Listen

Nurith Aizenman

What are the biggest drivers of human suffering?

Every year an international team of researchers aims to answer that question by assembling a mammoth data set called the "Global Burden of Disease." It has become the go-to source for tracking and ranking the impact of virtually every disease or condition that is killing, sickening or otherwise disabling people in virtually every country on the planet.

President Trump has credited the apparent improvement of his coronavirus infection to, as he put it in one tweet, "some really great drugs" that were "developed, under the Trump Administration."

The assertion carries special irony for researcher Peter Daszak.

The coronavirus pandemic has now killed at least 1 million people worldwide. That's according to a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University. This sobering milestone was reached just nine months after the first reported fatality in China last January. And public health experts believe the actual toll – the recorded deaths plus the unrecorded deaths – is much higher.

Every year, Stephen Lim and his colleagues at the University of Washington compile and analyze health data from every country on the planet to come up with a sort of global report card.

Year after year, one of the biggest success stories has been the vaccination of children.

"We've really seen this steady progress in increasing the fraction of children who are receiving ... in particular, the basic vaccines — diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis," Lim says.

Loading...

New estimates released this week suggest the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic will reach even greater levels of awfulness before 2020 is over: A prominent forecasting team projects that between now and Jan. 1, the virus will kill an additional 1.9 million people worldwide, pushing the total death toll by year's end to above 2.8 million.

It's one of the cheapest ways to help kids in extremely poor countries: Twice a year, give them a 50-cent pill to kill off nasty intestinal parasites. Now, a landmark study finds the benefits carry over long into adulthood — and the impact is massive. But dig deeper and the issue quickly becomes more complicated — and controversial.

To understand why, it helps to start at the beginning, when newly minted economist — and future Nobel prize winner — Michael Kremer says he stumbled into this study by lucky happenstance.

By Dec. 1, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 could reach nearly 300,000. That's the grim new projection from researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation — one of the more prominent teams modeling the pandemic. The new forecast, released Thursday, projects that between now and December, 137,000 people will die on top of the roughly 160,000 who have died so far.

Renee Bach, an American missionary who operated a charitable treatment center for severely malnourished children in Uganda despite having no medical training, has settled a lawsuit brought against her in Ugandan civil court by two women and a civil rights organization.

At least 105 children died in the charity's care. Bach was being sued by Gimbo Zubeda, whose son Twalali Kifabi was one of those children, as well as by Kakai Annet, whose son Elijah Kabagambe died at home soon after treatment by the charity.

For weeks the U.S. coronavirus pandemic has largely been driven by spiraling outbreaks in the South and West. But some forecasters say Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states could soon be in deep trouble again, too.

The warning comes from researchers at the PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which has built a model to provide four-week forecasts for every U.S. county. NPR spoke to David Rubin, PolicyLab's director, an epidemiologist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Here are five takeaways:

The American conversation around masks and COVID-19 has taken a dizzying turn. For months, wearing masks has been politicized as a sign of liberal leanings. But in recent days, ever more governors — many of them Republican — have moved to mandate masks. This week President Trump — arguably the nation's most visible mask un-enthusiast — started referring to wearing them as "patriotic."

Over the last month more than 1,000 current and former staffers with the aid group Doctors Without Borders have signed a letter with an explosive accusation: The vaunted organization, they say, is built on a mindset of "white supremacy" that perpetuates "racism by our staff, in our policies, in our hiring practices, in our workplace culture, and through the imposition of dehumanising 'humanitarian' programmes by a privileged,

Just weeks after parts of the U.S. began reopening, coronavirus infections are on the upswing in several states, including Arizona, Utah, Texas and Florida. Dramatic increases in daily case counts have given rise to some unsettling questions: Is the U.S. at the start of a second wave? Have states reopened too soon? And have the recent widespread demonstrations against racial injustice inadvertently added fuel to the fire?

In an open letter to a top Trump Administration official, 77 Nobel prize-winning American scientists say they are "gravely concerned" about the recent abrupt cancellation of a federal grant to a U.S. non-profit that was researching coronaviruses in China.

More than 82,000 people in the United States have died of COVID-19 as of Tuesday. How many more lives will be lost? Scientists have built dozens of computational models to answer that question. But the profusion of forecasts poses a challenge: The models use such a wide range of methodologies, formats and time frames that it's hard to get even a ballpark sense of what the future has in store.

Updated on May 5 at 3:02 p.m. ET to include additional White House reactions.

On Monday the New York Times published what appeared to be an explosive finding: an internal document from the Trump Administration that forecast many more coming deaths from the coronavirus than the president has predicted publicly.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Updated on May 1 at 10:50 a.m. ET

The U.S. government has suddenly terminated funding for a years-long research project in China that many experts say is vital to preventing the next major coronavirus outbreak.

Updated April 28, 5:00 p.m. ET

Across the U.S., state leaders are grappling with the challenging decision of when to relax the social distancing restrictions that have helped keep COVID-19 in check.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Trump and his top scientific advisers on the coronavirus task force gave a much-anticipated presentation Tuesday night, laying out the data behind the president's recent shift in tone regarding the outbreak, including his decision to extend national social distancing guidelines through April 30.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As coronavirus infections rise across the United States, public health experts widely agree it's time for a drastic step: Every state in the nation should now issue the kind of stay-at-home orders first adopted by the hardest-hit places. And while most states will probably not need to keep the rules in place for months upon months, many health specialists say the lockdowns will need to be kept up for several weeks.

Yet among these same experts, there is debate when it comes to the natural next question: What strategy can be deployed after the lockdowns are lifted?

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Medstar Washington Hospital Center in Washington D.C. is in full-on preparation mode.

On a recent visit the staff had already marked out the parking lot — painting green rectangles to mark the places where tents are starting to be set up to screen arriving patients for COVID-19.

Even as the number of new coronavirus infections continues to spiral upward in countries around the world, a top global health expert says it's not too late to contain the virus.

"As long as you have these discrete outbreaks ... there is the opportunity to control them — to get on top of these and contain them and prevent a lot of disease and ultimately death," says Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to the director-general of the World Health Organization. "That's the big message we saw in China — and one of the big surprises."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Three years ago, NPR accompanied disease ecologist Kevin Olival on a field trip to Malaysian Borneo.

Just a few months ago, Tom Inglesby helped gather top officials from governments, businesses and health organizations around the world to play a kind of war game.

"It was a scenario looking at global consequences of a major new epidemic," says Inglesby, who directs the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University.

Last fall, Félix Tshisekedi, the president of Democratic Republic of Congo, made a triumphant prediction: Before 2019 was over, the Ebola outbreak that had ravaged his country for more than a year would finally be brought to a close. Already, health workers had managed to quash the Ebola virus in all but a small set of remaining hot zones. New infections had slowed to a trickle.

Dr. Marie-Roseline Bélizaire had just gathered the members of her Ebola response team for a morning meeting when they heard the rat-a-tat of gunfire.

Pages