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A Round-Up of Scientific Developments Related to the Novel Coronavirus

by Amanda Vaught, amandavaught@propel-fa.com

At Propel we keep an eye on the latest scientific developments regarding coronavirus research to better understand its impact, supply chain disruptions, and how societies and economies react.  Our advisor Amanda Vaught utilizes her scientific training from the Johns Hopkins University and graduate school at Columbia University to better understand the science behind the headlines.  She is by no means an expert, but will regularly report on the latest understanding of coronavirus and its impact.

Coronavirus is novel.  So while scientists and society are generally familiar with viruses, we really do not know details of the virus’s behavior, how it is transmitted, its long-term effects or how to treat it or vaccinate for it.  Scientists do not have the answers.  What they do have is a lot of questions and an unprecedented amount of cooperation across borders to find the answers. 

We will continue to monitor studies on COVID transmission.  If you would like to discuss this information, we encourage you to email Amanda. As always, we hope you and your loved ones remain safe. 

Here are some recent scientific updates that we find encouraging and why.

1. Initial studies are showing that most people can produce antibodies in response to a Covid-19 infection.

Read the study here:  Convergent Antibody Responses to SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Convalescent Individuals

What this means is that a good vaccine MIGHT give better protection than a natural infection.  

What we still don’t know is whether or how long the antibodies remain protective.   Would a vaccine protect for an extended period of time?  Or would people need an annual vaccine like for influenza?

2. Yale scientists develop saliva test for Covid-19.

Read the story here: Saliva samples preferable to deep nasal swabs for testing COVID-19 

**Please note this study has not been peer-reviewed as of this writing.**

Widespread testing for Covid-19 infections in the United States remains woefully inadequate.   (The US should be conducting 900,000 tests per day according to the American Public Health Association.)

One problem?   The supply chain for test swabs.  

 “Despite Early Warnings, U.S. Took Months To Expand Swab Production For COVID-19 Test”.

With a test just using saliva, these specialized test swabs are not required.

In addition, many patients find the current swab test incredibly uncomfortable: “ It’s a deep burning, and it often elicits tears and sometimes coughing,”  says Nurse Practitioner Molly Erickson in this Chicago Sun-Times article.  “COVID-19 tests: What it feels like to have one”. The test and concurrent coughing exposes healthcare workers to infection and requires generous amounts of personal protective equipment (a supply chain issue unto itself).

The new Yale study demonstrated saliva is a more accurate test, it’s easier for patients and healthcare workers, and also eliminates the supply chain problem of the swabs. And, as they say in the article: “More sensitive and consistent detection is expected to be critical in helping to assess when individuals are able to safely return to work and when local economies can reopen during the current pandemic.”

3. New York survey shows most new coronavirus cases coming from people staying at home.


Recently Governor Cuomo announced that 66% of new coronavirus infections in New York were from people who had been staying at home. 

“Cuomo says it’s ‘shocking’ most new coronavirus hospitalizations are people who had been staying home”. 

How is this possible if staying at home is supposed to protect people from becoming infected?

Liqian Ren, Ph.D., Director of Modern Alpha at WisdomTree, wants this data set dug into deeper than has been reported.  The survey seemingly contradicts all the other evidence saying this virus transmits person to person indoors. (For example, see CDC studies that all find “that talking, laughing, singing in close quarters, in unventilated interiors, for many hours, is the perfect storm for a COVID super-spreader event.”)


A better understanding of how the virus transmits will help all societies and economies evaluate and mitigate risk going forward.

Hear more of the discussion of the New York survey here: Behind the Markets Podcast Episode 174

At Propel we will be looking for more studies on transmission, and hopefully will have more clarity around it soon.