Briefing on the coronavirus: what happened today


Black Americans were once less likely than any other racial group to be vaccinated. But a spate of pro-vaccine campaigns, employer mandates and a spate of virus deaths have helped narrow that gap.

A roughly equal proportion of black, white and Hispanic adult populations — 70 percent of black adults, 71 percent of white adults and 73 percent of Hispanic adults — have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. .

My colleague Audra DS Burch, a national correspondent, said community groups played a vital role in shifting opinions. Some of the most vital work involved clearing basic logistical hurdles: providing internet access to make appointments, arranging transportation to vaccine sites, and sending familiar faces to knock on doors to dispel myths.

While the efforts paid off, there are still those who cite various reasons not to take a chance, ranging from security concerns and health disparities to political identity and anti-government ideology.

“What we found is that some African Americans went through their own journey, their own way of going from no to yes,” Audra said. “And for some people, that meant reconciling a very painful history in which African Americans have been mistreated, abused and neglected for hundreds of years.”

Audra specifically spoke to many residents of Tuskegee, Ala., where the U.S. Public Health Service conducted an infamous syphilis experiment in which hundreds of black men were deliberately left without treatment. It ran over the course of 40 years and ended in 1972 after it was revealed in a news story.

Experts say the syphilis experiment was part of a long history of medical exploitation and neglect by black Americans, which eroded trust in government and health care systems.

“You’re talking about scaling this mountain of history — although the experiment and the vaccines are very different — and then making a decision about vaccination,” Audra said. ‘And that was not so long ago. You’re talking about people’s fathers and grandfathers, uncles, brothers. And what’s important to understand is that people I spoke to said it wasn’t necessarily the study, but that the study was a metaphor for distrust of government and distrust of medical institutions. The Tuskegee process represented in many ways what our government was capable of.”

The legacy of the study is not the only factor in vaccine hesitancy among some groups of African Americans. Differences in health care may also play a role, Audra said. As for the vaccination campaigns in Macon County, where many descendants of the Tuskegee trails live, “the numbers are improving,” Audra said, “so obviously some people are reconciling history.”


Newly discovered coronaviruses found in Laotian bats give us a hint as to the origin of Covid-19.

My colleague Carl Zimmer writes that in the summer of 2020, scientists collected samples of bat droppings from the forests of northern Laos and found that they contained coronaviruses, including three with molecular hooks on their surfaces very similar to those found on SARS-CoV-2. , the virus that causes Covid-19 and allows them to attach to human cells.

The findings have important implications for the charged debate about the origins of Covid. Some people have speculated that SARS-CoV-2’s impressive ability to infect human cells could not have evolved naturally. But the new findings seem to suggest otherwise.

“That really makes the notion that this virus had to have been invented or somehow engineered in a lab to infect humans so well,” said Michael Worobey, a University of Arizona virologist who was not involved in the work.

Experts suspect that these Covid-like viruses may already be infecting people from time to time, causing only mild and limited outbreaks. But under the right circumstances, the pathogens could give rise to a Covid-19-like pandemic.



My husband and I got breakthrough infections last week, less than five days after his scheduled booster shot. The callousness of our fellow Oklahomans has put us, and our unvaccinated—and now infected—children in grave danger. I am currently working through a lot of anger towards our neighbors and colleagues, and I feel completely disconnected from my community. Unfortunately, I don’t speak their language anymore because I trust the scientific method, and so many of us just don’t, because it doesn’t fit with our religious upbringing here in the farmland. Yes, absolutely distrust your government. Nevertheless, science isn’t bad, and I’m pretty sure Jesus wanted people to use their brains.

— Heather Bowles, Tulsa

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