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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.

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.

Support for President Trump increased in 2020 in many of the U.S. counties that lost lives at the highest rate to COVID-19, according to an NPR analysis.

Of the 100 counties with the highest COVID-19 death rates per capita, 68 had a higher proportion of votes cast for Trump this cycle than they did in 2016. This includes both Republican-leaning counties and counties that supported Joe Biden.

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More Americans may be wearing masks than early last spring, but other recommended behaviors to stop the pandemic's spread haven't kept pace, according to a new federal survey. And young people are the least likely to take needed steps to stop the virus, the data suggest.

The proportion of U.S. adults reporting wearing face masks increased from 78% in April to 89% in June, according to the nationally representative survey released by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday.

People are getting the results of coronavirus tests in the U.S. faster than they were in the spring, but testing still takes far too long to help with effective disease control measures such as contact tracing and quarantining, according to the results of a large national survey.

Doctors and public health experts are concerned that Saturday may be too soon for President Trump to resume activities, both for his own health and the safety of those around him.

Updated 1:20 p.m. ET

The spread of the coronavirus inside the White House is a stark reminder of the danger of relying on testing to prevent outbreaks, experts say.

"I think the takeaway is clear: Testing alone is not a sufficient strategy to prevent spread of the virus," says Daniel Green, an assistant professor of pathology and cell biology at Columbia University.

"A negative test does not give free license to forgo all other safety measures," Green says.

Updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

The coronavirus can be very serious for anyone at any age but is especially concerning for a man of President Trump's age, 74.

A new generation of faster, cheaper coronavirus tests is starting to hit the market. And some experts say these technologies could finally give the U.S. the ability to adopt a new, more effective testing strategy.

"On the horizon — the not too distant horizon — there are a whole series of testing modalities coming on line," says Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health. "And that gives us hope we can really expand our testing capacity in the nation."

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that he has received death threats and his daughters have been harassed as a result of his high-profile statements about the coronavirus pandemic.

"Getting death threats for me and my family and harassing my daughters to the point where I have to get security is just, I mean, it's amazing," Fauci said.

Americans continue to wait in long lines to get tested for the coronavirus. Many then face frustration and anxiety waiting days — sometimes even weeks — to get their results.

Could technology finally solve the testing woes that have hobbled the nation's ability to fight the pandemic? The National Institutes of Health hopes so.

When the coronavirus pandemic began, public health experts had high hopes for the United States. After all, the U.S. literally invented the tactics that have been used for decades to quash outbreaks around the world: Quickly identify everyone who gets infected. Track down everyone exposed to the virus. Test everyone. Isolate the sick and quarantine the exposed to stop the virus from spreading.

Jack Grehan, who was born with hemophilia, used to inject himself every couple of days with a protein he needs for his blood to clot. But not anymore.

"It's been absolutely brilliant and life-changing for me," says Grehan, 26, of Billinge in North West England. He received an experimental gene therapy in 2017 that, at least for now, has eliminated his need for regular injections. "I can just go about my day and not have to worry."

The coronavirus keeps spreading around the United States. New hot spots are emerging and heating up by the day. The death toll keeps mounting. So how can the U.S. beat back the relentless onslaught of this deadly virus?

Public health experts agree on one powerful weapon that's gotten a lot of attention but apparently still needs a lot more: testing.

A new analysis that researchers at Harvard conducted for NPR finds that more states have begun to do enough testing to keep their outbreaks from getting worse, but most are still falling short.

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