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The Particle

This Week’s Recommendation

Plug in Your Airpods & Ditch the Face Mask

Here’s a list of podcast episodes talking about the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash

I only listen to two podcasts religiously, demanding my attention twice-a-day for the thirty-to-sixty minute bus ride to work or home. Both are news podcasts, and I’ve learned a lot in the past two years I’ve been listening. This past month both The Daily and Short Wave have become invaluable to my understanding of world public health as the coronavirus spreads globally.

Selected below are some of the best conversations I’ve heard with regards to context and preparedness with regards to COVID-19. It’s only an hour and a half, potentially two commutes for the whole day.

The Daily

The New York Times’ The Daily highlights world news every week day and has become a necessity for understanding today’s over-covered world. Host Michael Barbaro interviews a NYT journalist about particular headline of the day. The following episodes are in order of newest to oldest.

  • The Corona Virus Goes Global (25 min): Including COVID-19, Donald G. McNeil Jr, a science and health reporter, has reported on approximately ten different epidemics of the course of his career. As an invaluable resource and perspective, McNeil shares context and insight about the viral situation that affects all continents excluding Antarctica.
  • Fear, Fury and the Coronavirus (24 min): Amy Qin, a China correspondent, shares her experiences visiting Chinese citizens in Wuhan at the end of January earlier this year. She breaks down how China initially responded to the novel virus and communities’ public frustrations. Please note in this episode there is a few expletives as part of citizen quotes.

One of the key point I learned from McNeil is the importance of not buying face masks. If infected, properly used face masks can prevent further spread of airborne diseases. However, medical facilities where healthcare workers have constant exposure to the virus are in need of these supplied to remain healthy. It is recommended that the public generally not buy face masks in order to ensure the medical community has the supplied they need, with the possible exception of vulnerable populations who might have high susceptibility.

Short Wave

NPR’s podcast Short Wave topics range from health to climate change to deep space, any and every science topic actually. Host Maddie Sofia interviews scientists, practitioners, and journalists in a fun and engaging way.

While here Short Wave emphasizes face masks as well, my major personal takeaway was viewing my phone as a third hand — cleaning it daily or more often. The twittersphere has pointed out to me any item that is worn on or near your body should be cleaned often: glasses, sweatshirts, your favorite water bottle. Minimizing the spread of viruses will be vital as we enter a new phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to John Hopkins’ counter, we have surpassed 100,000 cases of the virus. The travel industry is concerned about the uptick in cancelled trips, especially with many student’s Spring Break around the corner later this March. Great Britain had their first COVID-19 related death. The Stock Market is bouncing up and down with the hopes and hells of the virus, including the price of oil. People around the world are stockpiling toilet paper.

Image capture of John Hopkins’ Coronavirus Global cases counter. The increase in orange during February is when WHO redefined identified symptoms of the virus, which resulted in a surged of cases counted but not a true surge in cases.

Nothing about this is truly normal. There’s this edge-of-panic that I’ve only experienced when a hurricane is about to landfall, but at the same time everyone is business as usual. Clear guidelines from regional, national, and international health organizations reassure what individuals and communities need to do to help ensure public health safety.

The World Health Organization maintains that the best practices individuals can do is washing hands properly, avoid touching our faces, covering our mouth when we cough or sneeze, and maintain a three-foot distance from others that are coughing. None of these items are truly new, this is the same advice during a bad flu season.

In most areas, these good health habits will be enough. Check with your local health department for information specific to your region.



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Andrea Lloyd

Andrea Lloyd

Writes about space, science, public relations, & their intersection. USGS SciComm Specialist. NASA Intern x3 . Opinions are my own.