COVID-19: Virology, Pandemic, and Immunity
In late 2019, a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) began human-to-human transmission. Within weeks, hospitals at the site of the outbreak were overwhelmed with patients severely ill with COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, and the virus had begun spreading around the world. Scientists reacted swiftly, sequencing order the virus’s genome, producing tests for infection, determining its receptor in humans, and discovering drugs that stop viral replication. Yet, COVID-19 continues to circulate worldwide; and in the United States in particular, where as of this writing more than 120,000 people have died of COVID-19, inadequate testing and tracing, and the absence of centralized leadership and planning, has rendered prospects of containment highly unlikely—at least in the short to medium term. How far along are we in the process of developing vaccines and treatments against COVID-19? What is herd immunity, and what does it mean to achieve it? With cases rising in the so-called global south and continuing to rise in the United States, what projections can we make about the future course of the pandemic?
In this course, we will review the molecular virology of coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2 in particular. We’ll review the various COVID-19 diagnostic tests and the information each provides. We will discuss the epidemiology of pandemics, mitigation versus suppression, and the much discussed concept of “herd immunity.” Finally, we will track ongoing research into treatments and vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and think through the ethics of clinical trials in the time of a deadly pandemic. And, absent a vaccine, how must we act in the weeks, months, and possibly years to come?
Course ScheduleSunday, 3:00-6:00pm EST
July 19 — August 09, 2020