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Rob Stein

Rob Stein is a correspondent and senior editor on NPR's science desk.

An award-winning science journalist with more than 30 years of experience, Stein mostly covers health and medicine. He tends to focus on stories that illustrate the intersection of science, health, politics, social trends, ethics, and federal science policy. He tracks genetics, stem cells, cancer research, women's health issues, and other science, medical, and health policy news.

Before NPR, Stein worked at The Washington Post for 16 years, first as the newspaper's science editor and then as a national health reporter. Earlier in his career, Stein spent about four years as an editor at NPR's science desk. Before that, he was a science reporter for United Press International (UPI) in Boston and the science editor of the international wire service in Washington.

Stein's work has been honored by many organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Association for Cancer Research, and the Association of Health Care Journalists. He was twice part of NPR teams that won Peabody Awards.

Stein frequently represents NPR, speaking at universities, international meetings and other venues, including the University of Cambridge in Britain, the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea, and the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC.

Stein is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He completed a journalism fellowship at the Harvard School of Public Health, a program in science and religion at the University of Cambridge, and a summer science writer's workshop at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The U.S. is banning the importation of dogs from more than 100 countries for at least a year because of a sharp increase in the number of puppies imported into the country with fraudulent rabies vaccination certificates.

"We're doing this to make sure that we protect the health and safety of dogs that are imported into the United States, as well as protect the public's health," Dr. Emily Pieracci of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells NPR.

As the pandemic calms in the U.S., a growing number of states have started scaling back how often they update their dashboards tracking what's happening with the virus.

The moves are sparking alarm among many public health experts.

Updated June 2, 2021 at 6:00 AM ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stopped tracking every case that occurs when a COVID-19 vaccine fails to protect someone. Instead, the agency is focusing on people who get very sick or die.

The decision is controversial. Critics argue the strategy could miss important information that could leave the U.S. vulnerable, including early signs of new variants that are better at outsmarting the vaccines.

For decades, scientists have been prohibited from keeping human embryos alive in their labs for more than 14 days. The prohibition was aimed at avoiding a thicket of ethical issues that would be raised by doing experiments on living human embryos as they continue to develop.

Routine screening for colorectal cancer should begin at age 45 instead of 50, an influential panel is recommending.

Starting routine screening five years earlier could prevent more deaths from colorectal cancer, which is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Carlene Knight would love to do things that most people take for granted, such as read books, drive a car, ride a bike, gaze at animals in a zoo and watch movies. She also longs to see expressions on people's faces.

"To be able to see my granddaughter especially — my granddaughter's face," said Knight, 54, who lives outside Portland, Ore. "It would be huge."

Nearly 100 million Americans are fully vaccinated and new coronavirus cases are at their lowest level since last October. Could the vaccination campaign finally be winning the race against the coronavirus in the United States?

The Biden administration will send $1.7 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local and state governments and other research efforts, starting early next month to find and track coronavirus variants lurking in the United States. Already, the more contagious U.K. variant, B.1.1.7, is now the dominant strain in this country, fueling surges in Michigan and the Northeast.

For the first time, scientists have created embryos that are a mix of human and monkey cells.

The embryos, described Thursday in the journal Cell, were created in part to try to find new ways to produce organs for people who need transplants, said the international team of scientists who collaborated in the work. But the research raises a variety of concerns.

Updated on April 15 at 1 p.m. ET

Ginger Eatman thought she was safe after getting her second COVID-19 vaccination in February. But she kept wearing her mask, using hand sanitizer and wiping down the carts at the grocery store anyway. A few weeks later, she noticed a scratchy throat.

"By Wednesday morning, St. Patrick's Day, I was sick. I had congestion — a lot of congestion — and some coughing," says Eatman, 73, of Dallas, Ga.

A more easily spread coronavirus variant first identified in England last year has now become the dominant strain in the U.S., the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

The variant, known as B.1.1.7, spread quickly across the United Kingdom and Ireland beginning last fall, with the more infectious version of the coronavirus thwarting restrictions and lockdowns that had earlier helped keep the original strain in check.

After more than two months of steep declines, coronavirus infections are on the rise again nationally — along with COVID-19 hospitalizations in many states.

In the past seven days, the U.S. reported slightly more than 65,000 new cases per day on average, a jump of 20% from two weeks earlier. Many states have seen even more dramatic growth, as high as 125% in Michigan, according to an NPR analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.

