizer’s ultra-cold vaccine, a ‘very complex’ distribution plan, and an exploding head emoji

(Elizabeth Cohen, John Bonifield, and Sierra Jenkins/CNN)

A logistical look at the state level of planning that will be required if the new frigid vaccine gets the go-ahead.

‘We’re being left behind’: Rural hospitals can’t afford ultra-cold freezers to store the leading Covid-19 vaccine

(Olivia Goldhill/STAT)

The worrying truth of how rural hospitals with fewer resources will cope. If ultra-cold freezers become required what’ll rural hospitals do?

This week’s Covid opinions

“My grandfather’s death, six months into the pandemic, is more than a tragedy. His fate is as political as it’s biological. And I am furious.”

—From COVID took my grandfather. But it wasn’t what killed him by Sarah Jones in The Cut

“They don’t want to be watched over or babysat or told what to do, and I can understand that, but I’d like to believe we’re still capable of making a communal sacrifice. Stay home. Be reasonable. Wear a mask.”

—Tom Dean, a doctor in South Dakota on the dire situation in his home. As told to Eli Saslow, The Washington Post.

Lastly a numbers update

To date, the number of positive tests worldwide has exceeded 53,492,701. We hope they’re on the road to recovery and keep them in our thoughts.

More than 1,304,864 people have lost their lives fighting Covid worldwide. Of that number over 244,364 were US deaths. The pandemic will likely take more, take precautions, and take care.

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