Rob Stein

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The federal government announced today that it is deploying special COVID-19 surge response teams to try to snuff out new hotspots that are emerging around the country. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein joins us with details. Hi, Rob.

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Patrick Doherty had always been very active. He trekked the Himalayas and hiked trails in Spain.

But about a year and a half ago, he noticed pins and needles in his fingers and toes. His feet got cold. And then he started getting out of breath any time he walked his dog up the hills of County Donegal in Ireland where he lives.

"I noticed on some of the larger hill climbs I was getting a bit breathless," says Doherty, 65. "So I realized something was wrong."

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Dr. Anthony Fauci is calling the Delta variant the greatest threat to the nation's prospects for winning the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein joins us now with more details.

Updated June 22, 2021 at 4:25 PM ET

The dangerous Delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading so quickly in the United States that it's likely the mutant strain will become predominant in the nation within weeks, according to federal health officials and a new analysis.

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The U.S. is banning the importation of dogs from more than 100 countries for at least a year because of a sharp increase in the number of puppies imported into the country with fraudulent rabies vaccination certificates.

"We're doing this to make sure that we protect the health and safety of dogs that are imported into the United States, as well as protect the public's health," Dr. Emily Pieracci of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells NPR.

As the pandemic calms in the U.S., a growing number of states have started scaling back how often they update their dashboards tracking what's happening with the virus.

The moves are sparking alarm among many public health experts.

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For decades, scientists have been prohibited from keeping human embryos alive in their labs for more than 14 days. The prohibition was aimed at avoiding a thicket of ethical issues that would be raised by doing experiments on living human embryos as they continue to develop.

Routine screening for colorectal cancer should begin at age 45 instead of 50, an influential panel is recommending.

Starting routine screening five years earlier could prevent more deaths from colorectal cancer, which is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded.

Carlene Knight would love to do things that most people take for granted, such as read books, drive a car, ride a bike, gaze at animals in a zoo and watch movies. She also longs to see expressions on people's faces.

"To be able to see my granddaughter especially — my granddaughter's face," said Knight, 54, who lives outside Portland, Ore. "It would be huge."

Nearly 100 million Americans are fully vaccinated and new coronavirus cases are at their lowest level since last October. Could the vaccination campaign finally be winning the race against the coronavirus in the United States?

The Biden administration will send $1.7 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local and state governments and other research efforts, starting early next month to find and track coronavirus variants lurking in the United States. Already, the more contagious U.K. variant, B.1.1.7, is now the dominant strain in this country, fueling surges in Michigan and the Northeast.

For the first time, scientists have created embryos that are a mix of human and monkey cells.

The embryos, described Thursday in the journal Cell, were created in part to try to find new ways to produce organs for people who need transplants, said the international team of scientists who collaborated in the work. But the research raises a variety of concerns.

Updated on April 15 at 1 p.m. ET

Ginger Eatman thought she was safe after getting her second COVID-19 vaccination in February. But she kept wearing her mask, using hand sanitizer and wiping down the carts at the grocery store anyway. A few weeks later, she noticed a scratchy throat.

"By Wednesday morning, St. Patrick's Day, I was sick. I had congestion — a lot of congestion — and some coughing," says Eatman, 73, of Dallas, Ga.

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.

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Public health experts are growing increasingly concerned that new COVID-19 hot spots may be emerging around the country, and Michigan tops the list. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein has more.

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.

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Concern about new coronavirus variants has grown quickly in recent months.

First, scientists in the United Kingdom spotted a more contagious coronavirus strain that spread like wildfire through the London area. Then, researchers in South Africa spotted one that appears to evade the immune system. Next, another variant was flagged in Brazil because it looked like it could infect people who had already been infected once before.

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Across the country, coal-burning power plants are closing. Wind turbines and solar farms are expanding. This transition cleans the air. It reduces greenhouse emissions. But it can also be painful. In North Dakota, some local officials are trying to keep a coal plant alive by blocking construction of new wind power. NPR's Dan Charles has more.

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.

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Public health officials in this country have been worried about this for a while now, and it has happened. A variant of the coronavirus discovered in South Africa has been detected in the U.S. for the first time. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein has details.

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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.

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