Updated March 26, 7:15 p.m.

A year after the pandemic shut down the country, a growing number of infectious disease experts, epidemiologists, public health officials and others have started to entertain a notion that has long seemed out of reach: The worst of the pandemic may be over for the United States.

For decades, science has been trying to unlock the mysteries of how a single cell becomes a fully formed human being and what goes wrong to cause genetic diseases, miscarriages and infertility.

Now, scientists have created living entities in their labs that resemble human embryos; the results of two new experiments are the most complete such "model embryos" developed to date.

The goal of the experiments is to gain important insights into early human development and find new ways to prevent birth defects and miscarriages and treat fertility problems.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A 95-year-old Tennessee man has been deported to Germany because he worked as a guard at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, the Justice Department announced Saturday.

Friedrich Karl Berger was sent to Germany because he participated in Nazi-sponsored acts of persecution while serving as an armed guard at the Neuengamme concentration camp system near Meppen, Germany, in 1945, according to the announcement.

California is planning to start setting aside 10% of the COVID-19 vaccine the state receives each week to vaccinate teachers, day care workers and other school employees in the hopes of getting more students back in the classroom.

"It must be done, and it must be done much sooner than the current path we are on. And we believe this will advance that cause," Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday as he announced the plan at an Oakland vaccination site.

The plan will begin March 1 by setting aside about 75,000 vaccine doses from the state's current weekly allotment, Newsom said.

The Biden administration is promising to finally solve the nation's chronic shortage of COVID-19 tests. But is the new administration doing enough, especially with the more contagious coronavirus variants now looming?

Many public health experts are encouraged by the new administration's commitment to the importance of testing. But some are concerned officials are moving too slowly.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The devastating fall and winter wave of coronavirus infections that is causing so much misery across the U.S. appears to have finally peaked, according to several researchers who are closely tracking the virus.

While another surge remains possible, especially with new, more infectious variants on the horizon, the number of new daily infections in the current wave appears to have hit a high in the past week or two and has been steadily declining in most states since, the researchers say.

The coronavirus pandemic appears to have shortened the average life expectancy in the United States, according to new research, and the impact is most dire for racial and ethnic minorities.

The deaths caused by COVID-19 have reduced overall life expectancy by 1.13 years, according to the analysis by researchers at the University of Southern California and Princeton University.

That would be the largest single-year decline in life expectancy in the past 40 years and cut U.S. life expectancy to 77.48 years — the lowest it's been since 2003, the researchers say.

Americans are being more careful to avoid catching and spreading the coronavirus but are still not being careful enough to slow the pandemic, especially with worrisome, apparently more contagious new variants looming.

That's the conclusion of the latest findings, released Friday, from the largest national survey tracking behavior during the coronavirus pandemic.

The nation is at a pivotal moment in the fight against the pandemic. Vaccines are finally starting to roll out, but the virus is spreading faster than ever — and killing thousands of Americans daily. And it will be months before enough people get inoculated to stop it.

That means it's critical to continue the measures that can limit the toll: mask-wearing, hunkering down, hand-washing, testing and contact tracing.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized the first coronavirus test that people will be able to buy at a local store without a prescription and use for immediate results at home to find out if they're positive or negative.

The test will cost about $30 and be available by January, according to the Australian company that makes it, Ellume.

The last thing a lot of people want to do these days is get on a plane. But even a pandemic would not stop Victoria Gray. She jumped at the chance to head to the airport this summer.

"It was one of those things I was waiting to get a chance to do," says Gray.

She had never flown before because she was born with sickle cell disease. She feared the altitude change might trigger one of the worst complications of the devastating genetic disease — a sudden attack of excruciating pain.

While Democrats remain more likely than Republicans to support new measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, a majority of U.S. adults from both political parties now agree more steps are needed to fight the pandemic, according to the latest results from a large ongoing survey.

Federal health officials are likely to shorten their recommendation for how long people should quarantine to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus from the current 14 days to as few as seven.

More than 10 million people have now been confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus in the United States as the spread of the virus accelerates at an alarming pace across the nation.

The U.S. now accounts for about one-fifth of all of the 50 million infections worldwide, more than any other nation. The data comes from Johns Hopkins University.

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