PODCAST-19: FiveThirtyEight on the Novel Coronavirus

By FiveThirtyEight, Anna Rothschild

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FiveThirtyEight's COVID-19 podcast is laser-focused on evidence. What do we know about the novel coronavirus, and what do we know we don't know? COVID-19 has pushed Americans into more uncertain territory than most have ever known. Our podcast helps listeners understand what they can be certain about, and what is still unknown. We investigate coronavirus mysteries, debate when it's safe to reopen the economy and keep track of the latest scientific developments on vaccines and treatments. We do it all with FiveThirtyEight's trademark blend of transparency and rigor.

Episode Date
The Lab Leak Commotion
We have no hard evidence to support the idea that the novel coronavirus was leaked from a lab, let alone a smoking gun to validate that hypothesis. But despite pushback on this story from many scientists and the media early on, it’s back in the news, and many are talking about the possibility of a lab leak. There may be some legitimate reasons to do more digging, but the debate has gotten heated. And when a conversation is centered around controversy, instead of science, we can lose sight of the bigger, more important picture.
Jun 02, 2021
Who Should Decide Who Gets To Make COVID-19 Vaccines?
There's a worldwide shortage of vaccines but plenty of factories standing by to make them. Why is there such a gap between what we need and what we can make? On this week's episode, we explore the surprisingly wild world of pharmaceutical patent law to understand how our system came to be and how it has shaped the pandemic.
May 22, 2021
How To Make Sure Your Kid Isn't A Superspreader
Kids can't get a COVID-19 vaccination yet, but they're unlikely to develop serious complications from the disease. But they can still be vectors to spread COVID-19 to others who are likely to get very sick. On this week's episode, we look into how big of a risk unvaccinated kids pose to society, and what parents should keep in mind.
May 07, 2021
You Might Have Given The Coronavirus To Your Cat
We've learned time and again that animals can give diseases to humans. We've seen this happen with coronaviruses, the flu, Ebola -- basically most major disease outbreaks in recent memory. But, of course, the reverse is true too: Humans can give viruses, including the novel coronavirus, to animals. FiveThirtyEight’s senior science writer Maggie Koerth wrote about this on the site earlier this week, and she joined PODCAST-19, FiveThirtyEight’s coronavirus podcast, to discuss her work further.
Apr 28, 2021
What A Donated Vaccine Can Do
The United States has a surplus of COVID-19 vaccines — more than enough to vaccinate every adult. Poor countries, however, are still struggling to secure doses. Should those vaccines be sent to countries in need? If not, who will do the sending? And should rich countries profit off the exchange?
Apr 22, 2021
The Johnson & Johnson Pause Shows The System Is Working
Federal health agencies asked states to pause in their use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while U.S. officials investigate reports of an extremely rare blood-clotting syndrome that has developed in six people who have received the vaccine. Given how few people are sick, why did the U.S. recommend a pause? And what's it say about how the monitoring system is working?
Apr 13, 2021
What The Heck Is Going On With AstraZeneca's Vaccine?
The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has been hailed as the world’s vaccine -- it’s inexpensive to produce and doesn’t need super-cold storage like the mRNA vaccines do. But its rollout has been messy. Will its missteps erode the public's (or the FDA's) trust? Maggie Koerth joins to discuss.
Mar 26, 2021
How To Overcome Vaccine Hesitancy
At some point, the U.S. is going to run out of people eager to get the vaccine, and we’ll need to work hard to convert those who are still hesitant or don’t know how to get it. It won’t be the first time we’ve done so. For months, community leaders have been working to overcome transportation challenges, language barriers, and digital divides. We speak to five of those leaders on this week's episode to hear how they convinced people to get the vaccine, and what that might mean for the months to come.
Mar 22, 2021
The COVID-19 Endemic
On this week's show, we discuss what the endgame of the pandemic will be. It likely isn't herd immunity. And if herd immunity isn't the goal, does that change how people should behave once they're vaccinated? We have a science-backed guide for how to evaluate what's risky and what's safe among the vaccinated.
Mar 06, 2021
How Variants Complicate Everything
Coronavirus mutations have complicated our path forward. But that doesn’t mean that our current plan out of the pandemic is futile.
Feb 19, 2021
The Ethical Dilemmas Prompted By The Vaccine Rollout
Should you take a leftover vaccine? Should you pass up a vaccine if you think you don't need it as much as someone else does? We talk to bioethicists to get their answers on these questions and more.
Feb 05, 2021
What Happens Once You Get An mRNA Vaccine
Anna talks with Dr. Margaret Liu, one of the pioneers of gene-based vaccines, about vaccines that use mRNA to help us build immunity to COVID-19, including the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. How is this method different from vaccines in the past, and what does the mRNA do once it gets inside our bodies?
