Elena Conis is a historian of U.S. public health and medicine, with a special focus on the history of infectious disease, environmental health, and vaccines.
What would have happened if large-scale policies like shelter-in-place orders, travel restrictions, and business closures were not implemented early in the COVID-19 pandemic?
Regarding the pandemic, here’s more bad news: One of the lowest-paying specialties in medicine is infectious diseases.
I have always said that I like hard problems, but the current set of crises we are facing is challenging even my taste for the difficult. As a nation, we are facing three complexly inter-related series of events—the pandemic, the economic disruption resulting from it, and urgent self-questioning about social justice and systemic racism.
Ever since Bay Area school districts announced they would begin the fall 2020 school year with distance learning due to the still-increasing rate of COVID-19 infection across the region, parents have been scrambling to figure out how to manage their children’s schooling.
Posted on September 3, 2020 - 10:28am
In mid-April, the United Nations Secretary-General formally identified a parallel “pandemic” to COVID-19: a “misinfo-demic” or false news about the virus. Conspiracy theories, dangerous fake health advice, and discrimination and stigma related to the virus—from its origin to how it can be prevented or cured—have all spread like wildfire.
Posted on August 20, 2020 - 12:08pm
From the beginning, it was an ambitious idea. Computer automation would remove the taint of human emotion or prejudice from everyday life. Algorithms—the series of instructions that tell computers what to do—would make important decisions about everything from hiring to health care.
The reality, as Ziad Obermeyer discovered, is not quite that simple.
Posted on August 12, 2020 - 12:27pm
I arrived at UC Berkeley in the fall of 1980 set on earning my PhD in astrophysics, and left five years later with an English degree and a burning passion for writing and reporting. What happened? John Bishop happened. One brilliant teacher, kind and absurdly generous, lit an internal flare inside of me that illuminated my imagination from within, with arc-welder intensity.
Posted on June 16, 2020 - 4:35pm
“The future will not, in crucial ways, be anything like the past, even the very recent past of a month or two ago,” the author Rebecca Solnit, M.A. ’84, wrote of the pandemic in the Guardian in early April. In a crisis, Solnit wrote, “Our focus shifts, and what matters shifts. What is weak breaks under new pressure, what is strong holds, and what was hidden emerges.”
LATELY, I’VE BEEN COLLECTING NEWS of wildlife appearing in deserted towns and cities around the world: Wild goats roaming shuttered Welsh villages, jackals skulking in the streets of Tel Aviv, Indian bison ambling along vacant highways in New Delhi, coyotes howling in North Beach. As we shelter in place, the animals are rushing into the void. And not just the charismatic megafauna, either. Witness the legions of dumpster-deprived rats battling nightly on Bourbon Street.
Under shelter-in-place our lives have gone digital: distance learning, virtual conferences, online cocktail hours, and more. As Internet usage is up, bandwidth has been strained. According to BroadbandNow, which provides comparison data about Internet service providers, average download speeds in Berkeley dropped 15 percent between February and March. At least we have ways of staying connected while remaining physically distant—even if it means some buffering. Here we imagine a day in the life of a Berkeley student.
Researchers Investigate How to Decontaminate Masks for Reuse
The last literary essay I wrote was about dystopian fiction. At the time, in 2016, I had been struck by the publication, within the space of a few months, of a large number of novels offering visions of the future in which some catastrophe—climate change, natural disaster, financial collapse, a pandemic—destroys society as we know it, plunging humankind back into a nightmarish anti-Eden. I was curious about what such novels—written by authors who did not characteristically write science fiction—said about our current state of mind, our anxieties and fears.
Let me begin with heartfelt congratulations to the 2020 graduates of Berkeley who, like their peers across the country, were deprived of their commencement ceremonies by the coronavirus and the need for social distancing.
As the death toll for COVID-19 crosses 100,000 people in the United States—the highest number of any country in the world—African Americans continue to be disproportionately impacted by the virus. Nationally, African Americans are nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as would be expected based on their share of the population according to an NPR analysis.
Posted on June 2, 2020 - 4:26pm