How to Make Smart COVID Risk-Benefit Decisions

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April 25, 2022

Dear Reader,

As mask mandates fall by the wayside even as COVID cases creep up again in some places, we're entering a phase of the pandemic in which decisions about risks and benefits are increasingly left up to individuals. Devabhaktuni Srikrishna asked experts in epidemiology, risk tolerance and other fields how to make smarter decisions. Also, our partner publication Nature has the latest on brain-computer interfaces that could enable people with paralysis to move and communicate.

Tanya Lewis, Senior Editor, Health & Medicine

Epidemiology

How to Make Smart COVID Risk-Benefit Decisions

Scientific American asks experts in medicine, risk assessment and other fields how to balance the risks of COVID with the benefits of visiting public indoor spaces

By Devabhaktuni Srikrishna

Neuroscience

Brain-Reading Devices Help Paralyzed People Move, Talk and Touch

Implants are becoming more sophisticated—and are attracting commercial interest

By Liam Drew,Nature magazine

Public Health

Why We Need to Upgrade Our Face Masks--and Where to Get Them

High-quality respirators such as N95s and KN95s are now widely available and provide the best protection against COVID, according to experts. Why aren't more people wearing them?

By Tanya Lewis

Microbiology

Kitchen Sponges Help Breed Bacteria Better

There's a structural reason your sponge hosts so many microbes

By Joanna Thompson

Conservation

The Scientists Fighting for Parasite Conservation

Parasites play an outsize role in balancing ecosystems, and some species may be in danger

By Rachel Nuwer

Animals

Mosquitoes See Red (Literally) when They Smell Human Breath

The insects target red tones when they are exposed to carbon dioxide

By Niko McCarty

Public Health

New Antiobesity Drugs Help People Shed Dozens of Pounds, but They Must Be Taken for a Lifetime

Injectable weight-loss medicines reduce appetite but raise questions of long-term safety and affordability

By Claudia Wallis

Epidemiology

Are New Omicron Subvariants a Threat? How Scientists are Keeping Watch

In South Africa, a network of researchers are studying whether new lineages BA.4 and BA.5 escape immunity from COVID-19 vaccines and prior infections

By Amy Maxmen,Nature magazine

Public Health

Venturing Back to the Office and the Benefits of Hybrid Immunity: COVID Quickly, Episode 28

Today we bring you a new episode in our podcast series COVID, Quickly. Every two weeks, Scientific American's senior health editors Tanya Lewis and Josh Fischman catch you up on the essential developments in the pandemic: from vaccines to new variants and everything in between.

You can listen to all past episodes here.

By Tanya Lewis,Josh Fischman,Tulika Bose | 06:52

Epidemiology

New Cases of Childhood Diabetes Rose during the Pandemic

It isn't clear why, but researchers are investigating a possible COVID link

By Carolyn Barber
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QUOTE OF THE DAY

"I will say it's taken a lot of time for me to be comfortable with [taking my mask off indoors]. Once transmission rates...start increasing a bit, I'm putting my mask back on."

Katelyn Jetelina, epidemiologist who studies COVID risks at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, on taking off her mask indoors.

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