Jan 15, 2021
Answering All (Or At Least Some) Of Your Vaccine Questions
There are so many questions about a COVID-19 vaccine that we didn't know where to begin. So we began with you! We took to the mailbag to find answers on vaccine availability, immunity, and more.
Jan 07, 2021
The Dr. Fauci Holiday Special
On the first day of Christmas, PODCAST-19 gave to me ... an interview with Dr. Fauci. Dr. Anthony Fauci stops by the pod to talk about post-vaccine life, the new variant of the virus in the U.K. and which celebrity he'd like to see vaccinated.
Dec 22, 2020
Why Emily Oster Made Her Own COVID-19 Database
Data has been such a valuable commodity during the pandemic. Unfortunately, at times data has been in short supply, because US government agencies haven’t always undertaken national data collection efforts. So what happens when individuals citizens try to collect data themselves? We talk to Professor Emily Oster, who developed a national COVID-19 School Response Dashboard, to find out what she’s learned about COVID in schools, the implications of volunteers developing their own public health trackers, and how she thinks the Biden administration will approach pandemic data collection.
Dec 11, 2020
How To Trust That A COVID-19 Vaccine Is Safe
It feels like a cure for this pandemic may be in sight. But for many people, injecting a brand-new scientific discovery into their body won't sit well. So, how are scientists making sure that a COVID-19 vaccine won’t cause more damage than the disease? How do regulators decide what an acceptable side effect is? And what would happen if someone did have a serious reaction to the COVID vaccine after it was released? This week, we’re devoting our whole show to vaccine safety.
Nov 21, 2020
There's No Longterm Plan For Long COVID
Our producer, Sinduja Srinivasan, reports on long COVID, and how our health care system might cope with so many patients with ongoing symptoms.
Nov 13, 2020
What To Make Of Pfizer's Big Vaccine Announcement
This week, Pfizer announced that its coronavirus vaccine may be more than 90 percent effective. Anna and FiveThirtyEight's senior science writer, Maggie Koerth, discuss what we know (and don't know) about about the vaccine.
Nov 10, 2020
How To Vote Safely In A Pandemic
We talk with FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich and Maggie Koerth about how states are trying to make it safe to vote in person this Election Day, and what you should keep in mind as you go to the polls.
Oct 29, 2020
Would Biden’s COVID-19 Plan Be Able To Control The Pandemic?
Joe Biden says he can fight the pandemic better than President Trump. But is his plan really that different? And does it address what experts say needs to be improved upon?
Oct 16, 2020
The President Took A Rare Combo Of COVID-19 Drugs. Will It Help?
After testing positive for COVID-19 last week, President Trump was given the three experimental drugs: an antiviral, monoclonal antibodies, and a steroid. On this week’s episode of PODCAST-19, we discuss what happens when all three drugs are combined and why the average American can't expect to receive the same treatment.
Oct 07, 2020
The Significance Of Trump Testing Positive For COVID-19
Today we learned that President Trump tested positive for COVID-19. In this special crossover episode, the crew from the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast sat down with senior science writer and Podcast-19 contributor Maggie Koerth to talk about medical implications for the President, and the impact his diagnosis might have on the election.
Oct 02, 2020
The New College Experience
As schools of all levels struggle to find a new way to educate students, universities, in particular, have had a difficult time navigating classes and campus life. On this week's show, we talk to a student navigating quarantined dorm life at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a scientist who helped design a different approach to testing for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Sep 26, 2020
Can We Trust A Vaccine That Gets Approved?
On this week’s episode of PODCAST-19, we discuss whether the FDA vaccine approval process can withstand political interference and how the agency can reassure the public that everything is working as it should.
Sep 19, 2020
Why A Vaccine Trial Would Press Pause
We discuss the news that AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine trial has been paused because of a severe side effect for one participant, and how temporarily halting a trial can sometimes mean the process is working as intended.
Sep 12, 2020
The U.S. Wants Out Of A Global Effort To Stop A Global Pandemic
The U.S. doesn't want to participate in a global effort to find and distribute a vaccine for COVID-19. Anna talks with FiveThirtyEight senior science writer Maggie Koerth about what that decision might mean for the country and the world.
Sep 04, 2020
What's It Going To Take For Us To Become Immune?
On this week's episode, we explore what it means that people can get reinfected with COVID-19, and how we can still develop immunity to the disease. We also explore why the approach to masks in the Netherlands is so much more lax than in parts of the U.S., even though Holland has done a better job of suppressing COVID-19.
