Optimism may be dangerous in a pandemic, say behavioral psychologists

Most people believe themselves to be less at risk from COVID-19 than others similar to them, according to a recent UCL survey conducted in the U.S.

  • A study surveying 1,145 people in the U.S. found that the majority of people believed that they were less likely to catch the virus than the average person, regardless of the person's age or gender.
  • The most effective way to counter the damaging effects of cognitive bias in the context of COVID-19 may be by calling on empathy in individuals.
  • The dangerous effects of optimism bias may be compounded by confirmation bias, salience bias, and internet echo chambers.
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How do pandemics end? History suggests diseases fade but are almost never truly gone

Instead of looking forward, we should be consulting the past.

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When will the pandemic end? All these months in, with over 37 million COVID-19 cases and more than 1 million deaths globally, you may be wondering, with increasing exasperation, how long this will continue.

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Plant-grown vaccines: the next step in medicine?

Medicago is growing a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate in a relative of the tobacco plant right now.

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  • Canadian biotech company Medicago is growing a vaccine candidate in Nicotiana benthamiana.
  • An Australian relative to tobacco, plant-based vaccines could be cheaper and more reliable than current methods.
  • Medicago just completed phase 3 clinical trials of an influenza vaccine, which could be a game-changer for vaccine production.
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What does kindness look like? It wears a mask.

Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling has an important favor to ask of the American people.

  • Michael Dowling is president and CEO of Northwell Health, the largest health care system in New York state. In this PSA, speaking as someone whose company has seen more COVID-19 patients than any other in the country, Dowling implores Americans to wear masks—not only for their own health, but for the health of those around them.
  • The CDC reports that there have been close to 7.9 million cases of coronavirus reported in the United States since January. Around 216,000 people have died from the virus so far with hundreds more added to the tally every day. Several labs around the world are working on solutions, but there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.
  • The most basic thing that everyone can do to help slow the spread is to practice social distancing, wash your hands, and to wear a mask. The CDC recommends that everyone ages two and up wear a mask that is two or more layers of material and that covers the nose, mouth, and chin. Gaiters and face shields have been shown to be less effective at blocking droplets. Homemade face coverings are acceptable, but wearers should make sure they are constructed out of the proper materials and that they are washed between uses. Wearing a mask is the most important thing you can do to save lives in your community.
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Vitamin D may lower risk of contracting COVID-19, says new research

A series of recent studies found that people with healthy levels of vitamin D were less likely to contract COVID-19 and suffer severe complications from it.

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  • Vitamin D is known to play a role in healthy immune system function.
  • If further research confirms that vitamin D may help prevent people from contracting COVID-19, it could become a relatively cheap and scalable strategy to stop the spread of the virus.
  • You can get vitamin D through sunlight, diet, supplements, and prescription.
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