Pien Huang

The federal government is preparing to crack down aggressively on hospitals for not reporting complete COVID-19 data daily into a federal data system, according to internal documents obtained by NPR.

The draft guidance, expected to be sent to hospitals this week, also adds new reporting requirements, asking hospitals to provide daily information on influenza cases, along with COVID-19. It's the latest twist in what hospitals describe as a maddening flurry of changing requirements as they deal with the strain of caring for patients during a pandemic.

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It's still unknown when a COVID-19 vaccine might be available in the United States. But when one is first approved, there may only be 10 million to 15 million doses available, which may be enough to cover around 3% to 5% of the U.S. population.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Michael Caputo, the top spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services and a longtime ally of President Trump's, is taking a 60-day leave of absence after a social media tirade in which he falsely accused government scientists of engaging in "sedition."

President Trump has publicly blamed the World Health Organization for being slow to sound alarm bells about the coronavirus.

In March, NPR reported on the tolls of life under quarantine in Wuhan, then the epicenter for COVID-19. We spoke to two visitors who'd returned to their hometown of Wuhan to ring in the Lunar New Year with their families — then couldn't leave for months: epidemiologist Lin Yang, now back in her home in Hong Kong, and Xi Lu, who's returned to London.

A person with a high viral load walks into a bar.

That, according to researchers who study the novel coronavirus, is a recipe for a superspreading event — where one person or gathering leads to an unusually high number of new infections. And that kind of occurrence is increasingly considered a hallmark of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working "to build a revolutionary new data system" for COVID-19 hospital data collection that the CDC will run upon completion, according to Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Birx's comments this week come a month after the Trump administration mandated that hospitals sidestep the agency and send critical information about COVID-19 hospitalizations and equipment to a different federal database managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC.

Earlier this month, when the Trump administration told hospitals to send crucial data about coronavirus cases and intensive care capacity to a new online system, it promised the change would be worth it. The data would be more complete and transparent and an improvement over the old platform run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, administration officials said.

Instead, the public data hub created under the new system is updated erratically and is rife with inconsistencies and errors, data analysts say.

On January 30, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus — then unnamed — to be a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern." The virus, first reported in China in late 2019, had started to spread beyond its borders, causing 98 cases in 18 countries in addition to some

Updated July 16, 9:40 a.m. ET

The Trump Administration has mandated that hospitals sidestep the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and send critical information about COVID-19 hospitalizations and equipment to a different federal database.

From the start of the pandemic, the CDC has collected data on COVID-19 hospitalizations, availability of intensive care beds and personal protective equipment. But hospitals must now report that information to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC.

Updated 6:15 p.m. ET

More than 1,200 current employees at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have signed a letter calling for the federal agency to address "ongoing and recurring acts of racism and discrimination" against Black employees, NPR has learned.

I'm hearing a lot of talk about the coronavirus spreading through aerosols — is wearing a mask in a grocery store enough protection? What else should I do to stay safe?

Quick answer first: Going to the grocery store where you and everyone else is wearing a mask and keeping a distance from each other is still considered a low-risk activity. Go get your summer strawberries!

The World Health Organization has issued a new scientific brief that summarizes what's known about the different ways the coronavirus can transmit.

The U.S. has sent a letter officially notifying the United Nations that it is leaving the World Health Organization, starting the formal process of withdrawal that President Trump first threatened in April when he halted funding to WHO.

This story was updated on July 7 at 1:54 p.m. to include WHO's response to the letter.

By now, it's common knowledge that the coronavirus can be spread by being in close contact with someone who's infected and then breathing in their respiratory droplets. Or by touching a contaminated surface and rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth.

The world is being flooded with new terms in coverage of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Here's a glossary in case you're not up on the latest medical and testing jargon. We start with the nomenclature of the virus. Words are listed in thematic groupings (transmission and testing, for example).

Minks on two fur farms in the Netherlands began getting sick in late April. Some were coughing, with runny noses; others had signs of severe respiratory disease. Soon, they started dying.

Researchers took swabs from the animals and dissected the ones that had died.

The culprit: SARS-COV-2, the novel coronavirus causing a global pandemic.

Even if someone is infected by the novel coronavirus and remains asymptomatic — free of coughing, fever, fatigue and other common signs of infection, that doesn't mean the coronavirus isn't taking a toll. The virus can still be causing mild — although likely reversible — harm to their lungs.

Let's think back to the early days of 2020, before a pandemic was declared. A new virus had surfaced and was infecting humans but had limited global spread. The World Health Organization and other health officials hoped that this novel coronavirus could be contained and wiped out.

And it wasn't just wishful thinking. Less than two decades ago, another emerging coronavirus struck: SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). Health authorities were able to control it in eight months. No new cases have been found since 2004.

Updated on June 10 at 1:36 p.m.

This week, the matter of asymptomatic transmission of the novel coronavirus has caused much confusion — and sparked a lively debate on Twitter.

It started Monday when the World Health Organization discussed the current understanding of asymptomatic transmission at a press conference.

("Asymptomatic" refers to people who are infected by the virus but never develop any symptoms.)

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization took time at its daily press conference to address another pressing issue: the wave of protests against police violence and racial injustice. The demonstrations began in the U.S. when George Floyd died on May 25 after a police officer had pressed a knee into his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while detaining him in Minneapolis.

The protests are now spreading around the world to Europe, Africa and other regions.

This story was updated on June 1 to include WHO's reaction from its daily press conference.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said he learned of President Trump's intentions of "terminating" the decades-long U.S. relationship with WHO through Trump's press briefing on Friday.

As the world seeks to join together to bring the novel coronavirus under control, President Trump has sent a letter to the World Health Organization threatening that the U.S. will halt all funding and consider leaving the agency, pending an assessment of its response to COVID-19.

The U.S. has the most coronavirus deaths of any country in the world — on May 11, the death toll passed 80,000.

And that's likely an undercount.

This week, the question of mutation has been front and center in coverage of the coronavirus — from controversial claims about changes that make the virus more contagious to reassurances that any mutations are not yet consequential.

Here are some of the questions being raised — and what the specialists can (and can't yet) say to answer them.

Is the coronavirus mutating?

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