Aug 28, 2020
Russia Approved A COVID Vaccine. Will It Be Available In America?
Russia is the first country in the world to approve a vaccine for COVID-19. To do so, they’ve reportedly sped through multiple steps in the testing process. Judy Twigg, a political scientist from Virginia Commonwealth University, talks about the state of medical research in Russia, and the political implications of this move. Also, we hear about the people who want to get COVID, for science! And we explore a new vaccine with promising early results.
Aug 14, 2020
PODCAST-19 Has The Week Off!
We were no match for extreme weather this week, but we'll be back next week!
Aug 07, 2020
Lab-Grown Antibodies Might Protect Essential Workers
This week on Podcast-19, we talk about lab-grown antibodies, called monoclonal antibodies, that could temporarily protect people from COVID-19. How soon might they be available for the public? We also explore the long history of a COVID drug touted as a lifesaver, and learn about an inhalable treatment that might keep coronavirus patients off ventilators.
Jul 31, 2020
It's Harder to Get A COVID Test If You're Black Or Hispanic
Who has access to COVID-19 testing in America? FiveThirtyEight and ABC News uncover some staggering disparities along racial lines. Also on today’s show, what are safe activities these days? Can you take a taxi? Eat outside at a restaurant? Senior Science Writer Maggie Koerth explores COVID’s murky middle. And finally, we check in on our oceans’ humpback whales. Yes, whales. On a coronavirus podcast.
Jul 24, 2020
When Does A Pandemic Start To Erode Civil Liberties?
Mask mandates have become a polarizing issue across the country, from Arizona to Georgia. So, where do we draw the line between public health and civil liberties? Also, we talk about air -- how can buildings ensure it's safe to breathe during the pandemic? And finally, some good vaccine news.
Jul 17, 2020
Dr. Anthony Fauci Talks With PODCAST-19
Anna Rothschild interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci about how the U.S. is doing compared to other countries, how American partisanship has influenced our recovery efforts, and how a COVID-19 vaccine might influence the future of vaccine acceptance in our country.
Jul 09, 2020
How To Convince People To Stop A Pandemic
How do you convey information about the coronavirus in a way that will compel people to change their behavior? As COVID cases rise in Florida, Texas, and Arizona, we look at how psychologists recommend we talk about public health.
Jul 03, 2020
Do Masks Actually Work?
Maggie Koerth and Kaleigh Rogers join the show to discuss the science of face masks, and whether we actually know anything now that we didn't when the pandemic started.
Jun 26, 2020
Who Will Be First To Get A COVID Vaccine?
Creating a vaccine for COVID-19 is just the first step. Policy makers and manufacturers then need to make a lot of it. So, who will be first in line for the immunization?
Jun 19, 2020
The Case Of The Bogus Hydroxycholoroquine Study
A major medical journal reported that hydroxychloroquine harmed COVID patients, but a group of Twitter sleuths uncovered evidence that the paper wasn't what it seemed.
Jun 12, 2020
What It's Like To Be A Black Doctor And Nurse Right Now
Black Americans are facing two crises: a pandemic that has an outsize impact on their community, and decades of police brutality that have sparked protests nationwide.
Jun 05, 2020
Is One Coronavirus Strain Worse Than Another?
Plus, why have Americans retained their trust in science despite protests against its findings? And finally, the good news is poopy news this week.
May 29, 2020
Why The Death Count Is Almost Certainly Too Low
One man's story helps show who is going uncounted in the COVID-19 death count. Elsewhere, there's some promising immunity news to share.
May 22, 2020
How Close Are We To Herd Immunity?
Without a vaccine, just how likely are we to reach herd immunity? Also, we hear some good news about COVID-19 antibodies -both in humans and...llamas?!
May 15, 2020
How An Army Of Contact Tracers Could Help
Experts say that to fight COVID-19 we need to track every infection. But is it too late? Also, we investigate why the disease is killing more men than women.
May 08, 2020
Are Coronavirus Antibody Tests Reliable?
And why are some young people getting so sick? Find out on FiveThirtyEight's new COVID-19 podcast.
May 01, 2020
PODCAST-19: FiveThirtyEight on the Novel Coronavirus
FiveThirtyEight's COVID-19 podcast is laser-focused on evidence. What do we know about the novel coronavirus, and what do we know we don't know? COVID-19 has pushed Americans into more uncertain territory than most have ever known. Our podcast helps listeners understand what they can be certain about, and what is still unknown. We investigate coronavirus mysteries, debate when it's safe to reopen the economy and keep track of the latest scientific developments on vaccines and treatments. We do it all with FiveThirtyEight's trademark blend of transparency and rigor.
Apr 28, 2020