Coronavirus: Essential Reads

Looking for reliable facts and context on coronavirus? Stay informed with this curated guide to the global outbreak. Updated 4/2/20

For the latest news and data from affected countries, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security offers daily recaps with case counts and travel restrictions. Johns Hopkins also has a global map of confirmed outbreaks, while The New York Times has mapped confirmed U.S. cases. The World Health Organization has useful guides on protecting yourself and how to tell fact from myth. For official U.S. updates on the pandemic, visit

Social Distancing Can’t Last Forever. Here’s What Should Come Next.

Brian Resnick • Vox

Scientists say a moonshot effort is needed to end social distancing and this pandemic. Will leaders listen?

The Four Possible Timelines for Life Returning to Normal

Joe Pinsker • The Atlantic

The coronavirus outbreak may last for a year or two, but some elements of pre-pandemic life will likely be won back in the meantime.

How Does the Coronavirus Behave Inside a Patient?

Siddhartha Mukherjee • The New Yorker

We’ve counted the viral spread across peoples; now we need to count it within people.

How the Pandemic Will End

Ed Yong • The Atlantic

The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.

The New Front-Line Coronavirus Workers: Grocery Clerks, Delivery Drivers

Valerie Bauerlein, Jennifer Levitz, and Alejandro Lazo • The Wall Street Journal

Many Americans are still on the job, tending to basic needs and risking their health as cities close down around them.

A Historian’s View of the Coronavirus Pandemic and the Influenza of 1918

David Remnick • The New Yorker

John M. Barry, who knows the deadliest pandemic in history better than anyone, speculates on what the new coronavirus means for our lives in the future.

How Coronavirus Tests Actually Work

Maggie Koerth • FiveThirtyEight

While test shortages are making headlines, there’s a lot about the technology behind these tests that isn’t as clear to the public.

Harsh Steps Are Needed to Contain Coronavirus, Experts Say

Donald G. McNeil, Jr. • The New York Times

Scientists who have fought pandemics describe difficult measures needed to defend the United States against a fast-moving pathogen.

The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming

Steven Levy • Wired

Epidemiologist Larry Brilliant, who warned of pandemic in 2006, says we can beat the novel coronavirus—but first, we need lots more testing.

Why the Coronavirus Has Been So Successful

Ed Yong • The Atlantic

We’ve known about SARS-CoV-2 for only three months, but scientists can make some educated guesses about where it came from and why it’s behaving in such an extreme way.

What I Learned When My Husband Got Sick with Coronavirus

Jessica Lustig • The New York Times Magazine

Our world became one of isolation, round-the-clock care, panic and uncertainty — even as society carried on around us with all too few changes.

Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus Testing

Megan Molteni and Adam Rogers • Wired

How it works, why we need it, and why it’s taking so long for the U.S. to get people diagnosed.

Coronavirus Tracked: The Latest Figures as the Pandemic Spreads

Steven Bernard, Cale Tilford, John Burn-Murdoch, and Keith Fray • Financial Times

The countries affected, the number of deaths, and the economic impact.

The Dos and Don’ts of ‘Social Distancing’

Kaitlyn Tiffany • The Atlantic

Experts weigh in on whether you should cancel your dates, dinner parties, and gym sessions.

What Is a Pandemic?

Melissa Davey • The Guardian

The WHO has declared the Covid-19 outbreak to be a pandemic. But what does that mean?

Here’s What Parents Dealing With Coronavirus Isolation Want You To Know

Anne Helen Petersen • BuzzFeed News

Everything that was once simple feels difficult, and everything that was already difficult feels impossible.

Why Outbreaks Like Coronavirus Spread Exponentially, and How to “Flatten the Curve”

Harry Stevens • The Washington Post

Without any measures to slow it down, Covid-19 will continue to spread exponentially for months. To understand why, it is instructive to simulate the spread of a fake disease through a population.

What You Can Do Right Now About Coronavirus

James Hamblin • The Atlantic

Preventing the spread of an outbreak requires a massive global effort, but here are steps everyone can take.

A Warning from a Scientist Who Saw the Coronavirus Coming

Mary Harris • Slate

“It’s our everyday way of going about business on the planet that seems to be driving this.”

When Xenophobia Spreads Like a Virus

Natalie Escobar • NPR

As the coronavirus has spread from China to other countries, anti-Asian discrimination has followed closely behind.

The Best Books on Pandemics

Christian W. McMillen •

We would do well to educate ourselves about the history of pandemics and disease. University of Virginia historian and associate dean Christian W. McMillen, author of Pandemics: A Very Short Introduction, recommends the best introductions to the subject.

Who Is Getting Sick, and How Sick?

Sharon Begley • STAT News

The new coronavirus is not an equal-opportunity killer: Being elderly and having other illnesses, for instance, greatly increases the risk of dying from the disease the virus causes, Covid-19.

Inside the Race to Solve America’s Coronavirus Testing Crisis

Julia Ioffe • GQ

How one young doctor at a Seattle lab tried to get out in front of the coronavirus crisis by inventing his own test.

How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America

John M. Barry • Smithsonian Magazine

The toll of history’s worst epidemic surpasses all the military deaths in World War I and World War II combined. And it may have begun in the United States.

How Long Will It Take to Develop a Coronavirus Vaccine?

Carolyn Kormann • The New Yorker

A COVID-19 vaccine developed, licensed, and manufactured at a global scale in twelve months would be an unprecedented, remarkable, even revolutionary achievement.

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