COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Testing alone can't keep you safe for Thanksgiving
Commercial labs and sites offering asymptomatic testing are being overwhelmed by Americans seeking to reassure themselves that they're safe to celebrate. They are exhausted by being alone and want just one normal day.

There are two major factors that affect transmission of the virus:
  • Whether or not someone at the event is currently infected with Covid-19. This depends on both local prevalence of the virus and how many people are in attendance.
  • The dose of the virus you're exposed to, if there's someone sick. This is determined by ventilation; time spent at an event; distance from that person; and use of personal protective equipment like masks.
... But testing alone is not enough, and should not make people feel that they can ignore CDC's or health experts' recommendations for a safe Thanksgiving.

First, a test just represents a moment in time. Just like you can have a negative pregnancy test today, but already actually be pregnant, similarly -- unless you've been quarantining for the last 14 days -- you could have a negative test today, but still be contagious on Thanksgiving. It takes days after an infection for the test to turn positive.

... Second, a test can be a "false negative," especially if you're asymptomatic. The accuracy of the tests is not perfect.

... Now, don't get me wrong: testing matters. Our country desperately needs access to tests to diagnose people with symptoms. We also desperately need access to tests to do "surveillance," where we regularly test asymptomatic people and identify pockets of disease before they spread. These are both critically important public health strategies.

But the purpose of testing is not to provide a free pass. It is part of a comprehensive strategy to keep our loved ones safe.

Family makes PSA about large family gatherings after 15 members contracted Covid-19

The Aragonez family is now living with the consequences of a large family gathering November 1; 15 members of the Arlington, Texas-based Aragonez family have since tested positive for coronavirus.

All of the 12 people who were at the get-together tested positive for Covid-19, Alexa Aragonez said -- four lived at the house and eight were visiting. She said those family members then infected another three, bringing the total to 15.

I'm an American who has lived abroad for 10 years. Between the pandemic and the election, 2020 has been the weirdest year to be away from my home country.
  • 2020 is a year of mixed emotions for Americans abroad.
  • Other countries have handled the coronavirus pandemic better than the US, and Americans are scared to return home.
  • The elections mark a turning point in whether people will want to stay abroad longer, or come back.
This has been an exceptionally weird year to be an American living abroad. I've watched the coronavirus pandemic wreak havoc across the country and been thankful I wasn't home. I proudly cheered the Black Lives Matter protesters and wished I could join. And of course I voted absentee in a pivotal election. All of these momentous events have made it surreal to watch the country from afar, feeling both part of it and very removed.

In March, my fiance and I hunkered down in our apartment in Dubai for one of the world's strictest lockdowns. We needed a permit to leave the house even for groceries. There are still high fines for not wearing masks.

Stuck inside, we watched the news in horror as cases climbed in the US. We read accounts from nurses and scrolled photo essays comparing the crisis in New York to war. Meanwhile, the US government proved incapable and unwilling to protect its citizens. To date, hundreds of thousands of people have died, lost their jobs (and with them their healthcare), and struggled to feed their families.

We cried over people dying and beloved restaurants closing and lectured our parents over Zoom about staying home. We felt relieved to be in a place taking the pandemic seriously, and when life returned to normal in Dubai in early summer and we were able to travel and drink in bars, we felt a little guilty too.

Expats always end up in positions attempting to explain the US, and always find it's impossible. The US is a geographically massive and diverse country of 330 million people, after all. Still, 2020 brought more questions than ever.

"Tell me, why do Americans like Trump?" "Why are people fighting with scientists?" "I don't understand why people are mad about masks." "Why are the police being so aggressive?"

... Like more than half the country, I cried in relief when the election was finally called for Joe Biden. My fiance was at an Indian restaurant in Dubai and the waiters rushed over to tell him and express their relief. Joyful texts flowed in from Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey. Will we as Americans ever fully wrap our heads around how weird it is that so many other countries care––who also have to care for their own futures––about our elections?

Now, in a move reminiscent of authoritarian governments in the Middle East, Donald Trump is refusing to accept the results of the election. We don't know what will happen over the next two months before he leaves office. Friends are talking about getting second passports. Others are wondering why I moved home just in time for winter during a pandemic that is somehow still getting worse. They have a point. But after a dramatic and emotional year of watching from afar, I'm happy to be here. This is a time when it feels especially important, urgent even, to be home.