Updated: 2021-04-29 ** Added NYT story about how vaccines are made, and my guide to how to get vaccinated in Taiwan.
Updated: 2021-03-09 ** Added information about CDC guidance for people who are fully vaccinated.
Updated: 2021-02-03 ** Added a link to Science Magazine’s fact check of the “Plandemic” video.
Updated: 2020-05-18 ** Added a link to Science Magazine’s fact check of the “Plandemic” video.
I want to start out by saying that I am not a doctor (not the medical kind, anyways) and nothing I say here should be interpreted as medical advice. I am, however, a scientist, and I thought I could do my part by putting together a list of some resources for people who are dealing with COVID-19 and the associated lockdowns, quarantines, etc. I wanted to gather all these resources in one place for myself and other and also avoid spamming my social media with each of these things individually.
FYI: Myself and my immediate family are all safe and healthy. Vanessa and I live in Taiwan, which has done a fantastic job of controlling the spread of the COVID-19. There have only been a handful of domestic cases since May 2020, and no community transmission.
My advice: get the vaccine as soon as you can
I’m not a medical doctor, but as a scientist and a person who has closely followed the progress of vaccine development and regulatory approval, I have complete confidence in the vaccines that have been approved for use in the US and Europe including those by Moderna, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech. While these vaccines were developed in record time, I do not believe there have been any compromises made on safety. These vaccines have all been shown to be safe in tens of thousands of clinical study volunteers and now millions of regular recipients. The vaccines are extremely effective (>90%) at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infections and almost completely eliminate the risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death. In addition to protecting the people who are vaccinated, there is now preliminary evidence that the vaccines also prevent you from spreading the virus, thus protecting the people around you too. Widespread vaccination is the only way we will be able to return to life as normal.
Check out this fascinating New York Times story that explains how the vaccines are manufactured in a 60-day process, half of which is dedicated to testing to ensure quality and safety. (It’s mostly beautiful short videos).
If you are feeling unsure about the vaccine, ask your doctor about it!
Also, if you live in Taiwan, I wrote a guide about how to make an appointment to get vaccinated.
Once you are fully vaccinated
(Current as of 2021-03-09)
The vaccines for COVID-19 are highly effective at preventing COVID-19 and almost completely effective at preventing severe disease and death. However, it is not currently known whether vaccinated people can transmit the disease, so it is important to remain cautious. On March 8, 2021 the CDC released its preliminary guidance for fully-vaccinated people to keep themselves and others safe. Even for fully vaccinated people, it is still important to mask up in public and avoid medium to large gatherings, and the CDC is still recommending delaying all nonessential domestic and international travel. Read the full guidelines here.
My personal advice for staying safe and sane:
- Don’t listen to me, listen to your public health authorities.
- Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap (sing the chorus of Toto’s Africa to yourself)
- Wear a cloth face covering when you are in public, or a disposable mask if you have access to them (or both).(how-to)
- Practice social distancing
- Keep track of the news in moderation
- Spend some time each day not thinking about the pandemic
How to help out (NEW)
- STAY HOME
- Smarter Every Day on YouTube: How to get involved with producing protective gear
Understanding what is going on
- Minutephysics on Youtube explains How to tell if we’re beating COVID-19 and how exponential growth works in simple language with some great graphs and animations.
- A mathematician explains how “flattening the curve” works with a mathematical model of infections on Numberphile (YouTube). They’ve also posted their Geogebra file so you can play around with it yourself (Geogebra is a free math program).
- 3Blue1Brown has a great video demonstrating the importance of testing and social distancing using a bunch of simulations of transmission.
- Washington Post simulation article
- You might also want to check out this really cool interactive outbreak simulation where you can adjust the parameters yourself and see what happens.
- Harvard Business Review article about the lessons we can learn from Italy’s experience with Covid-19.
- The Atlantic’s long-term view about what will happen with Covid-19 in the coming weeks, months and years and how the world will be different afterwards.
- New World map of COVID-19 cases from John Hopkins (updated frequently)
- New Fivethirtyeight: a comic explaining why COVID models are so uncertain (with SMBC)
- New Fact checking the claims in “Plandemic” (from Science Magazine)
- WASH YOUR HANDS
- WEAR A MASK
- Get vaccinated as soon as vaccines are available to you
- New 30 Days to slow the spread: the President’s Coronavirus guidelines for America (pdf)
- New CDC Recommends wearing a mask in public
- New How to make your own mask (NYT)
- Wired: How does the Coronavirus spread?
- CDC: Social distancing guidelines
- CDC COVID-19 symptoms and testing
- BBC: Coronavirus and sex: What you need to know
This is a tough time and it’s totally normal to be scared or worried. Few people alive remember a crisis like this. On top of all that, many of us are quite literally isolated and physically separated from our usual support networks. Hopefully some of these things will help.
- Partners in Health, a renowned, effective international aid organization, shares their tips for not freaking out. You can also have them read to you by John Green.
- Science Magazine: How I faced my coronavirus anxiety
- Wired: Mass panic is unlikely, even during a pandemic
- The sudden obliteration of expectation, Hank Green talks about how COVID-19 is a little like getting diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. It’s a big shock and things won’t be the same again.
- If you want a safe, positive interaction with a stranger, Text for Humanity facilitates sending and receiving positive messages from random strangers.
- If you or someone you know are in crisis and maybe in danger of self-harm, call 1-800-273-8255 (in the US) or go to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Sciencey activities you can do at home
If you’re stuck in the house all day, you might as well try to do some cool science. I am a theoretical physicist because I am not good in the lab, but fortunately other people have figured out that there are tons of ways you can do some science at home, especially if you have kids.
- Watch recordings of Skype A Scientist livestreams on YouTube
- Wired: How to make your own hand sanitizer (I haven’t tested these techniques myself)
- Physics Girl on Youtube: 20 easy experiments in five minutes (but don’t worry, they can fill a lot more time than that.
- Make a cloud chamber at home (I’ve not tested this myself, and it does require some hard-to-find ingredients)
- New Try contributing to Project Implicit by doing some easy implicit association tests online (great way to contribute to science from home and learn something about yourself)
- New Help scientists identify penguin colonies from your home.
If you have suggestions for things to add to this page, please send them my way.